With stress on the rise as we face three of the most challenging factors for the human psyche - change, uncertainty and lack of knowledge – watching for some really common stress-related symptoms is a good barometer to acknowledging when we need to step back for some self-care.
There are some quick-fire ways to address your body showing you it is in survival mode, but paying attention in the longer term can help us ride the waves of change and keep our sanity intact.
From the fear-based place of the fight-or-flight response, finding ways to let your whole mind-body know it is safe in this moment is the route to calming excitation that spreads into muscles, mind and affects our capacity for sustainable sleep, mood and energy.
Racing mind, worry and anxiety
It’s natural for our inner dialogue to go to full-on protection mode when we perceive danger is afoot. It doesn’t matter that the threat might not be of a full-on physical nature, we are set to track for...
Stress is a natural part of the human experience, but how we can regulate how we cope with its presence. Chronic stress and trauma create rigidity and tension within body tissues that leave our responses less adaptable and link them to inflammatory and structural issues. Add in that much of modern stress is within sedentary behaviour patterns that don’t allow us to physically express when we are angry, sad or in pain. Recent interest in movement as ‘body psychotherapy’ describes how we process much of our unconscious thought via our physical body.
A 2014 review of mindful movement research called Movement-based embodied contemplative practices: definitions and paradigms (Front Hum Neurosci. 2014; 8: 205) discussed how, over the past decades, cognitive neuroscience has witnessed a shift from predominantly disembodied and computational views of the mind, to more embodied and situated views of the mind. Put simply, to separate out mind from body is to miss intricate...
There are some real clues when I see clients as to the level of stress that people have been living under and the point where they may be at breaking, close to burnout or on the edge of running out of resources - even to the point of adrenal fatigue or exhaustion. Many of these red flags are describing how people view themselves or the habits that they've been living under that come from age-old conditionings, those strategies that we lay down from very, very early on in life.
So many of the stress burdens that people cycle around are about how much they expect themselves to do, how much they expect themselves to achieve and ideas that relaxing or being restful or in recovery are somehow bad. Unraveling these limiting beliefs and finding new ways to approach how we fill our time and how we nourish ourselves enough to keep going without crashing, can take changes in attitude and lifestyle that have far reaching consequences.
- I'm so overwhelmed, I can't cope.
We are always going through phases of change, whether we notice them as substantial or not. This January one can often seem like the motherload though, with high expectations and suggestions coming at us from all angles.... whether it's giving up something, doing something else or fixing that thing that is 'wrong' with us, there is a sense of this ideal, other self that we should be.
There is a phrase doing the rounds at the moment that is particularly pushing my buttons; "be the best (or better) version of yourself" - eh? What on earth does that mean? To me, there is an implication that if all the boxes are not ticked, I am simply not good enough. I guess it's the word version I react to there - we have so many facets to our beings that to judge some as good and others not so much adds in to our cultural norm of self-criticism.
I do believe in constant awareness of which unmet needs I am playing out for sure, but have learnt that I need to be mindful of looking at the unconscious...
It's easy to lose our sense of satisfaction and need-over-want at this festive time, but finding ways to stay connected can make the whole shebang leave a better taste in our mouths in the aftermath...
So the big question is, can we retain a sense of 'enough already' in the face of excess? The lead up to the main event is a good time to step back, take stock and see how Christmas is permeating our lives and our expectations.
Are you dizzy as a child at the thought of Santa’s touchdown or feeling the heavy burden of endless present-buying or relatives descending? Personally, I tend to feel quite different each year… BC (Before Child) I used to be able to get full-on festive one year and then positively ignore its existence the next, just enjoying some holiday time without the razzamatazz.
Now I’m swept up in the childhood vision of it all, it’s a time to experience with my daughter what I wish it to be; not about buying and getting yet more stuff, but...
5 Natural (and free) at-your-desk Energisers – body tricks to stop you turning to the sugar and caffeine
When we’re locked into work mode with deadlines and overload, even a quick break may seem impossible.
It’s important to get up and move around, but at those times in between helping ourselves to stay and concentrate can help the achievement that also relieves stress.
Even when we’re just sitting at our desks, we’re using up masses of energy on brain power. At a normal resting state our big brains demand around 20% of our total energy expenditure.
If we’re under pressure, a stressed state can increase that energy proportion to around 70-75% as our brains are vital to survival when our bodies sense this as danger.
Running at that level, it’s easy to see how we can get the craving signals that send us towards the instant energy highs that are sugar and caffeine.
Chocolate, biscuits, tea and coffee can perk up us in the short-term, but they...
Stress is a common factor in everyday life, but it is important to not define this as simply bad, but rather examine our responses to challenges and the number of things ‘to do’ that we may habitually take on – or not say no to!
The nature of stress in the 21st century (in developed countries) isn’t so much about everyday survival and physical hardship, yet we still respond in the full physiological fight-or-flight way even if we’re wound up about the email influx, worried about paying the bills or having relationship woes. Finding ways and the time and space to come down from these heightened responses can create a day-to-day life where demands can seem less threatening, reactions less well, reactionary and a sense of easy come/ easy go more possible it. It is this adaptability and resilience that shows how well we are able to cope and when it feels frazzled and low, how much we need to nurture the sense of safety and gathering resources that we need...