If Flatline were a pro-wrestling term, it would be what happens when the stressors of life throw us against the ropes, ‘clothesline’ us and drop us to the ground as we bottom out in our physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual energy. As mentioned in last week’s post, How to Rebound from Holiday Flatline, I use the term ‘Flatline’ to describe the state of utter depletion. This week’s post offers two parts. Part One describes the 4 Ways We Feel Depleted, particularly during the holidays. Part Two offers a 7-Step Prevention Guide to prevent holiday depletion.
Emotional Flatline occurs when we feel overrun by the stressors in our lives. It compromises the parasympathetic nervous system which aids the body to rest amongst our constant regulation of ‘fight or flight’ responses. We become more irritable, frustrated and anxious. We’re more reactive to our stressors, meaning that situations which normally wouldn’t get under our skin, suddenly trigger us and we act without rationally thinking of more appropriate ways to respond. This is called being more reactive than responsive. In Emotional Flatline there’s more opportunity for depression if we don’t find outlets for emotional release. As these emotional states take hold, our healthier habits fall prey to the unhealthy. Our sleep becomes fitful, we eat comfort foods full of fat and sugar and we begin to crave depressants and stimulants to decompress our nervous system or boost our moods.
When physically flatlined, we’ve already arrived at Emotional Flatline. Our adrenals, the endocrine glands which produce stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, become fatigued (you can read more about this in an earlier post,about stress). Remember your parents telling you that if you make a sour face long enough then it will stay that way? Well, apply this to our bodies and stress. The repetitive constriction of muscle in ‘fight or flight’ mode causes us to feel chronic tension through the points in our body where we are always ‘on guard’ and prepared for action, the neck, shoulders, upper and lower back. Our eyes strain, foreheads furrow, causing tension headaches. We clench our jaws which causes the condition known as TMJ (temporo-mandibular joint) pain to radiate through the jaw and shoot up through the ears. As the tension becomes chronic we begin to feel our body’s aches more intensely causing more physical fatigue. Our immune system responses either become lower or over react which can cause autoimmune disorders. And as we feel more pain in our bodies we tend to reach for the anti-inflammatory painkillers or the muscle relaxers which only treat the symptoms rather than the root cause.
We’re so overloaded that we feel our gray matter has turned into a permanent fog. But really our brain has become so overstimulated by the constant flow of adrenaline that it’s driven into hyperactive mode. This is what causes us to be forgetful, scattered, undisciplined. Our thoughts race perpetual marathons making our foreheads feel congested and ultimately impairing our judgement.
Acting on ill-prepared judgement, we tend to cause even more stress for ourselves. A brain in hyperactive mode will maintain a repetitive thought loop…remember that conflict with someone in your life that raises its head for replay? These are all signs of Mental Flatline and as we try to calm our minds we often reach for that second glass of wine at dinner or sleep aids to knock us out.
We often confuse being spiritual with being religious. The difference is that being spiritual is simply being connected with our inner spirit, that wiser person within all of us. We’re often so busy connecting to everything outside of us that we forget, or even discard, the importance of connecting within. As mentioned in the previous post, Embodiment, we have two energetic connections and when we’re disconnected we tend to ‘spin out’. Being connected to both these energetic axes allows us to move more fluidly, act more methodically and live with more trust and patience. With Spiritual Flatline, we begin to spin out in a whirlwind of stressors, we feel uninspired, mistrustful, unmoored from everything around us. We’re quick to judge others and are less empathetic. Our hearts begin to close because there simply isn’t anymore room for intake of good or bad.