These days the media is full of news about the impact of stress on our health and well-being. Modern society pushes us to be astronomical, Type A achievers while juggling work, home, family, and other activities. Then there are those who struggle to make ends meet. Still others are living without direction, passion or purpose in life. And the media and our myriad technologies themselves add stress to our lives.
We experience stress when we response to events that threaten or upset our balance in some way. How we choose to experience stress determines its impact in our bodies and lives.
Rather than trying to eliminate stress or reduce it by self-medicating, we can coexist with stress by BEING engaged with all the healing processes that enable us to live moment to moment with more peace, harmony and equilibrium.
“Tension is who you think you are, relaxation is who you are.”
~ Chinese Proverb
Brain reactions to threat
The brain’s defense mechanism is the limbic system. It has served humanity from the earliest of times when one had to navigate around saber-toothed tigers and the like. It provides an alarm signal to other parts of the brain to prepare the body’s fight or flight reflex. Whatever the danger perceived—a hot stove, an erratic driver, an approaching deadline, an angry boss—an alert signal is transmitted. Physiological functions, such as heart and breath rate, blood pressure, circulation, release of stress hormones, heighten.
Another part of the brain, the medial prefrontal cortex (MPC) or conscious rational brain, helps you think through actions. While the MPC regulates the limbic system, when you are experiencing extreme stress or threat, the limbic system “hijacks” the MPC so your primary attention is on survival and getting through the immediate situation. Consequently, the potential exists to overreact or make poor choices when the situation may not actually be a threat.
Emotions and stress
Under extreme stress conditions, the primary emotions that surface are anger and fear, especially when we are consistently experiencing various life pressures. This constant pattern strengthens neural pathways that govern the body’s rigid fight or flight preparedness. Over time, a kind of rigid inner and outer armor forms that plays havoc with the body’s organs, systems and tissues, resulting in tight muscles, disrupted digestive system, etc.
War veterans often find it difficult to shut off this reaction which is heightened when memories and feelings are triggered. In the workshops I present to the unemployed on managing stress, the common response to their job loss are feelings of guilt, shame, regret and humiliation. Many ask, “Why me?” Feelings of abandonment, self-rejection and unworthiness surface in clients who have lost relationships.
Our minds are filled with thoughts, beliefs and memories from our past that continue to surface and can be triggered by a word, image, sound, smell or taste. These triggers spontaneously evoke feelings and emotions from past experiences that are often difficult to understand.
No matter what brain pathways or patterns have been created as a result of how you’ve handled stress in the past, the brain has a resilient a plasticity that allows it to re-pattern neural pathways and create new ones. You can learn how to BE with stress, as opposed to allowing stress to ruin your life.
Underlying all of life is a natural state of BEINGness. This ground of Pure Being is where we connect with our True Self and our Source. Here we find peace, contentment, and an equilibrium that is our birthright. Here, there is no judgment, of self or others. Forgiveness and gratitude are the guiding forces opening us to the realization of compassionate love. Here you connect with your purpose, your soul’s calling and what is authentically true for you.
The understanding here is one of perfect health, wholeness and deep peace. When you are aligned with this state of BEINGness, you are no longer swayed by past thoughts, beliefs, emotions or images that trigger unhealthy stress in the body and psyche. The more you access this state of being, the more it becomes a part of your daily life enabling you to meet life situations and circumstances with the perfect response.
How does one go about bringing BEINGness into one’s daily life? By adopting practices that incorporate deep relaxation, breathing, one-pointed concentration, emotional and cognitive healing. We can learn to witness, release attachments, witnessing and practice meditative inquiry. Let’s explore each of these techniques.
The body is filled with information that can transmit as messages creating sensations of pain, stiffness, fatigue. While we are caretakers of this wonderful body temple, we tend to ignore these messages until the symptoms become acute. Within the brain is a holographic-like map of the body. When we systematically bring awareness to each part of the body through progressive relaxation, research has revealed that this not only brings healing to physical abnormalities, but also decreases depression, panic attacks, phobias, and more. It also helps to restructure neural pathways in the brain that support our overall well-being.
Stressful situations tend to produce shallow rapid breathing controlled by the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response), while deep breathing stimulates the opposing parasympathetic reaction that calms us down. Practicing various mindfulness breathing techniques brings your awareness to subtler levels of energy flowing through the body. Then, when stress shows up, your body automatically responds with deep breathing and calmness, accessing the rational brain to help you with the perfect energetic response.
Begin by taking a few minutes to experience BEING with my video NOW!