Stress shows itself in both uplifting and devastating times in our lives. Have you heard that our body and mind evolve in seven-year cycles?
For example, my life has changed in many respects the last 14 years. About 7 years ago I fell ill with meningitis and the subsequent flurry of migraine. The way I “managed” my stress then was by isolating myself, steering clear of the conversation of what a day in my health life was like, and feeling scared of what was to come next.
Fourteen years ago I was “handling” my stress in means of working excessively, working out until I had overall body fatigue, and focusing on everything that hurt and not helped my internal wellness. Today, stress is something that I don’t ignore, but also don’t allow to consume me. As silly as it may sound, I was stressed this afternoon about something that really should not have elevated my stress levels. My solution was to lay down, think positive thoughts, and confirm those positive thoughts.
I tuned in to Stanford’s Health Improvement Program, “Making friends with stress – maximizing opportunities for growth,” hosted by Deborah Balfanz Ph.D. Our mindset encompasses our expectations – “what do we think will happen?” There are two stress mindsets. 1. Stress is debilitating vs. 2. Stress is enhancing.
I think most would agree that each day we form opinions and expectations based on our experiences. Take migraine for example, it can be easy to think, “Oh, here it is again – another migraine, I’m done for the day, need to clear my calendar. Probably tomorrow too.” Why don’t we focus and work on our predisposition – attitude? Don’t we want a powerfully, positive outcome?
The flip side of that is I’m going to tackle this migraine, take it easy and not overdo it, but treat it and be better later today and definitely tomorrow. If it’s hard to tap into that mindset when a migraine strikes, perhaps reach out to a family member or a friend – let them “fill the gas up in your car” to help motivate you to positive thinking. Striving for healthy, good quality of life is worth it. When you shift your perspective, you’re definitely making a great personal accomplishment and achieving personal growth. Not only that, but if you do share what is going on, you’re also strengthening your interpersonal relationships. There is a surprising amount of benefit to having an “I’ve got this” mindset or “I’m stronger than my migraine” mindset.
Next time you have a migraine, take a quick mental snapshot of the initial moment – how you react, your mindset, and your actions to overcome it. I think the more you do this exercise the more you’ll be proud of the “framed” snapshot. If you can, journal it. Then journal the next one. See the positive differences. Instead of retreating and not reaching out for support, remind yourself that we, the migraine community, are here for you – to help your recovery and celebrate even the tiniest of milestones. “Knowing that giving help in a stressful situation can actually help your recovery,” says Deborah Balfanz on Stanford Health Improvement Program’s “Making friends with stress – maximizing opportunities for growth,” 2019.
Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal in her presentation: “How to make stress your friend” really hit the nail on the head. “Your stress response has a built-in mechanism for stress resilience and that mechanism is human connection.” She explained that Oxytocin (the stress hormone) kicks in when you experience stress; your body wants you to be around others – receive and give support.
An interesting fact that I was unaware of is that Oxytocin is a natural anti-inflammatory. Oxytocin primes you to do things that tighten the bonds in your personal relationships. It enhances empathy, and makes you more willing to help and support ones we love. I can say with conviction I was not doing this the first few years that migraine became part of my life. But today, thankfully so. McGonigal continued, “How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress.” “Stress gives us access to our hearts. The compassionate heart that finds joy and meaning in connecting with others.” This makes sense, right? Let’s compare it to falling in love, if it’s authentic and safe, two people share, connect, and bond.
It boils down to, “You’re saying you can trust yourself to handle life’s challenges,” explained McGonigal. Again, same for love, most people when they say “I do” – they mean, “I trust you; I’ve got you; and you’ve got me.”
You’ve got the courage and the support system here, at The Honest Migraine, to help you through whatever it is you are going through.
Our mindset has an incredible impact on our experiences and wellbeing. I’ve learned I must stay determined and consistent mentally to achieve long-lasting wellbeing.
Somedays my strength may be dormant. Somedays I need someone else to remind me that I can either look at the glass half-full or half-empty. Other days I feel like wonder woman.
Coming next: Neuro-rich foods beneficial; catching more zzz’s helpful