More and more research is showing that we hold onto experiences of stress, anxiety and trauma in the body.
What happens in the body when faced with a stressful situation?
During a stressful event, the nervous system goes into survival mode: this means that it starts preparing the body to be able to fight or flight the perceived "danger". Stress hormones such as cortisol are released, causing an increase in blood pressure and blood sugar. Our heart starts to beat faster. We may feel sweaty and pumped with energy. The body diverts energy that is typically used to support our digestive, immune and reproductive systems towards other areas such as the heart. Some organs are neglected and therefore don't function as efficiently. Often we may experience stomach or bowel issues (diarrhea or constipation) during this time.
Maybe you've experienced this before? What happens in your body under stress?This response in the body can be helpful at times e.g. allowing us to run faster away from a chasing tiger or even supporting us to perform better in exams .
Often when people experience ongoing and prolonged stress, anxiety, trauma or PTSD, the body can sometimes have difficulty reverting back into its normal, relaxed mode again. In this sense, the nervous system stays in survival mode, it doesn't get a break even if the immediate stressful situation has passed.
This can be exhausting. Constant distress and neglect of important systems in the body can lead to ongoing stomach-aches, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, poor sleep, frequent colds, numbing, hyper arousal, loss of connection and control in the body and so on. Maybe you can relate to this?
Managing how your body responds to stress can help you to manage how your mind responds.
Practice breathing slowly and deeply through the nose.
Try some gentle stretching and mindful movements. e.g inhaling as you lift your arms overhead. Exhale as your bring them down again.
Notice your body. Build awareness of where stress is held in your body.
Give yourself and hug and gently massage your shoulders.
Try watching this 4 minute video for a short Trauma Sensitive Yoga practice.
Occupational Therapy and Trauma Sensitive Yoga can support you to develop your awareness of where you may be holding stress in your body. Michelle can help you to develop a meaningful practice of self-care that is supportive of your mental health needs.