Stress and You: How You Can Begin to Powerfully Shift the Damaging Effects of the Stress Response.
Learning To Let Go Of Stress is the Greatest Gift You can Give Yourself.
It is morning. You slowly become awake and aware after a restful night’s sleep. Your sleepy half-closed eyes begin to notice the sparkle of the golden morning sunlight as it floods through the cracks in your curtains. Outside is a gentle blue sky day. The trees nearby have soft green leaves and blossoms that are enjoying being kissed by the cool breeze in order to later gift you with their scent. You have nothing to do today but to absorb this sunshine and feel it’s warmth on your skin. Nothing to do but allow all of nature to caress your body and mind.
But you lie in your bed, your body held tight. Mouth pursed, teeth with the memory of a light but persistent jaw clenching. Stiffness in various forms. Stomach taught, back tight. You’ve been pushing hard for a long time. Trying and doing. More and faster. Push, push, push. Not yet good enough, not successful or nice enough. What do they want anyway? No idea, but everyone is doing this so it must be right? This way and that way. Try again. Approval. A yes for looking, being good and fitting in. Recognition for the promotion or the kids who do well in school. Who are you pleasing anyway? The unknown? The parents? The partner who still isn’t actually seeing who you are in spite of it all?
And from even a tiny part of this tightly held place, how easy is it to absorb the sunshine, to flow with life? How easy is it to be present with your body and know what you need? How easy is it to bring that presence to your partner and fully be with them - to really see them? How easy is it to know what you are actually here to gift the world?
The paradox is that you have so much to feel and explore, to be and bestow. The extent to which you can feel that is the extent to which you can de-program what is endemic in modern society — fast, tight, concrete, busy, plastic, packaged, grabbing stress. The unconscious level messages to harden are everywhere. Often consciously we are also complicit in creating life this way. When you are stiffening your body you are in protection. Fight, flight and FREEZE. It’s the stress response gone awry. Not meant to be felt for more that a few minutes in times of real danger, how we are living is creating this as a permanent state in the bodies of billions of people. No-one would be choosing to live in a state of permanent adrenaline and cortisol overload. It is painful and means you grab at things to soothe. Just enough yoga, a workout, a massage, the shopping trip, the car, that cake, sex, alcohol… Stay away from the freeze and the flight. Numb it a little. Soften only enough to keep moving. Keep playing the game.
But what if there is a different game to play? One where you can actually let go of stress and move from a different place entirely?
The one where the more relaxed you are the more you know yourself. The one where the quieter your mind the more you know? Where when you have an open body you are able to communicate more powerfully and influence more fully. When there is a flow of feeling that is allowed to unstick itself and move through.
But how to do it? There are many routes out of stress as a way of life. Do know that this is a journey for your body with your unconscious mind as much as your conscious one. It is one that will take you into connection with your deepest soul and its inner desires. Listening to the subtle and the gentle. The wisdom on the breeze. It’s about creating deep level change that allows you to hold a different way of moving. A more pleasurable way. It’s a beautiful, powerful journey back to yourself. Here are a few things to play with but please trust that you will find your way.
4 Ways to begin to let go of stress in your body and mind.
Bring awareness. Learn to love that part of yourself. Bring it all in. Imagine that part of you is a small child you’ve found shivering in the cold. Bring them indoors and wrap them up warm. Offer them love in whatever way they can receive it. They are you and you are them. They might be a bit tired of this coldness and hardness but it’s been for a reason. It’s hard to soften and relax when you are freezing outside. Start from love and appreciation of that you that has been working so hard to keep going no matter what, and have a loving word with that beautiful child who’s been going outside on bad weather days without a jumper and a scarf.
Body scan. Find the pockets of hardness or tightness in your body and make it your life’s work to soften, release, love, massage, breathe into these places. If your stomach is held tight as so many people’s are, how can you begin to let it go? How can your jaw and stomach and that tiny place behind your ears release more? How can you open the channels of your body? Massage helps. So do warm salt baths. Use them liberally. Are you walking stiff and held, or can you also move in flow? Spine holding you but body relaxed. Life able to permeate through. Love also. To what extent can you actually be felt by others? To what extent are you feeling?
Commitment to difference. Notice what thoughts help you relax and what ones don’t. Notice what situations drop you in quicker and which take you out of yourself? Notice when you freeze and where. What unconscious patterns do you hold? Know them. Explore with a curiosity. Commit to softening. Stillness and freezing are different. Think Buddha. Not hard, but very still. Let your body feel into that distinction. Think of absorbing the morning sunshine. Where can it permeate and where can it not? Warm, soft, open. allowing. surrender as the strongest, most powerful thing you can do.
Dance with the flow of life. Once you begin to soften, open and flow, you might recognise that what we are doing every day is akin to a dance. Sometimes the music plays loudly, sometimes softly, sometimes it beats a staccato and others it may be more melodic. How well we dance with it is up to us. Our own personal relationship to the art of life as it swirls and moves and gifts us it’s rhythms. Can you play some music and move your body as a practice of opening a little more intentionally? Can you sit still but feel the flow of the music and air around you as a gift. Which feels better to your particular body? Do that.
In your kitchen, in the sunshine, in the rain barefoot on the grass, stomping on a wooden floor, dancing tiptoes on the sand. Anger, sadness, ecstasy, joy. Pure expression as it comes. What shape does it want to make? Finding freedom in your own movement and your own stillness. You for you and only you. For some this is like coming home. For others it’s scary and needs to start small. How can you give yourself permission to feel all that you are a little more each time? To allow. To enjoy. To play. Relaxed jaw, relaxed face, open heart. Giving love to all that arises within you — even if it looks like judgement or ego or pain or something else that doesn’t feel ‘pretty’ or ‘nice’ or ‘right’. Maybe especially those. What this does is give the signal to your body and mind of so many things. Oxytocin flows, expression is found, feeling your body, releasing, breathing, flowing. Turning your body into a yes for your life, for your expression, your feeling, your flow. A full body signal to every cell that you are in fact a huge yes for YOU. Turn this practice into anything that works for you. Find your flow. Your exploration. Your questions and your answers.
These questions, and others you will find, can take us to all kinds of places that can ultimately lead to an opening that can allow you to receive what it is you suspect to be possible. To be with the beauty that surrounds us, and demand even more. To create a life that feels fulfilling and nourishing and is aligned to your deepest gifTs. Your life in relaxation and flow, to be revered by you on a daily basis. You don’t have to yet know how, just begin to suspect it’s possible and do the play in a way that supports more of what you want and lets go of so much more of what you don’t.