Updated: Dec 9, 2019
We all have stresses in our lives, from family expectations to work pressures; from conflicts with others to worrying if we have enough money to pay our bills. Additionally we all experience traumas in our lives whether it is physical or emotional; large or small. Stress and trauma are just part of the equation in our lives that both cause positive responses in our bodies as well as horrifically negative ones. Understanding what stress and trauma does to the body, how to release it from the body and how to keep it at bay will improve the wellness of your mind, body and spirit.
Typical Stress Response
Our nervous system governs our ability to manage our stresses and traumatic events. It is responsible for regulating our survival response (fight, flight, fright/freeze). It is also responsible for basic automatic biological processes like breathing, heart beats and food digestion. Our nervous system also helps to regulate the neuroplasticity in our brains impacting our ability to cope.
A healthy person, with balanced nervous system and good neuroplasticity in the brain will have the ability to process the stresses and traumas in their lives. A typical HEALTHY stress response will look something like this:
They wake up;
The stresses build up throughout the day;
They reach a breaking point where the nervous system will kick in, choosing:
Fight = Standing up to the stress and facing it head on, processing and releasing it right there and then., OR
Flight = Choosing to walk away, removing themselves from the stress event., OR
Fright (Freeze) = This is a heighten response where the amygdala is flipped (this is where the "he's flipped his lid" phrase comes from) and the frontal cortex is no longer able to record or problem solve or process. This response is complete fear and freeze.
In all three of these stress responses, within a short period of time, the adrenaline, the heightened nervous system, the breathing and the heart rate all start to slow, calm and relax. In a short period of time, the stress response passes and the person calms down.
We are meant, built and programmed to come out of the typical stress response. It serves a purpose, but we are not meant to stay stuck there.
The stress in our lives is stored in our physical body unless we process it consciously. Our lives get so busy that most of us have a stress event hit us, but we don't have the time or capacity to process it so we just keep plugging along through our day hoping it will just get better. If we took the time to stop whatever we are doing and process that stress, it would prevent it from getting lodged in our bodies. Most of us don't have the time or the capacity or the will so we push it aside (or down inside) and carry on.
As our stress level in our body rises it can create physiological responses. Stress responses look like this:
Tension & migraine headaches,
Immune system issues
These physiological responses present as physical ailments, chronic illness and disease.
Trauma is an "event" that occurs that then leads to an increase in our stress levels. Trauma can be physical or emotional in nature.
There is the unexpected traumas that happens in your life, that stop you in your tracks like having a car accident. Then there is the long term stresses that build slowly in the body over time like long term family conflicts.
Then there are the early childhood traumas (occurs between 0 - 6 years old) like neglect and emotional abuse.
Repetitive trauma leads to repetitive stress in our bodies. As it continues to build up, it becomes "Toxic Stress".
If you are experiencing any (not all) of the following, you may be living with toxic stress:
Tension in your muscles most of the time
Rigidity in your muscles most of the time
Mental or physical body shut down
Feeling overwhelmed with life
Limited oxygen flow
No more resilience for anything else to go wrong
Constant or long periods of high anxiety, fear, worry
Having over reactive responses to moot events, like going from calm to explosive (0 - 100) in a matter of seconds
Chronic Stress is a result of one unprocessed stress event after another, creating a steady stream of toxic stress in our bodies. As the stress builds in our body, it results in an increased inability to process stress and trauma events. As the stresses build and build, a person can get stuck in a chronic stress response cycle.
The trauma event that occurs, whether physical or emotional, causes stress and trauma that is stored in our body until we process it. As we go through life, not processing our traumatic events, the aches and pains in our body increase. An example of some of the physical symptoms you may experience if you are in a state of Chronic Stress:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Auto Immune Disorders
Night After Night of Sleepless Nights
Twitches or Ticks
Constant Anxiety, Fear and Worry
High Acidity PH In The Body
Signs You Are Stuck In Chronic Stress:
There are some common signs of someone who is chronically stuck in the Chronic Stress, resulting in stress within your body:
To Addressing Issues
To Stepping Out of Routines
To Talking About Issues
Lack of Energy For Physical Activity
Low Metabolism (gaining weight while eating well and counting calories)
Exercising But No Physical Changes Occurring In Your Body
Abnormal High Energy Level
Lack of Balance
Regular Anxiety or Panic Attacks
Constant State of Fear
Constant State of Worry
Constant State of Unrest
Constant State of Fight/Flight/Fright(Freeze)
Thinking You Are Having a Heart Attack
Emotional Numbness (complete shut down)
Reoccurring Cycles of Risky Behavior or Toxic Relationships
Lost The Ability To Read People
Lost The Ability To Follow Their Instincts
Difficulty Making Decisions
Making Unsound Decisions (dangerous decisions)
Difficulty Setting Clear Boundaries
Shame In Asking For Help
Lack of Energy
Run Down Feeling
Poor Immune System
Sleeping Way More Than Normal
Neuroplasticity simply put, refers to your brain's ability to repair its pathways after damage, expanding one's ability to process and cope. Damage could include physical or emotional injuries. According to www.medicinenet.com neuroplasticity is:
"The brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment."
The more stress you have, the more you need your neuroplasticity for coping. Increased neuroplasticity in your brain = increased ability to heal from past traumas = increased ability to cope with existing challenges and new traumas that may arise.
Increase Your Neuroplasticity - Reduce Risk For Disease
So what can you do to manage your stress through day to day life and traumatic events that occur? What can you do to increase the neuroplasticity of your brain and improve the capacity to cope with day to day life?
Step 1 = Self Awareness
Being aware of how your body tells you "I am stressed" is key. Listening and watching for signs and signals from your own body is crucial to learning how to communicate with your physiology.
Spend some time paying attention to your breathing, your muscle tension level and your heart rate.
Be the observer of your own body. Watch the biological changes that occur and listen to your body on what it needs.
Step 2 = Be Authentic - Speak Your Truth
Most people are not living their authentic self - speaking their truth. Not speaking your truth is a major stress that you purposely suppress.
So speak your truth with kindness!
Put your own self care first!
Face the fear; stop feeding the fear!
Do activities that bring you joy!
Look at your reality for what it is!
Step 3 - Master Your Stress and Trauma
Developing ways to cope with the physical and emotional stress in your life is key to calming the nervous system, calming the brain, connecting your mind and heart and helping you to clearly make good decisions for your highest and greatest good. Finding options that work for you, to quiet your mind, reflect and process internally are key to increasing one's neuroplasticity in the brain. Try these ones:
Options To Release Physical Trauma and Stress:
Reiki Energy Healing
Crystal Reiki Energy Healing
Access Consciousness - Access Bars
Options To Release Emotional Trauma and Stress:
Reiki Energy Healing
Crystal Reiki Energy Healing
Emotional Freedom Tapping Technique
Access Consciousness - Access Bars
Walk in Nature
Write in a Journal
Talk to Friends
Step 4 - Focus on The Root Cause
Mark Hyman, MD says "FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE is the future of conventional medicine–available now. It seeks to identify and address the root causes of disease, and views the body as one integrated system, not a collection of independent organs divided up by medical specialties. It treats the whole system, not just the symptoms."
Modern medicine is coming to the realization that most illnesses have a root cause; a starting point in the body. The world of Functional Medicine focuses on the "whole person" including the emotional stresses, traumatic events and the emotional and physical responses of the body to those events.
By identifying what caused the physical ailment in the first place; and identifying what was occurring prior to it becoming a physical ailment will help to alleviate the physical issue.
Step 5 - Process Your Stress and Trauma Consciously
By just being aware of what the stress and trauma is in your life, you will be able to identify the "it" that is the problem.
Speaking your truth prevents you from acquiring new stresses and new traumas from developing. It also ensures that the issue will not manifest in your body as a physical ailment.
Taking time to engage in different modalities that empower you to process both your physical and emotional stresses and traumas will help to improve the neuroplasticity in your brain, allowing you to have better coping in the future.
Energy is light. Reiki, Healing Touch, Quantum Touch, etc. are all modalities that use energy and low level light therapy energy, to help clear both physical and emotional energy blocks in the body. This in turn results in the client's ability to heal themselves.
Access Consciousness - Access Bars also helps you to identify your limiting beliefs, your negative programming and helps you to consciously identify and release that which is not serving you and is actually holding you back.
Meditation is another modality you can use to look within to identify and release your issues. Set the intention of seeking answers from within to your stress and trauma prior to meditating. Have a note pad handy so as thoughts, ideas, memories arise you can either process them consciously as they come up; or write them down to go through later.
Step 6 - Make Healthy Choices
Take time to do things that bring you joy.
Take time to build and bridge your personal connections with family, friends and co-workers.
Find healthy ways for you to cope with life's challenges.
Ensure no matter how short, you chisel out some "me time" every day.
Do things that increase the neuroplasticity in your brain.
When issues arise, ask yourself "what is this about" then listen to your heart for the answer. Follow your heart.
Be gentle with yourself.
It is ok to say "no".
Well that's it in a nutshell. Consciously processing our "issues" maybe difficult; but it is far less painful than letting them manifest into illness and disease. Stress and trauma, left unprocessed, will (not maybe) will result in physical ailments, disease and degeneration.
If you would like to learn more about neuroplasticity, Reiki, or Access Consciousness please send me a note.
Laurie Fulford, PMP
Harmony Hands Energy Healing
References for this blog were: Dr. Hyman, MD; Peter Levine "Waking the Tiger"; Irene Lyon, nervous system specialist; Gabor Mate "When the Body Says No" and my own experience helping clients learn to heal themselves.