Basically, we are either surviving or we’re creating. We are feeding our souls, the seat of the heart, or we are just trying to stay alive, afloat, status quo. We are resting and digesting or we are fighting, fleeing, or hiding. We have an open focus or we have a narrow focus. For example, when there is a threat lurking in the bushes, we are going to hone in on the threat. We're going to hone in on what is lurking. There's a rush of stress hormones that heightens our senses and narrows our focus so we can pinpoint the threat and then either fight it, run from it or hide from it. These same stress hormones are going to automatically increase our heart rate in preparation to run or fight for our lives.
This is a very useful mechanism… if this is actually happening. But if we are sitting in our car and we’re thinking about how we’re late for work, how we snapped at our partner, our never-ending to-do list, if we’re going to be able to get done with work on time to pick up the kids... and our heart rate begins to pick up and we notice we’re barely breathing, gripping the wheel and grinding our teeth, it’s because this same rush of stress hormones is being released into our system except all we're doing is sitting in our car at a stop light thinking. Our body chemistry is changing from just thought alone. And if there’s no one to fight, there’s nowhere to run and there’s nowhere to hide as you sit at the wheel then this release of energy is up against a closed system with no outlet. All of that vital life force is being burnt up. Energy that could otherwise be used for growth, repair, digestion and replenishment, or creating vitality, is reallocated for survival. Do this enough and we begin drawing on vital energy reserves that would otherwise go towards maintaining a healthy internal environment. The phenomenon of "hitting your forties" and not being able to "do the things you used to" is because you've been borrowing vital life force energy for a long time. You've been spending more than you make. And now the long term effects of stress and exhaustion are getting your attention. If you don't take time to replenish your energy levels or build the bank back up, your symptoms will most likely worsen or deepen - at the very least, they won't go away.
Research shows that we spend 70% of our life in survival mode. I’ve watched enough nature shows to see that after a wildebeest outruns the lion or the deer outruns the cougar that after the event is over, the animal goes back to grazing in a relatively short amount of time. Because they don’t have the analytical thinking capacity that a human does, I doubt they spend the rest of the week in a bad mood worked up about the one that chased them. Instead they casually graze and sleep in the present moment, restoring and replenishing their energy. There's an innate balance. There's an order.
Luckily there is one amazing conscious thing we can do to actively switch our nervous systems back from survival to creation - and that is to slow down our breathing. Taking full, deep and complete breaths is key for creating space. So I made an audio for anyone interested. It’s a neuromuscular technique that I do with a lot of my massage clients to create space and restore length to chronically tight muscles - in this particular audio, it's for the neck muscles. This technique re-establishes the connection between your brain and the motor neurons running to your muscle fibers that says “you can go back to normal resting length now. The chase/trauma/event is over and you’re safe to go back to grazing peacefully, resting, replenishing.” Not only will you feel space in your neck but your whole being will settle, come back into order and, I hope, be filled with a little more ease and lightness.
Because, really, it's about the AND. We can feel fear and still stretch ourselves. We can be nervous to speak, write or perform, enter a contest, go to a new class, have dinner with strangers and we can still stretch ourselves to have a new, unknown experience. If thought alone can open the flood gates to a cocktail of stress hormones, it can also do the opposite - you can calm your body down by thinking and feeling differently. Can you create the space to change your state with just a few deep breaths and an intention to try something different? Give yourself the grace of being nervous, excited, fearful and go 1 or 2 degrees further to the other side of that thought feeling. Create space for the AND. Whether it's range of motion in your neck or range of motion for experiencing life differently, what's on the other side of that thought might surprise you.
Turns out I can't post an audio file to this blog post. If you'd like me to send it to you, send me an email at email@example.com or text me at 435-260-0424 and I'll happily send it your way.