Wednesday, March 25, 2020

WTF Is Happening to Your Brain and What You Can Do About It

There's been something I've been thinking about a lot lately but haven't really had the energy to talk about it in any comprehensive way.

I still don't think I'm going to, because investing energy where it needs to go is incredibly important right now. But I will say this:

Visiting this blog, right here, right now, I am allowing you the space to admit and accept that what we're going through is a stressful and potentially traumatizing situation.

People are different. Two people can experience the exact same thing and one can emerge traumatized and the other unscathed.

One thing that might help right now is knowing what might be going on with your brain and central nervous system. The following is something I shared yesterday with friends and family. It's based on the training I received from Trauma-Informed Oregon, which led to me to create a unique introductory course in Trauma-Informed Care that is library-specific. It's not a lot but I hope it helps.

"WTF Is Happening to My Brain?"

The three types of stress: positive, tolerable, and toxic. Information in the image is explained below
Image from the Center on the Developing Child

There are three kinds of stress:

Positive stress: meeting someone new, public speaking you agreed to, etc. You may feel a spike of adrenaline but you know you're mostly safe and it's over soon.

Tolerable stress: this stress is difficult to manage but you know there is a time ahead when that specific stress will be gone, like planning a wedding.

Toxic stress: this stress is negative, prolonged, and you are unable to see an end. Your brain may adapt to a new normal by rewiring itself to constantly expect stress. This is a self-preservation mechanism, but can remain once you've left the stressful or dangerous situation. This is one way people get PTSD.

Right now, a lot of people might feel like they are experiencing tolerable stress and teetering toward toxic stress.

"What Can I Do About It?"

It is important to note that the #1 way to buffer tolerable stress and keep it from becoming toxic is the presence of supportive relationships.

(This is not to say that if you live with others you are more immune to toxic stress than those that live alone. "Supportive" is in there for a reason).

Our collective isolation can be particularly difficult right now because undue stress can cause us to crave oxytocin, which is a stress relieving hormone we get through social interaction.

So: video chat. Group text/text old friends. Actually call people on the phone. Set up Xbox parties. It may feel silly at first, but this is a unique situation where EVERYONE is going through something similar. Hearing from each other can not only be fun, but can help buffer stress and maintain or increase our mental health.

BONUS! Trauma-Informed Oregon has compiled resources on Community Incident Response (aka, what we're doing right now) to help us navigate the nebulousness of now with our staff and patrons.

1 comment:

  1. I read this when you posted it, and think it's very helpful and important information. I would like to share it, if that's alright. Love you!