Sunday, August 25, 2013

Homeostasis means balance - By Elizabeth S. Giammarco, PhD., LCPC, NCC

Disclosure: This column is not intended to give medical or psychiatric advise. If you are experiencing any difficulties, please call your physician, or call 911, or go to your nearest emergency room. This column is for information and entertainment only.

 I so enjoy this time of year. The last days of summer are upon us and all around are evidence that fall is fast approaching. Goldenrod along with wildflowers, Black-eyed Susans, and cat-o’-nine tails dust the fields, sides of the roads, marshes and lowlands. Tops of trees are beginning to show their colors too and my cats’ coats are starting to change from their summer to their winter silky fur. Added to the latter are the arrival of crayons, markers, notebooks and backpacks which have replaced the summer stock in nearby stores. Road side stands and farmer’s markets are packed with native corn, acorn squash and small pumpkins. Autumn is nearby.

 The rhythm of the seasons have a precision to it with each one bringing its own characteristics in terms of foliage, flowers, insects, animals, temperature, etc. Those of us who live in New England experience first-hand how finely-tuned the balance is between the seasons. There is an specific composure in nature and when that is upset in any way, the entire system goes awry.

 Just as the cadence of the seasons is necessary for a specific environment to survive and be able to function properly, so too is it with people. Our bodies as well as our mental states need and thrive on what is known as homeostasis or balance. Any time there is a deviation from homeostasis, our being able to function at an optimum level is thrown off. However, being able to remain in a state of equilibrium is not an easy task. Our lives are in constant motion and are senses are bombarded each day with a myriad of stimuli as well. Because we live in a fast-paced type of existence, our physical and mental harmony is in need of constant monitoring to assure that it is where it is supposed to be.

 Not having a healthy balance can lead to a state of health that tells us something is not right. Whether it is a simple head cold, a case of indigestion or a bout of anxiety, it could be that what needs to be addressed is whether there are factors in our lives that can be changed or modified in a way so that balance can be restored.

 Some ways to address the concept of balance and to help restore it can be found in simple strategies. Having enough sleep is the first essential, especially for one’s mental state. The average amount needed for an adult is about eight hours, though some find that six or seven hours is doable. Sleep in not only necessary for a healthy body but also for a healthy mind. We need to have a good amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is where most of our dreaming occurs to help keep us in balance. Eating well is important as are other things that we all have learned about on a consistent basis.

 Equally significant though is the unique part of each of us that is located deep within our psyches. The place that harbors desire and need for that special something, which motivates us to get up in the morning and to carry on. Whether that something is reading, writing, sculpting, washing the car, climbing a hill, skating, or just sitting and watching the trees turning colors, it calls us to stop and to heal ourselves so that balance can be restored and we can be whole again.

 Although it might sound cliché to say stop and smell the roses, many of us need just that to stop. Stop, in order to breathe deeply and let go of the pressures that envelope us. Stop, so that the beauty of the woods, fields, ocean, mountains or our own backyards can penetrate our senses. Stop, and unplug the coffee pot, the computer, the phone, the television and anything else that needs to be switched off for a while. Just as the rhythm that allows the seasons to change effortlessly so as to maintain equilibrium occurs, we too have that same beat that tells us what the body and mind needs so that balance can be restored. Take some time and check it out. Balance awaits you. Your body and mind will love it.

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