I am piloting an ear acupuncture protocol to the staff members of a childrens charity to help with stress management, and before starting work there I had to attend one of their inductions the other day.
As well as being a charity supporting vulnerable children in London, they are also undertaking a huge research project investigating brain changes in children who have suffered significant mental and/or emotional trauma. One of the main things they are concentrating on is how consistent high levels of cortisol being released into the body have huge effects on child brain development and function, setting them back years. Cortisol is being released due to the fight and flight mechanism as their brains are processing that they are in constant danger - which they are. This is a primal reaction that has helped the human race survive from Savannah and beyond.
When 'danger' is perceived a hormone called ACTH is released to create strength to fight the lion and cortisol is released to shut down all unnecessary functions in the body - including some brain functions - as we don't need to work out the colour of the lions' eyes or how thick its fur is, we just need to assess do we fight or run!....
Even though this research is on children and these children are in extreme situations, as adults we are also susceptable to the affects of cortisol (which Emilie has mentioned before). I am sure we have all experienced, to a certain degree when we are under pressure, how we can sometimes forget the simplest of things in an important presentation or exam. The reason for this is we have perceived this situation as dangerous and the primal hormonal processes have started to kick in and parts of our brains have shut down to protect us.
Even though we can use tai chi, yoga, meditation, other relaxation techniques and sometimes supplements (with advice) to help calm the fight or flight reaction, one very simple way of countering it is kindness.
In a video about the charity, the founder said, 'come and get high on compassion!' What she was actually getting high on is oxytocin, a natural chemical released during moments of kindness and love. Oxytocin will not only help to lower your own cortisol levels but also it will help to lower those of the person you are showing kindness to.
So something as simple as a hug, listening to someone who is having a hard time, giving someone a beaming smile, holding the door open for someone or volunteering your time with a charity - all these sorts of things can actually help to keep us healthy.
Sending all you NITC'ers some love for the weekend :o)
P.S there will be another blog on the ear acupuncture protocol for stress management soon...