The tiger strikes
Recent research is shedding light on what stress is doing to the body. In his article Stress -and Allostasis- Induced Brain Plasticity Dr. McEwen explains how the brain and the mind are the source of stress processes. The brain has a dynamic and plastic neural circuitry that coordinates, monitors, and calibrates behavioural and physiological stress response systems in order to meet the demands imposed by particular stressors. These processes can be adaptive in the short term (allostasis -the process of achieving stability, or homeostasis, through physiological or behavioural change) and maladaptive in the long term (allostatic load -"the wear and tear on the body" which grows over time when the individual is exposed to repeated or long-term/chronic stress).
Although we are rarely trying to outrun a tiger, or take down a wholly mammoth to feed the family, we can experience a state of stress due to what we perceive as dangers or as threatening. We maintain homeostasis through the allostatic adaptation to the external and internal demands that are registered by the brain. This allodynamic adaptation comes at a cost of the wear and tear on the body and brain, which is termed the allostatic load. The allostatic responses to stressful experiences are best when they are also rapidly employed and then terminated. You climbed the tree to escape the tiger and now you can appreciate the clouds in the distance while you wait to descend. Or, the mammoth has been successfully hunted and you can now celebrate with your comrades while your heart rate slows and you catch your breath. When the allostatic responses are prolonged and not terminated promptly, the allostatic systems undermine mental and physical health.
"An important aspect of allostasis and allostatic load is the notion of anticipation...psychological states, such as apprehension, worry, and anxiety, as well as cognitive preparation for a forthcoming event. Anticipation arising from neural activity within the brain can drive the output of allostatic biomediators, and it is likely that states of prolonged anxiety and anticipation can result in allostatic load. Other important aspects of individual responses to stress in relation to allostasis and allostatic load are health-damaging and health-promoting behaviours such as smoking, alcohol consumption, sleep, diet, and physical activity, collectively called lifestyle behaviours. These may be embodied within the overall notion of allostasis—i.e., how individuals adapt to and cope with a challenge—and they also contribute to allostatic load.”
Wiki defines anxiety as an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behaviour, such as pacing back and forth, somatic complaints and rumination. It is the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events. Fear is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat; anxiety is an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing. Anxiety can be appropriate, but when it is too much and continues too long, the individual may suffer from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are partly genetic but may also be due to drug use including alcohol and caffeine, as well as withdrawal from certain drugs. They often occur with other mental disorders, particularly major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, certain personality disorders, and eating disorders. Common treatment options include lifestyle changes, therapy, and medications.
How to outrun a tiger?
I would argue that everyone wants to feel happy, healthy and calm! If it were as simple as making a choice, would we not all just do it? Ok, so you make the choice to be happy and not anxious, yet nothing happens. The next best idea is to seek out help. We encounter a problem when we go to the doctor complaining of anxiety however. How can the root cause be determined? It is obvious the root would vary from individual to individual and it is not likely to be found by blood tests, MRIs or other scans and tests. Too many people wait until there is disordered functioning of the affected organs and systems and the problem of allostatic load sets in. Then the problem is on an unconscious loop and starts to affect all parts of our lives. At the very late stage, when signs and symptoms indicating structural alterations in the tissues and organs appear, the doctor can finally give a definite diagnosis.
But what is their treatment at that late stage point other than medication or lifestyle change? Going back to the big argument, medication is their answer because most of us don't succeed in making a lifestyle change big enough or sustained enough to change our thoughts and perceptions. "Yes, the tiger will likely eat me. I know it is around the corner and it oddly, looks just like my boss, so I run into that scary animal five days a week," we say to ourselves. This means we are "up shit creek," as my mother would say, since we can't think our way out of a problem that our own thoughts got us into.
In her article, the Noumedynamic Human, Judyann McNamara explains the problem of stress and anxiety and shows homeopathy can help. Stress is essentially the application of or resistance to a force. "Stress, by definition, is the process through which adaptation and evolution occur in response to externally and internally driven forces. Life is movement, a dynamic interaction of forces. Stress can be environmentally induced or self-induced. Self-induced stress can be experienced as two forms: a force pushing the individual or a force resisting change or life." This comes from a homeopathic understanding of disease and health. In order to help someone with chronic disease states such as anxiety or depression, a homeopath needs to understand an individual's processes of adaptation and susceptibilities. The causes are often found to be self-induced stress. Current research shows that the discrepancy between the real and the perceived in a stressed individual causes stress-related consequences on a very subtle level of biological organization. This is the allodynamic component of an individual where the balance is now tipping from happy allostasis to miserable allostatic load.
With the help of homeopathy we are able to fill in the source of both what inspires the individual and the unhealthy state that leads to disease. In order to decipher the true root cause to be addressed in chronic disease, a homeopath must understand the individual's processes of adaptation and evolution. Herein lies the beauty of homeopathy, the healing process can help in cases of depression, anxiety and stress without causing further harm, and all without or in conjunction with medications. The state of having the discrepancy between the real and the perceived is difficult to describe unless it has been experienced and homeopathy can help us experience those moments. Homeopathic remedies can also help to shift our perceptions and get us out of the stuck patterns and behaviours, even those that have been with us for a long time. This happens very naturally and sometimes very quickly. The tiger is no longer stalking us down the hall. Instead, it is now in a photo on a calendar that we only notice if we need to check the date.
Homeopath and Holistic Practitioner.