No Matter Why, Where, or What Happens, Self-Care Starts and Ends With Me

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Self-Care Tip #158 – No matter why, where or what happens, self-care still starts and ends with Me.

It’s no secret that I look at behavior through many paradigms.  Most of what I’ve shared on this blog is medical because I’m a physician.  That’s my specialty.  I’m not a physicist and don’t spend my posts on explaining how physics influences our behaviors – although I believe it does.  However, I don’t want you to think that I think behaviors and emotions exist within only the medical paradigm, even though that’s what you hear me talk mostly about.

According to Dr. Q, the roughly sketched breakdown of how stress intersects with medicine:

1.  Stress influences how we behave and feel. We “see” the stressors, and we see the emotional and behavioral responses, and we know their sources.  We know that emotions and behaviors are produced by a human.  Where else?  Anything magical or otherwise comes from Someone from another place.

2.  Stress influences our medical condition. Stress will awaken sleeping genes that carry the names of different diseases; cancer, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and so on.  Would those genes have awakened on their own without the external trigger flipping the switch?  We don’t always know.

3.  Because there are so many factors that influence the reasons a disease process demonstrates itself, we cannot say that it is causally related to the stressors.  Many people try to do this, and sometimes the disease’s labeled cause comes down to the jury’s decision.  But we don’t have to have read, “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee to know that people’s opinions and judgments are biased.

4.  People try to find the reasons why.  This is natural and in my opinion appropriate.  However, where we look for the reasons for the feeling and behaviors is equally important.  Seeking accountability for how we feel and behave to come from outside of ourselves, to come from external reasons, to come from a source to fault is more often missing our chance to get friendly with ourselves.

“It just is,” as many say, and the 12-Steps would say “Surrender what is out of your control to your Higher Power.”  These are not inconsistent with owning that mental health begins and ends with Me.

Sure, there are the despicable situations of abuse, trauma, violence and other horrible biology changing events.  These are known to cause the one non-genetically related psychiatric disease process called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.)  These are situations consistent with our previous post on not being responsible for our history but being responsible for our futures.

5.  Stress, other than in situations of PTSD, is not causal for the progression of mental illness.  Everyone has stress, but how we deal with it, how we cope makes the difference.  Even horrible events, such as losing ones wealth and the sequelae of it are not causal for the continuance of brain disease.

6.  Medications, lifestyle change, Love and various other therapies effectively influences the way genes express themselves, our biology, and our medical condition….

7.  …In so doing, medications, lifestyle change, spirituality and various other therapies effectively influence our emotions and behaviors.

Question: How has your understanding of how stress intersects with with how you feel and behave affected you?  Please tell me your story.

17 thoughts on “No Matter Why, Where, or What Happens, Self-Care Starts and Ends With Me

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  2. As a 12 step person I still have a problem fully understanding that surrender to the higher power stuff. I surrender to the program as a whole to direct me in recovery. I surrender in the sense that I know my way does not work. I surrender that I need the higher power and a connection.Sometimes I think surrendering to the higher power to take care of things shows the character defect of ego centric entitlement. I hear so many say that such and such is beyond my ability so I turn it over. Too often the advocate of such an understanding has $1.2 mil in the bank but when you’re broke and unemployed and about to be evicted with 3 kids and a sick wife, turning it over to the higher power does not bring much comfort when there will be no dinner tomorrow. With all the evidence re the debilitative effects of stress, insurance companies for income protection disability have a string of doctors and lawyers to dismiss such claims that stress can really incapacitate people.

  3. I wrote, in a reply to your blog about “taking it to the floor”, about an insignificant stress that came close to un-doing me. I mentioned that it’s not unusual for that kind of “insignificant” stress to do that to me. I attributed my over-reaction to my childhood experiences. I’ve been told that I suffer from PTSD. Perhaps, knowing my history would prove that to be true but this blog just makes me feel that I am not taking responsibility for myself and my reactions because it’s easier to blame them on my parents – among others in my childhood. So I will now go to bed, curled up with my granddaughter’s teddy bear (the one she keeps at our house), and pray that one day this almost 70 year old will grow up and own up to her own responsibility for herself – and pray, even more fervently, that she can learn how to do that sooner than later. I don’t know whether to be grateful for this blog but it hit home…I guess…and was strangely painful.

    • shucks nancy. i’m zero for two today. u and carl had a negative response i think to that post. i’ll need to ponder where i went wrong in my script. i’m sorry u feel blamed. it’s easy to do and you are not alone feeling that way. these are hard concepts to say and to take. when i was w a girlfriend the other day, she said much the same thing as you although in different words so u really r not alone. every day i write and am an in-process writer. trying to hone these concepts of self care. sharing them in hopes to help myself and others along the way. keep talking and hopefully we’ll both keep growing. keep on dear nancy. a bear is not a bad idea to cuddle every now and then.

      • Not your fault, Sana. Not at all! You write beautifully. I just need to deal with things about myself that I’m not sure I understand…or understand how to deal with. I wan’t being negative about the way it was written or what you wrote…just how it hit me personally. I’m okay. You are, too!

  4. I’m sorry. I need to add to what I have just written – badly – twice, now. I have nothing against giving it over to a Higher Being. My spiritual life, throughout ALL of my life, has been what has saved me. I don’t even want to think about where I’d be, had I not had God and church to turn to. I may not be able to “let go and let God” without reminding Him every other second that I need help or consolation, but I have never had a doubt that He’s with me and that He’s the reason that I am.

    The blog was fine. The subject was tough, and that’s fine, too, because it’s what you do well and what we need.

    Hope I said what I meant better. :-}

  5. Hey Sana,

    I am learning so much from you, and I am starting to understand a little more about how self-care is defined. I have always blamed myself for my stressors, or the times when I have not been able to manage my stress…. But what you are saying is that we do not need to blame ourselves. Really, this post makes me understand that “blame” is not really a word we can use when we discuss brain disease—either its origins, or its present existence in ourselves. Instead, you are asking that we stay committed to the mission of self-care. We might not get it perfect the first time, or even multiple times—but that isn’t our “fault.” It just is. We have to be present with it. Our accountability is to stay in the “trying” mindset. To keep searching for the solution, to believe in ourselves enough to fight for ourselves. We keep committed to finding what works for us: surrender to a Higher Power, medicine, exercise, staying connected to support networks, a cuddly and special stuffed animal (I have one, too), etc. What I am hearing you say is that there will always be stressors and that all of us have pasts—the important thing is to keep fighting the good fight for our futures, to release ourselves from all in our past that we could not control. it is a hopeful message: we are not slaves to our external stress. We have an internal power to keep fighting and to keep searching for ourselves.

  6. I’m a nice person until stress presses past my niceness provoking my selfishness. Over the years, the point of breakthrough has moved, slowly, in the right direction. Very slowly. When I think I will no longer respond negatively to stress, I do. It may take a lot of stress, or in some instances, it may take very little, for instance, if I am not feeling well. Who can figure it out? We are what we are. Thank God for grace. (I don’t harm people. I just run my mouth when I shouldn’t. How embarrassing!)

    • dear nice person,
      i just love the “run my mouth” part of the real person.
      i am really encouraged though that through life, the space between reactive times lengthens. some hope for me! thanks for commenting Carol Ann

  7. i love stress i absolutulty love it being buzy 10 pizzas to make in 2 mins as well as doing four chiken kebabbs making at the same time i actualy enjoy stress im more productive that way and it keeps me form thinking to hard

  8. Pingback: Self-Care is Freedom, is Democracy, is Because We Are Accountable « A Friend to Yourself

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