Moderation, part three

Moderation is a big topic – worth taking at a moderately slow pace. In part one the topic was introduced that addictions and stress can be accumulative – additive in increasing risk and health effects on the body. The body and brain can become overly used to dopamine being elevated at high levels chronically and it can become difficult for the person to feel positive emotions to stimuli that would typically be considered positive – friends at a party.

Childhood trauma or other trauma can also increase the risk of becoming overly sensitive to stress, at a physical level not just an emotional reactive level, so the person may be easily overwhelmed by a difficult day or a sudden surprise. It may also place the person at an increased risk to develop addictions of some sort, whether prescribed or illegal drugs, or reading, watching TV, or shopping too much. Almost anything, even work, can become an addictive behavior if it is done at the expense of other roles in life or at the expense of basic self care.

Subtitle: Mothers/caregivers are people too.

Mothers are people too – my mother was a stay-at-home mother at a time when more women were working full time in the U.S. but it was still common for a household to have a father who went to work at a job and a mother who viewed her home as her job. Being a mother and homemaker is a full time job when the children are small and is still a lot of work when they are older. Taking care of a house with no children is still work but not necessarily a full-time job, add preparing home cooked meals from scratch and you are back at full-time job hours. Modern life includes modern frozen and canned foods that were less commonly used for meals in the 1960s and ’70s.

It would be great if everyone knew how to cook from scratch and how to fix a car or bicycle or computer – but as technology got more complex the ability to fix a car or bicycle or computer also got more complex. Cooking from scratch has also gotten more complex as the food supply includes more ingredients that were made with foods grown from technologically engineered seeds with agricultural chemicals derived from petroleum products – what is food? Something that tastes good or something that nourishes the body and helps maintain health?

What does that even mean – ‘from scratch’ – in cooking terms it means making a dish from ingredients rather than opening a can of beans to add to the bean soup or opening a boxed cake mix to bake a cake. Division of labor saves time for learning and practicing one set of skills more thoroughly than if all tasks needed to be learned. Traditional gender roles are discriminating against people who want to perform roles that aren’t gender typical. It would also be discriminating to prevent people from performing roles they did enjoy doing, just because they were gender typical.

Letting everyone try a variety of roles and let them decide for themselves would be most supportive of diversity and acceptance.

“Give kids something better to do.”

Iceland successfully achieved a reduction in teen alcohol and drug use by providing teens with more extracurricular activities after school. The simple plan “give kids something better to do,” worked. The rate of alcohol use dropped from over 40% to under ten percent. A research team took a survey of all teens in Iceland schools about alcohol and drug use on two occasions several years apart and the increase in use was larger than expected. Other factors associated with the increase in use were found:

Their analysis revealed clear differences between the lives of kids who took up drinking, smoking and other drugs, and those who didn’t. A few factors emerged as strongly protective: participation in organized activities—especially sport—three or four times a week, total time spent with parents during the week, feeling cared about at school, and not being outdoors in the late evenings.” (2)

Attachment theory of early childhood development

Differences in caregiver and infant interactions and the infant’s development of trust have been observed in early childhood development and were described as attachment theory.

Ideally mothers, fathers, and other early childhood caregivers teach the infant and toddler that the world is a trustworthy and safe place. Typically the infant learns the back and forth exchange of conversation with body language – the smile that may just have been a gas bubble is treated with a big smile in return and a delighted, “Oh look the baby smiled at me.” Maybe it was just a gas bubble but that doesn’t matter because the gift of language was given in the returned smile and delighted exclamation.

In less typical development the infant’s early attempts to communicate with body language or crying for food or to be changed or babbling with sounds of delight are not met with any returned response or are met with anger.

In terms of long term mental health an infant who is occasionally responded too with love and at other times with anger or no response – emotional or physical neglect – may be least able to self regulate their emotional and physical self care as an adult.

  • The infant with positive and reliable interactions will develop normal boundaries of trust – trust with caution,.
  • The infant who received negative interactions consistently may develop resilience and trust in their ability to care for themselves and may learn caution and withhold trust of others until more information is known.
  • The infant who gets a mixture of care and neglect or abuse may be left with learned helplessness – no trust in self or in others, caution and anxiety about everything.

Would any of these people as adults know that their upbringing was anything other than normal? Maybe not. To a child their life is their norm – everything that happens around them is their normal. They may learn sooner or later from their peers at school or visiting a friend’s house that their own home life isn’t the same. The television show Sesame Street gave me a different perspective on what family life can be like for other types of families, whether a different race, religion, or urban or rural. Having even one positive role model in a child’s life can help them to survive a tough upbringing with more resilience and ability to trust in themselves or others.

ACEs – Adverse Childhood Events

Amygdala reset rooms have helped students in Daviess County calm themselves. The amygdala is a part of the brain involved in emotional response and fear. It can be overactive in trauma survivors. The rooms or areas are dimly lit with calming decorations and textures and students can have a private place to interact with a teacher or time to relax before returning to class. (3)

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, can be anything from experiencing serious emotional or physical abuse to watching parents get divorced.

One or two ACEs don’t have many lasting psychological effects, Desautels says. But go any higher and things start to change.

“Three, four, five, six, seven adversities can literally change perception,” Desautels says. “It reprograms our stress response systems. It changes behavior. It changes the way we see life.”

Studies have shown that as the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for poor academic achievement or work performance later on in life.” (3)

Child trauma or other trauma can leave a person with less resistance to stress and at more risk for addictions (6), – so can an overload of toxins and deficiency in essential nutrients.

Factors that may affect health:

  • Social support and early childhood experiences.
  • Sleep.
  • Exercise.
  • Water. 
  • Nutrition.
  • Toxins from the environment, air, food and water. 
  • Genetics and epigenetics.
  • Access to Healthcare.

If we as a society want healthy and happy people who live balanced lives enjoying a purposeful job, with family and friends, and self care then we may need to provide more positive role models for balanced self care and care for others and for the community. If we want fewer addictive behaviors we may need to help with trauma recovery or prevention and help provide a toxin free and nutritious environment in which to breathe and eat.

Fertility for humans and other species is declining – when will we as a species say – Oh that is too large a dose of infertility, we should do something to prevent it.

Suicide is also an increasing risk in modern society. The reasons may vary from individual to individual but likely stress and isolation are factors in addition to early childhood experiences. (6)

The modern world contains an abundance of stimulation in background noise, entertainment, educational opportunities, and commercial breaks. All of that stimulation may be adding to overactive dopamine receptors and a resulting reduction in calming GABA activity. Toxin overload and nutrient deficiency may also be involved. Agricultural chemicals used in modern farming may be a factor. Psychiatric and other medications may also be a factor. Childhood trauma and other trauma may also increase risk for suicide.

At what dose is too much suicide a problem for society? It is becoming more common even among children under age ten – that is too much of a problem in my opinion.

Trauma – the visible tip of the iceberg

Environmental and human health are connected, economic stress and human health are also. The interconnectedness of societal problems and solutions can be visualized as a tip of the iceberg problem – suicide, addictions, mass shootings and other violence are the visible tip of societal problems that are connected by the less obvious widespread layer of economic inequality and stress and the even broader layer of environmental pollution and reduction in biodiversity in balanced ecosystems. Economic and environmental stress can increase behavioral health problems and add to the social factors and physical living conditions that increase mental and physical health risks. (4)

Environmental and individual health are connected too. Learning how can also provide guidance for lifestyle changes that might help improve health.

Sleeplessness can increase risk for accidents and irritability during the day and difficulty concentrating may be more likely. Teens may do better in school and life if they are able to get ten hours of sleep a day, similar to toddlers, both groups are at a phase of life where more white matter – connections between brain cells are forming. What we practice becomes patterns of nerve connections between brain cells and nerves of the body.

Accident proneness has gender differences, males tend to be more at risk overall with some differences between age or ethnic groups. In the more recent past white women have had an increased rate of accidents. (5) Enough sleep for parents and kids can help reduce accident risk and may improve mood and stress coping ability. Mothers and fathers, other caregivers, and kids are all people and they all benefit from a good night’s sleep and a short nap now and then may also help.

Constant access to the internet and to television can be mind expanding in an educational way or it can be an escapist addictive behavior that increases dopamine to a point where normal enjoyment might no longer register as a positive stimulation with an increase in dopamine.

It may be time to dial back modern life a bit and include more time just chatting or cooking a meal and eating it together. Community centers can be helpful to increase a sense of connection and give people a sense of purpose if they are part of the volunteers or activity leaders. Churches can also provide community and schools also often encourage family involvement.

Quote break

The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.”

– Albert Einstein

The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson or Oliver Wendell Holmes.

*who said it is often unclear online. Common sayings often can be found in several variations – wisdom from whoever said it.

When a man finds a conclusion agreeable, he accepts it without argument, but when he finds it disagreeable, he will bring against it all the forces of logic and reason.
– Thucydides (Healthy Skepticism/Science quotes)

Reference List

  1. Amanda Tarlton, World Health Organization Releases New Screen Guidelines For Babies and Toddlers. April 25 2019, fatherly.com https://www.fatherly.com/news/world-health-organization-releases-new-screen-time-guidelines-kids/
  2. Emma Young, How Iceland Got Teens to Say No to Drugs, Jan 19, 2017, theatlantic.com https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/01/teens-drugs-iceland/513668/
  3. Daviess County Schools Adopt Alternative Methods to Curb Disciplinary Issues. https://indianapublicmedia.org/news/daviess-county-schools-adopt-alternative-methods-to-curb-disciplinary-issues.php
  4. iceberg graphic of social problems, mdlogix.com iceberg graphic/mdlogix.com https://twitter.com/allentien/status/1161565804657295361?s=20
  5. Sorenson SB. Gender disparities in injury mortality: consistent, persistent, and larger than you’d think. Am J Public Health. 2011;101 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S353–S358. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2010.300029 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222499/
  6. The Myth, Misconception, and Misdirection of Motive in Mass Shootings? https://www.acesconnection.com/blog/the-myth-misconception-and-misdirection-of-motive-in-mass-shootings?utm_campaign=meetedgar&utm_medium=social&utm_source=meetedgar.com