Stress. Everyone has it. Some more than others, and we can’t deny it’s insidious nature. Stress is good for us – in reason. Small to moderate levels allow us to get up in the morning, enhance performance, get things done, and it’s evolutionary mechanism is to help us survive. The key here is that there is a clear start and END to it – once the task or race is completed, or the danger has subsided, our autonomic nervous system then switches to our rest and restore, signalling that all is okay and fine to relax and enjoy the present moment.
The problem is that chronic, modern day stress we currently experience doesn’t have an end date. As I like to say, we are ancient genes living in a modern world and at a biological mismatch to our current environment.
When people think of stress, they just think of emotional stress. But did you know that what you eat and toxic and chemical exposure can also contribute to and be perceived by your body as a stressful situation? I often feel that our current environment is putting us already into a disadvantage, which contributes to the lack of resilience and nervous system dis-regulation that we are witnessing in our daily lives.
First, a bit about the physiology of stress. You may be aware of the term ‘Fight, Flight, or Freeze’ though there are a few others as well. When we look back to our ancestors of generations past, this response is hard wired in our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). Imagine walking along the landscape, hunting or gathering food, when from the corner of your eye you spy a sabre-tooth tiger above you.
Your Sympathetic Nervous System switches on and releases a variety of hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine (commonly referred to as adrenaline). This automatically signals the body to get ready to either fight, flight or freeze – making a decision in the moment for the best chance of survival.
Blood flows away from the brain and digestive system to the large muscles in legs and your breathing becomes more shallow so you can run away; your vision narrows and your heart rates kicks up a notch. The amygdala and hippocampus work together, scanning your past memories to see if this experience has happened before, and what kept you safe. You react, literally without thinking, as the prefrontal cortex takes a backseat during this time to ensure the best chance of survival.
Once the perceived danger is over though, this is when the PARA-sympathetic nervous system kicks in. Otherwise known as the rest, digest, restore phase. This allows the blood flow to return to normal, slow our breathing and heart rate down, and allow functions such as digestion and peripheral vision to return to normal.
The problem here is that in our modern day society, our stressors aren’t from the sabre tooth tiger, and in fact most aren’t life threatening at all.
It is the school pick up, navigating through peak hour traffic, working in jobs we hate, juggling family and work commitments, financial difficulties, conflicts in our relationships, going to bed late, eating processed and chemically laden foods, etc… I’m sure you get my drift here.
The impact covers our physical, emotional, mental and energetic bodies. It can lead to dis-ease states such as anxiety, headaches, under performing immune system, digestive issues, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and depression. As our bodies are primed to survive, all the nutritional components of our food and supplements will be converted to maintain and supply steady streams of cortisol and adrenaline. This means less variety of minerals and vitamins needed to maintain the basic levels of health and well-being – so we start to decline physically, emotionally, mentally, and energetically.
You lose your self-awareness, emotional resilience drops and positive disposition disappears. You’re exhausted, depleted, and resentment and guilt starts to build.
And as much as you try to keep charging on and plaster a fake smile upon your face, you’re subconsciously sending these signals out to all those you come across, spreading this negative stressful state forward. And they will adjust in their response to you. We are social creatures, designed to mirror and mimic others. Often we aren’t even aware of our facial expressions, where a slight nuance of a raised lip or furrowed brow is perceived by another. This is how our children learn the ways of the world – classic ‘monkey-see, monkey-do’. We wonder where they get that attitude from, addition to technology and screens, etc… Though sometimes we only need to look in the mirror to see that what we view in others is actually an opportunity to heal what is within – truly creating the ripple effect of change in the world.
So… what can I do to manage my stress?
From my clinical experience with clients, a lot of it has to do with actually giving ourselves permission to reduce our stress. Because by reducing our stress, we are saying yes to ourselves and no to things that are not serving us. We are prioritising activities that actively rejuvenate and nurture us.
Clearing subconscious belief systems here can be a big help. Kinesiology and Emotional Freedom Technique is a great way to understand and remove these blocks so you can start performing better, transform fear and doubt into aligned and intentional action, to deepen your connection with your intuition and manifest your heart’s desires, and to self actualise your highest potential and live life on purpose. Remember, when we are better able to look after and hold space for ourselves, we are better able to do the same for others around us. We climb the spiral of ascension and get off the merry-go-round of paralysis by analysis.
Other ways that can help are:
* Cultivate Mindful Awareness and up your Heart Coherence strategies – check out this free training for more info on how to Decode Stress & Live Your Best. These are the key foundations to keeping your nervous system balanced and build resilience so you are not constantly reacting to highs and lows.
: Use Emotional Freedom Technique – aka EFT or Tapping. This is a form of energy psychology combining counselling, cognitive therapies with somatic stimulation – hence the term ‘tapping’ as you touch on acupressure points. Research has shown that tapping reduces stress by lowering cortisol levels, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. I have a youtube channel with a variety of tap along videos you can try yourself. It can be done at any time, anywhere – using the practices of mindful awareness to shift the emotional charge as it arises and call in a new way of being.
: Going to bed early and reducing electronics/blue light in the evening. Vital immune and hormone signalling occur during 10pm-2am – so aim to get to sleep by this time. If you are noticing a resistance to rest or to switch off, then I invite you to check out the Rest to Renew Masterclass which includes EFT Tapping and guided meditation around clearing any subconscious beliefs that may be holding you back.
* Eating real whole foods – SLOW – seasonal, locally grown, organic and whole food – and staying away from processed and chemical laden foods. If you need some extra support in this area, Changing Habits is a product I use personally and recommend to clients to help support themselves using real, organic , whole food supplements. Use code AGRILLO for 10% off your order! **
* Swap your chronic cardio exercise or cross fit workouts for short HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and ‘Working In’ exercises instead – think sprints, functional movement training or yoga and pilates. You only need 20 minutes a few times a week to get the benefits in addition to daily walks.
* Get some sunlight everyday. This is especially important in the winter months. Vitamin D is an important hormone for immunity and stress management.
* Reduce your toxic exposure wherever possible, helping your liver and digestive system to perform at their best and reduce your toxic load.
* Connect and surround yourself with people who make you happy. Human’s are social creatures, we are primed to connect with others, our culture and societal structures help to preserve our sense of value and worthiness. It’s often said we are a reflection of the 5 people closest to us. If you feel that you don’t have great role models around you, look at curating them from watching inspiring youtube talks or podcasts from those who are their authentic self. Seeing and hearing regularly what we’d like to create within our lives is one of the best ways to help train our subconscious to replicate what is around us.
* Get some essential oils into your life! When your nose identifies an aroma, it travels up the nasal cavity and sends messages to the brain via the limbic system, the part of the brain which governs emotions. This interpretation then releases certain chemicals and endorphins into the body, causing an emotional and physical reaction. That’s why Lavender can make you feel relaxed, and Peppermint helps you feel uplifted and energised. They are a beautiful way to support your body physically, emotionally and energetically, especially powerful when combined with EFT.
* And lastly, be gentle with yourself and go slow. It’s not a race but our society tends to pride itself on the “do more, go hard, don’t stop” philosophy. Dear one, if you are reading this then it’s likely you are suffering from the impact of the non-stop hustle lifestyle. I’m here to remind you that it is okay to go slow, to rest, recharge, and rejuvenate, and life from the state that rest is the pathway to success. Regulating our nervous system to this state takes time, and I invite you to go slow. To look over this article and choose one thing that you can take away and implement in your life. If you’d like support in this, please reach out via email with “I’m ready!” and we can get started.
Yours in health and well-being,