You may recall early anatomy classes and a discussion around the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic branch is activated when we face threat with resultant increases in heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, glucose metabolism along with hypervigilance and frequently aggression. This is the adrenaline rush that gets us ready to either fight (and hopefully defeat) the threat or to flee the source of danger to someplace safer.
Our ancient ancestors frequently faced acute threats – wild animals, aggressive tribes, wild weather. The sympathetic nervous system helped them survive these dangerous situations. Once the threat passed, the parasympathetic nervous system would quickly kick in allowing the body to enter a rest and recovery stage.
Most of us do not usually face serious threats from wild animals (although you should meet my daughter’s cat) or aggressive tribesman. However, we are all too aware of other types of threat. Usually, these threats are not as easily resolved - everything from financial and political uncertainty to the threat of pandemic… These persistent threats result in chronic low-level activation of our sympathetic nervous systems. The results of this are all around us in the form of high blood pressure, faulty glucose metabolism, type II diabetes, constantly feeling stressed and problems with insomnia.
Considering the current circumstances, there is a need to look after ourselves and specifically develop strategies for activating our rest and recovery systems. A colleague of ours, Dr. Mark Craigie, developed a program called Mindful Self-care and Resiliency (MSCR). The program was first rolled out with nurses in a metropolitan hospital setting and continues to be offered 7 years later. It has since been implemented in several other settings. Generally, participants report improved self-regulation, lower levels of perceived stress (the actual stress is probably unchanged) and an improved sense of well-being.
The site below is available to everyone, and simply requires an account set up, and courses can be paid by credit card or PayPal. Takes 5 minutes and you can start study immediately at your own pace.
Next month we will look at the first component of the MSCR program and how this leads to a pattern of self-care and resiliency. Along the way, we will look at some of the scientific evidence that supports the use of mindfulness strategies and how they promote well-being.
Lecturer, School of Health, Medical & Applied Sciences
Professor Desley Hegney
RN, BA (Hons) Phd
Professorial Research Fellow, Research Division,
Central Queensland University, Brisbane
Lead International Consortium of Occupational Resilience