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.
New immigrants to Canada can carry trauma that impedes their future progress
Refugees come in various shades and are people that must leave their home and current location for reasons of safety and survival, often with no opportunity to return. They are people who are oppressed, displaced, persecuted or fleeing natural disasters, and often need to find a new home by immigrating to another country and culture. This is never an easy process, neither the events leading up to the decision to leave and the process of getting to a safer destination nor the transition period of acculturation and resettlement.
The United Nations defines refugees as “persons who are outside their country and cannot return owing to a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.”
Refugees can have many physical wounds or illnesses related to a period of time where they lacked of basic needs and as well may be emotionally traumatized. The grief at leaving their home, the loss of their native country and culture, estrangement from family and friends are forefront in their experience yet often their emotional needs are put aside for the immediate material priorities such as food, housing, work and integration into the new surroundings. After the initial basic needs are met, but if the emotional needs are not, there can be isolation, depression, anxiety, poverty, long-term inadequate housing or nutrition, anger and addictive behaviour. If there is a loss of values or faith there can be hopelessness and despair. The risk for PTSD and depression is high for refugees and if there is considerable stress and trauma then learning a new language, finding work and developing social connections can be challenging.
“It is unfortunate and ironic that most refugees flee in order to escape human rights violations and violence, yet their vulnerable situation as refugees exposes them to additional human rights violations and violence. Walking away from danger with one’s valuables makes a refugee vulnerable to robbery from armed marauders. Young boys are always susceptible to being kidnapped and forced to fight for a military group. Women of all ages are potential rape victims. Children are no longer assured of receiving an adequate education. NGOs have trouble ensuring the safety of those who live in refugee camps. Refugees also occasionally have problems receiving food and water because such resources are often in short supply and are major targets of armed groups.” www.beyondintractability.org
Refugees that have trauma require greater mental and physical care and yet they can face social-economic or cultural barriers to healthcare resources such as language, cultural perceptions of health and illness, and an unfamiliarity with the available healthcare system. As a minority in a new country they can also experience what is known as isolation stress. This includes:
Integration with many forms of support
Most Western governments offer social services to help refugees pick up the pieces of their lives and start over again. In Canada there are language training programs, employment services, community organizations, and support services for childcare, transportation, translation and interpretation services, and short-term crisis counseling.
Homeopathy can be part of the complex recovery and settlement process experienced by refugees. At a basic level it can help the body to heal long standing physical issues and injuries. It can help to bring about long term emotional resolution of recent and long past events related to war, violence or persecution. The experiences related to these difficult situations are all traumatic, yet some people are able to cope with difficult experiences and move forward in healthy and productive ways. However, for others, a traumatic experience can have a profound and lasting effect on daily functioning. This is no mystery to a trained homeopath who understands the concept of individual susceptibility and perceptions of similar events.
We find that homeopathy can help with developing greater resiliency and to very quickly reduce anxiety, stress and fear that keep a person in a chronic state of stress. The inquiry process does not require reliving the past experiences and retelling the difficult stories, but instead explores how what happened has affected the person, their inner experience and how this presents as current symptoms. There is no need to re-traumatize a stressed person in this method. The support that homeopathy naturally provides means getting beyond the level of basic needs is easier and no longer as challenging. The person can begin to find their potential and meaning and better adapt to their life as it is now. In this way, they can also contribute more to their families and to the community.
To help with resettlement stress, change and adaptation, homeopathy can be a helpful treatment for refugees along with other social programs and health services.
How does holistic treatment support healthy living? Why try homeopathy? Having a life long study in the principles of nature and healthy living, Lauren Trimble is happy to share her knowledge and experience. The art of retuning the body’s natural healing capacity & developing consciousness in a compassionate and gentle way is the gift that homeopathy brings to her current holistic practice. If you enjoyed this article find out more at Birdsong.
Homeopath and Holistic Practitioner.