I’m studying at postgraduate level for the nth time in my life. It’s all distance learning these days so you won’t see me running around a university campus with a traffic cone on my head. Thankfully the first module is nearing its end. Last night I had a computer crisis when I was trying to do an online assignment. I won’t bore you with the details but there was an anxious wait before a nice lady on the evening shift at the university’s I.T. department reassured me by email that she knew that I hadn’t been cheating. Phew, the test was reset. I’m going to attempt it again this morning now my nerves have calmed. Wish me luck!
Why I am putting myself through this in my mid ’50s when I’d prefer to be making mosaics? I’ve said in the past that I wouldn’t do this again. But ‘Never say never’ is the mantra of my friend, Mr Metrosexual. That definitely applies in this case. I was hooked in by the potential to improve the lot of the people that I work with in a way that didn’t involve strong drugs. The qualification will also give me a source of flexible income after I give up the day job. The pensions will fund our day to day activities but a little extra pocket money will come in ever so handy to fund all the travels we’re planning. Finally, I’m going to try out what I learn on myself to see if it makes a difference to lifelong niggles of my own.
I’m training to become a sensory integration practitioner, something that only occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech and language therapists can do in the UK. There’s a bit of a market for it in helping people with developmental and autistic spectrum disorders but it has much wider use. Sensory integration is how people take in and process information from their senses to act in response to what’s happening in their environment. As I’m learning this doesn’t just involve the nervous system. All sorts of bits of our body get involved including our muscles and the endocrine system which produces hormones. And there’s a lot to go wrong. How we process sensory information can change through lifelong development, because of a single traumatic event like a brain injury or accident or because of ‘wear and tear’ over a period of time. This takes an emotional as well as a physical toll.
So why the random nuts and hearts in today’s picture? Well there’s a bit of the brain called the amydala that’s shaped like an almond. It’s responsible for fight or flight, releasing hormones when this response is triggered. This is good if it happens because of real threat but for some people (including me!) it gets fired far too often. Too many of these stress hormones over a long period of time aren’t very good for you. They can cause lots of health problems that can be irreversible.
So I’m going to work on seeing if I can discover the sensory cues that cause my poor little amygdala to get fired up on a day to day basis when there are no lions or bears chasing me! Then I’m going to learn if there are ways of calming it down. Maybe this course may have more benefits into old age than a few extra pennies in the pocket!