Communication is difficult. What an understatement! We are very complicated creatures. We feel and think hundreds of complex feelings and thoughts simultaneously. Effective communication requires that we have the self awareness and patience to sort out what our most important thoughts and feelings are before we even begin to relay those thoughts and feelings to another person. On top of that, once we know what it is we are thinking and feeling and what we want to communicate we have pretty limited tools to do that. We mostly rely on language.
Language is pretty limiting. First the words we have to use rarely fully describe the thoughts and feelings we are having and then the way we have to line them up often falls short of getting the message across. To make it even more difficult, we often assume that what we think a word means lines up with what everyone else thinks that word means. Take the sentence, “I’m tired”. You might be thinking, “I worked hard today and my body is feeling weak” or “I didn’t sleep well last night and I need to rest.” or “I’ve been telling you for weeks to please clean the garage and you haven’t done that and I’m done with it!” I might hear, “She needs a rest” or “She’s sleepy” or “She doesn’t like me anymore and doesn’t want to go to the movies with me”
We also use tone of voice, body language and facial expressions to communicate and depending on ones culture and upbringing any of those things can be interpreted in a myriad of ways.
Couples counseling often involves looking at the communication patterns in a couple. Are they assuming that the other person knows what they’re thinking? Are they asking each other what they mean when ambiguous statements are made? Are they frustrated from past missed attempts to communicate and so have just stopped trying?
A therapist works with clients to help them stand back from the hurts and frustrations so that they can examine the patterns and make adjustments. Often times just doing this can set the relationship back on the right track. “I’ll try harder” without the tools to try harder is not going to work. This is when couples counseling can help change trying into doing.
It seems that the news is filled with information regarding natural disasters. Two major hurricanes and earthquakes in Mexico. We are inundated with photos and videos of suffering and survival.
As a resident of southwest Florida I chose to stay in my home throughout the Hurricane Irma experience. I made my decision to stay based on information I had about my home and location. It was uncomfortable but not frightening or threatening. I have compassion for those who were not as lucky as me.
Now as life begins to settle into a new normal I am struck by the news of how many people suffered as a result of their fear of Irma not from any actual problems resulting from the hurricane. I heard one story of a person who was so terrified of the storm that they fled the state without much preparation and without a plan for self care. They ended up hospitalized with panic attacks. Another story of a person who ended up very ill due to stress, lack of sleep and poor nutrition. Our fears can be fueled by media and people who are attempting to express concern. It is important to take time, now that life is settling down, to develop coping mechanisms to lower our stress levels so that we can take in information and make wise decisions based on information, not fear.
When your body is telling you that it is not well, either by the symptoms you are feeling or as a result of medical tests the physician is often turned to to prescribe something to make the symptoms go away or to make the test results line up. We frequently neglect to recognize the impact of stress on how our body functions.
In the case of the endocrine system, “When the body is stressed, the hypothalamus signals the autonomic nervous system and the pituitary gland and the process is started to produce epinephrine and cortisol, sometimes called the “stress hormones.”
Adrenal Glands (near kidneys)
Stress signals from the hypothalamus cause the adrenal cortex to produce cortisol and the adrenal medulla to produce epinephrine. This starts the process that gives your body the energy to run from danger.
When cortisol and epinephrine are released, the liver produces more glucose, a blood sugar that would give you the energy for “fight or flight” in an emergency. For most of you, if you don’t use all of that extra energy, the body is able to reabsorb the blood sugar, even if you’re stressed again and again. But for some people — especially people vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes — that extra blood sugar can mean diabetes. Who’s vulnerable? The obese and races more inclined to diabetes, such as Native Americans.
Studies show that if you learn how to manage stress, you can control your blood sugar level, sometimes nearly as much as with medication.” (American Psychological Association, 2017)
Psychotherapy is one of the ways that we can manage our stress, lower the levels of stress hormones in our system and regulate our endocrine system which will lead to better overall health.