This week in healing and Emotional wellness: Reacting vs Responding; Know the Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency, Depression and Mental Health Conditions Grounds for a Covid Booster; Why We Wake up at 3am (and why it feels like the end of the world); and Good Psychological Advice in Dune.
Sidenote: My husband’s schedule is filling up to almost pre-covid levels. So I’m home alone with the toddler for super long hours. And last week he was travelling, so zero breaks for me. I’ve been falling asleep the moment the kiddo does to stay functional. So some of the links are two weeks old. Apologies!
This week’s articles
- Reacting vs Responding – one feels good, the other gives the outcome you want.
- Depression and other mental health conditions are grounds for covid booster shot
- Know the signs of Vitamin C deficiency
- Finally, an explanation of why we wake up at 3 am.
- “Fear itself” speech in Dune is good psychology
- Apps I’m loving this week
They might be synonyms in the dictionary, but biologically, they are distinct.
Reacting is powered by the amygdala. It’s the lighting fast response pathway that’s kept our species alive for millennia.
We tend to feel “buzzed” while reacting this way, and a lot of startups love it so much that “reactivity” is their workflow; dealing with whatever comes up in slack or email and in-person requests as they happen. If you love staying busy, there’s a chance you’re used to being reactive rather than responsive.
But Reacting is like running in the dark. In the same way you don’t need a detailed 5 year plan to run away from a bear – the amygdala generates more of an “anywhere but here” response- It’s counterproductive to our long-term goals.
Now here’s the kicker: stress and chronic stress makes this your default pathway, whatever your personal planning or company work style is.
You know what else switches on this on? Arguing with people on the internet. Or just scrolling Twitter.
“These instinctive and visceral reactions arise when confronted by modern-day situations in which our physical survival isn’t threatened, but rather by what I call psychological survival, which involves threats to our self-identity (e.g., how we describe ourselves), self-esteem (e.g., how we evaluate ourselves), and our goals (e.g., educational, career, and financial aspirations).
Our brain is a great machine, but it responds to ideas that threaten our sense of identity very poorly, and social media thrives on conflict.
So, taking a work break and scrolling social media isn’t great for decision making later on.
Responding happens in the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that takes in the long term objectives and can see knock-on effects better. This is the pathway that will be more likely to get you the outcome you really want. The part of your brain that helps you find ways to negotiate with or appeal to someone to get what you want rather than blow up at them.
We get zero buzz from this, my friends.
This is why I like to have some moments of short and long term planning in a state of calm, then get into my daily “stop the kid from head diving off that thing” flow.
This article is making me aware that my calm is being undermined by my browsing habits. And I confess that I use social media to give me an energy buzz to keep me going at times. In the early morning. At that post-lunch slump.
The article tells you to notice what triggers your reactivity, and mentally tell yourself to not react.
But did you know there’s a proven way to lessen the activity in your amygdala and strengthen your prefrontal cortex?
Reacting is like running in the dark. In the same way you don’t need a detailed 5 year plan to run away from a bear – the amygdala generates more of “anywhere but here” response- It’s counter productive to our longterm goals.Tweet
Also, see how to hack your brain for better problem solving and creativity – discussed in a previous post.
It’s also with noting that the CDC have been pretty good at acknowledging how intersectionality can affect people’s susceptibility to complications. They acknowledge that simply being disabled in any form is a risk factor for covid 19 complications – partially because accessing healthcare is harder (or unaffordable). They also acknowledge that “Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put various groups of people at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19”. Which is very inclusive language and also, very true
In short, I can see why the red cap wearers would rather believe they are lizard people than accept their recommendations. That amygdala’s “sense of identity” getting threatened. ?
You think vitamin C deficiency is a thing of the past, right? Or something only people on terrible diets might have. When I was taught physiology as part of my biochemistry degree, I was told the signs of deficiency were basically scurvy. Cured by sailors eating limes. It’s wild to realise I’ve had 14 out of 15 symptoms of vitamin c deficiency years ago even while juicing and eating lots of veggies. Even while seeing multiple dermatologists about my skin “rash”, “dryness” and bumpiness. (Amongst other symptoms I was seeking medical attention for by drs).
Even while taking vitamin c supplements.
Who’s at risk of vitamin C deficiency?
If you’re wondering how a person who drinks OJ and eats a reasonably healthy diet becomes vitamin c deficient, here’s how (a non-exhaustive list):
- It’s absorbed in the small gut intestine. If you have an inflamatory bowl disease or are recovering from a conditon like celiac disease (like moi) or surgery in that area, that part of the gut may not have healed enough to absorb this well.
- It’s depleted by stress – Vitamin C is used up while creating adrenaline- If you’ve been under chronic stress for a long time (also me), consider taking a supplement or upping your dose.
- It’s used up in the removal of histamine (the allergy or inflammation chemical released by the body). Chornic allergy sufferers (me, again, hi!) will be using a lot of this. So will people with histamine intolerance. Histamine intolerelence is experienced by up to 30-55 % of people with functional gut disorders.
- It’s depleted by alcohol. So stress drinking is “yikes” bad.
Why didn’t my supplement help?
- The oringal data used to set the daily recommendation in 1944 has recently had modern statistical analysis applied to it and found to be flawed, with a recommendation that the RDA of vitamin C be doubled. And I had several factors that caused me to burn up/ fail to absorb vitamin C fully in the first place.
- Vitamin C depletion takes a while to recover from. 6 Months of taking the updated RDA wasn’t enough to restore the bodies natural functioning in the study.
- Bad news; you can’t self dose for vitamin c deficiency. High amounts of vitamin c and stress lead to liver damdage.
You too, huh? So our body’s internal temperature has cycles where it drops and peaks. It starts to drop in preparation for us to fall asleep (this is why airlines turn the cabin temperature down; to get us to sleep.) and it just so happens that it peaks again around 3 or 4am, after a chunk of deep sleep has ended and light sleep begins. So the temperature rising and switching from deep sleep to light sleep can result in us waking up.
This temperature cycle is also why it’s harder to fall asleep in the summer – because the heat disrupts or offsets this natural cooling necessary to fall asleep.
On the other hand, sleeping in too cold a room can shorten the amount of time we spend in REM/Deep sleep.
So why does waking up at 3am bring about all the worries?
We lack the cognitive skills at this hour to think clearly or emotionally regulate, so do a grown-up version of “fussing”. Otherwise known as “catastrophising”.
“Around this time in the sleep cycle, we’re at our lowest ebb physically and cognitively. From nature’s viewpoint, this is meant to be a time of physical and emotional recovery, so it’s understandable that our internal resources are low. With none of our human skills and capital, we are left alone in the dark with our thoughts.”GREG MURRAY, SciencAlert.com
I have issues with just one metric being used to divide beings into humans and nonhumans. In “Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep”, that one metric was the ability to empathise, which is kind of problematic for people for whom cognitive empathy doesn’t come naturally. In Dune, it’s one’s ability to control their fears.
Having said that, based on what we just learned about the amygdala and “reacting” not being very smart, it’s good advice to at least aim to at least make peace with your fears, if not facing them down or mastering them.
While not everyone can “face their fears” safely, there is something to be said for not resisting our feelings, and instead of labelling them and acknowledging them and letting them pass through us.
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.“
Apps I’m loving this week
Simplemind mind mapping – for getting my ideas and links onto a page and being able to add to it on mobile. Time at the computer is rare while being a full-time mom. It also has a nice outlining feature where my hierarchy of bubbles become text headings.
I’m also trialling Scapple because I liked the idea of dragging mindmaps into scrivener to become cards – but the whole “time at the computer is rare” is a problem. I do love it and it is cheaper, so if you don’t need the app to be on both devices (and you will have to pay for each app for simplemind), give that a try.
I caved in the middle of a sleepless night earlier this week and resubscribed to Calm app for their sleep stories. They work for me. I’m trying to carve out more time for mindful breaks during the day. Nothing crazy. 3 mins here, 10 mins before bed. That sort of thing.
Until next time.