Chronic Stress: Is it killing you?

Why all stress (and stress relief) is not created equal.

Did you know that some stress is actually good for you? In the right amounts, stress can improve brain function, make you more creative, help you get fit, lower your risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and lots more.

So-called “good stress,” or what psychologists refer to as “eustress,” is the type of stress we feel when we feel excited. Our pulse quickens, our hormones change, but there is no threat or fear. We feel this type of stress when we ride a roller coaster, gun for a promotion, or go on a first date. There are many triggers for this good stress, and it keeps us feeling alive and excited about life.

The type of stress we really have to worry about is chronic stress. Chronic stress results from a state of ongoing physiological arousal. This occurs when the body experiences stressors with such frequency or intensity that the autonomic nervous system does not have an adequate chance to activate the relaxation response on a regular basis. This type of stress comes when we repeatedly face stressors that take a heavy toll and feel inescapable. Chronic Stress is the “stress overload” you feel day in, day out that’s silently but systematically sabotaging your health and well-being, and which affects virtually every system in the body, either directly or indirectly. We were built to handle acute stress, which is short-lived, but not chronic stress, which is steady over a long term.

This type of chronic stress response occurs all too frequently from our modern lifestyle, when everything from high-pressured jobs to loneliness to constant daily pressures can keep the body in a state of perceived threat and chronic stress. In this case, our fight-or-flight response, which was designed to help us fight a few life-threatening situations spaced out over a long period (like being attacked by a bear every so often), can wear down our bodies and cause us to become ill, either physically or emotionally. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 90% of doctor visits are for conditions in which stress at least plays a role! That’s why it’s so important to learn stress management techniques and make healthy lifestyle changes to safeguard yourself from the negative impact of chronic stress.

Knowing about the different types of stress, it makes sense to get more good stress into your life. Because you actually can get too much of even the good type of stress, it’s important to choose activities in your life that make you feel good, happy, and excited about life. It’s also a good idea to cut out as many activities as you can that drain you or lead to the experience of chronic stress. One good way to gauge whether or not an activity is worth your time is to pay attention to how the thought of it makes you feel. Do you feel excited at the thought? Is it a “want to” activity, or a “have to” activity? Be sure your “want to” activities are all things you really do want to do, and your “have to” activities are all absolutely necessary.

Here’s the thing, though. You try to do the right things.  You try to get in your sleep, you’ve gone to yoga, you’ve reworked your schedule and even tried to meditate.  But still, you feel its effects.  Even worse, stress-related disease shows up everywhere you look.

So what gives?

The Answer: Like stress, not all stress relief is created equal.

Stress isn’t just in your head. Stress is also physical.

Here’s how stress damages your health in 13 steps:

  1. You think about something stressful—work, money, relationships, family, health issues or whatever’s bothering you.
  2. Your amygdala (in your mid-brain) senses danger.
  3. Your amygdala helps to initiate your body’s fight-or-flight response to stress.
  4. In “fight or flight”, your body releases adrenaline and the “stress hormone”, cortisol, diverts blood away from your digestive tract, leaving you less able to digest food and absorb nutrients AND more likely to gain weight.
  5. In this physiological “crisis mode,” you’re more vulnerable to pain—from chronic illness, arthritis, fibromyalgia, CRPS, migraines, stomach upset, and more.
  6. In this state of heightened physiological “alert”, your brain’s creative center is deemed “non-essential” and shuts down. Down goes your problem solving, your creative skills, and your intuition.
  7. You feel increasingly irritable, isolated and impatient.
  8. Stress affects your sleep. Your metabolism slows.
  9. Your body secretes even more cortisol, wreaking more havoc on your digestion, increasing your blood pressure, lowering your immune response.
  10. After releasing too much cortisol for too long, your body goes into “adrenal fatigue”. You feel depleted, exhausted, and depressed.
  11. Migraines, insomnia, stress-related hair loss, chronic pain, and any number of other issues become regular parts of your life.
  12. Battling low energy, you can hardly focus at work and elsewhere.
  13. Your depression can deepen. You (and your body) are STRESSED OUT.


Stress Relieving Techniques

What about aerobic exercise, yoga, meditation, hypnosis or other forms of relaxation?


40% of the population exercises for 30 minutes each on 1 – 4 days per week

Exercise is crucial for a healthy lifestyle. Physical activity promotes the release of endorphins, known as the “feel good” neurotransmitters; makes you “smarter” and more creative by increasing blood flow (and oxygen) to your brain; and acts as “meditation in motion”, providing mental and physical stress relief.

The reality: However critical, it’s hours, even days, after that stressful meeting with the boss, or that fight with your spouse, before you can seek out the solace of your running shoes. (If you have that healthy habit…)

Or for those already dealing with chronic pain, it is nearly impossible to actively participate in exercise on a consistent basis. Therefore, this is just not an effective tool for those dealing with chronic pain or a debilitating illness. **

38% of Americans use “complementary and alternative medicine”, which includes yoga, meditation, hypnosis and other natural stress relief

These practices provide powerful stress relief, increased focus, creativity, and so much more.

The reality: Yoga, meditation, hypnosis and self-hypnosis provide significant stress relief and other benefits that yield real results in weeks or months with regular, frequent practice. Many people who try meditation, hypnosis or self-hypnosis give up too soon because they feel it’s “not working”, where if they were given the proper techniques, the proper information and the proper support, people would have tremendous success!

Decrease your stress, decrease your cortisol levels and increase your good stress and overall health!

If you find yourself experiencing chronic stress and would like more resources on stress management, you can contact Advanced Pathways Hypnosis for additional information on techniques that can help you. |  714.717.6633  |

Life in Remission

Remission, a word that can mean so much to so many but yet can be so far away for others. What exactly is remission?

According to the American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary:

remission re·mis·sion (rĭ-mĭsh’ən) n.

  1. Abatement or subsiding of the symptoms of a disease.
  2. The period during which the symptoms of a disease abate or subside.

Having an opportunity to actually get into remission when you’ve been dealing with chronic pain, a debilitating illness or for me it was: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS); is an incredibly surreal experience. To start with, it conflicts with everything you’ve learned throughout the duration of your illness and everything that you’ve taught yourself.  It can be very unsettling, in a way, because it calls for a total readjustment of your routine and it raises a lot of questions about the way you live your life, about what you do, how you do it, and about how you should move forward from that point forward.

The adjustment in your behavior can also meet with a fear of misunderstanding from your friends, family and peers — if they have known you as house-bound or limited in your capacity to get around, how are they going to react upon seeing you in this different capacity? On top of dealing with your newfound and unfamiliar sense of health, you have to struggle with how others perceive you, or how you imagine they perceive you.  I think one thing a lot of people don’t realize about the experience of dealing with chronic pain, debilitating illness or being chronically unwell is that it’s accompanied by a constant guilt over the effect it has on the people around you and a constant fear of judgment.  There is a reason why chronic pain, CRPS, Fibromyalgia and many other debilitating illnesses are called, ‘Invisible Illness’ or ‘Invisible Pain’.  Too often you have to choose to present yourself as either ‘the sick person’ or ‘the healthy person’ because it feels as though people can’t comprehend the idea that you really have been dealing with a real health condition.

So, what do you do when your finally hit that elusive thing called remission? For some they may choose to continue to present themselves as ‘the sick person’, but then you denying yourself the opportunity to relish in your sudden improved quality of life which seems ludicrous.  I chose to live!  I had to re-learn how to be a ‘healthy person’.  My body knew what it was like to live with chronic pain day in and day out, and now it was time to learn what it was like to live a wonderful, healthy, active life again.  The life I had lived prior to my diagnosis, prior to the accident and prior to the surgeries.

I had to discover what my new limits were, explain to people that I was no longer the ‘china-doll that would break’; I had to learn how to give my life new meaning and how to gain a sense of purpose. I had to stay focused on staying clear of the ‘sick person’ label and being me – healthy, happy and excited for life!

The thing about getting into remission is this, you have two choices: you can move forward with your life and continue down the road to wellness, or you can choose to move backwards and lose all the momentum that got you into remission.  For me this was a no brainer.  I never wanted to go back.  Even one step back was not an option for me.  I could not fathom living with chronic pain, with CRPS, for the rest of my life once I had a taste of remission.

I am going on a full year in remission from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and I have a deeper appreciation for family, friends and life!

I truly believe that every day we get up to a brand new day, a day that has never been lived before by you or by anyone else, so we have an opportunity to paint our own master piece each day because we start with a blank canvas.   What’s on your canvas?

If you would like to know more about the author, Traci Patterson, and her journey with CRPS contact her at:  |  714.717.6633

Ways to Choose Happiness

I love when I notice I’m smiling. You know those times when you are just at ease and a little smile comes across your face, that smile. The smile isn’t falsely constructed to please anyone else. Rather, it’s naturally powered by my inner bliss, which radiates and beams through my being.

After many years of dealing with chronic pain, working through all the issues that come up with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), the deep valleys, I can honestly say that I’m at a place in my life where I seem to have found greater peace and more bountiful joy. My eyes have a keen way of drinking in all the vibrant images and colors of life around me. My mind is free to dream. My heart sings. My spirit dances. My body feels all that is good.

I choose the path of hope and happiness.

It’s been 10 years since the day I started my journey with CRPS and have emerged on the other side. Now treating clients with chronic pain, CRPS, Fibromyalgia and cancer pain and working on my own spiritual journey, I recommend the following ways to choose happiness:

  1. Don’t attach your happiness to anything external. We run into problems when we make our happiness dependent on our relationships, jobs, finances, our health or on anticipated outcomes. Happiness is an inner experience that is yours to claim. Everything else is impermanent.
  2. Give freely. Give and share what you can, whenever you can. Give compliments, love, affection, help, resources, time, consideration, thoughtfulness, respect, empathy, etc. It feels delightful and karma will bring it back to you, threefold.
  3. Receive openly. Accept compliments, help and gifts. Embrace touch and praise. Absorb love and affection. Remember that the act of receiving allows other people the experience of giving.
  4. Appreciate life’s precious moments. Don’t be too busy or caught in your own “mind chatter” to notice the little bird out your window, the newborn baby in her mother’s arms in the elevator, the elderly couple holding hands, or the fuzzy ducks in the pond. Take time to notice all that is precious, tender and miraculous in life.
  5. Play & be silly. Remember how it was to play freely as a child. Shed self-consciousness, let go and have fun. I love playing with my kids; surprising them and reminding myself about the impish little girl inside me. Perhaps nothing makes my heart swell more than hysterical fits of laughter shared with my daughters.
  6. Consciously connect with sunlight. Be aware of the sunlight and mindful of feeling it on your face and body. Bask in its warmth and light. Feel your connection with this life-giving energy source.
  7. Be mindful of physical pleasures. Notice how soft your bed feels, how good your food tastes, how wonderful the warm sun feels on your skin… Enjoy and appreciate these fantastic sensations.
  8. Stay firmly rooted in the present moment. Unhappiness occurs when we obsess about the past or worry about the future. Peace and serenity are found in the present moment. Practice deep breathing, meditation and other mindfulness techniques to establish presence.
  9. Look for the good part. Practice gratitude to stay positive. See the goodness in yourself, in others and in the world around you.
  10. Be a duck. Let negative stuff roll off your back. Life’s too short to expend energy getting your feathers ruffled.
  11. Tend to your environment. Make your home and office comfortable and cheerful. Surround yourself with things that elicit positive emotions and make you smile.
  12. Take excellent care of yourself. Take care of your physical and mental health as if you were your own precious child whom you love very much.
  13. Set healthy boundaries for yourself. Set the limits you need at work and at home with regard to time, space, money, etc. Don’t over-schedule or over-commit.
  14. Surround yourself with people who make you feel alive. I so cherish my friends &/or family members who make me laugh with abandon. It’s with them that I choose to spend my time.
  15. Practice self-care. Everyday. Prioritize your wellness and practice meditation, go for a run, read a novel, tend to your garden or do anything that reboots your mind, body and spirit.
  16. Express yourself freely and openly. Find your voice and say what you need to say. Dare to show yourself via your writing, artwork, dance or other creative expression.
  17. Ensure you like yourself. Be kind. Have integrity. Be the person you have always wanted to be.

18, Be true to yourself. Be honest. Be real. Be vulnerable. Be brave.  Let your inner light be your guide.

“Happiness is not something you get in life, happiness is something that you bring to life. “ ~Wayne Dyer

If you would like more information on the author, Traci Patterson or Advanced Pathways Hypnosis please contact: | 714.717.6633 |