Peter Eddington talks with Andi Chapman, registered nurse and regional clinical educator specializing in educational and consulting services for general community and healthcare staff. In Part 2, they continue their discussion consequences of anxiety, depression, and despair have on us.
[Peter Eddington] Greetings, everyone. I'm Peter Eddington, producer for Beyond Today Television. And for "Beyond Today Interviews" today, we are joined by Andi Chapman. This is actually part two of "Anxiety, Depression, and Despair Have Consequences." So Andi, let's continue the discussion here for part two. And I wanted to ask you, so what are some of the good and positive outcomes of stress in our lives?
[Andi Chapman] Stress can actually be amazingly good because...
[Andi] It can. It motivates you to change and that can be liberating. It makes you think outside the box, it encourages you to get things done, get them out of your hair, if you will. And if we didn't have anxiousness, we wouldn't have some of the products that we have today because people said, well, there's gotta be an easier way or a better way. And so they worked at it. We are the recipients of that. So anxiety can actually be good. It does make you change what's going on in your life, and it can actually help you change your health. It's an amazing thing. It's when it's out of control that we have a problem.
[Peter] So what are some of the positive things that you see as outcomes with people that have suffered a little bit of stress in their life? How they've dealt with it, how they've moved forward, any particular examples that you can think of?
[Andi] I was reading an article not too awful long ago about people that became paraplegics. And it was amazing to me they said that it was one of the best things that happened to them because they learned more about life. And, you know, you think that they would have so much anxiety they couldn't do and, you know, that life wouldn't be worth living, but these are actually very positive people. The changes that can occur to a person when they're unhappy with a living arrangement that is toxic, if you will, it's just not working well. It forces you to change things if that's what you want. But anxiety is always accompanied by choice. And that is a very important aspect of anxiety. It has to go together with that in order to improve, or you can make the choice to stay there and just have more problems.
[Peter] Yes. It reminds me of people that have suffered a terrible amount of stress. People like, you know, Anne Frank, Alan Callow, who was deaf and blind, you know, from birth, I believe. And then people that were in concentration camps during the war that pulled through and did amazing things and rose above it all.
[Andi] There was a gentleman who was burned, horribly burned in a fire, and I heard him speak one time and I was just absolutely amazed. He was so disfigured that he actually had to wear a cloth over his face when he went out because it was very frightening...
[Peter] Horrifying people.
[Andi] It was. It was terrible. And he said, "It's not what happens to you, it's what you do with it." He found his life because of the incident that he was in and he didn't let the anxiety of being out in public stop him. He became an amazingly encouraging speaker. So there's an upside to anxiety if you're looking at it, right?
[Peter] And those who have suffered greatly can help others.
[Peter] And you understand what others are going through. About a decade ago, I actually contracted dengue fever in Africa, on a trip to Africa. And when I got home, they call it breakbone fever. And the pain that I suffered in my head and neck and back was excruciating. I was on the strongest narcotics at the hospital for eight days.
[Peter] But now I kind of a bit better understand when people say I've got some pain. I kind of feel it for them in a way. But it's only now that I can appreciate it a bit more when someone says, "Oh, I don't feel well." "Oh yeah, sure. Right." But now I kind of more understand when they say they're hurting, and so it does help you appreciate and help others.
[Andi] Right. And my feeling is also that when we have something like that and we come out on the other side, we actually are going to be able to be used better because who better to understand than someone who has gone through it. And I myself was raised in an abusive home, but as a young child, I could see that not all the people around me live that way. So I had a choice and I chose not to live that way, not to raise my children that way. And I've had a very happy life, but I can relate to those who have gone through it, who maybe didn't have the influence or understanding that I had. And so we're able to help people by going through some of those stresses that we go through and we wouldn't be able to otherwise.
[Peter] And I think that's sometimes why God doesn't protect us from everything.
[Peter] He allows us to go through certain situations, circumstances, trials so that we can then understand and help others at church.
[Andi] And that's why I love that quote, "Life happens for us not to us."
[Peter] Right. Yeah. So what are some of the physical and the emotional impacts on our health if we have too much stress? What can it do to our health?
[Andi] Well, it'll ruin your health, number one, if you don't get a handle on it. When we have a lot of stress, it creates mirror neurochemicals in our body. So if we're unhappy, we're gonna have unhappy neurochemicals that are gonna go through. One of those primary ones is cortisol. That's gonna impact your heart. It's going to create that adipose tissue, that fat tissue, that underlying stuff that we can grab with our hands, unfortunately, but it goes around all the organs and it influences disease within our bodies. And heart disease is one of the main killers. It also impacts our moods.
[Peter] So stress stresses your heart.
[Andi] Oh yes, absolutely.
[Peter] And it affects your mood. Okay.
[Andi] Yeah. It impacts your brain. You aren't going to think as clearly or as rationally as you would be able to normally. There's just so many aspects of it where it will harm you. You aren't gonna sleep well. If you're not sleeping well, you're not going to have your body rested and restored. And that's what sleep is all about is to restore us. You are going to have all kinds of physical manifestations that you're not going to enjoy. It ages you. Stress will age you terribly. And they've done a lot of studies where it shows that people that are under a great deal of stress for an extended period of time, actually age about eight years older than their peer group. So people are going to die much sooner. It is imperative that we get a handle on our stress just for our own sake so that we don't die prematurely. We don't have to.
[Peter] So too much stress then leads to burnout.
[Peter] Explain some of the effects and impacts and results of burnout.
[Andi] Burnout is going to be toxic stress on steroids. It's going to rob you of any joy that you might have, any ability to get things done, your know, your incentives, if you will. And when you have somebody that has burnout, they just see no end to anything. They don't see anything positive. And it's really hard to deal with somebody when they're in that final stage. It's much harder to get them out of it.
[Peter] So you just mentioned toxic stress leading to burnout. So, but there's a couple of other types of stress before that, what are those?
[Andi] Okay. First, you have your positive. That's gonna be your motivator. That is when, okay, you're gonna get out there, you're gonna make some changes, and get things done. It is good stress. But it's something that we all go through, all of us do.
[Peter] And it's not bad.
[Andi] No, no, it's not bad at all. It's a motivator. And, you know, we all go through positive stresses. Anytime you're doing something new for the first time and, you know, all eyes are on you, so to speak, it's a stressful situation. I'm sure that many people, the first time they ever got up to do a speech in men's club or whatever they did, it was very stressful for them. But then they got on the other side and that was very good. Then we have tolerable stress. In tolerable stress, this is where your body is saying, "Look, I'm having a problem here and you may not recognize it, but you better take care of it." This is where your heart rate is gonna go up. Your blood pressure's gonna go up. Your breathing is going to change. This is where we have maybe a little longer stress. It can be bullying. The fear of going into the boss's office, so to speak. Those kinds of things. And that's a tolerable stress. You can still get in on the other side.
And then the toxic stress, that can be an abusive family, abusive home. Even sometimes chronic diseases can put you in that toxic stress mode. But it just kind of walks right down. The more stress we have, the worse it is. So if we can deal with it when it's positive, when we can deal with it when it's tolerable, then we don't have to slip into the toxic or the burnout.
[Peter] So now as an antidote to stress, depression, anxiety, I've heard that joy is a good antidote to stress. It can help get you through it, get you out on the other side. How does that work, and are there any other antidotes that you can think of?
[Andi] Well, first of all, if you've got joy, that means that you are happy that you had something in your life. Most of the time we go back and we relate that to, we had a person in our life and maybe that person has died, and yet you're joyful because they were there. You learned something that was beneficial for your life through them. So we can have joy without having the smile. We don't have to always cry over that kind of thing. And this is something that will stick with us for a long time. You ask if there's something else we can have and I said, there's an attitude of gratitude. There was a young girl that I was talking with at work one day, and she was taking care of a lady who needed considerable help for the activities of daily living. And so she was working with her and she said, "Man, I wish I was her." And I said, "Why?" And she said, "She's loaded." So I said, "She's loaded?" I said, you know, "It's a blessing that she has all that money because that money is why she can stay here in this facility. That money is why she can pay you to come in and help her. But she can't get out of the chair by herself. She can't dress herself. She can't make all of her needs known. Do you really wanna trade places with her?" And she said, "No." So, you know, we sometimes think that the grass is greener. Grass isn't greener. It's just you have to be thankful for what you have. And when you have that true attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness, you'll have joy.
[Peter] I've traveled in the developing world quite a bit and I've found that sometimes the poorest people living in a shack are the happiest people I've ever seen.
[Andi] Oh yes, absolutely. Some of the happiest people that I had the opportunity to care for were in very modest and even poorer homes, but the families were so caring and so engaged with everything. And I thought that's so different from some of the multimillion-dollar homes I was in where everything was, well, the caretaker will do that, and so-and-so will take care of mom.
[Peter] And they're stressed about keeping it all.
[Andi] Oh yeah, absolutely.
[Peter] So if I see someone out and about, what can I do if I notice that they're not doing well? You see their body language, we have stories even of being out yourself at a supermarket, at a clothing store, and seeing someone that needed a boost. Maybe you can talk a little bit about that.
[Andi] Well, I'm kind of strange because I do look for people that...
[Peter] You're a people watcher.
[Andi] I am. Some would say stalker, but that's not it. But I really enjoy making a difference in someone's life. And one of the things that I do and that we can all do is if we see somebody who looks a little bit downcast, give them one of your smiles. When you smile, you release dopamine in your brain. But, you know, if I were to smile at you, even if you didn't like me, guess what's gonna go on in your head?
[Peter] I'll smile back, probably.
[Andi] You probably will. And it's a natural thing, but when you're doing that, you're actually boosting the dopamine in their own brain and it's increasing their feeling of goodness, their good mood. In the healthcare field, we call it the helper's high, because you feel so good doing something for someone else.
[Peter] Yeah. There's a story of a New York taxi driver that made it his goal every day to compliment every passenger that got in his cab, got into his taxi. And they would always ask him why he was being so nice, "Why are you being so nice to me?" And he'd say, "Because I want you to be nice to the next person you see and here in New York City, we can make a difference." That one cabby figured he could probably influence up to 1,000 people that day through all the people that he started, you know, with a compliment.
[Andi] And we can. I carry little note cards in my purse. And when I see something that someone has done for somebody else, I may not even know who that person is, but I'll quickly just jot a little note down about, I saw you do whatever it was and it really lifted my spirit seeing that happen today. So thank you. And then I'll just go up to the person and say, you don't know me, but I want you to have this. You changed my perspective on the day today or, you know, whatever. And you watch them later on and they've got a smile on their face and they carry themselves differently. This is just such a free gift that you can give to people. And somehow, I think that has to kind of slide right in there with joy.
[Peter] Are there solid ways that we can control negative influences in our lives?
[Andi] Okay. Yes, there are. We all have what I've termed as nets and mosquitoes in our life. They're the people that are constantly in your ear about everything that's wrong. One of the things that happens when we have those individuals in our lives, they tend to if we don't gain control over that negativity, they're gonna bring us down. It goes back to listening. Everybody needs to be heard, but if there's nothing that you can do to help this individual, point them into the direction of the person that can help them. If it's somebody that's complaining about their job schedule or something like that, you don't have any control over that. So you can listen, you can even empathize with them, but point them in the right direction for the person to talk to that can help them.
But there are some people that are going to be negative no matter what. No matter what you offer, it's not going to be the right thing. And they're always gonna come back with a negative comment on it. Those are people who really don't want the help. In my opinion, and maybe I'm incorrect on that, but sometimes that's what it feels like. They really don't want the situation to change, they just want somebody to be miserable with them. And those are the people that we have to distance ourselves from. That's hard.
[Peter] You don't want them to drag you down if you kind of help them.
[Andi] Right. You know, you can't carry somebody all the time that refuses to walk, and eventually, it will wear you down. So it's difficult to say, you know, I just need to...I'll be kind, I'll be loving, and I'll help you whenever I can help you, but this is above my pay grade. And you need to, for your own health benefit, step away from that individual a little bit. They'll recognize, and if they're somebody who really wants to have you in their life, they'll make some changes on their own so that they can come back into your life.
[Peter] So this has been fascinating discussion, and anything final you wanted to mention to our audience on Beyond Today before we conclude today?
[Andi] I would say that there are five things. One is guard your time. We have 86,400 seconds in every 24-hour period. How much of that are you gonna give to the negative? We are never gonna get those seconds back. So when we are under stress and we're working to get that under control, that's great. But if we're stressed...and I'll just use the example of forgiveness. When somebody does something wrong to you, it's stressful. And when we forgive them, that stress releases. But then if we go back and we start thinking about that wrong again, we are going to release those negative chemicals, that cortisol that we talked about before, that cortisol is gonna go through your system. And you haven't really given any forgiveness to that individual because you're reliving that hurt.
[Peter] So you have to forget it as well.
[Andi] You have to forget. And you might not totally forget it, but when those thoughts come back into your head, you've gotta push them aside and remember that you forgave them. The second thing is, choose your attitude. Many, many times we think that, I'm this way because... Well, let's finish that sentence out. I'm this way because I have chosen to stay this way. We have choices and we may not like some of the choices that we have, the options that we might have because they're uncomfortable, but we have choices. We don't have to stay on that hamster wheel of pain and suffering, emotional, spiritual, none of that. We don't have to, we choose to. And so I think the biggest thing is choice. And then we have to refocus our thoughts. Again, you get negativity going into your head, you've gotta push that aside. You've gotta replace it with something positive.
It's not just enough to push it away, you have to replace that thought. And then choose to behave productively. Even when you are overwhelmed with stress, some people will just go into the bed, pull the blanket over their head, and that's good. Well, it's not because, yes, you might need some rest temporarily...
[Peter] But you haven't solved anything.
[Andi] No, you've just hidden your eyes from it.
[Peter] Covered it up.
[Andi] That's all. So sometimes you have to choose to make things different. Maybe, well, this is a terrible example, but it's the only one that pops into my head is that you've asked your mate to do something. And for whatever reason, it hasn't gotten done. Now you get angry or you get depressed or whatever. What's wrong with you getting up and doing a little bit of it, or starting something that is going to be a positive task? When we do a positive task, it's going to have a positive impact on our brain, somehow, some way. And so, you know, we have to choose to behave productively, and that's emotionally and spiritually. We have to behave productively. And then seek out positive people. There are so many people that right now are having so much stress and maybe they just need somebody else to listen for a minute, and you'll find out that they're very positive people, but they have temporarily had their eyes blurred.
[Peter] This has been a really good discussion and I hope our audience on Beyond Today has enjoyed it, "Anxiety, Depression, and Despair Have Consequences." So thank you very much for your time, Andi. And thank you very much for joining us on "Beyond Today Interviews."