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Blogging more (for now) & social isolation as a pro-inflammatory risk factor


Hey folks,

So I think the cure for irregular blogging is getting over the fear of someone saying "you did it wrong!" by pointing out my spelling errors and threatening to out me on Facebook.  Also, I figure, just like most things in life, if I do a little each day or week it won't turn into an insurmountable problem.  

Last blog I wrote about the "fight or flight" response as a hardwired part of who we are and why we are still here (our ancestors ran a little faster than the person behind them or at least picked a fight with someone a little smaller than them).  Being able to fight or flee was key to survival.  Trouble is, in today's era you can't punch your boss (no matter how much you want) or run away from all the stimulation (e.g. Internet, cell phones etc.), stress is constant and our brain and bodies are hardwired to react to it.  But take heart, there is another hardwired system to antidote this problem.

Looking back I remember being called lazy because I would lie down in the middle of the day for 10-20 minutes.  I don't know how I came about being able to do this but I came to realize that doing this made a significant difference in how I felt and how I thought.  I wouldn't be asleep (I could hear all around me), but I wasn't awake either.  As time went on the more I did this the effect would seemingly accumulate (kind of like the benefit from repeated exercise).  Now of course I am human and I would get away from the practice but I would repeatedly come back to it in a time of need because it helped me hit the "reset" button.  

Fast forward and I learned that this "reset" button was the equal but opposite to the "fight or flight" system in our bodies and it had been coined (by a Harvard cardiologist) the "relaxation response."  Like most things we enjoy doing stuff we are good at and boy I could relax well!  Perhaps this is why I became a Massage Therapist?  I knew inside of me this effect could have significant difference in peoples lives.

Not only do we know now that (chronic) stress kicks the stuffing out of our bodies, we also know there is a way to antidote the stress using the relaxation response.  But there was one fascinating fact I learned when I went down to Martha's Vineyard last month and it has to so with a parallel pathway to the stress > adrenaline we all have become used to.  This other pathway has to do with inflammation.  When we are chronically stressed we also activate chronic inflammation.  

A common stressor these days is social isolation (yeah, weird, 1000 "friends" on Facebook and still isolated, lol:).  And because being successful socially was key to survival back in the day (and still is to a degree) when we were isolated the body treated that as an emergency and the alarm bells would start ringing, adrenaline would start pumping and inflammation would start burning!  Today we find people that are isolated as having many fold increases in depression, heart attack and stroke, in part, due to chronic inflammation.  I am pretty certain this is why Registered Massage Therapists have the highest utilization of insurance benefits of any allied healthcare providers (e.g. Chiropractors, Physiotherapists).  It's because who else makes a connection like RMT's and their clients or provides 60+/-minutes of uninterrupted care (social connectedness), provides a space for therapeutic doses of the relaxation response (antidote to stress), reduces pain (physical and some say emotional), alleviates anxiety and depression and so much more.  It's powerful stuff for a modern world.

Anyways, I just ran out of chocolate covered almonds and I've gotta grab a Yoga video or two before the libary (sp.:) closes.  Catch up with y'all later!

Simon

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