Friday, June 29, 2012

Our Duty to One Another

The last several posts have all been focusing on vicarious trauma, and today’s post sticks to that theme, and looks at why our social community is one of the ways to navigate out of vicarious trauma. I was reminded recently that we have an ethical duty to one another as lawyers. We have a duty to tell the State Bar when another lawyer has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. As far as I know, that duty exists among many professions. That may not appear to be a duty to each other, but that is because it only becomes a duty when the situation has become unethical. What if we had a duty to help each other before we ever get to that point?

One of the reasons I think lawyers are so affected by vicarious trauma, perhaps more than other helping professions, is because being a lawyer is a lonely endeavor. Law school, unlike business school, is a place to be alone. There are no group projects. There is little collaboration. If anything, there is an intense sense of competition among classmates. After all, class rank defines our future, we are told. We are asked, nay required, to hide our emotions and think “rationally.” We have duties of confidentiality that prohibit us from debriefing our difficult situations, as do many other helping professions. Even if we could talk to someone, who has the time? 

Vicarious trauma rears its head when we pull away from our social net and turn inward. Humans are social animals, and we need one another for survival, but when trauma takes over, the pull is away from that safety. Rationally it makes no sense, but the outside world becomes too difficult when we are living in a state of vicarious trauma. So we do the one thing we absolutely should not do – we pull away, deeper into that loneliness.

Should we only look out for one another when the pull away is so strong someone commits malpractice? Part of the reason I wanted to create this blog was to bring people together to have discussions. As of today, that has not happened. I have met some very interesting people, but the discussions among other strangers do not appear to be happening. But there is another way to connect. We can reconnect with those we already know.

Look around at your coworkers. Look around at opposing counsel. Look around at the other people with whom you interact. Who is acting differently? Who is pulling away? Who yelled at you this week for no apparent reason? Who has not returned your calls? Who made a snarky comment as you walked out the door?

That person may not be so terrible. That person may need your help.

What if our Code of Professional Responsibility included a duty to reach out a helping hand? What if our Code included a duty to bring each other back before we become just another statistic about how awful the legal profession is? Would that not serve all of us, and our clients, better than waiting until the conduct becomes so reprehensible that we have to report it to the State Bar?

Vicarious trauma is made worse by the fact that we have to hear traumatic event after traumatic event without ever processing the trauma ourselves. Instead, we have to look at the person talking about their awful experience and try to rationally find a way to deal with it. We cannot react to the trauma. We simply have to listen, express no emotion, and move on. Or worse, we have to be the ones to tell people that it is not as bad as they think. Usually we move on to more trauma.

We need to be able to process it. We need to be able to talk about it. And this is where someone else comes in. This is where our duty to one another becomes so important. We need to debrief. And we need to do it together. And we need to do it before these experiences become true vicarious trauma.

So, look around you again. Imagine your interactions over the past week. Who may need your helping hand? To whom do you owe a duty of reaching out? And are you the one who needs the helping hand? Reach out to a friend. Ask for the support you know you need. Let us take on this duty to each other today rather than make the dreaded phone call to the Bar tomorrow.

Have you ever reached out with a helping hand? Have you ever asked a friend for help when you needed it?


"Our Duty to One Another" is part of the series, "Overcoming Crisis Mode," in which we discuss the second-hand trauma associated with being a lawyer and specific ways to overcome it.

© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Navigating Out: Overcoming Vicarious Trauma

The last post was a bit of doom and gloom. I apologize. I wanted to write this post the very next day, so the doom and gloom would not last too long. This post is, therefore, the opposite – tools for overcoming vicarious trauma. Not surprisingly, a few of them, ok a lot of them, have graced these posts before, and many of them are related to yoga in some way.

Once again, vicarious trauma stems from experiencing other peoples’ trauma day-in and day-out, without the ability to come down from the physiological response. That physiological response is the fight-or-flight response caused by increased cortisol and adrenaline with the added benefit of the hyperarousal associated with PTSD. Thus, the ways to overcome vicarious trauma include ways to release those hormones and ways to create boundaries in ourselves to decrease the effect the repeated trauma has on us.

The first step, of course, is the intention to move beyond the stronghold it has on our lives.

The number one way to reduce adrenaline and cortisol in the body is to get oxygen to the brain. As discussed before, one symptom of vicarious trauma and long-term stress is shallow, quick breathing. The opposite is, of course, deep and slow breaths. Therefore, one of the simplest and most effective ways to calm the physiological response is deep breathing - calm and cool breathing. Here is a link to all the posts here that have discussed breath (including this one).  The other way to get oxygen into the brain is through aerobic exercise. We all know how good exercise is for us, but some people still do not know how effective it is for overcoming stress responses and even vicarious trauma. It is great! Take a walk. Go for a run! Go swimming! Just make sure to get the heart rate up and oxygen into the brain.

And while we are on the topic of “what your doctor would tell you to do even if you were not overly stressed and suffering from vicarious trauma,” we can talk about diet. I try to keep discussions about diet off this blog. People who know me in “real life” are tired of me talking about food, but here it is very important. What is the last thing people who live off adrenaline and cortisol need in their diets? Stimulants! What is in every office breakroom? Coffee and sugar – stimulants!

I drink too much coffee. I try not to eat sugar. But when I feel my body getting tired and overrun, the need for both kicks in. I know they will only make the problem worse, but the body craves energy when we refuse it the rest and calm it deserves. But remember that when the body is in fight-or-flight mode, digestion is the first thing to shut down. Even reducing the coffee and sugar intake can help the body relax, especially if you reduce them in the afternoons and evenings. Instead, try for some fresh fruit, vegetables, or nuts. Nuts have fat the brain needs to function, and when we provide the body with complete nutrition, the cravings diminish. They may not go away, but nuts, whole grains, fruit, and vegetables will keep the body moving without the constant need for stimulants.

The next step is balance and boundaries. One of the indicators of someone who will suffer from vicarious trauma is a lack of boundaries. We take work home with us. We take peoples’ problems home with us. Setting up boundaries to give work its time will open up space for our own personal time. And that leads to the rest of the steps.

It is vitally important to have hobbies. I know someone who has been working with children and families for almost 30 years, and guess what she talks about most? Her craft projects. As a mentor, she teaches many of us young lawyers to have a hobby. She calls it therapy. And she is absolutely right! What do you love to do? Is it knitting? Gardening? Running? Going to the movies? Going out to eat? Reading? Playing video games? Going to a religious or spiritual place? Yoga? Whatever it is, follow Nike’s advice – just do it!

And enjoy your activities with a friend. Humans are social creatures. Again, we would not be here as a species if not for our social interactions. We need them. We crave them. And the surest sign that vicarious trauma has overtaken your life is when you start pushing away the people you love. So bring them back. They may be a bit upset about your recent irritability, but let them know you need their help. Let them know you want them around you for something fun. And make a promise – do not talk about the trauma. At least not at the beginning. Just have fun! Do what you love! And do it with someone you love!

There are other steps and stages and ideas. But these are the big ones. Oxygenate the brain, decrease the stimulants in the body, increase boundaries and social interactions, and find something you love to do and do it. But try not to do them all at once. Pick one. Right now. Before you close this page. Are you going to take a 15-minute walk each day with a friend? Are you going to drink one less cup of coffee? Are you going to start doing photography again? Are you going to sit and breathe for five minutes each day?

Do you intend to overcome vicarious trauma? What are you going to do to start the upward spiral?

"Navigating Out: Overcoming Vicarious Trauma" is part of the series, "Overcoming Crisis Mode," in which we discuss the second-hand trauma associated with being a lawyer and specific ways to overcome it.

© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Recognition is the First Step

In the last post, we discussed the concepts of Vicarious Trauma and Secondary Shock. At a conference I attended last week, a presenter called it Compassion Fatigue. That is a lot of names for the same issue. But what is it? And what does it have to do with you? Most importantly, how can we know if it is affecting us?

As I mentioned before, I had not heard of this concept until after I graduated from law school. I loved law school (seriously, I did), but I find it unconscionable that I managed to graduate never having heard of this concept. Lawyers are four times as likely to be depressed as the general population. I knew that statistic, but I did not understand why. Of course, part of the problem is the hours, but I think it actually has more to do with Vicarious Trauma and Compassion Fatigue.

This is burnout on an entirely different stage. Burnout is not a lesser form of vicarious trauma, but it is something different. The difference between them is what causes each of them. Burnout comes from overwork or from a lack of support. It comes from stress that never dissipates. Vicarious trauma originates in the repeated interactions with people experiencing trauma. While some of the symptoms may look similar between burnout and vicarious trauma because they are both stress responses, the symptoms of vicarious trauma also include those  associated with PTSD.

I am not, in any way, minimizing the effects of burnout. It is painful and difficult and can be just as awful as vicarious trauma. My point is simply that they are different in kind. It is possible, and common, to suffer from both, but recognizing how each is different helps us recognize how best to overcome them on their own terms. And here we are focusing on vicarious trauma. In many ways, this entire blog is about burnout. In this series, however, I want to stay focused on the issues associated with vicarious traums.

What makes vicarious trauma unique is the trauma. It is the constant, repeated exposure to other peoples’ trauma. The person experiencing vicarious trauma gets there by being empathetic. Too empathetic. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes, to put yourself in their situation. Too much empathy is wearing those shoes until the soles fall off. One of the first stages of compassion fatigue is an overzealous need to change the world. Sound familiar? That was the last post.

But overzealous leads to something else when we realize we cannot change the world overnight. And that’s the vicarious trauma. The symptoms follow many of the signs of primary trauma, though they are not always as intense . . . at first. Zealous excitement to change the world becomes cynicism, hopelessness and despair at the belief that change is possible. This leads to changes in our underlying belief structures, of ourselves, our family, our friends, and even our spirituality. Instead of believing we can change the world, we start believing we cannot change anything. 

Physiological signs include sleeplessness, irritability, guilt, anger, disgust, and fear. The downward spiral of email is a common side effect. Interestingly, someone with vicarious trauma experiences some PTSD-like symptoms including hyper arousal (at noise or startling events) and increased sensitivity to violence and other kinds of pain in the world. Watching the news becomes not mildly depressing but painful and nearly impossible.

And then this parade of horribles leads to relationship problems, social withdrawal, issues surrounding trust, and the favorite among lawyers – substance abuse! When your entire worldview is shattered by feeling that you cannot change anything, substances can numb the pain (alcohol) or keep you going long enough to keep on working, hoping you can get it back (cocaine and other stimulants). It starts to feel as though you never have time for yourself. You know you have to take care of yourself, but there is simply no time. There are other signs and symptoms, but these are the big ones.

But why? Where does all this originate? Why do these particular symptoms occur?

Cortisol! Once again, we are back to the fight-or-flight response. As I learned while being chased by a sea lion in New Zealand (hey, I had to add a bit of humor to this post), the fight-or-flight response is necessary to survival. We only exist because we respond to trauma with hypervigilance and what feels like superhuman strength. But we are not supposed to live in that state constantly. Cortisol and adrenaline shut down what are non-essential bodily functions. You know, digestion, rational thinking, creative thinking, and immunity. They do not sound too non-essential, do they? In their place, we get an increased heart rate, speedy and shallow breathing, and tensed up muscles. The natural cycle is to come down from that state, but vicarious trauma does not allow that natural cycle to occur. Instead, we live in that state of hyper-vigilance. And on top of the stress response, there is the fear response. Every sound freaks us out, and news reports bring us to tears. 

When our bodies live in that state, and continue to experience vicarious trauma, there is no coming down from it. And then it becomes a downward spiral. The lack of sleep precludes our bodies and minds from releasing the trauma, and then we need more stimulants to get us through each day, and then we retraumatize throughout the day, do not sleep, cannot release the trauma from the day before, and on, and on, and on.

Sound like someone you know? If you are interested, here is a link to a self-test you can take to see where you stand. Maybe you are not as bad off as you think. Maybe you are in a more heightened state of trauma. The key is knowing. Recognition is the first step.

The next post will be less of a downer and will offer some tips for overcoming vicarious trauma. But until then, do you see this in yourself? Do you see it in others?


"Recognition is the First Step" is part of the series, "Overcoming Crisis Mode," in which we discuss the second-hand trauma associated with being a lawyer and specific ways to overcome it.

© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

When Crises Leads to Trauma

The word lawyer has a lot of connotations in the non-legal community. Our reputation is created by daytime television ads, television drama, famous trials, and stand-up comedians. There is, however, on aspect of lawyering that seems to have evaded notice by the general populace. The legal profession, as a whole, is unhappy. This is not true of all lawyers, and it is not even necessarily true of the majority of lawyers. But there is something about lawyering that leads to a higher rate of depression and substance abuse than the general populace. 

But why?

I started thinking about this again because a friend of mine posted a really depressing article about lawyer depression on facebook. It is called, “Broken hearted idealists,” and it is written by a Kentucky Supreme Court Justice. It is absolutely worth reading, and here is the link. The article starts with a friend of the author’s committing suicide, the fourth of his friends in “recent years.”

His thesis is simple. Many lawyers go to law school to change the world, but it is not as easy as we had hoped. Instead, lawyers deal with crises, one after another. I have written about this before numerous times, but I think he explains it well.

Lawyers—most of them—are heroic. You go home at night with your problems. They go home with the problems of many. And then they deal with their own personal problems— sick children, an alcoholic spouse, or a parent who is deep in Alzheimer’s—layered over by the demands of clients and judges and other lawyers.

But worst of all for practicing lawyers is the sinking feeling which settles upon them that in all the struggles, in the thick of battle, it all amounts to nothing. The growing suspicion that all that they do makes no difference. . . . But they lose purpose. They lose hope.

The article is full of the statistics about depression and substance abuse in the lawyer population, but unfortunately, the author provides no solutions. This article ends dark and sad for those of us in this profession.

I will admit it; I went to law school to change a system I think is slowly changing for the better but needs to move at a much more rapid pace. I went to law school specifically to give children a voice. A real voice. And after six months, I often go home at night wondering whether I have done anything worthwhile. Nearly all my clients are in some form of acute crisis, or else they would not need a lawyer. 

What most people call burnout from dealing with clients in crisis day after day has another name – Second hand trauma or vicarious trauma. This concept has graced this blog before, but it needs some more discussion. It needs some more depth. Why here? Why in a blog?

Yoga is one of the best ways to overcome trauma, whether first hand or second hand. The universe has been sharing a lot of yoga blogs about trauma with me recently. Here is a link to a series on Trauma Sensitive Yoga, and here is another link to an interview by someone who teaches trauma yoga therapy (with links to other articles on teaching yoga to people with PTSD). In addition, a Tucsonan (I have to give Tucson a shout-out once in awhile) has written a book called, Yoga for Depression and teaches her techniques around the world. This is but the smallest introduction to a topic that is bursting at the seams.

Lying in savasana one night during my yoga teacher training, I was extremely relaxed and thought, “lawyers need this,” and this blog was born. But as it has grown over the past 2.5 years, something has changed. Yoga for lawyers is not just about learning to relax. It is not just about learning to sit at a desk. There is little that is easy about being a lawyer. We interact with people in crisis all day long. And we need an outlet.

Most of the lawyers I know really do want to be doing great work. They really do want to be helping people in crisis. They really do care about the people they serve. But it is difficult to face their crises every day without some balance, and unfortunately for many lawyers that means mind-altering substances. 

But it does not have to mean that. So with that, I am announcing a new series on this blog called, “Overcoming Crisis Mode.” Several older posts probably qualify, but going forward there will be new ideas from around the world of Vicarious Trauma experts and Yogis alike. I am tired of reading articles about the depressed legal profession and the suicides it is causing (the article here is not, by any means, the first I have read). Not all lawyers are depressed. Not all lawyers abuse substances. And most lawyers enjoy the work they do. 

Together, we can learn to give to our clients and take care of ourselves all at the same time.

How do you notice your clients’ crises becoming yours? Do you tend to get pulled into the darker areas of your being? Has yoga helped before?


© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.

When Crisis Leads to Trauma is part of the Series, “Overcoming Crisis Mode,” in which we discuss the second-hand trauma associated with being a lawyer and specific ways to overcome it. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Coming Home to Yoga and the Law

I have been back in the United States exactly six months today. That is more than half as long as I was in New Zealand. This past week, however, was the first time I truly felt like I was back at home. It was, once again, where law and yoga mixed for me. It was the annual Association of Family and Conciliation Courts conference. This conference has always been my inspiration in law, but two years ago it became the first place I taught yoga after my teacher training had ended. Teaching yoga there this year was a coming home of sorts - a reminder of why yoga and law are so interconnected in my world.

I have written often about the power of conferences. I cannot say it enough. I love them. I love the energy, the community, the learning, the discussion, and the connections. This year, I talked to people from the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Israel, and New Zealand, and there were people from many other countries with whom I simply failed to engage (there were 1300 people at the conference). I learned about topics as diverse as attachment theory and mediation guidelines. I presented a workshop about my thesis. And I taught yoga.

About the only thing I did not do was sleep . . . but more on that in another post.

Two years ago when I taught yoga at this same conference, I had to teach one day in a suit. I was meeting a judge for breakfast immediately following yoga, and it was the day I was presenting, so I had to look nice. The point I made to everyone there was that yoga can be done anywhere. At the time, that was my symbol of the interconnectedness of yoga and the law in my life. This year, I did not have to be in a suit, but we were on the bottom floor, in the back corner, on the other side of the hotel from the rest of the conference. The first part of the practice was staying calm finding the room, but the rest of the practice was a reminder to me. This year, the interconnectedness was about coming home to who I am, and honestly, the reason this blog exists at all. 

Once we all gathered together, we had a family. We practiced together and then shared the conference.  For me, that is the entire point. Each morning, we set an intention. I offered one for the class each day, and I hope each person set their own as well. The final day’s intention was to open our hearts and take all we had learned over the past few days back to our own communities. It was about taking the home we had created at the conference to the homes in which we live each and every day.

For me, the intentions did not end in the yoga class. They permeated the entire conference. They continue to permeate my reentry into lawyering. For me, this is why I practice yoga in the morning. I have gone to evening classes, and I enjoy them, but rarely, if ever, do I practice on my own in the evenings. The mornings are an opportunity to set an intention for the day and for our lives. They are about coming home to ourselves before setting out for the day.

This conference was a reminder of all of that, a reminder of the power created when yoga and law intersect. Together, they can inspire each other, and together they can help each be reinvented. The inspiration and the rejuvenation of a conference, complete with yoga, cannot be beat.

Yoga at a conference is the moment when, for me, life makes the most sense. I got my legal professional start through AFCC, and I love the organization and the people involved in it. As I mentioned above, it is also the first place I taught yoga. These two aspects of who I am began with AFCC, and coming back to them this year helped me understand that once again. The people in AFCC are friends and colleagues, and their presence and brilliance inspire me daily. This is a moment of gratitude to the people who made this past week possible. Not only were their ideas amazing, but teaching yoga is something I have missed doing. It was great to be back and great to share it. I was reminded how important it is to me.

Thank you for the homecoming AFCC. Until next time . . . 

Where do you go when you need rejuvenation? Does your profession rejuvenate you? How do you incorporate yoga into that process? Is there something missing from your life you know would help bring you home?


© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Forging A Path

Two paths diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

--The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

The Road Not Taken is one of my favorite poems of all time, and it has graced this blog before. Ironically, as I have mentioned before, my life has always felt like a predetermined path. It always just felt as though the next step was laid out before me, and I followed it. The next thing I knew, I was a practicing lawyer doing work I find interesting and exhilarating, while learning to integrate all the yoga teachings I have learned over the years.

This week marks my first week away from work since January, when I went to a conference on child maltreatment. This week, I am attending my favorite conference of the year; the conference two years ago changed my life in innumerable ways. But before the conference, I am visiting a friend in Bloomington, Indiana. It has been a surprisingly lovely little town, full of good food, trees, and a great friend.

It is also home to the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center. Their website says that on the first Sunday of every month, they have an Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism session. It sounded interesting, so we decided to head over there. When we arrived, however, no one had any clue what we were talking about. But the grounds were beautiful, and there is a wee walking path, so we decided to take a walk in the woods.

As much as I would like to discuss trees, this post is actually not about trees in any way. It is about paths.

Walking through the woods at the Cultural Center, I started to think about the fact that we were on a set path. It was well marked, with little yellow, plastic flags, and even some yellow spray paint on some trees. I started ruminating on what it means to be on a life path versus a path in the woods. I found it slightly ironic that I was on such a well-marked path at a Buddhist retreat center.

Although people talk about being on a Buddhist path or a meditation path or a yoga path, there are no little plastic flags along the way. There are teachers, and there are people who have traveled before, but each path is unique to the individual on it. No two paths will look the same, and there is no specific goal at the end.

Being a lawyer, or any professional, is much the same. It used to be true that you would get out of law school, start working in a law firm, and stay there the rest of your life. On a similar vein, when my step-dad quit working for General Motors in Flint, Michigan, people thought he was crazy; just a few years later, the plant closed, and everyone who thought they had a job for life was out of work. Today, the average lawyer changes jobs five times over the course of a career, and that means many are changing several more times. Being a lawyer is about building and learning along the way, about finding the best way to serve the most clients. Just like the Buddhist path, there are teachers and mentors to guide our decisions, but at the end of the day, the path is our own. It is unique to each and every one of us.

A lack of set path is exciting. It means we each can wander and branch out in our own individual ways and find the work that inspires us to be our best. It can also be terrifying. There are all sorts of "what if?" moments, and we never know for sure if we are going to enjoy the next stage. It can be just as scary as being lost in the woods. 

But "the one less traveled by” is not "the one no one can help you understand." It is not a path upon which you can ask for no guidance; it is simply the one unique to you. As I walked off the path at the Cultural Center, I noticed we ended up right back where we started. I sort of chuckled to myself, thinking, “We know exactly where we will end up on the predetermined path, and we will not get very far." This can be great for getting back to your car to go home. It may not work so well as a life path. On that one, I plan to forge the new road ahead. 

And that, my friends, is what this week’s conference is about. But more on that when it starts. What about you? Where do you diverge from the set path?


© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Power of Adrenaline

As I mentioned in the last post, I finally learned the toolbox lesson the universe has been trying to teach me when I thought I lost my friend on Pier 39 in San Francisco. I learned another lesson during that event as well – the power of adrenaline. I posted before about the benefits of stress and adrenaline for saving our lives, but this time the adrenaline served a different purpose.

It took away my pain. Literally.

Just over two weeks ago, I sprained my ankle. I have been fairly lucky in that I have been able to walk on it, but there is no question that it hurts. On Sunday, in San Francisco, I was walking a lot, and my foot was doing alright, but it was definitely hurting, and I was definitely not walking my typical speed. I was limping along and wondering why I was being stupid enough to walk miles at a time.

When I first lost my friend, the thought of adding extra steps to my day to look for her made my foot hurt. I limped back to where I had lost her, then limped back to where I thought I might find her. But then the minutes ticked by, and I had not seen her. The adrenaline started pumping, and I started walking faster. Then I started even running. I did not feel my foot again until I found her. Somewhere in the middle of that time, I even realized what I was doing. I realized I was moving faster, and I realized it was not hurting.

Adrenaline is powerful. Even bringing my thought process to the lack of pain did not bring it back.

But then the adrenaline began to dissipate, and about five minutes after I found my friend, my foot was throbbing. Luckily, we were getting on a boat to view the beautiful bay, and I was able to not only rest my foot for an hour, but I was able to reflect on adrenaline. And yes, I actually did reflect on adrenaline during that boat ride, even amidst viewing the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge on its 75th birthday.

There is no question about why the adrenaline made me forget the pain. When we are faced with a truly mortal circumstance, the pain in our foot is far less important than the possibility of being eaten by a tiger. We are better off running away and dealing with a painful foot than being lunch. That makes sense.

But most of us, especially those of us in stressful life situations (all of us, probably), rarely come down from that adrenaline rush. Some people, especially the Kiwis, crave it, and jump out of airplanes or off bridges to feel the adrenaline. But most of us have a decent amount of adrenaline running through our systems on a daily basis we do not need to add any more.

But what happens to us when we live in that adrenaline phase? Adrenaline makes us unaware of the pain and the disease our body is experiencing. It literally turns off our sensors, so strongly that even when we realize we are ignoring the pain, we do not feel it. That might be okay for a moment (though I realize I could have made my foot a lot worse, and I am lucky I did not), but it can lead to serious difficulties over the long term.

If we notice disease or pain early, we can rest and recover with far less interruption to our lives. Our bodies are naturally good at healing, and when we notice we need to heal, and we take the time to do it, we can. But if the adrenaline we experience day in and day out blinds us to our own pain and disease, it gets worse and worse. Eventually it can get so bad, even the adrenaline can no longer hide it from our view. It hits us in the face, and we must face it.

That can be devastating. The pain and disease by that point may take a lot more than simple breathing, rest, and some extra exercise can remedy. Our hyped-up adrenaline lives often lead us into painful paths. In 2012, we rarely face the mortal dangers our stress-response adrenaline rush is designed to counteract. Instead, we face daily stressors from which we never fully release our adrenaline. It remains in our system potentially blinding us to all the pain and disease our body holds, and one day that might come back as a much bigger problem.

Ignoring a sprained ankle for 30 minutes may be stupid, but it probably will not result in a terminal disease. But what else are we ignoring in our daily lives? What are you ignoring? Is your adrenaline making you blind to your own pain and disease?


© Rebecca Stahl 2012, all rights reserved.