stressors and health

December 9, 2013

In the human person, and other animals as well, the sources of stress are external and internal. We have been considering the external stressors which flow from our lifestyles and lived experiences. Some stress is actually useful and good for you. Take for instance, the stress of a deadline, this emotional pushing required to complete a task or prepare for an anticipated event. When we study for tests or have to work to accomplish a task this increases our level of anxiety and the associated stress response. The stress response is the same triggering of the sympathetic nervous system and its parallel release of epinephrine…but not to the degree of a major stressor or sufficient to produce illness. This form of stress would not be healthy if it were unremitting or unrelenting stress. However, the important part of this process is to see that even with an external stressor, like a deadline, the stress response is internal to us! It is our response to the deadline that is actually the stress response, NOT the deadline.

An example of an external stress over which we have no control, would be environmental stressors, chemicals, viruses, factors associated with living conditions. Generally speaking, we are unaware of these stressors, so we say we have little or no control over them. Nevertheless with greater awareness we can be cognizant of these stressors and take steps to limit or overcome them within certain abilities. Truthfully, where we live and those conditions are as much factors in our health as not. So when we think of living healthily, the suggestion is to begin limiting the external factors which contribute to our stress and impact our health.

Conversely, our internal responses to what we perceive as stress (perception is everything!!!) are more significant than the events themselves. In other words, the way we perceive what is stressful, and how we choose to respond to the stressors is as much a contributing factor to illness as it is to health. It is for this reason I work with integrative healthcare principles in couples and marriage therapy. Close living relationships succeed or fail based on our ability to perceive accurately and choose our responses rather than be compelled by habits which work against us. If the relationship is fraught with stressful events, or if we grew up in families where interactions were abusive or exceedingly stressful, then our learned responses are often unbalanced and contribute to the stress in the relationships we are trying to create.

June

June 14, 2013

If we begin to consider the impact of memory on our relationships we have to ask the question: “In part, how are memories triggered?” With my patients this answer is both simple and complex. What happens in the brain is neural pathways are formed which are strengthened or weakened with use or disuse, so repetitive actions or behaviors either strengthen for good or ill. If a neural pathway is not used it will weaken and some of those connections disappear. In the human body there are two primary chemicals released with skin touch, one of those is related to common B6. Without appropriate levels of B6, there can be defects in processing and transmitting sensory information. From the initial touch to transmission to the brain requires 0.01 seconds. That is important. What is more important is the heart beat responds to the same touch in 1.0 seconds and respiration responds in 4-5 seconds. This sensory information moves to the brain and back to heart and lungs in tiny amounts of time.
Let’s look at how this works in relationships. The beginning of all relationship starts in the uterine environment. Before we are born it is here we float, interact with our surrounding and develop responses to sensation through the skin. And then this sensitivity to skin stimulation persists after birth through our connections or lack of them with parents and persons within our environment. The simplest view of this has to do with touch. How we are touched, stroked, cuddled, or not shapes our brains and bodies. We know in the mind/body interconnection these two aspects are so woven together they are inseparable. This is part of how we understand attachment. If a parent cannot touch a child appropriately, that child will not learn emotional attachment to the parent which shapes all of adult attachments in later life. What is communicated through skin touch is attachment and intentionality. We learn a sensory response to the act of being touched, AND we learn to read the intention of the other through the quality of the touch. We learn emotional responses to touch based on our conscious and unconscious awareness of what the touch means.
So, in our parenting relationships if we touch, we must touch with clear intentionality because the response physiologically in the heart and lungs is less than 5 seconds. If we touch with anger, abuse, violence or compassion, love and support, the process is the same. There is a mind/ body effect where the brain receives the impulse and the body is responding just as the meaning is assessed. There are other factors at play here but this short pathway is the most common for understand the body response.
This becomes very important in the process of building adult relationships. Research indicates that male children are touched less than female children and that persists over their adolescence until they are infrequently touched except for sports, or fights, or male bonding play (punching each other’s arms and wrestling!) Then we expect them to become capable of tenderness, touching other than for sexual contact and parenting their children. If we become what we learn and experience then lack of touch is a serious matter. Link that to the cardiac and respiratory response times and it becomes obvious that on just a physiologic level there are serious consequences.
In babies, failure to thrive is linked to lack of touching and appropriate meaningful cradling; in the elderly there is a similar phenomena called “skin hunger” where the senior adult fails to thrive because of the lack of touch. The truth is ALL human beings need to be stroked, cuddled, touched with warmth, affection and liking. The need is present across the lifespan.
If you would like to ask a question about something in this article you can email that to: discoverycenters3@gmail.com I cannot answer emails individually but will address the educational issues in the column. If you would like to visit our website www.drkathleenquinn.com
Or for an appointment for psychotherapy with me in San Antonio, you may call our main number 601-467-0041 to schedule the appointment.

May 2013

June 14, 2013

This is the first in a series of articles related to Women’s (men and children are included!) Health. While many approach natural healthcare from the standpoint of making changes to what we do and take into our bodies, my starting place is really different. I wrote a journal article on this about ten years ago, and my experience in these past years has confirmed what I “know” to be true.

Before we can do primary prevention (change to a wellness model) with any patient, that person must be willing to change not their behaviors, but their minds. Well…duh….is the usual response to this! However, this is not what it sounds like it is.

In order to change we must actually understand, MIND, and how the brain works. This is the field of neuroscience and it is linked to another field called genomics. I believe we cannot change what we do not understand. So for this first article I thought laying out the foundation for how we come to whole health it would be useful for us to understand what is going on in the brain.

We are wired for certain things, our brain works in certain ways that it is programmed for when we were in the womb. How that hard wiring works is in part dependant upon genes inherited from our foreparents and environmental factors. In some ways the brain works like this: If you think about how a thermostat works, a feedback loop, then you have a decent image of the process. In thermostats, there is a mechanism that responds to changes in the room temperature (too hot, too cool) which causes the thermostat to react turning the heat or air condition on or off to regulate the room temperature. This is simple enough.

So, in the body, we have a similar system. It is like a parallel processing system or train tracks going from one destination to another ( from the brain to the external environment) and another parallel set returning to the starting point (from outside the body back to the brain). For simplicities sake, let’s think of the brain as something carried around by the body, the purpose of the body would be to carry information from the surroundings to keep the brain aware of what is going on. So far this is easy.

When we understanding the feedback loop in a thermostat, we understand movement of electricity in the process. It takes electricity to turn things on and off even though the sensors may not require electricity to run they need some impulse to communicate with the thermostat. The same is true for the human body. The communication process is, in part, electrical and in part other chemicals (hormonal). If we think about the five senses, seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling we can see that the information comes in from a variety of places in the body, is communicated to the brain and then stored in the brain in places where it can be recalled. So, if you smell something, that information is transferred to the brain, sorted and stored by the sensory focus and by everything else going on at the location of the scent. This is the really important part! The process is not just heat and cool or smelling, it becomes more complex. It is everything in the room associated with the room, and all the other sensory information, sight, sound, touch, taste, and the internal state of the person/body experiencing the smell or the temperature change. We never experience any thing separated from the entire surroundings in which it occurs. Usually, we are unaware of all this but the body/brain does not discriminate. So in the brain billions of cells transmit electrical charges linked to information and communicate with each other, storing information all over the brain about every single event the body/sensory parts experience. Think about everything going on right where you are this moment as you read.

Herein is the problem. If you are in a situation were something awful is happening to you as a child or as an adult, and that information is embedded with all the other sensory information happening at the same time, then that information will be connected to all the other experiences associated with the awful experience as well. For example, if an abuse happened when you were a child, every bit of sensory information surrounding you at the time is stored with the abuse. Then when there is something in the environment that happens again, acting as a trigger, all of that associated material becomes activated again.
This is part of the issue with vivid dreams, all of the information becomes real again in dreams and we re-live the experience within the dream of nightmare.

In order for us to learn a different way of being and taking care of ourselves (and understanding why we start and stop taking care of ourselves) we must have an understanding of what has happened and how it changed our brains. Then we have to re-program the brains system. This is the basis of changing our behavior and ultimately our minds.

If you would like to ask a question about something in this article you can email that to: discoverycenters3@gmail.com I cannot answer emails individually but will address the educational issues in the column. If you would like to visit our website www.drkathleenquinn.com
Or for an appointment for psychotherapy with me in San Antonio, you may call our main number 601-467-0041 to schedule the appointment.

The Tribe

December 17, 2012

In 1994 I wrote this for the National Sexual Trauma Center…It is true today.

256.

We are all members
of a Tribe
gathering
hunting
sacrificing
to the terrors
of night —
Struggling to vanquish
the day —
Forgetting that we
spring from the
earth
each of us formed
dripping clay and water
breath
breathed
into us —
animating us.
We dance,
create,
build,
all out of who we are
Creating – Re/creating – Co-creating
who –
what
we are.
We each
bent and broken,
clay pieces missing;
hunks torn out
limbs cracked —
tormented creations —
we people the
day
and hobble
through night —
Not seeing who or
what we could become.
Longing for a
cool soothing
touch.

Wishing for a guardian
some protective
angel wing
to encircle us
keeping each of us
safe.

Turning to face the tribe
I see the
button eyes of
children
glazed
with pain
holding themselves
struggling to cradle
themselves
in their own arms.

Another clay figure
chipped, cracked,
crazed –
What predators have done to the
children of the tribe
offered as sacrifice
for food and shelter
by their mothers;
taken and tormented
in brokenness
by men and boys – other females
used, abused, traumatized;
Is destroying those
who are the precious
art of the community.
We are destroying
our own legacy
by our own hand.
We are both
destroyer and —
guardian —
predator and prey
demon and angel.
Until we see all children
as my child
No child will be
safe.
Until I can touch and cradle
anyone’s child as I would my own
no child will be
loved.
Until I can protect everyone’s
child
As I would lay down
my life
for my own child
then no child will be
defended.

Those of us who choose all children
must see ourselves as guardians
extending wings
encircling all little ones
for their sakes
and the sake of the Tribe.

July presentations

August 13, 2012

In June and July, I presented at the Academy for Expanded Perspectives on Learning national conference in Estes Park CO.

https://www.sworps.tennessee.edu/aepl/index.html

I am including this website and encourage those of you who are educators, nurses, managers and just plain interested in the leading edges in education to go to this site.  Certainly, we are pushing the limits of traditional education to transform what we do in the classroom and the clinical setting as well.

This is the body of the presentation using qigong, mindfulness and mandala drawing for teachers and clinicians. I will be producing an article for their journal in the next month and I will place links in this blog. This work is designed to support the newest in pedagogy and is intended to impact abusive behavior both by faculty, staff and students. The knowledge is critical because it is based on the research and practice we have developed over the last 20 plus years and it actually works to diminish the incidence of abuse and to provide administrations with the needed support to intervene and remove abusers within their individual settings.

If you are interested in bringing this workshop to your School of Nursing, academic program or clinical setting just contact me through this center blog and I will respond as soon as I am able.

 

Title: Inter-professional Mindfulness Education Techniques Utilized in A Nursing Education Program for Self-awareness and Transformation.

Forty two years ago there was a film produced by Franciscan Media called “Awareness.” This film presented a view of the origins of Buddhism, the life of Shakyamuni Buddha and the purpose of awareness as an integral approach to development of the spiritual experience and life.  At that time I was 23 years old, watching that film, a doorway opened changing my life. Eventually, I became Buddhist in my personal quest, became a psychotherapist treating depression and abuse in patients, retreat director and educator. In this evolutionary process, developing skills for awareness and meditation predated the movement for mindfulness in education and healthcare we have experienced in the 90’s onward.

About twelve years ago I became a nurse practitioner and experienced first hand what is an oft quoted statement about nurses: “Nurses eat their young.” This assessment has been so documented in the education and practice of nurses that it has become the measure which must be changed if nursing as a profession is to transform itself, retain nurses who continue to practice (one third of all nurses leave the profession within three years) and create an atmosphere and pedagogy which creates a new, more viable identity for the nursing profession. Much of the education of nurses parallels the education of teachers; one of identity formation and transformation from novice into proficient professional. In identity formation the negative becomes as much a part of the process as the positive. Changing the culture of nursing from self-devouring into mutually supportive and collaborative requires self-examination and growth based on this self-consideration.

The purpose of this discovery presentation/ workshop was to share ideas and provide an experiential opportunity for developing mindfulness in the classroom utilizing, qigong, breathing exercises, meditation, journaling , art therapy techniques and critical thinking techniques and dialogic interactions. These methods have been utilized in psychotherapy and translations of them into the classroom to train therapists have been utilized. The effort to bring self-awareness to the student nurse through these same mechanisms is novel, just beginning to find a foothold in some nursing programs largely through journaling exercises but there are an array of techniques for classroom and patient use.

Participants had the opportunity to experience the discovery process utilizing some of these techniques and discuss their usefulness in the learning environment.

May 2012

June 3, 2012

BlogMay 24, 2012

 

“The trend towards integrative medicine is clear, but the approach is only now gaining traction in nursing.” (Klatt, 2010) 

 

This quote is terribly important for integrative healthcare because clearly demonstrates how responsive the medical field is when it comes to public demands in healthcare changes. AND how slowly nursing education and practice responds to these demands.  Tongue in cheek! The medical profession only became responsive when it was clear the consumer was paying out of pocket for complementary and alternative care. However, the academic program to educate physicians in most medical schools now includes courses on integrative medicine.  Schools of nursing universally state they are holistic in teaching care of whole patient/person; but holism and integrative healthcare are NOT the same thing. Holism/holistic care does in fact consider the entire body/mind/spirit of the individual but Integrative Medicine or Integrative Healthcare includes treatments which are complementary/alternative and melds them into the allopathic/ traditional Western medicine model of patient care.

 

Interestingly, the actual foundation of both requires an in-depth understanding of cognitive neuroscience and the mechanisms by which change is brought about by brain chemistry influencing responses in both body and brain. If we look at the originations of this current model for care we have to go back to the original research in stress responses by Hans Selye in his 1936 article “A Syndrome Produced by Diverse Nocuous Agents,”  and the use of hypnosis for managing pain and healing by Milton Erickson, M.D. developed in the sixties.

 

The foundations for this view of treatment for the patient as a being “stuck” in a stress response which is an interior response to external stressors and the process of mind influencing the healing process began with psychotherapy. The process of understanding is much like watching a hamster running on a wheel/treadmill. The action is cyclic and unremitting unless the hamster is removed from the environment. Nevertheless, once the behaviors are learned…the brain is changed…this is what learning is…and the changes are difficult to transform.

 

It still requires psychotherapeutic skills for the management of patient care in illness and in a move toward wellness in preventive care. Those of us caring for patients both mentally and physically understand the entrenchment of behaviors which are self-destructive and clearly against the patient’s knowledge of what will bring about their own health or return to health. In order to changes minds, we have to literally change neural pathways, transforming the brain to a healthier process and thereby transform the body.

 

A recent study of women with cardiac risk factors showed they “knew” the information about cardiac disease, they knew what changes they needed to make but they still were not making healthy choices. The authors concluded the information dissemination was working but we needed to do a better job of educating for making change. I disagree…there is a step before primary prevention which must happen if action is to be taken. The brain itself has to change! And from those changes another ways of being, thinking, choosing, and living happens.

 

We will be considering and working on these methods in subsequent blogs.

March 15, 2012

March 15, 2012

Mar 15, 2012-03-15 Blog In the beginning of this journey I am reminded of TS Eliot, The Four Quartets, “We shall not cease from our exploration And at the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. For forty-two years I have been practicing in Discovery…before there was integrative medicine…I been practicing as my father taught me. He would say, “God made the body to heal itself.” This healing position from a man who was a gynecologist and surgeon, practicing “first do no harm” and “to treat in order to prevent.” Surgery was the action of last resort. As my first teacher I learned from him, nutrition and vitamin therapy, no medication unless is was absolutely necessary and then for the shortest time required. He taught and practiced from the position of psychosomatic medicine. What he taught 30 years ago is accepted now. Ninety-eight percent of illness is psychogenic in its origins. So with this beginning blog…I return to these original teachings. The actual scientific foundations of what is known today as Integrative Medicine or Integrative Healthcare arose in part from the work of Milton Erickson the father of modern hypnosis and hypnotherapy. His student Ernest Rossi wrote in 1986 about mind body connections…from there was/has been an exponential explosion of research and data. My thought is to return to the foundations of Discovery discussing the implications for today’s students in Integrative Healthcare as well as for patients seeking control of their own health and preventive care. In the early formation of the treatment protocols we use in our practice, the first step is always a starting place with self-discovery. So if we consider this….discovery is always a process beginning in a development of self-awareness. What am I experiencing? What does it mean? What is the purpose of what is happening? What do I do with my particular perspective and view of the universe? To quote the character Hugo in the award winning film Hugo, “If you lose your purpose, it’s like you are broken.” There is a process in self-awareness where we begin a process of recognition of our brokenness, our limitations, our gifts…and from this ability to think about ourselves and our meaning in the place we find ourselves right now…this moment. So let’s begin with this question….which will lead into others and this blog will unfold. Where are you now….right now…this moment….at the beginning of this journey? It does not matter much what age you are….questions we ask in our teens open up the pathways for our future selves. If you are at mid-life and you have come here looking for something…then return to your beginning and ask these questions. Your answer is the first step on this invisible path unfolding under your feet.

Volume: 2, Issue: 1

August 8, 2011

As Posted on Sun, Nov. 06, 2005 The MS Sun Herald

The cities we rebuild will reflect the people we are inside

We are going to rebuild The Pass. I keep having these images overlaying in my mind. The old village… the destruction I see… and shimmering over it a new place like a mirage or spirit place yet uncreated! A place of possibility where we can create a new village more in keeping with what earth should be, what loving caring people are when they come together. Read more

Volume: 1, Issue: 7

August 8, 2011

Life Choices

September’s Feature Article…

Most women look in the mirror every day and hate what they see.

What is even worse is that most of us also hate how our bodies feel, work, and move; our energy levels are often low and, no matter what we do, it seems that changing our body’s appearance (as well as the level of health of that body!) seems far beyond our power to influence.

I see and hear this in my office daily. Read more

Volume: 1, Issue: 6

August 8, 2011

Masks and Illusions

Ask Dr. Quinn…

Dear Dr. Quinn,

I am a 35 year old woman with three children. I have recently been diagnosed with poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I am taking Lupron prescribed by my physician, and my menstrual cycle is regulating. But I feel tired and depressed all the time. I quit my job three months ago because I just did not think I could go to work every day, and my husband has just changed jobs. All of this has affected our relationship as well. Do you have any suggestions? Read more

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