Caregivers experience what is known as the stress-brain loop but may not be aware of it. This loop is a dangerous routine that caregivers can fall prey to. You might recognize this loop if you recall feeling as if there is no time, effort, support, or opportunity to take a break from this journey. The result is we become at high risk for compassion fatigue. The stress chemicals that are naturally secreted by our brains in excess can make us sick. Studies have shown that chronic stress can shrink the brain and hippocampus. The hippocampus is a key brain region in the emotional brain network and plays a significant role in social cognition and emotion processing.
This particular chemical I am referring to is Cortisol. This hormone is our body's natural response to stress to aid us in what is known as the fight or flight mode. The problem with having too much of a good thing or living with excess cortisol in our bodies is the neurological effect of stress. Over time, as we adapt to high-stress and anxiety-filled routines as caregivers, our bodies begin to function under a cortisol dominant state. This way of living induces inadequate sleep, poor eating habits, and emotional distress. As we remain in this cortisol dominance it will also affect our natural ability with learning, attention span, and memory.
So, what can we do to slow the cortisol dominance and help our bodies return to a calmer state of being? I asked my colleague, Ellen Jolley, to join me today to share another resource for caregivers. Ellen is a board-certified hypnotherapist as well as the owner and founder of Capstone Hypnosis. As a resilience coach and CPA, she is able to help her clients build confidence and overcome stress and anxiety from being overwhelmed. Her clients have been able to release internal blocks that keep them from achieving their higher levels of emotional strength.
The resilience coaching and hypnotherapy worked for her and made a huge impact on her life. Many years ago, after a divorce left her in a state of excruciating guilt and anxiety, she sought counseling. The counseling helped, but it did not address the root problem. Hypnosis helped her to initiate real, positive change. It is for this reason that she decided to shift her 20-year career as a tax account to pursue helping others through hypnotherapy and transformation coaching. She is passionate about helping people overcome the emotional barriers that keep them from living happy, productive life.
I became a believer of this process after doing this myself. Talk therapy is very beneficial in the moment to openly express what feels too private to share with others or too delicate to approach with a spouse. At first, I assumed my stress and anxiety were due to the change in career because it was a change in my identity or what I tied my success to, but it went deeper. I was driven with tremendous self-reliance to become the best caregiver for Mom until I began to have flash backs of childhood trauma. The harder I pushed the more I seemed to feel like I was trudging through an emotionally charged muddy swamp. I needed help to uncover the root causes for my need to run away and hide or control any situation.
During my therapy, I discovered my source of pain and trauma that gave birth to multiple inner parts designed to protect my true self. Unfortunately, over time this kind of protection left me in an emotionally detached state of mind as I remained in an autopilot mode. The more I struggled to make sense of how to step into Mom's world as a caregiver the more my autopilot mode began to break down. The continual feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed created a conflicting routine of wanting to give up and yet find a way to push forward no matter what. Mom is now dependent on me to make this journey about more than my survival.
This is far too common for many caregivers when faced with criticism from their family for making the tough decisions or even from their loved ones living with Dementia. We slip into a cortisol dominance state of being as our loved one's filter slips away with the deterioration of the brain. This caregiver journey can wreak havoc on our bodies and our relationships. Finding a balance may be easier said than done. A state of calmness could be a few taps away though.
Caregiving is physically taxing on the body. Emotions must be considered as well from childhood traumas, major setbacks in life from health or finances, or overcoming fears that keep us from seeking out new experiences (travel, work, or relationships). We have to dig deep to get to the root causes or techniques like meditation may not work to find calmness. Aside from exercise and changes in diet, we can retrain our brains to address the root causes of stress and anxiety.
Here are a few areas you may consider working with Ellen on so you can begin to retrain your brain and break the stress brain loop through Hypnosis:
1) Begin to reframe your thoughts through visualization techniques. Pinpoint past feelings of hurt and attempt to see the past in a new way. For example, see that moment as if you are a duck in the rain with light raindrops rolling off the back of a duck's feathers.
2) Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Tapping is used for anxiety and stress, pain relief in minutes, smoking cessation, or weight loss and food cravings.
* Side of the hand - aka the karate chop point - the fleshy part of the side of the hand
* Eyebrow - the beginning of the eyebrow where the hair starts
* Side of eye - follow bone under the eyebrow to the side of the eye
* Under the eye - again follow that bone to the point under the center of the eye
* Under the nose – the center just above the lip
* Chin - the crease between the lip and the chin
* Collarbone – find the endpoint of the bone on either side then move down 1 inch and over one inch. As an
alternative you can take your whole hand and tap on where a man’s bowtie would be.
* Under the arm – about a hand-width below the armpit
* Top of the head – just at the top of the head
3) Identify the stress and anxiety triggers and write them down. Write single words or descriptive sentences to name your trigger. Examine your physical and emotional responses to these triggers to create more awareness.
4) Make an appointment with your therapist or hypnotherapist to understand your triggers and begin reframing them or reassigning a more positive response.
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Thank you for joining in and listening with us today. You can find more about this topic on the blog at www.jessicalizelcannon.com. I hope this gave you more food for thought and until next time, BE PROACTIVE. Take care, everybody.
Intro: Vacation Time by Khris Paradise
Outro: Misty by Khris Paradise