"It’s not what happens to us, it’s how we respond to it that matters most."
This month we are focusing on changing the paradigm around how we experience and process the reaction of stress, stressful situations and the aftermath.
Stress is not meant to harm us, but is rather a reaction that is hardwired from within to help us survive. Of course, it doesn’t always seem like that but according to research, this is due to our perception of stress, rather than the stress itself. The good news about perception is that changing it is something we can control. This is especially important given that how we respond to stress is fundamental to our vitality, longevity and wellbeing. The side effects of long term accumulated chronic stress can become insidious, permeating into so many areas of our lives, increasing inflammation and belly fat, and causing weight gain, muscle loss, cancer and infertility to name a few, as well as breaking us down mentally, physically, emotionally and energetically - even triggering many diseases. In fact, 95 percent of all illness is caused or worsened by stress.
Instead of just learning to live with the suffocating and debilitating energy, pressure and tension that comes with stress, there are simple ways to reframe our perception, acknowledging thatstress is not out there in the world but actually how we respond to and interpret what’s happening to us. I’ll unpack these easy to follow tips, plus I’ll dive into some amazing, scientifically-proven methods toclearing residue of the stress reaction out of our system to break the neurocircuit of reactivity.
This awareness and the related practices are based on my expertise and decades-long study of structural integration (bodywork that focus on alignment of mind, body and spirit, while also reorganizing and optimizing the connective tissue network or ‘fascia,’ that permeates the entire body and stores your stress) and will help to unwind the issues in your tissues, unravel your nerves and free your conscious and subconscious mind so that you can feel at ease in your body, think more clearly, digest life better and embody an elevated radiance from the inside out.. What’s more, they will raise your energetic vibration, empower you and help you progress in leaps and bounds on your journey to self-mastery.
First, we’ll look at what’s really going on in our incredible bodies…
- How stress can mess with your body
- 3 Types of stress: daily stresses, chronic stress and trauma
- Fresh, new ways to move and process stress out of the body
How stress can mess with your body
Our bodies are truly amazing. Complex structures of interconnected systems and incredible processes working tirelessly to navigate life’s challenges and fulfill the functions needed for day-to-day living, of which stress is part and parcel.
When something stresses us out, a biological prompt is sent to the body to react to what it perceives as danger. Our sympathetic nervous system goes into fight or flight. The adrenal glands ramp up the production of adrenaline and noradrenaline, increasing heart rate and rushing blood to the areas that would need it most in an emergency, such as the muscles and heart. The body is on high-alert ready to fight or move. Non-essential functions such as digestion, production of growth hormones and reproduction slow down.
We are designed to navigate small doses of stress and in small doses it’s actually good for us. But if our bodies keep sending out stress signals, we can get stuck in a loop fight or flight, and the nervous system is thrown off balance, causing the sympathetic nervous system to get jammed in overdrive.
“What are you going to do with your experience? Either store it in your cells and tissues or use it to enhance your wisdom”
The fascia is a silent witness constantly recording and storing all our experiences. The nervous system is only able to deal with so much. If we are unable to consciously clear stress or overcome a trauma, it will get stored in our organs, tissues and cells. Prolonged stress and overwhelming emotional trauma can become long-term or chronic.
When this happens, the body is unable to rest, repair, heal and digest food properly, which wears the body down and has a knock-on effect on all of our organs, tissues and cells. All our systems are constantly in a heightened state, ready to navigate danger. This depletes our vital life force energy, weakening our immune system, causing inflammation and becoming an aggravating factor for disease. We lose the ability to heal ourselves naturally.
Addressing the 3 types of stress: I find it helpful to identify the types of stress we may encounter.
I am referring to those everyday stressors and annoying moments that leave you feeling raw and unnerved. Sometimes life’s little hiccups can unhinge us and push our moods to the extreme, like getting caught in a traffic jam, receiving an annoying email or spilling your coffee.
Don’t let irritation become your default mode. There is always a choice. You can either react and white knuckle it causing the body to tighten up - one surefire way to cement that stress into your cells - or you can pause and respond. Take in a deep breath, find your center and bring awareness to your body, feeling your feet on the earth.
Rather than scrambling your energy and letting yourself slip into an emotional state, find a more empowered response. By shifting your emotions from grumpiness to gratitude, you will shift your frequency, clear the stress and feel more at ease.
If you’ve overreacted to a situation (which we all do), there are ways to undo the stress, clear it and restore calm.
For example, if you are not able to speak your truth, swallowed emotions get stuck in the jaw and lodged in the thyroid gland. Anger and frustration grow in the liver and pancreas.
Feeling that your primal needs are not being met may cause you to get stuck in a survival state which often manifests in the pelvic floor and lower back. If you do not have the awareness, tools and mindfulness techniques to let this stress go, these unconscious negative feelings of desperation and hopelessness can get carried for years in the body and may manifest physically in skin issues, show up as cancer or perhaps fibromyalgia.
Through my own healing journey and from working with my clients, I have witnessed how toxic emotions and a victim mentality can create fertile grounds for disease or illness. When we stop blaming others or circumstances for our problems and start taking responsibility for our bodies, choices and lives, we can take back the reins on our life and build resilience. We become more skilled at navigating life. One of the best ways to do this is to enhance our abilities to respond to life and of course I share many of these practices inside the Aligned Life Studio.
Given its complexity, we will be dedicating the entire month of November to unpacking trauma - how it impacts our body and how we can learn to heal from its effects.
If in the meantime, you find yourself struggling from trauma, I encourage you to seek out support and get professional help from an expert.
One easily accessible resource is Parsley Health. Their clinicians help heal the mind-body connection by navigating stress and anxiety, and the physical symptoms they cause, so you can recover your mental wellbeing.
Check out the Aligned Life Insiders page for a discount to Parsley Health.
I find the following practices helpful to transmute stress and clear its effects:
- Start your day with affirmations: Regular practice positively shifts your energy and mindset, influencing how you experience your day and hopefully allowing you to have more fun. Before you get out of bed in the morning, when your brain is most receptive, set an intention to stay centered, focused and non-reactive no matter what.
One of my favorite affirmations is:
“I create s p a c e to embody grace”
- Ditch your shoes and get earthed. Grounding reconnects the body with the earth's natural electric charge. Negative ions from the earth nullify the positively charged ions that are often caused by stress in the body. The bioelectrical connection with the earth’s surface activates the parasympathetic nervous system, lowers cortisol levels and reduces stress, fatigue and depression. Earthing therapies have also been shown to restore the body’s natural defenses, regulate circadian rhythms, which supports sleep, as well as reduce inflammation and free radicals in the body.
I encourage you to walk barefoot, lie on the ground or wade into the ocean. Allow earth’s natural healing energy to flow up through the soles of your feet and help build emotional resilience and inner calm.
Earthing mats are a great alternative if you don’t have easy access to the outdoors.
- Let it all out with a long, slow sigh: Exhaling slowly, with the sound of a sigh - it usually is the sound of 'aaah'. It's also known as one of the spiritual sounds; the sound of the heart, the sound of relaxing and the sound of letting go into all that is. This is a highly effective way to soothe and calm the nervous system very quickly. Bringing your attention to your breath cultivates mindfulness and allows you to respond rather than react.
There are different forms of breath regulation, many based on ancient Hindu and Buddhist pranayama techniques.
Cyclic sighing is just one of the ways you can shift your vibration and restore calm very quickly:
- Breathe air in through your nose until your lungs are 50% full.
- Pause. Take another breath, this time completely filling your lungs.
- Then slowly exhale all the air out of your lungs. Repeat this 3 times.
Intentionally taking in a deep breath, holding it and consciously exhaling slows
down the heart rate, decreases blood pressure and improves digestion.
Beginning your day with deep breathing can help set your body’s rhythm for the rest of your day. Try starting your early morning with a Deep Belly Breathing practice like the one I’ve linked here from the Aligned Life Studio, and you will likely experience significant improvements in your ability to navigate stress.
Express your emotions: Speak your truth, have a good cry - don't hold back or suppress your tears or sadness. Don't suppress your anger. All emotions are bodily sensations. And all you have to do is feel the body without trying to sweep them under the carpet.
- Sway your stress away: When you synchronize your breath with repetitive, slow rocking movements, you can gently nudge the nervous system into a parasympathetic state.
Gentle rocking forward and backwards or from side to side changes the position of the head in relation to the position of the heart increasing blood flow and oxygen. This is one of the quickest ways to calm the vestibular system, which is our balance center. The slow rhythmic movement releases endorphins in the brain, helping to boost mood and reduce tension.
Swinging achieves the same benefits as rocking! Who says it’s just for kids? Swinging on a swing for at least 15 minutes can last up to 8 hours in the central nervous system. It can also help clear repetitive, negative thoughts allowing you to gain a new perspective.
- Intimacy: In loving relationships, having sex is a wonderful way to release stress.
- Belly rolling: If stress is held in the abdomen, the organs and surrounding tissue become thicker and denser. There is no pliability or flow, which leaves you feeling disconnected from your gut instinct.
Abdominal rolling stimulates the psoas muscle and organs, helping to flush out emotional energy. It also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing down the heart rate and reducing blood pressure. Blood flow to the digestive system is increased, and digestive enzymes are released, helping to digest food as well as improving immune system function.
- Breath of fire: This is a continuous, rhythmic breathing technique often used in yoga which involves passive inhalations and rapid forced exhalations.
Without pausing, in and out breaths should be the same length. The main focus is on the exhale, which requires you to contract your abdominal muscles.It supports mindfulness, synchronizes the biorhythms of the body, releases toxins (including stress and trauma), expands lung capacity and sends oxygen to the brain, allowing for a more focused neutral state of mind. It also strengthens the nervous system by reducing sympathetic nervous system activity, aswell as increasing parasympathetic nervous system activity regulating the “rest and digest” response. You can try in the 6:53 minute mark of my Happy Gut Flow.
This type of breathwork can also help us build resilience and flexibility in our pelvic floor, which is an on/off stress button within us all. When we feel stressed we tend to unconsciously clutch and contract the pelvic floor, preventing the flow of energy. By practicing the breath of fire, we invite that fresh energy into the gut and diaphragm, unclenching the pelvic floor.
- Have a laugh:Laughter is medicine. When you laugh, even the tears boost your immunity.
- Sound healing: This technique uses specialized sound frequencies to work on the body’s chakras and energy field, realigning the body’s vibration and restoring equilibrium.
Sonic vibration therapy helps vibrate stagnant energy and cellular waste out of the cells. When we are stressed, we tend to tense up, and our energy contracts. We grip, clutch and bear down. This stress response can create a neuromuscular pattern that happens on a subconscious level. Certain sounds can initiate a state of relaxation and move blockages and trauma out of the body. Sound Therapy has been known to help treat stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, depression, sleep disorders and reduce pain levels.
Join me in a Sound Healing designed to Reduce Stress and Anxiety, led by Aligned Life Studio healer Chrystal Natal.
Meditation:Can produce a deep state of relaxation by clearing away information overload. Practice it daily and consistently for the best results. It is also effective in clearing trauma which often lies in deeper layers.
- Loosen up and shake it out: Shaking helps get rid of anxiety and pent-up emotions by regulating the nervous system.
- Move slowly and consciously: Slow, mindful movements, including fascia flow sequences, are the gateway to actually feeling where you are holding and storing emotional baggage. It promotes mindfulness and helps bring awareness to the body, enabling you to tune in to what’s actually going on. The conscious movement shows you where you are feeling crunchy and stuck.
In my experience, these are the areas that are more susceptible to stored emotions, negative thought patterns and pooled toxins. Moving slowly can help release this energy, especially chronic stress and deep-seated trauma.
- Hip opening:The hips really don’t lie! Women tend to store a lot of emotion in their hips. Hip replacement surgeries later in life are often a result of built-up emotional blockages. It is important to move the energy out of the hip with hip opening stretches and exercises. Avoid sitting for long periods of time in a forward-facing position.
If you’d like, try the new Unlock Your Hips Flow inside the Aligned Life Studio, designed tostretch the hips and release the emotional body energetically without any equipment.
Instead of allowing the effects of stress to control your narrative, you can choose a different response that can bring about a different result.Rather than close up and contract, you can open up and expand.
Working through painful experiences and releasing stress can be challenging, but if you can remain focused and brave, have patience and persevere, alchemy happens - you grow, your vibration shifts, and you become more resilient and empowered.
If you’d like more guidance on how to infuse your life with more of these therapeutic practices, join me for my new22-minute Stress Reset - or go even deeper with my new 30 Day Stress Melt Program, inside the Aligned Life Studio.
I’d so love to have you.