Opinion

Our bodies work positively when given the opportunity

By Susan Kovalik, Think about it

My company has spent the past 30 years synthesizing the science behind the body/brain connection and sharing the application of the information to schools, businesses and families.

Last year, one of my associates gave a presentation at the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce Women’s Leadership Forum on stress. Her title was “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers and Cats Don’t Give a Rip.”

Handling the everyday stress in our lives is usually done at a mental level until there is a wake-up call that says otherwise. One of her comments was that stress literally affects your organs until they are compromised and stop working. The following story is from that same person and her very close encounter with the topic. She is writing this to the other members of our company who work throughout America coaching educators in becoming highly effective teachers:

“Some of you are aware that my mother suffered a major heart attack on Feb. 28 and I wanted to thank you for your well wishes. Fortunately, she was already in the hospital for flu-related pneumonia when the event occurred and help was close at hand. She continues in her recovery and is on the path to reclaiming her life. While meeting with the cardiologist, I was able to view the catheter scan of her heart. It is normal when a heart beats that the entire heart contracts. Due to damage, only about one-third of my mother’s heart was contracting. It was a sobering view. More sobering was that much of the damage occurred long before the incident, rendering the distal (remote) veins non-functioning. At this time, there is no way to repair the damage, but there is medication to assist the heart so there is no further damage and so my mother can live her life with relative vigor. The reason I am sharing the information with you is two-fold. Clearly, her smoking habit for nearly 40 years contributed to the damage. Also contributing, however, was a great deal of stress over extended periods throughout her life. Intellectually, we know that stress causes damage. Seeing the results on a screen while her heart was beating was a defining moment of understanding. I know none of us smoke, but given that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, it is critical not to underestimate the potential damage caused by stress.

My note to you is really about caring for ourselves by learning stress management techniques for those unavoidable periods and bouts of stress we all face, and to make life changes where possible to eliminate the sources of confounding stress. I also know that some stress is good, allowing us to amp up and prepare for things we care deeply about. Most of us, by virtue of the work we do, benefit greatly from our positive attitudes, hope-filled perspectives and belief in ourselves. Having seen most of you present or coach, the satisfaction and sometimes joy of what we do shines through and is a powerful elixir for the heart as well. I like to think the work we do contributes to individuals leading smarter and more fulfilled lives, ultimately creating a more balanced world in which to live. The information we share about the brain provides the necessary tools for understanding how to function optimally in challenging times.

In light of my mom’s condition and the opportunity to learn about heart disease nearly firsthand, I wanted to encourage you to be oh so kind to your hearts in all ways. The positive physical response we have from being with those we love is physiologically tangible, from dilated pupils in order to take the objects of your affection in, to the release of all those cheerful endorphins bathing our organs and cells with natural stress reducers. The body works positively when given the opportunity.

Wishing you a day (and a life) filled with those things that warm, soothe, excite and cheer your hearts. Fondly, DT.”

The message is clear: Use the challenge in this story as an opportunity and identify at least three ways you deal with stress at home and three more for time spent at work. Life is living the best we know how and each of us need to empower ourselves to health and wellness. We deserve it and those around us depend on it.

Think about it.

Susan J. Kovalik is an educator, international consultant and author in Federal Way. She is founder of The Center for Effective Learning in Federal Way who can be reached at skovalik@kovalik.com.

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