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Complementary Corner

No SMOG Allowed!

Renee Lehman

(12/2013) This is something that I often talk to my clients about… There is No SMOG allowed in the treatment room. SMOG? You mean like the unclean air pollution in Los Angeles? No. SMOG stands for "Should’ve", "Must", "Ought to", and "Got to." So, there are No "Should’ves", "Musts", "Ought tos", or "Got tos" allowed in the treatment room. Why is this important? Because SMOG means to be obliged to do something, which can lead to a feeling of constraint, restriction, confinement, or limitation. Plus, if the SMOG obligation is not met, one can feel guilt, remorse, or shame. Now, there are moral and legal obligations that we all have to meet, and there are promises or actions that we have vowed to others to keep, etc. Yet, often times, chronic SMOG can create a chronic stress response within our bodies. A chronic stress response within the body can lead to long-term health problems.

Normal Stress Response

What is the normal stress response? Well, suppose you are walking in the woods, and encounter a black bear. Wouldn’t you perceive this as a threat? Because of this perceived threat, a small region in your brain called the hypothalamus sounds off an "alarm" in your body. The "alarm" initiates a series of events, which stimulate your adrenal glands that sit atop of your kidneys. The adrenal glands are your body’s primary "shock absorbers." They produce hormones including norepinephrine (also known as adrenaline), and cortisol, which allow you to respond to the states of your daily life in a healthy ways.

Adrenaline (known as the "Fight-or-Flight" hormone), is produced when something is (or you think it is) threatening. This hormone increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure, makes your blood rush to your heart and large muscle groups, widens your pupils, sharpens your brain, and increases your tolerance for pain. It prepares you to "Fight."

Cortisol is the primary stress hormone. It increases the amount of sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain's use of glucose, and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol also curbs bodily functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a "fight-or-flight" situation. It turns down immune system responses, and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. It also helps to maintain stable emotions. Both adrenaline and cortisol improve your ability to recover from episodes of stress and trauma, overwork, temperature extremes, etc.

Chronic Stress Response

When a once perceived threat has passed, the adrenaline and cortisol levels return to normal. This allows your heart rate and blood pressure to return to your baseline levels, and other bodily systems (like digestion) can then resume their regular functioning. However, when stressors are always present and you continuously feel under attack, the "fight-or-flight" response stays activated. This is even true for when you feel the consequences from SMOG.

The chronic activation of the stress response, and the subsequent overexposure to adrenaline and cortisol, along with other stress hormones, can disrupt almost all your body's functioning. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including: loss of bone density, muscle wasting, thinning of the skin, decreased ability to build protein, kidney damage, fluid retention, spiking blood sugar levels, weight gain, anxiety, depression, insomnia, digestive problems, heart disease, memory problems, and increased susceptibility to bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeasts, allergies, and even cancer. That's why it's so important to learn healthy ways to cope with the stressors in your life, and to decrease the SMOG in your life.

How to clear up the Stress from SMOG

This will require making changes in your underlying thinking that you SHOULD (or SMOG) BE a certain way. Try a few of the following ideas to reduce the stress caused by the guilt associated with SMOG:

  1. Do more things that bring you pleasure and make you laugh, and do fewer activities that feel like obligations. Spend more time with people who make you feel good, and less time with people who are draining. Focus more on what you like about yourself and less on what you see as your limitations. In short, have more fun! Make pleasure a priority instead of a luxury.
  2. Actively focus more on loving thoughts. Loving thoughts (about people you love, your favorite pets, a delicious meal, or even a sweet memory) short-circuit the harm done by the body’s physiological reaction to stress. Opening your heart and "thinking with your heart" will bring you joy and fulWllment, and will evoke biochemical changes in your body over time that will recharge your adrenal batteries.
  3. Allow yourself to accept nurturing and affection. If you didn’t learn how to do this as a child, you may need to practice it. Every morning before you get up, spend a minute or two bathing in a memory of a time you felt loved or what it may feel like to be loved. Do the same at night. Imagine your heart being filled with this love. Use affirmations that help you feel deserving of this nurturing and love.
  4. Believe in yourself. Self-confidence leads to success; therefore, it is important to have faith in your abilities and believe in yourself so that you can let go of your guilt. Start enjoying the positive things in your life so that you are not harboring guilt feelings.
  5. Consciously say YES or NO to requests made of you. When you say "Yes" to one thing, you are automatically saying "No" to something else. Saying yes to a request that will create feelings of resentment, drains your energy and is not in your best interest or that of the requestor. Think about that the next time a request comes your way, and be conscious about when you’ll need to say "No" so that you will be able to say "Yes" to a request that will add a level of excitement, energy or fulfillment to your life (even if it means taking away some of your precious time).
  6. Let go of the need to conform to the expectations of others. I hear many of my clients say that they no longer feel the need to please anyone. Why wait until you’re "older" to begin making decisions that are in the best interest of you and your family?
  7. If you have done something wrong, apologize for it. Do not worry about how much time has elapsed since you hurt someone. This is very important in order for you to let go of the guilt and move on. This will make you feel relieved, and you will be surprised how light you will feel afterwards. This helps reduce the load of the guilt that you have been carrying inside.
  8. It is also helpful to reframe your belief system and consider yourself a human being who can make mistakes. "To err is human," is a popular saying that elaborates this point. By realizing that "I am human," you will give yourself the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. Learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself, and move on to take new challenges in life. Do not get stuck in your past mistakes, and scold yourself forever!
  9. Finally, focus on the present. Guilt based on SMOG is usually about past doings. We cannot change the past by feeling guilty and that is why guilt is the useless emotion. We need to focus on the present and how to bring about change in the outcome in the future.

The payoff for learning to manage SMOG is peace of mind and, perhaps a longer, healthier life.

Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist, physical therapist, and Reiki Master with over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA.  She can be reached at 717-752-5728.

Read other article on well being by Renee Lehman