Someone is changing a tire and suddenly the jack collapses! A friend standing close by suddenly grabs the bumper and lefts the car off the victim.
The kind of stress that produces sufficient adrenaline for a human to lift an automobile is usually temporary and is considered positive in the sense that the human has avoided a potentially life-threatening situation for someone else. The original purpose for this “fight or flight” response with its rush of hormones may have been to give a human enough of a burst of energy (and, thus, an inordinate burst of speed) to escape the jaws of a hungry lion.
There are times, however, when the presence of stress hormones is not so helpful. The prospect of having to undergo surgery, chemotherapy, or other “scary” medical procedure is daunting to many people. They feel nervous, worried, and upset. Stress can be helpful in some situations, as we have seen with the fallen car or hungry lion, but when stress is prolonged, the effect can be negative, rather than positive. Excess stress hormones in the body can lower the immune response, and actually increase healing time, or cause illness or depression. At the least, they can lead to a sense of uneasiness that is uncomfortable. When someone is about to undergo surgery or other stressful medical procedure, the last thing they need is any additional stress. In fact, they can benefit by reducing stress.
Peggy Huddleston, a psychotherapist in Cambridge and a principal investigator on the research project “Patient-Centered Techniques to Enhance Surgical Outcomes” at New England Baptist Hospital, has developed a program called “Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster.” To help reduce stress, and aid faster healing, the program prepares participants for surgery in several ways, using relaxation tapes, visualization techniques, and suggestions for improving the doctor-patient relationship. One local woman was so impressed with how the techniques worked for her, that she decided to become a certified trainer for the program, so that she could pass the results on to others. While this column addresses concerns of older readers, the program is designed for all ages.
The program has an impressive list of endorsers including Andrew Weil. MD, director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the University of Arizona; Susan Troyan, MD, surgical director of the BreastCare Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and instructor in surgery at Harvard Medical School); and Christiane Northrup, MD, a past president of the American Holistic Medical Association.
The mind-body techniques that Ms.Huddleston teaches are designed to reduce side effects of chemotherapy treatments, have less pain after surgery (lessening the need for pain medication), feel calmer, and recover faster. To learn more, visit: http://www.healfaster.com/.
Anne Springer is the public relations director of SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann’s local area agency on aging. To reach SeniorCare, call 978-281-1750.