I was eating ‘perfectly’, exercising every day, and taking all of the best supplements, but I still had acne, thyroid issues, missing periods, and insane anxiety.
Enter ? psychoneuroimmunology.
I took an entire year learning about how the mind can heal and change the body, how to complete the stress cycle, and how to intentionally generate healing hormones and neurotransmitters.
I started doing what I was learning and every single one of my ‘issues’ disappeared.
It was then I realized my thoughts were the problem and I realized the number one way to help heal anything in my body was to learn how to face the many stressors of life without my endocrine, digestion, and immune system getting shut off and losing the resources they need to work properly.
I knew I couldn’t get rid of the stressors in my life, so I went on a long journey learning how to manipulate stress to mitigate the damage it does.
Overriding the stress response
There are two ways to manipulate stress:
- Doing specific practices when you find yourself in the middle of it
- Daily practices done outside of stressful times that will make your body more resilient when stressful times do come
Specific practices in the midst of it
This isn’t a one-and-done thing. Just because I healed years ago doesn’t make me immune to stress now. For example, I am in the middle of an incredibly hard season. Like survival mode status. It’s taking all I have to just take one day at a time because the next few weeks are very uncertain and chaotic.
That’s why this method is so fresh to me. You won’t handle stress well every time, but the more you can become aware of when you feel your nervous system in the survival sympathetic state and you do something about it, the more that can become an automatic reaction.
Here’s what I am doing now:
- Breathe: Yes I know you have heard this before, but it has to be step one because it’s the literal mechanism that communicates to your body that it’s safe and activates your healing system.In the morning and at night, I do some sort of intentional breathing.
- Shake/Move: I once went to a seminar with women teaching first responders how to not have the stress and adrenaline of work ruin their bodies. The first thing she said to do is shake your body. Like jump up and down and wiggle all around after a stressful event. This releases the negative biological cocktail that was created and moves it through the body instead of getting stored. Any type of movement will begin to complete the stress cycle. In times of stress, move your body with the intention of getting out what needs to move through.
- Every day I am doing whatever conscious movement I can to get out of my head and into my body.
- Retake: Your body reacts to your perception of what’s going on, not what is actually going on. Your thoughts are the signal that tells your body what’s going on in the world out there. So really, you don’t need to ‘manage your stress’ you need to ‘manage your perception of what is going on around you’. It’s not the hard things that cause problems, it’s how you react and think about those hard things. Crazy. Whatever situation you are in, your thoughts are affecting how your body responds to it. As mentioned in the book The Upside of Stress, if you think stress is harmful to you, it is. If you think it’s helpful to you, it is.I am constantly readjusting the narrative I am telling my body about what’s going on.
- Generate: Oxytocin is one of the most healing molecules that exist. Far more powerful than anything you can consume. Search out ways to intentionally generate oxytocin, gratitude, love, and laughter. Hugs, touch, watching funny videos, dwelling on what you are thankful for, helping someone else. . . all of these things will generate a biological healing cocktail that will begin to bring anything back into balance. Laughter, love, and gratitude are actual medicine. I know because I was doing everything else and nothing truly changed in my health until I got serious about making this a daily priority. Instead of focusing on all of the reasons my body was not working or how worried and lost I was, every day I focused on doing things that generated oxytocin, love, and laughter and that’s what helped my hormones more than anything else. I switched from an obsessive person trying to find all of the answers to a slow life trying to find ways of delight, and my body healed in that season.
When I am feeling stressed, you’ll find me saying to myself: Breath, move, shake, retake, generate. Using my body and mind intentionally to communicate safety to my nervous system.
Have you noticed that two people can experience the same situation, but one person handles it way better than the other? Like my husband and I (me being the one not handling things as well;)
Some people have a higher resilient set point.
We all want that. How do you get it?
There are certain practices you can do every day that literally make you hard to kill. Meaning, making all the systems in your body more resilient to whatever you experience in life. These practices stimulate cellular rejuvenation, and mitochondrial function, and activate the healing systems of your body.
Hormesis – Healthy stress. Things that are bad in high amounts are good in small amounts. Things like sun, exercise, hot, cold, wild plant intake. So physical practices like taking a cold shower or working out acutally make you mentally and physical more resiliant to life.
Coherence: Match thoughts + Emotions
In states of coherence, there is increased synchronization and harmony between the cognitive, emotional and physiological systems, resulting in the efficient and harmonious functioning of the whole body. When we intentionally experience sincere positive emotions such as caring, compassion or appreciation for someone or something, the heart processes these emotions and begins to become coherent and send out positive information throughout the entire body.
It is not about thinking positive thoughts- it is about generating positive emotions that make changes in the body.
You want to experience this state as often as possible to it will be easier for your body to get back to a regulated state when it is stressed.
Meditation or Daily Focus Training
Meditation teaches you how not to be the victim of the mind’s wandering thoughts. It trains you on how to take control of your mind’s attention and direct it as you please. Having a daily focus training practice will strengthen your ability to become aware of and control your thoughts instead of getting taken out by them during stressful times.