Stress, we all have it but how much is too much stress?
Is it that we are lacking resilience or solid coping strategies?
Or is it simply that enough is enough already!
I have experienced more stress in the last 2 years than I ever have in my 40ish years on this crazy beautiful planet and I know from my work that I am not alone.
Stress is a natural part of daily life. In fact stress can be quite a useful part of life.
It can help increase productivity, inspire productive change and gives us the courage to stand up for ourselves or each other. This TED talk by Kelly McGonigal highlights the ways in which stress can be used to our benefit. But if you are already burdened by ongoing stress read on!
Stress just seems to be creeping into every aspect of our lives, in years gone by the main source of most people’s stress was mainly work related however as we technically progress in society our psycho-emotional capacity for complexity seems to be lagging behind.
As I say to my three year old you can always have too much of a good thing. In today’s society chronic stress seems to be the norm but we are all paying the price with persistent headaches, physical exhaustion, reduced immunity, chronic pain as well as sleep and digestive disturbances.
As a mind body practitioner I see first hand how stress wreaks havoc on people’s physical and psychological well being.
The experience of stress is a bottom up process rather than a top down one.
Our body responds to stress first and foremost, not our minds
Let me explain a little further. When we experience overwhelm our survival instinct kicks in. This part of our brain, often called the reptilian brain, is the oldest part of the brain in evolutionary terms. The reptilian part of our brain activates autonomic bodily responses meaning that the body is the first part of us to respond to any stressful situation. Next to activate is our limbic system which drives our emotions and lastly the neocortex area of the brain activates which is the area of logic and reasoning.
So when we get stressed our body contracts to either fight, flee or freeze. This is an automatic and often unconscious process. We may feel some emotion but frequently suppress our emotional response so that we can get on with the job of dealing with the problematic situation. Our cognitive function then attempts to resolve the issue however physiological resources are being used to prepare to fight, flee or freeze as well as squashing down those pesky emotions of overwhelm so it is running on a reduced capacity. This is why people either make more mistakes under pressure, blank out or experience confused thinking.
What I see in many people who experience chronic pain is that they have incredibly strong minds. They tend to be superbly capable at ignoring the physical and emotional responses of their body but instead of shutting this energy down they have actually shut it in!
Let’s take a common scenario. Something I experienced over and over in my corporate career. Your manager sends you an email wanting early completion of a project, the pressure starts to rise, your body silently contracts, your breath starts to become shallow. You start following up the people who haven’t delivered on their accountabilities and you start fielding excuses, renegotiating timeframes, drinking coffee, skipping lunch and working overtime.
It’s fine because cognitively you have got this. You have great negotiation skills, can work faster and harder than many others. You have done this time and again, you’ve got it! You come home late, have a glass of wine and a shower as an attempt to de-stress, fall into bed exhausted and wake up ready to rinse and repeat for the next 5, 10 or 20 years.
And our body silently carries the burden day after day, year after year until the silence turns into a searing pain. You get a couple of treatments but are too busy for any decent kind of follow through so you keep pushing through until 6 months later the pain or anxiety or headaches or insomnia returns worse than before.
Because our body is the first responder to stress it needs to form the foundation of our recovery from stress.
The body’s physical response to stress results in a contraction of either one or both of the psoas muscles.
Let’s wind it back a little.
When the body starts to contract the psoas muscles is one of the first muscles to activate when our survival instinct kicks in. It contracts so that we can fight or flee or in the worst case scenario tuck ourselves into a ball protecting the vital organs and freeze until the danger has passed.
The psoas muscle links the lumbar spine with the pelvis and the legs. It contracts as part of our survival mechanism, in turn the para spinal muscles at the back of the spine contract to resulting in compression of the spine compromising the integrity of the intervertebral discs. Long periods of sitting only compounds the tension and chronic back pain becomes inevitable.
All too often with lower back pain practitioners treat the source of the pain rather than the origin of the issue. This may provide temporary relief however ultimately the pain returns leaving clients frustrated and exasperated by their perpetual pain.
Effective treatment involves strengthening weak areas and releasing contracted areas of tension.
When all contributing areas are actively lengthened and strengthened pelvic stability returns, over burdened muscles can relax and pain is relieved.
Working with people’s bodies year after year after year I found that chronically tense bodies (most people’s bodies) released more completely when I created a safe space for psychological and emotional release.
I started talking to people about what was happening for them and helping them navigate through their challenges and their bodies, hearts and minds could finally let go and return to equilibrium.
Psychologically when we endure periods of prolonged stress we start to feel helpless, hopeless, anxious or depressed. This is often not because of an inability to cope but simply a physiological response to stress that results in psychological imbalances.
In my experience its often the strongest and smartest people who experience chronic stress not because they can’t cope but because they have been coping too long. The overwhelm starts to flood our nervous system and as discussed when this happens our cognitive thinking goes awry, our emotions become unstable and our ability to cope becomes further compromised.
Physical pain and psychological overwhelm go hand in hand, true resolution can only be achieved when both are nurtured back into wholeness.
Stress can either be the stimulus for empowering change or it can stop us in our tracks and limit our success. Over the coming months I will be providing a variety of insights into better ways to stress less including videos focusing on stretching techniques for the psoas muscle and other stress management strategies. These insights will be available on our facebook page so make sure you have liked us and we always appreciate shares too!
Further ahead in May I will be offering a groundbreaking technique to shift long held stress, tension and even trauma. My personal experience with this technique has helped me move through some profoundly stressful times of late and continues to astound me with its simplicity and profound power to resolve the myriad of ways that stress shows up.
The body continues to amaze me with it’s natural ability to release and resolve physical and psychological imbalances. If you are feeling stuck in stress or chronic pain and could use some support to navigate your way through I am available for clinic bookings Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Skype appointments are available on Tuesdays.
Whether you are wanting to find greater ease in life, let go of the past or reduce your stress levels and could use some guidance call me for a free 15 minute consultation. Realizing your goals with greater ease than ever before is often simpler than we think. So give me a call on 0419 101 665 or send me at email firstname.lastname@example.org