Did you get skipped over for a promotion at work? Did your daughter’s boyfriend break up with her? Why not take a Tylenol? Seriously. That is what this article from Scientific American suggests.
A social psychologist at the University of Kentucky who has been studying people’s reactions to rejection read of how rats responded positively to Vicodin, a prescription strength pain reliever, and wondered if an over the counter pain reliever could do the same thing. His theory was based on a part of the brain that responds to emotional pain as well as physical pain. In a study of 62 people, those who received Tylenol seemed to experience less feeling of rejection than those who took the placebo.
Perhaps this is why the same mechanisms work to lessen physical discomfort and emotional pain. Deep breathing has long been a way to get through pain and slow down an emotional response, especially during pregnancy when many women incorporate Lamaze breathing or hypnosis. Likewise, an emotionally stressful situation can trigger headaches and body aches.
How Stress Makes You Physically Ill
Instant Health Answers explores how stress can make you sick, saying that chronic stress from financial concerns, marital problems or any of life’s woes can be disastrous for your overall health, and not just because people tend to cope with stress by smoking, drinking, overeating and resorting to other unhealthy habits. It exposes your body to a daily blast of stress hormones, which, over time, can raise blood pressure, increase inflammation in the arteries and cause other cardiovascular chaos. A recent study of more than 10,000 civil service employees in London found that those who reported feeling the most chronic emotional strain on the job were 68 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack.
Stress has been linked to a long list of additional health threats, including insomnia, diabetes, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, asthma, arthritis flare-ups, depression and many others. Finding a way to cope with stress — whether it’s deep breathing, yoga, prayer, exercise, or simply talking with a close confidante — could be a lifesaver.
Learn to Breathe
Stealth Health gives the general principles behind deep breathing:
Proper breathing technique is crucial for everyone from athletes to people with asthma to yoga experts. But for most of us there are only a few things you need to keep in mind:
- In general, inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. A healthy inhale takes about 5 seconds.
- In general, exhale slowly through your mouth. Empty your lungs completely. Good breathers focus more on thorough exhalation than on inhalation.
- For good deep breathing, engage your diaphragm – the sheet of muscle along the top of your abdomen that pulls your lungs down to draw in air, then pushes your lungs up to expel carbon dioxide. With a good inhalation, your lungs inflate as your diaphragm contracts and flattens. As you exhale, your diaphragm relaxes and rises. You may not feel the muscle moving but you can tell if you’re using it as your abdomen will swell a little as you inhale.
- Work towards taking just six or eight deep breaths a minute. Most of us breathe more than 20 times a minute.
The Bottom Line
If you think you might need to take a drug for emotional pain, see your doctor.