How to Be Calm and Reduce Flare-Ups in Anxious Times
Jessica has endometriosis, and Chris is her partner. Together, they find ways to manage the condition and support each other through its challenges. Below Jessica explains what 'safety signals' are and how they can help with endometriosis management, and they both give some examples of activities you can do to boost them.
What are safety signals and why are they beneficial for endometriosis?
From Jess: The easiest place to start with this is with danger signals! Your brain’s number one job is to keep you alive, which means it can be pretty negative. It’s often trying to talk you out of situations that might cause you embarrassment or might be risky, and it’s always looking for potential threats. This was, of course, very helpful in the cavemen days when threats were very real and everywhere, but nowadays, our threats often come in the form of 24-hour news, social media, too many emails, dysregulated blood sugar, etc. The brain sees these threats and goes on high alert, it turns down the neurotransmitters that keep us happy and naturally alleviate pain because it wants us to be more vigilant, and so, the brain starts reacting to any threat in amplified ways.
That means to endometriosis too. Ever notice that you’re feeling stressed out and then a pain flare happens? That’s because your brain is firing off danger and pain signals in all directions because it feels under threat and it’s trying to warn you that you’re not safe.
So of course, the opposite of those danger signals are safety signals. The key to these is that we want to send the brain messages of safety, so it can calm down. Safety signals are anything we can do to boost happy neurotransmitters like dopamine and any actions that make us feel calm, safe and comforted.
What are some examples that couples can do together?
From Jess: Gosh, there are so many! Laughing, walking, being out in nature together, cuddling, exercising, eating (sugar-free) chocolate, eating blood sugar balancing meals, creating a calm home and a calm environment, praying together, or meditating together. All of these things have been shown in studies to calm the brain and boost neurotransmitter levels.
From Chris: That’s a good list – a lot of those we do and if we don’t, we should! To expand on some of them, exercising could mean going to a yoga class together or just following a yoga video online if that’s a better option. Walking could be a long hike or just a trip about the block, whatever feels comfortable. Creating a calm home environment might mean getting some nice blankets and cushions, some beeswax candles, putting up some art or just decluttering a bit. But if those don’t sound calming to you, try something else - it’s really about finding the things that make you feel safe and secure, and leaning into those.
Has intimacy with your partner been affected because of endometriosis symptoms?