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Would you Know if you were experiencing Stress? Part 2- Awareness

Here are some of the signs to look out for that tell you that you might be experiencing stress

As I said in Part 1 of this blog series, stress is a natural part of life.  We all experience it.  If you think that you do not, perhaps you have a different word for it?  May be instead of stress you would say you are anxious, worried, excited, challenged, driven, focused, frustrated, upset, in anticipation, overwhelmed, exhausted, tired or withdrawn.  Whatever the word, my meaning of stress is that there is something in this lifestyle of yours that generates the Stress Response in you.

Are you experiencing stress?

The Stress Response is a term for a group of physiological symptoms generated when you are feeling threatened in some way.  You are getting ready to fight or run away.  So, you might experience quickened heart rate, dilated blood vessels and shallow breathing accompany increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormones).  For short periods this is beneficial for your health and well- being.  Long term however, and the negative impact on your immune system, mental health, quality of sleep, productivity, overall resilience, creativity, relationships and vitality are immense.  Here are some of the signs to look out for that tell you that you might be experiencing stress (or whatever word you might use):

  • Do you find it hard to get to sleep?  If you wake up in the night, do you struggle to go back to sleep?  Do you feel tired in the morning?  Are you getting less than 7 hours sleep a night?  If you say yes to any of these, you may well be experiencing stress.  These may happen as a consequence of your stress.  They may also be contributing factors to your stress.  Either way, good quality sleep is essential for many reasons.  If you do struggle to sleep or wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep, this audio might be useful.
  • Do you eat a lot of sugary foods or foods high in fat?  Can you get through the day only if you have sugary and caffeinated drinks?  Sugar, fat and caffeine interfere with your body’s natural rhythms, disrupting sleep and other natural highs and lows of your day.  Many processed foods place your body under a lot of burden, damaging blood vessels, creating bloating and inflammation.  Not to mention the effect of artificial chemicals in our food that poison the body and bring it into imbalance.  All of this is stressful for your body and impacts on your overall ability to cope.
  • Muscular Tension. Light, regular exercise and movement leave the body feeling flexible, mobile and limber.  Sitting still all day, barely moving your body, makes your muscles short, tight and painful.  It puts the body under a lot of stress.  Think how lovely it feels to have a stretch at your desk after you’ve been working at your computer for a couple of hours.  Feels great right? Also, little body movement leaves people in “their heads”.  In other words, listening to the logical and rational part of the mind rather than balancing it with the instinct and intuition of which the body is a part.  Muscles also become tense due to unexpressed emotion.  Emotions are energy in motion.  If they are not expressed, they are internalised (in muscles and internal organs), another source of stress for the body.  Muscular tension from all sources pulls the body out of alignment, generating postural stress that can have long term impact such as shoulder, knee and hip replacement operations, diminished mobility, nerve damage and quality of life.
  • Suppressed Emotion. Are you the type of person who never feels or expresses emotion?  Or if you do it is usually fits of anger or rage?  Do you have a “stiff upper lip” or are you known as the “strong one” in the family/ relationship?  This can lead to a lot of stress in the body.  Gabor Mate, in his book “When the Body Says No- the cost of hidden stress”, explores the impact of suppressed emotion and how it can lead to many debilitating/ life threatening diseases such as MS, ME, numerous types of cancer, motor neuron disease, IBS and more.  In short, the stress on the body from unexpressed emotion is so great, it manifests over time as physical illness.
  • Grinding/ clenching your teeth. This is a sure sign you are experiencing stress.  If people mention that you are doing either of these, it’s a strong indicator you are stressed.
  • Holding your breath. Or breathing in a shallow manner.  This can be a response to stress.  It can also become a habit that keeps the body in a more heightened anxious state.  Learning deep breathing exercises will lower blood pressure, deactivate the stress response in the body and generally make you feel more calm, relaxed and mobile.  Belissa Vranich’s book Breathe gives detailed instructions and exercises about how to breathe more effectively for better health.
  • Lack of focus. The Stress Response makes you very insular.  Therefore, focus on other people, projects at work, problem solving and other things that require focus just doesn’t happen.  It’s your body’s way of saying “Stop paying attention to other things, I need some attention here!!!!”
  • Short temper and irritability. If your body is tired and debilitated by long term exposure to the effects of the Stress Response, you have no or very little reserves in the tank for additional stress.  My experience of this is that as a response to feeling powerless or out of control, we tend to lash out to protect ourselves.  This is a sure sign that you are reaching the end of your tether.  Consciously activating the Relaxation Response will give you more reserves to tackle any additional stress whilst keeping off “Red Alert”.
  • A little worry is healthy.  We can use it to assess situations and scan for trouble before the event.  Anxiety takes it to another level, assessing endless scenarios without resolution.  This is usually a clear sign that you are stressed.  There is a much calmer life for you to enjoy beyond anxiety if you can find the ways to manage your stress.
  • Feeling like life has no purpose or direction. Life without purpose has no direction.  Without meaningful goals, aligned to what is most important to us (whatever that may be), life can feel pointless and meaningless.  We can feel powerless and that comes with its own stress.  A lack of energy, vitality, engagement, power, strength and focus.  Purpose infuses our life with direction and meaning that gives momentum, energy, pace and vitality to life.

Natural Ways to manage stress

Please note, this is not an exact science.  There might be many reasons why you are experiencing these symptoms.  If you suspect stress at all, consult your doctor and a healthy dose of common sense and discover the ways YOU can undo the effects of stress.  Rather than pop a pill which might be the easiest way to deal with it, I invite you to explore more natural ways to manage your stress.  I am not a trained medical professional, so please do not take my word as gospel.  However, there is something empowering about listening to your body and intuition and finding the right answer for you.  Managing the stress is the key.  I discuss some of the strategies I have discovered on my travels with stress in Part 3.

Over to You

Do you notice that you often do not sleep well?  Perhaps you sleep very soundly.  Or maybe you are affected by someone who has disturbed sleep?  Are there parts of your body that get very tight?  Is that due to lack of movement, emotional stress, worry, anxiety or body misalignment?  Or is your body limber, relaxed and agile?  Would you say you were an emotional eater?  Do you find it hard to focus?  Or do you have laser- type focus and excellent concentration?  Are you more irritable than you used to be?  Perhaps you are more calm and unflappable than ever before?

Do you feel lost in your life and feel life is getting smaller?  Or is your life expanding and you are discovering new horizons?  I’d love to hear your experiences and grow this body of wisdom in the Potentiality Coaching community.  Please share in the comment box below or on social media.  Thank you.

Pass it On

If what I have been talking about sounds like someone you know, why no forward this blog to them and ask them to give it a read.  It might be the turning point for them to start listening to their body and recognise the signs that stress is present.  It’s so easy to deal with.  Awareness is the first step.  The next is action.  See you next time for Part 3.

The art of good relationships is connection not disconnection

Disconnection

In your relationships of all kinds, do you notice how you or others disengage from conversations or interactions? There is a disconnection that can take place by which you or they are no longer present to the conversation. Sometimes this will be because you are thinking of the next thing to say once the other person has finished. Other times you might be bored and so you drift off into some fantasy.

Further examples might include feeling uncomfortable with the topic or tone of the conversation, so people might leave the room completely or sit back and stop listening altogether. Obstinate refusal to understand what the other person is staying or see another view can lead to raised voices and frustration in which no one is listening. Over zealous chatter because someone is nervous at a party can create a powerful disconnection in other people. Conversely, having a silent respondent can also feel like you are talking to your self. Whatever the reason for the disconnection, the other person may feel hurt, offended or simply not listened to and this can affect the quality of the relationship.

Why do you disconnect from pain?

In my experience, these points of disconnection are done very unconsciously. They are not done to hurt or harm even though they can have this affect. The reason for our disconnection is because we feel pain in some way or other and we want to move away from the pain. We are biologically programmed to steer away from pain such as hot flames and ferocious animals. To our mind and body, pain is pain. We do not make a distinction about its source. We set about avoiding pain of all sources in a most unconscious way.

Not all pain needs to signal that there is something to avoid though. Some pain is telling you that something is happening that you could deal with by steering into it, not away from it. Why do you feel uncomfortable about that topic? What is it about raised voices that make you shrink away? Why do you disengage when you are bored rather than maneuver the conversation towards topics that interest you? What is it about that person that makes you feel uncomfortable?

Steering into the pain

In Mindful Movement classes we do an exercise that looks at this topic. Based on Aikido principles of light touch and flow within flow, participants are invited to lead and follow each other around the room. Inevitably, tension in the body results, as people begin to feel uncomfortable in the exercise and lose that light touch connection. Tension is a way in which the body and mind manifest pain.

Relaxation allows you to respond to situations with a light touch

I invite people to explore the nature and location in their bodies where that tension lies and ask them to relax into it. The responsibility of leading or the frustration of being led can result in a lot of tension in the body. It brings up something uncomfortable which is a mild form of pain. The body and mind respond by creating tension. This means that the body does not work as well as it might (muscle tension, shallow breathing, poor posture, lack of awareness of the surroundings).  The mind is neither focused on the task nor has clarity of purpose, emotions are in a place of fear and lack and the connection between partners is poor at best.

Relaxation dissolves resistance

Once participants are reminded to relax, suddenly the whole process changes. The tension that once blocked the pain and kept it frozen in place is removed and suddenly that energy can flow through the mind and body. Suddenly the pain gives way to dynamic flow and a relaxed creative process can begin to take place.

Though there is a leader and follower, both are co- creating the dance of movement much like people create a magical conversation together. The mind is clear and focused and better able to hear the intuitive voice. Emotionally, participants are more responsive to themselves and each other and a confidence in the process develops in which both people feel safe to explore and test ideas.

 Body tension tells you there is pain to address

This exercise is a metaphor for daily interactions in which tension can often lead us to disconnect. Simple awareness of the process can be enough to mindfully interact with people and be more conscious about how we are when we interact. When we feel the tension in the body and notice how the mind and emotions are responding as well, we can take action to relax. This will not change the situation immediately. It will, however, change how you respond to it and so the outcome of your interaction.

From personal experience I can share a couple of public speaking engagements I attended. The first was a networking event and I froze in front of all the people as I stood up to say my piece. I never allowed the tension to leave my body and so I remained short of breath, my mind remained foggy and I was unable to speak. The second was a better experience. I arrived at the venue expecting 10- 15 people to turn up. As people arrived the number grew to 25. With each new person I felt the tension rise. Once I noticed it, I could let the tension go and I was able to speak in front of all those people quite easily. Most importantly, I was relaxed and myself. That meant the audience enjoyed the experience far more than if I had been as tense as I had been before.

Relaxation releases tension and pain

By noticing tension, you are able to take steps to release that tension.  We can do that through centring, breathing or actively relaxing the body. When you are relaxed, you can choose to steer into the pain or discomfort.  This brings your awareness to it and dissolves it away. It invites you to face what is perhaps most urgent and important in this moment. Tension and pain are the ways in which the mind and body communicate the need to deal with urgent and important situations.

Rather than interpret that information as something to avoid, I invite you interpret it as something to steer into. Through the awesome power of your awareness, you can dissolve that tension. The result is deeper, more intimate and powerful relationships with others and yourself as well as better health and well- being. The body and mind are not supposed to remain tense for too long. These are short term signals to get your attention. Not long term inconveniences to get used to that ultimately tighten up and restrict mind and body. A relaxed body and mind thinks clearer, reacts more appropriately, heals better, loves deeper, works longer, focuses more sharply and gives more fully.

Relaxation frees body and mind

Mind and body are meant to be loose and free in movement. Physical and mental versatility, agility, adaptability and flexibility are the hallmarks of relaxation. Tension and rigidity give us no choice but to disconnect. Relaxation allows us to remain connected through the most troubling and difficult situations. It also allows us to remain connected when we receive praise, love and generosity. It is this acceptance of all life’s situations, the ups and the downs, that relaxation allows. If we can learn to steer into them, we can improve the quality of our relationships, with ourselves, others and the world around us.  We can explore the potential that exists on the other side of tension and disconnection.

Over to you

How do you disconnect? What things move you to disconnect? Are you able to remain connected when you are faced with difficult situations? How well do you receive praise and do you fully accept it graciously? As always I’d love to hear from you. Please post your comments in the box at the foot of the page and share your thoughts, experience and understanding.

Pass it on

If you found this blog useful, please pass it on to someone you think will benefit. If you like the sound of topics covered in the Mindful Movement classes you can find out more here. Alternatively, send me an e- mail (david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk) and I can answer your questions and give you additional information. Thank you.

Answering questions from a different perspective- 4 steps to Body Wisdom

Finding a different perspective can open up a whole new view

Finding a different perspective can open up a whole new view

There is an Einstein quote that I love: “You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it”. I find it incredibly instructional, because it reminds me of the limitation of one mind set that can be given new light, insight and understanding by viewing it differently. It also reminds me that whenever there is a block in my life, I know that there is at least one way past it somehow if only I take the time to look, explore and discover.

Body Wisdom

Sometimes the process of getting to that new vision can be really challenging as it may ask us to question previously tightly held beliefs that may be long engrained and even foundational to our current life style and way of being.

As a martial arts instructor as well as a life coach I am constantly reminded of the intuitive knowledge of the body. I call this ‘Body Wisdom’.  In martial arts as well as dance, particularly contemporary dance, manifests in movement.  Particularly the spontaneous movement within unstructured forms and personal expression.

To people outside these worlds this may appear strange, yet to those of us sharing this wonderful experience, it is as if the body is speaking to us, through us in freedom, joy and celebration.

We experience this wisdom all the time, in our health, spatial awareness, balance and homeostasis- the body’s dynamic equilibrium of minerals, electrolytes and hydration.

Body Wisdom as a new Perspective

As a life coach people often come to me feeling stuck, challenged and unsure as to which direction to turn and get locked into the story of their journey. This is the conscious mind recounting facts explaining how it got into this situation in the first place. Very quickly what I do is ask clients to access the intuitive, creative and freer part of their minds.  Almost instantly the blocks begin to dissolve away. New action ensues from this new mind set.  Then the conscious mind is given new insight and knowledge which leads to new solutions.

I have a friend who pitches business solutions to companies, in particular industries in which he has no industry track record. To begin with these companies are a little bemused as to why he would bother. Very quickly he poses solutions to their problems that they have never thought of simply because he is not restricted to that particular industry’s mindset and can offer thinking out of the box so to speak.

One source of alternative thinking in life coaching is Body Wisdom. The awareness of the body, it’s feelings, emotions, tensions and pains. I use this a lot with myself as well.  I understand that my body is speaking to me all the time.  Recently, my awareness of tension in the core of my body led me to understand that I have fear around trust.  I am now able to address this in many areas of my life.  Therefore I’m improving my relationships with others both privately and in business as well as with my self.

I use this with clients too, accessing insights that are hidden to the logical, conscious mind normally. It brings freedom, the choice to make a decision consciously rather than be motivated by unconscious drivers. Slowly over time we return fully to our self.  Becoming progressively more present, more available and more powerful in the moment.

Four steps to Body Wisdom

1. Take some time and space to sit quietly and bring your awareness to your body. Deep breathing and progressively relaxing the body helps with this>  It has the additional benefit of calming the mind as body and mind are connected.

2. Become aware of tension in the body. This can really only happen when you are still and aware of the body. It could be shoulders, neck, stomach, back, your jaw, even the breath itself. Wherever there is tension, there is energy held, locked in and not free to flow.

3. Pick a spot. Breathe into this tension. Penetrate deep with your awareness and your breath. When the energy starts to shift this is when the insights come- in words, feelings and often in pictures. Perhaps it is an object or place, what temperature, what textures, sounds and movements are there? This is the body speaking its language. This is Body Wisdom.  Work with the imagery, let the process unfold and discover the wisdom that lies within.

4. If you feel inclined to do so keep notes of your revelations and insights. Most importantly you are setting your self free from the tension that holds you back from being most fully your self. This is an on- going process, constantly unfolding, releasing you from old ways and paving the way for the new.

Body Wisdom is just one way in which you can gain a different perspective on engrained ideas. The key to opening the door to any situation in which you feel stuck or limited is to look at it from new perspectives. Suddenly new information is available to you and new avenues present themselves. If you want to remain stuck in the old view look no further.  If you want freedom, sometimes the body can reveal perspectives to you that not only give new insight.  They can also heal. Such is the power of the body when you give it a chance!

Over to you

As ever, I would love to hear from you.  How do you find the process of accessing Body Wisdom?  What revelations have you had?  How have you overcome the parts you have found challenging?  Please share your thoughts and insights.  You never know you may provide a perspective for  someone else that may help set them free.

Why not………..

If you found this article useful and interesting please pass it on to other people you think would be interested and spread the word.  I would really appreciate it.  And if you are new to Potentiality Coaching, why not sign up to the e- mailing list at https://www.potentialitycoaching.co.uk/ and get an e- mail straight to your in box when I post my monthly blog and be first to hear about news, information and insights at Potentiality Coaching.  I’d love to have you be part of the community.