THE ANIMAL WITHIN: C-19 AND STRESS

Beneath the trappings of civilization, despite our technology, laws, religion and mores, we’re animals. As such, we come with a phylogenetic inheritance from our distant ancestors.

All higher animals have an alarm response when danger appears. Just watch your cat’s tail bush out or your dog bare his teeth in response to a threat. It’s called the “fight or flight”response. It’s a good thing, and keeps us alive. It becomes a problem when the alarm sounds and there is no immediate threat.

For the purpose of this article, I’ll use the words “stress” and “anxiety” interchangeably because physiologically, stress and anxiety are the same. And they feel the same: pretty bad.

Let’s deal with physiology first. When we perceive threat, our hypothalamus (a region of the brain) sets off an alarm releasing the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline revs up your heart rate and blood pressure and increases energy supplies. Cortisol increases blood sugar in the bloodstream, boosts your brain’s use of glucose and helps with tissue repair. Both hormones are highly functional for a real threat. But what if the alarm doesn’t turn off? The negative effects are many, including high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, weight gain, anxiety and/or depression.

Our brains and therefore our minds act upon our physiology and are acted upon by it. What often happens in the attic when the kitchen is on fire is what I call “Oh, no thinking.” For example, “Oh, no, this is going to be awful, horrible, really bad and then we’re all going to die!”

Anxiety is a complex interactive phenomenon between body, brain and mind. It’s unlikely that that you can lessen anxiety without addressing both the physiology and psychology of it. Some tools for anxiety reduction follow. Don’t expect perfection. Aim for a reduction in stress. Not all things work for all people. Find what works for you by adapting and modifying. The aim is to calm your body.

1. Take a hot bath, or use a hot tub or whirlpool bath if you can. The heat tends to slacken the muscles, which is where we carry a lot of tension.

2. Take a massage. A good massage will rub the stress out of you. You can also massage your own feet.

3. Pet your cat or dog. This will reduce your heart rate and blood pressure.

4. Do something fun. Watch a movie, especially a comedy.

5. Start paying attention to your breath. Whenever you think of it, take a deep breath and breathe slowly and deeply for awhile.

6. Get some exercise. It’s a proven stress-reliever.

On the psychology side, be aware of your thoughts and feelings in a given moment. Writing them down helps increase awareness. Challenge your catastrophic thinking (projecting that some future event over which you have absolutely no control will be awful.) For a clue as to how you’re feeling, monitor your physiology. If you’re distracted and your heart rate is up, it’s a signal to check out how you’re feeling.

Prayer is a huge help. People with religious faith tend to worry less and are generally happier. Give your worries to God. You may not know what to do with them, but he does. If you’re not a believer, try meditation.

We’re going to get through this, and when it’s all over we’ll be better and stronger for it.

Michael A. Morrongiello, Ph.D.

ACE: STAY HEALTHY, GET CONNECTED

The saying “May you live in interesting times” is, ironically enough, an old Chinese curse. These times challenge our mental health. Being forced to isolate, threatened by an unseen enemy that might harm or kill us, is enough to raise anyone’s stress level. I offer some tips derived from 30 years as a private practice psychologist. If you are under treatment for anxiety or depression, please continue to take your medications and stay in contact with your physican and therapist.

1. Limit your TV news intake to 15 minutes a day. The radio news bulletin announcing the attack on Pearl Harbor lasted 30 seconds, followed by an immediate resumption of regular programming. Today, we’re bombarded with breaking news, developing stories and alerts, all designed to amp you up and keep you glued to the TV. Turn it off and go do something.

2. Practice reframing. Instead of complaining, “Dang it, I’m stuck at home because of this social-distancing nonsense,” look on this as a time to read a book, connect with family or start a project you’ve have had on the way-back burner. It’s not a limitation. It’s an opportunity.

3. Be happy with the next best thing, if you can’t do the top thing on your list.

4. Get outside. Breathe fresh air. Get some sun. Do something physical. Go for a walk. Ride a bike. Dig a garden. Exercise reduces anxiety and depression.

5. Connect with people by whatever means you have: phone, Facetime, Skype, email. We can also safely talk to people outdoors: arrange a meeting, just keep a prudent distance. We’re social animals who are built to connect with our fellow humans.

6. Adopt a proactive attitude. View stress as a signal that you need to do something. Don’t think of your mood as unchangeable; you can do things to change it.

7. Remember that moods change from day to day and even hour to hour. If you feel badly now, you may feel better tomorrow.

8. Keep your mind active. Binge-watching Netflix is fine for awhile, but our brains were not built to passively absorb hours of TV or video games. Get mentally active. Put your brain in gear by playing a board game that demands thought, or playing cards, doing a home improvement project, or doing something creative. You can learn new skills online.

Try to remember the acronym ACE. It stands for:

ACTIVE, physically

COGNITIVE, put your brain in gear.

ENGAGE, connect with people by whatever means.

We will get through this. Let’s get out of it healthier, smarter and more connected with each other.

Michael A. Morrongiello, Ph.D.

A TALE OF TWO SECRETARIES OF STATE

Remember Condoleeza Rice? She is a Republican who was appointed Secretary of State by President George W. Bush. Dr. Rice served from 2005 to 2009, and was the first black woman to hold the post. Brilliant, highly educated and erudite, she is widely admired and a role model for young women. You might think this would be cause for jubilation: America making progress, conquering racism and sexism. A story like this might even spawn a TV show about a black woman Secretary of State. But no, that project would have to wait for Hillary to occupy that post and then resign from it to run for President. The show Madam Secretary aired for the first time in 2014, a celebration of a white woman Secretary of State. Dr. Rice’s accomplishment was ignored, as was President Bush’s blow against racism and sexism. A highly accomplished black woman’s achievement passed unnoticed like a stealth ship passing in the night because she’s Republican. But the mandarins in the entertainment industry gave Hillary a weekly campaign ad in the form of a fictional TV show starring Tea Leoni, about an honest, courageous woman as the nation’s top diplomat. This in-kind donation was worth millions. Would a Republican woman get this kind of treatment? Only when pigs sprout wings and fly.

Michael A. Morrongiello, Ph. D.

BOONDOGGLE

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, a “boondoggle” is a wasteful project or activity. The proposal to renovate the Town of Corning’s Town Hall fully meets that definition. Nevertheless, board members Mullen and Sammis want the good citizens of the Town to spend between ONE MILLION, FIVE and ONE MILLION, EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS to refurbish the Town Hall.

The Town’s entire 2020 budget is $2.5 million. Sammis and Mullen want us to spend over half that sum on a project that may be unnecessary. The Town has

equipment to buy, salaries to pay and roads to maintain. The effective property tax rate for the Town is $4.14 per thousand dollars. This proposal would drive our taxes up by 50% to $6.21 per thousand. This project will not boost the Town economy. It will not encourage people to move here or build a business here. And after spending $1.5 to 1.8 million, what will we have to show for it?

I will oppose this as long as I serve on the Town Board. But I can’t do this alone. Consider that the Town Hall rebuild already has at least two “yes” votes out of the five needed to pass it. We’re already two-fifths of the way to a massive tax hike or crushing debt.

All Town Board members need to hear from you. You can email Town Board members at townofcorningny.org. Go to the Government drop-down box and click on Town Board. There you will find our email addresses. Please come to the next Town Board meeting. They are held the third Tuesday of every month. Let ‘em know how you feel, and let’s kill this project before it kills the town budget and hikes our taxes.

Michael A. Morrongiello, Ph. D.

Town of Corning Town Council

BERNING DESIRE FOR POWER

Remember the classic gallows humor of the Lincoln assassination: “But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” …..thus ignoring the elephant in the room. This is what leading Democrat Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders did when he praised Cuba’s literacy and healthcare programs.

The elephant in the room is that Cuba is a repressive dictatorship which has murdered the political opposition, kept their people in crushing poverty and prevented their people from leaving the country, to mention just a few of Cuba’s abuses. Stack that against a literacy program and healthcare. We’ll give you healthcare, but if you oppose us, we’ll kill you.

Giving people stuff is another way to control them, and Bernie is just fine with that. Why do leftists never praise Hitler? Hitler’s party was the National Socialist Party. He gave the German people jobs, righted their reeling economy, gave them healthcare, radios and affordable cars. But no name says “mass murderer” like Hitler. Castro, Chavez, Stalin and Mao were murderers too, every bit as evil as Hitler. But because these names aren’t readily associated with mass murder, leftists praise them. For the Left, it’s simply a matter of branding.

You’d think that history might teach Bernie and his progressive buddies that concentrated government power is a bad thing. Our Founders studied history and knew that too much power in the hands of too few people is dangerous. But have Bernie and the progressives learned this? No, no.

So how does Bernie ignore the obvious? Every progressive policy is based on centralized power, two examples being the Green New Deal and Medicare For All. Every tyrant has what Bernie – and every progressive – secretly craves: power. Bernie sees himself as “good.” The idea that he or his ideological mates could harm other people when given so much power never enters their minds. And that is what is really scary.

Michael A. Morrongiello, Ph. D.

AN INCONVENIENT MAN

Who is Daniel Cameron? I’ll bet you’ve never heard of him. There’s a good reason for that, because he scares the bejesus out of the left; here’s why. Cameron is 34, attractive, articulate, an attorney, a conservative, and…wait for it…he’s black. Cameron is Kentucky’s newly elected Attorney General. He is Kentucky’s first African-American statewide office holder and the first Republican elected to a state office in 70 years. Why have you not heard of him? Because you’re not supposed to. Cameron’s transformational win represents a frightening trend to the Democrat party and their media wing. Click on the link below to see his touching campaign video, called Lincoln.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=t-7rd9HEbWc

The paper of record in Kentucky is the Courier-Journal, a USA Today publication. They savaged Cameron, calling him everything from an Uncle Tom to a closet racist. If there is one thing that scares Democrats to death, it’s the nightmare scenario of an appealing, conservative African-American candidate. Let me clarify: when I say Democrats, I mean those running for office and those in the corporate-media complex who are a wing of the Democrat party, like the Courier-Journal. They ran a hit piece disguised as news about Cameron’s Lincoln ad.

Using an old press trick, the so-called reporter quoted a university professor who is black to attack Cameron: “Trump’s comments about race and black figures have made it difficult for black Republicans and conservatives to tout his virtues to other blacks.” This is obviously pure opinion, but it’s there to damage Cameron. This is a twofold trick. The reporter finds people critical of Cameron to say what the reporter would like to say himself but can’t, because he must feign objectivity. Then he finds a black university professor to send the message that Cameron is not really simpatico with the black community.

Another Kentucky newspaper, the Lexington Herald Leader took their fury against Cameron to a vile new low. They published a disgusting cartoon depicting Cameron with big lips holding the white-sheet KKK robe worn by President Trump. Of course, they swept any criticism aside, calling this trash “political opinion” or “satire.” To paraphrase Michelle Obama, they go low and then they go lower.

Recent polling really scares the left. Pollster John Zogby, a Democrat stalwart, found a 27% approval rating for President Trump among African-Americans. The Emerson and Rasmussen polls have Trump’s approval ratings at 34% among black voters. According to the Trump campaign, his support is growing.

Cameron’s win should have been a cause for celebration. A black man wins state-wide office in a former Confederate state, a sign of racism receding and a harbinger of the long-hoped-for end to racial bigotry. But no, Cameron’s victory is a threat. If Democrats lose a significant chunk of the African-American vote, they’re in big trouble. They can’t allow it. They will deploy every raciest trope in their ugly playbook. Keep an eye out. If they continue to lose African-American support, in desperation they’ll get even meaner. And that means we are winning.

Michael A. Morrongiello, Ph. D.