Rewiring the Stress Response
In Riding the Hamster Wheel, I spoke about the physiological changes our body can experience due to chronic stress. In this blog post I would like to address some methods and resources that can assist you in rewiring the chronic stress neural network issue. When stress is a hard wired chronic issue it may not just be an emotional mental choice, it may be a physical issue as well. Remember how I told you chronic stress can result in poor gut health? In this blog I want to introduce some unique tools to address the emotional/mental aspect as well as the physical visceral (organ) issue. Parts of this post may seem a bit technical but hang in there, I will do my best to explain so everyone can understand it.
So how can we change the course of being "stuck" in maladaptive stress mode? Honestly it requires a constant vigilant awareness of the stress signals. The awareness of stress signals can be increased through manual vagal work (more about that later,keep reading). When the sign is recognized, monitoring any negative inner voices and replacing the negative dialogue with positives is a great first step. Overtime you will start to recognize the triggers and be able to side step them so you do not fall into the initiation of the gut/brain stress cycle. But what if this skill set seems so far away? What if you can not even recognize that you have been triggered? What then?
I will be honest, if switching your inner dialoque or talk therapy is something that you have tried and you still feel stuck, keep reading, you maybe be dealing with a stubborn hard wired neural stress issue. Your amount of stuck-a-tude might be too overwhelming for your brain to show you the truth. This is a realistic solution for some, since the brain's main concern is safety and homeostasis (balance) for it's beloved human. We can only see what we are ready to manage and deal with.
I have seem many people walk into my office that can not evaluate their own stress levels. They initially say they are fine, they just want a "time out". But when I begin to work on the muscles that "house" their stress, they often become connected and tell me that is where they hold stress. At this point many start to download their stress verbally and sometimes their body tells me through their heart rhythms and their breath patterns. This is what makes a massage wit tuned in therapist, so magical. For many a routine session of stress reduction helps them connect to their body, teaching them how to listen to the signals.
The mere compression of muscles tells me a story. That story reveals their stress, habits, as well as their lymphatic and movement issues. I often hear, "I didn't even know that hurt" and "you find all the spots". Truth be told I find the spots because of my advance training and how I observe. I have been taught to look at multiple systems, no one system works alone, that is how our body achieves a sense of balance. In fact this is why rewiring the hard wired maladaptive stress response must include emotional and physical interventions in order for you to open the door to making a shift.
We are all so very unique. What works for one may not work for another. You may need an alternative idea. Here is a list of some alternative emotional resources:
(Dislcaimer: Some of the the items on this list have various religious spiritual beliefs, pick and choose from the list, prioritize your interests and needs.)
Recovery Bible Study- I gained so much from this class, my favorite activity was our life timeline. If you want to know more reach out.
Discerning the voice of God by Priscilla Shirer- If you are a believer that struggles to understand how God talks to you this is a great bible study.
Body Code Energy work- if you find yourself cycling between, doing really great to being stopped dead in your tracks, this bodywork modality will reveal things that your conscious mind maybe not be able to access. The brilliant thing is it does not require hours of discussion. This muscle testing modality finds the issues within a matter of seconds. (Reach out for more info if you are curious. I can get you connected.)
Joe Dispenza- A chiropractor, that fractured 6 vertebrae at 26, and went on to heal his vertebrae through thought alone. He is on YouTube.
Wayne Dyer- The power of "I am" statements and how our frontal lobe works hard to match the vision of the "I am" statement. He is on YouTube.
Bruce Lipton- stem cell researcher that discuss the connection of "culture medium" our environment on cellular quality. He is on YouTube.
Meditation- Amazon music and YouTube have many resources available for meditation.
Let's talk more about leaving the maladaptive stress response behind. In addition to working hard at changing the emotional connection to stress, you may have to do some physical physical interventions to produce a shift in your awareness to stress. When that vagal nerve is initiating the fight or flight response trust me when I say, this is deeper than you thought it was. Your brain does not ask your permission to keep you safe, it just does it, automatically without your conscious awareness.
Have you ever heard of the vagus nerve? More than likely if you are not an anatomy you have never heard of it. I am sure you have heard the statement, "listen to your gut" before? The vagus nerve is what makes that statement possible, The vagus nerve is the what makes the gut/brain axis a thing. Hold on, I get super excited to spread understanding about nerdy anatomy things. Our gut and brain communicate in a conversation that is influenced by your environment. Your conscious brain is not included in this conversation. Yes you heard me correct, the gut and brain have an ongoing arty that you have never formally been invited to.
So what is the vagus nerve? The vagus nerve is the only nerve that exits your brain and connects to all of your organs. The vagus nerve also feeds information back to the brain. In fact, the gut has a stronger influence on the brain than the brain has on the gut. Something to ponder, right? This circular communication ability makes the vagus nerve, the most important nerve in the body. In my office, I intentionally interact with the gut/brain axis when my clients are stressed. The easiest vagal interruption is to massage the area directly below the ear and right behind the jaw. This soft spot can often be tender for many reasons, just be gentle. Even a small interruption to the silent circular pattern of communication between the gut and brain changes the neural hard wiring for your brain. Remember that our brain loves variation, stimulation is how the brain learns.
In my office I teach my clients self care technique for interrupting the gut/brain cycle. As wtih any neural changes, the self care work must be repeated frequently. One and done does not cut it. If you have gut issues, heart issues or ever had an organ removed, vagal work can be a tremendous benefit to you. There are many ways to work with the vagal nerve, in my office I teach my clients self care methods that meet their specific needs, some are simple some are complex. Disconnecting the hardwired lifelong stress trap can seem exhausting at first but it is worth your time and effort.
For those of you with a whole heap of bodily set backs. Approaching stress from multiple avenues is a must. Frequency gives your brain the repetition that it needs to rewire your current hard wired chronic stress. if you are honest with yourself you already know chronic stress has been an issue for awhile. Our brain loves to learn and the only way we can change the hard wiring is to continuously stimulate with new varying information. Essentially creating a distraction to focus on giving the brain time to prune away the old habits.
The following are more ideas to help you to shift the stress response:
Regular Massages- a regular weekly session is best, but if money is an issue, every 2-3 weeks can still be constructive. Do what works for you.
Wim Hof breath work- YouTube
Calming essential oils- whether you diffuse them or want a more assertive application on your lymph nodes or over your vagal nerve they can help elevate your mood.
Creative expression- dancing, singing, painting and cooking engage movement and our senses to reduce stress.
Supplements-like Copaiba or CBD
Exercise- believe it or not some forms of exercise may trigger stress, make sure you are interested in the form of exercise you are participating.
Movement- I can not say enough about movement, if you do not use it you lose it. Your mind prunes out the neural connections we are not using. (Thank you neuroplasticity)
Life can be tough, we are all carrying our own arrangement of challenges and struggles. Our arrangement does not have to be composed of invasive weeds that we continue to water and cultivate to the point that we can now longer witness the gifts and blessings surrounding us. Life should be about celebrating our blessings, enjoying big and small moments with those dear to our hearts. Our time is short I hope you choose to jump off stressful hamster wheel that goes nowhere.