Dear Soft Hearted Loves,
As things feel more tense for people these days I thought we’d discuss a few ways to address initial signs of stress. Don’t get me wrong. I think stress is great data. I believe when we feel distress it is parts of us giving us information. It is like parts of us kicking and screaming for attention or giving us little hints. Perhaps we are more irritable, tired, or thinking about an issue over and over. Perhaps that stress is giving us information that we need more rest, help, or to release our claws from an issue. This blog will give us a few tips on what to do with stress in the body while you explore whatever the stress is telling us.
I don’t like to battle with thoughts or feelings by asking them to leave or lessen. This has been the opposite of what I learned in my training. In my training I learned to challenge thoughts and distract from feelings. This Eurocentric approach to not thinking and feeling wasn’t helpful for my clients who went through traumatic experiences. To be honest, it wasn’t helpful to do to challenge thoughts and feelings for myself either. I work best when I can check in with what sensations are in my body and what feelings may be arising and where those feelings live in my body. I’d rather check in with the body and release tension. Upon further training after more than a decade in higher education I finally learned that the old school, Eurocentric, colonialized approaches to mental health are contraindicated for trauma. When it comes to trauma it is helpful to relieve these tensions through the body. Therefore, my stress tips will not be coming from a place of side stepping or escaping feelings. These tips are for the body and can help overall.
- Breath deeply. You’ve heard this a bunch and in different ways. Deep, belly breaths remains my go to when it comes to stress, gratitude, and most other feelings. I’ve seen how helpful counting breaths help my mind and body. If you can take a breath from the deepest part of your tummy as it connects to the top of your pelvic floor. Hold if you can for a moment. Then release the breath slowly. I like to count in 1-2-3, hold 1-2, breath out 1-2-3-4. Some people do not have lung capacity for this so please breath in a way that fits for you.
- Move around. This can mean putting a record on and dancing slowly to a song, tiding up your home mindfully, or taking a free online workout class. Movement is what you need it to be and it is important for stress and sustainability that we move in ways that work for us.
- Place your hand on your heart. If this is not dysphoric for you, please place your hand on the skin over your heart. If you feel comfortable you can put skin to skin by allowing your hand to rest directly on the skin in your heart space.
The most important thing here is consistency. If you can commit to one of these strategies daily for a handful of seconds you may be able to access some parasympathetic healing. There are plenty of other stress strategies. I’d love to hear some of yours if you’d like to share. None of these are an easy fix. None of these stress strategies are to remove stress. These strategies are not to change or fix, but to allow. They allow for a bit of body connection so you can then get to know what’s up in your body and see if it is trying to give you some information. When we connect with our bodies we have the opportunity to see if we need rest, water, movement, sun, connection, or something else. Wishing you a moment of connection with your body today.