I’ve been looking at some of the new research on stress and find it very interesting; especially in connection to my living with chronic pain. I’ve known for a long time that there are both biological and psychological features that accompany increased stress. One term I keep running into is The High-jacked Brain. When I teach stress management I always start by discussing the Stress Thermometer (a concept I learned from Terry Gorski). This thermometer has ten levels that are listed below.
- Level one is deeply relaxed nearly asleep
- Level two is relaxed and not focused
- Level three is relaxed and focused
- Level four is focused and active
- Level five is free flow with no effort
- Level six is free flow with extra effort
- Level seven starts the stress reaction zone; spacing out
- Level eight is getting defensive and agitated
- Level nine is over-reacting
- Level ten is can’t function, shut down or run away
From levels seven to ten we will experience disruptive symptoms. It depends on how we interpret this distress whether we face the situation with confidence or helplessness. At this point, we could easily shift into survival mode—fight, flight or freeze. Any of those three modes will amplify our pain levels. The fight mode leads to anger and attacking others; the flight mode leads to fear and hiding; and the freeze mode leads to depression and immobilization.
In this survival mode our primitive brain is in charge. Fortunately, we can learn to recognize this high-jacking and implement some simple stress management tools. Sometimes it can be as simple as stopping to take some slow deep breaths while saying to ourselves “I am in control!” or “I am relaxing and focused.” So the combination of breathing and positive self-talk will start to shift us out of survival mode and let us focus on moving out of a problem and into the solution.
If you want to learn more about stress and chronic pain you can find my article The Stress Pain Connection that you can download for free on our Ariticles page. If you want to learn more about pain management please check out our website at www.addiction-free.com. or go to our Publications page to learn about my Addiction-Free Pain Management® books.