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Embracing pain

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“STICKS AND STONES MAY BREAK MY BONES BUT WORDS WILL NEVER HURT ME.” Or will they?

Same areas of the brain get activated when we experience social rejection, the betrayal of a loved one or when we spill hot coffee on our arm. In other words, emotional pain hurts the same as physical pain. Science has developed drugs to alleviate or eliminate our physical pain and some of those same drugs are now proving helpful in eliminating our emotional pain. So the prescription for broken heart might actually be – take 2 Tylenol and call me in the morning? But is numbing our pain always a good thing? The more we know pain in all its varying flavours, the more we can appreciate the sensations and feelings that we like, it’s the nature of contrast. If we never felt bitterness or anger, then we wouldn’t deeply appreciate our happiness. And if we never knew fear, then we couldn’t admire courage. So may be to fully enjoy the beauty in our lives, we must first acknowledge and embrace our pain.

The above lines are from the recent episode of Perception (302 painless). I couldn’t agree more.

When people feel emotional pain, the same areas of the brain get activated as when people feel physical pain: the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex. Studies have shown, acetaminophen taken during acute phases of broken heart or rejection, has lowered the activation in the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex, thus alleviating our emotional pain.

Obviously popping pills isn’t a long term cure for every time we get hurt. Ever observed when a child falls while playing, they cry. But when they fall several times, the pain mitigates; they learn to get up and deal with it. Same goes with any ghastly setbacks that happen in our everyday life. Everybody experiences emotional pain differently depending on disparate situations but we all have a choice to let it go. So why not do it with some awareness and self compassion. Embracing or accepting our pain with mindful awareness, makes us stronger individuals as we become to endure it. When the same experience happens again, its not so painful anymore. We are hardwired to be resilient. We suffer, we accustom. The span of our resilience shortens with every negative experience. Nothing lasts forever.

Remember to wade through the pain, do not dwell in it. 🙂

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Posted by on July 1, 2014 in Psychology

 

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Surviving as a HSP in a Third World

I’ve learned about being a HSP myself for about 2 years now. Knowing this and learning about myself helped me a lot. Albeit with my clinics, I had to rearrange & process this information in the brevity where I had to go on a straight 32 hours hospital duty. But the stress and the pressure (they had their toll) molded me to acclimatize and I survived it.

I had enough or less time to sleep. When I wake up in the morning, I just freshen up in a hurry to leave to the hospital. No exercise, let alone meditation or had my breakfast. I’m sure most of us live this way. World is fast and furious, so we need to catch up with its pace. Moping around when you’re overwhelmed doesn’t help, in fact it exacerbates your life. The following are the strategies I used to help myself.

Emotional Regulation & Mindfulness

Psychologist Elaine N. Aron notes that “Emotional regulation” is a “fancy psychological term that refers to any method that you might try, consciously or not, to change the otherwise spontaneous flow of your emotions.”

“By this definition, you might want to increase, prolong, or decrease a feeling. Because the human brain is designed to do this quite well, and the HSP’s [highly sensitive person] brain even more so, you already know quite a bit about emotional regulation, just by having lived awhile. But it never hurts to make it more conscious.”

Are you controlled by your emotions? Been there. Especially for women, our hormones and mood swings go together. Now at this moment, think about – what are you feeling? Now this is where mindfulness insinuates. Try to watch your thoughts instead of feeling them, whether your emotions are positive or negative. It takes time to do this, to get control of your emotions but it is eventually possible.

Everyday, recognise your emotions and remember to think over to act on them or not. Tame your mind. Yes for some emotions it is better to share with our loved ones or write it down or ponder through them. Once you are done, it is the time to distract. Dwelling on a negative emotion doesn’t do good. So do something you enjoy like watch a movie, listen to music, write a journal, read a book, socialize etc. Whatever it is, try to regulate your emotions sensibly. Read more about meditation and mindfulness.

Jonathan Kaplan PhD notes “Mindfulness can help us navigate through troubled emotional times. We develop an ability to watch and observe our feelings without getting caught up in them.”

“We can identify the external cues associated with a particular emotion as well as our internal experience of it. As we become aware of the thoughts, actions, and physical feelings associated with an emotion, we also cultivate our ability to get some distance from it.”

Healthy life style

If you’re living in a lifestyle where your work is your life partner, I say start by doing a 10 min meditation or prayer. Eat healthy, learn about food and nutrition to nourish in a stressful life. If you have time, engage in any kind of activity like running, jogging, yoga or even dance. Get exercise even at your work place by moving around or try some yoga in a sitting position(check online). Most importantly sleep at least 6-8 hours. I have gained 20 pounds in the past few months because sleep deprivation regulates your hormones (like ghrelin your appetite stimulating hormone increases) and results in overeating. Do not sacrifice your snooze time for a stupid movie or a drinking night out because you need to learn and understand what is important to keep yourself sane and healthy. I am sure you will find enough time to get together with your loved ones, so manage time accordingly.

Neuroplasticity & Habituate

Your brain is plastic. Yes it has the incredible ability to mold itself throughout your life. Regardless of age, your brain has the ability to make new neurons and construct new neural pathways throughout your life. When you engage in new experiences or think in novel ways, new pathways are forged. Every time you think a specific thought, a specific pathway of neurons fires up, neurotransmitters are released and synapses are subtly altered. With repetition this pathway is strengthened. Even as you read this very sentence, your brain is changing. In this way, your brain’s structure is a culmination of all the thoughts and experiences you have had up to this very moment.

The concept of neuroplasticity is to ‘get used to the stimulus’. Take your job for example. You love what you do but let’s say you don’t get along with your coworkers or your boss is rude. The main focus here is that ‘you love what you do’, so ignore the other things. Enjoy what you do and try to help the people around you so people will get to like you. Take one day at a time. If you’re stressed out by a particular thing, try to calm down through deep breathing and reassess how to do it. In my experience, I was able to complete my tasks before deadline because of social harmony. End of the day you can do it, if you think you can.

Don’t share to the world that you’re a HSP. I live in a developing country where psychotherapists and even psychiatrists don’t know or have heard about a HSP. If they can’t understand, how can normal people do? Sure you can share to your loved ones like your family or friends but not to your coworkers or acquaintances. Its unnecessary, they will sneer in confusion. Of course, it never hurts to try. I did and I failed. so moving on.

Take Risks & Be Resilient

This is a tough one. Working in a hospital where we get to encounter a lot of sad emotions, you often tend to be overwhelmed. In my amateur hospital stage, I feared to interview a cancer patient or go into a delivery room or worse I even feared to CPR a patient because processing it will take a long time for me. It did, these emotions twirled and twisted gave me uncontrollable tears, psychosomatic body pains and the frustration brought spats with my friends. The more I faced it, the more I adapted it. However, through mindfulness I eventually came to a point where I dint have to fear to face any overwhelming situation, especially at the hospital. For a HSP in a situation like this, sympathize do not empathize.

This is a mere example. Whatever your work or lifestyle is, never fear to face the challenges. Through time, everything gets better. Let resilience be your favorite word in English. In this competitive world, no one can help you but you. The quicker you bounce back to reality, the more you succeed.

Be grateful & Abate Negativity

This is important for a HSP. If you’re in a stressful relationship or even have stressful friends or family, try to get away from them. People who love you shouldn’t agonize you. If you have pessimistic or narcissistic people at work, try to ignore them or stay in a place that is far away from them. If you’re facing an insult in a situation where you can’t avoid, smile and be kind to them. Your kindness should alter their behaviour. Try to be a positive person who gives happiness to others. Also forget and forgive, don’t hold onto it.

Last but not least, be grateful for all the things you have in your life. Look around there are homeless people, innocent people being killed, a lot of examples you can envision. So be thankful that you are alive today and safe and have people who love you. Whether you believe in God or not, be thankful. Keep smiling. 🙂

References:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marie-pasinski-md/neuroplasticity_b_2405943.html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/urban-mindfulness/200903/mindful-in-the-city

http://hsperson.com/pages/2Feb13.htm

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2013 in Psychology

 
Aside

                                                                                           

Thanks to Recent Research in Developmental Psychology and researchers like Dr. Elaine Aron for the awareness and insight into Sensory processing sensitivity(scientific term). A highly sensitive person (HSP) is a person having the innate trait of high psychological sensitivity (or innate sensitiveness as Carl Jung originally coined it). According to Elaine N. Aron and colleagues as well as other researchers, highly sensitive people, who comprise about a 15-20% of the population, may process sensory data much more deeply and thoroughly due to a biological difference in their nervous systems.

Elaine Aron, a Psychologist and a HSP herself did an outstanding research since 1991 first coined the term “hsp”. In Elaine’s words, If you find you are highly sensitive, or your child is, you need to begin by knowing the following :

Your trait is normal. It is found in 15 to 20% of the population–too many to be a disorder, but not enough to be well understood by the majority of those around you.

It is innate. In fact, biologists have found it to be in most or all animals, from fruit flies and fish to dogs, cats, horses, and primates. This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy, being observant before acting. The brains of highly sensitive persons (HSPs) actually work a little differently than others’.

You are more aware than others of subtleties. This is mainly because your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply. So even if you wear glasses, for example, you see more than others by noticing more.

You are also more easily overwhelmed. If you notice everything, you are naturally going to be overstimulated when things are too intense, complex, chaotic, or novel for a long time.

This trait is not a new discovery, but it has been misunderstood. Because HSPs prefer to look before entering new situations, they are often called “shy.” But shyness is learned, not innate. In fact, 30% of HSPs are extraverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion. It has also been called inhibitedness, fearfulness, or neuroticism. Some HSPs behave in these ways, but it is not innate to do so and not the basic trait.

Sensitivity is valued differently in different cultures. In cultures where it is not valued, HSPs tend to have low self-esteem. They are told “don’t be so sensitive” so that they feel abnormal.

Being a highly sensitive person myself ever since I left home for college, I thought I was an Introvert even though I knew I am very sociable. Even at home I always wanted space or privacy sometime alone everyday which I realize later that I actually needed it. Usually they misunderstand HSPs for being shy, introvertive, at extreme cases even neurotic. In the developing countries there ain’t much awareness, even to most neurologists/psychiatrists/psychologists.My classmate had a blank stare when I shared this information to her. I’ve been misconstrued for being snobbish when I’m rather “slow to warm up” in a new environment. Vitally 3yrs ago, It has been quite a breakthrough for me to become this way. To desensitize and to self-analyze myself for adapting to situations especially trauma since my field is Medicine. I don’t need to emphasize on the quagmire I had to overcome just because people don’t understand me. Now that I’m used to it, on the bright side I descry I had a self-discovery. You can’t please everyone. Lets just hope there is much awareness to people about this soon enough so people who are born like me don’t have to writhe through my tussle.

Optimum Happiness Requires both Positive and Negative Emotions & is the balance between them which makes you your wholesome. If you don’t know how to do it, nevertheless you’re sensitive or not, its futile. My point is, even if my personality has its own negative side for being easily affected, stressed & depressed. You can always balance yourself with exercise, yoga and meditation which will help you relieve from your daily stressors. Above all, there is Neuroplasticity. Bottom line : Educate thyself.

SELF TEST

http://www.hsperson.com/pages/test.htm

Sources

American Psychological Association  : http://www.apa.org

Mental Health America http:  http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net

http://americanmentalhealthfoundation.org/entry.php?id=335

References

http://auroraneurology.com/your-health/index.dot?id=14268&lang=English&db=hlt&ebscoType=healthindex&widgetTitle=EBSCO%20Health%20Library%20Index

http://www.hsperson.com/pages/cz_art3.htm

highlysensitive.org

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/03/28/5-gifts-of-being-highly-sensitive

http://www.bidmc.org/YourHealth/HolisticHealth/MentalHealth.aspx?ChunkID=14268

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prescriptions-life/201105/top-10-survival-tips-the-highly-sensitive-person-hsp

Image References 

http://www.lifeunfoldsblog.com/category/highly-sensitive-person

http://aloftyexistence.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/highly-sensitive-person.jpg

Neurotic? I am just highly sensitive 🙂

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Psychology