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What Is Emotional Inflammation?

3 min read

We can’t always control the crises and catastrophes that are swirling around us. But that doesn’t mean we’re powerless against the status quo–nor do we need to be at the mercy of the physiological, psychological, and spiritual stress responses inside us.

Midlife is already a time in which many women tend to live constantly on a roller coaster; but at a certain point, some of us may experience a state, not unlike post-traumatic stress disorder, but one that stems from simply living in today’s anxious, overwhelming, and tumultuous world. It’s called: “Emotional Inflammation“.

A condition specifically triggered by these current circumstances, in which all of us may end up in a continuous state of anxiety or high alert without even realising what we are suffering from.

That’s just giving you a brief summary of what I’ve learned from reading the book  ‘Emotional Inflammation: Discover Your Triggers and Reclaim Your Equilibrium During Anxious Times” by psychiatrist Dr Lise Van Susteren and award-winning writer Stacey Colino.

A rising number of people today are troubled by a condition for which they don’t know there’s a name – Dr Lise Van Susteren writes-. If you’ve suffered from sleep problems, hyperreactivity, persistent grief, or inescapable worry about the future, then you’re probably dealing with emotional inflammation.

As a result of that, we end up using so much energy, doing nothing productive which may lead to a constant physical and mental toll.

It’s almost as if we’re living in a snow globe that is continuously being shaken up, and just when we have a chance to settle, we get shaken up again by another disaster – explains Stacey Colino -. So, we’re just constantly besieged by upsetting news and distressing news. And we don’t ever get a chance to focus on any one issue, because there are all these other ones coming at us at the same time.

The good news is: there’s something we can do about it.

Know your reactor types

Focused on considering what’s in a person’s control despite the out-of-control world, the authors offer us a transformational road map to staying grounded in turbulent times and helping us move from unhealthy emotional patterns toward healthy rhythms.

How? In their book, they first start by explaining how emotional inflammation can manifest in people. According to them, there are four different reactor types/styles to consider: the “nervous” reactor, the “revved up” reactor, the “molten” reactor and the “retreating” reactor.

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Understanding which type you are can help you recognize your triggers and how you’re feeling.

  • The nervous reactor

This type is defined by fear and worry, and triggered by the uncertainty anxiety of the current global situation. Nervous reactors can develop high-intensity levels of stress.

  • The revved up reactor

These people “over-function” in a crisis, try to fill their minds and time with other jobs and work hard to “fix” problems. This can lead to burnout, impulsive behaviour and poor decision making.

  • The molten reactor

These are the people who are fuelled by outrage. Anger can be a powerful and healthy emotion in some situations, but it can become problematic when molten reactors lash out at people and situations who may not deserve it.

  • The retreating reactor

A retreating reactor is one who withdraws in a crisis, separating themselves from the outside world, bottling themselves and their depression up, never leaving their bed, and resorting to eating and drinking their emotions.

Reset your inner balance

However, having said that, it’s only by putting in place some good practices consistently that you may be able to reset your inner balance and cope with all the pressures in your daily life.

For instance, some people may find relief by spending time outdoors. Others may benefit from limiting their media exposure, avoiding catastrophic thinking, and shifting their focus toward what they are grateful for.

Amongst their tips, they also stress the importance of establishing a regular bedtime as well as using healthy strategies to control our thoughts (like, for instance, breathing, and avoiding ruminating about fears or problems). To my surprise, they suggest taking care of our gut microbiome, which is supposed to “calm you from the inside out“, too.

In the end, their winning approach is quite clear: they invite us to be an agent of change instead of just watching things that seem wrong or harmful happen. In this way, we can take our life into our hands – assuming responsibility for who we are and for how our life looks – and then free ourselves from this “poor me” mentality and start living, no matter what’s happening in our world.

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