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Tension Tamers: How to Relieve Stress Naturally

stress management Jan 11, 2023
How to Relieve Stress Naturally with Functional Medicine

Tension Tamers: How to Relieve Stress Naturally

You might feel it like a kettle starting to boil over. First the clenching in your jaw, then your shoulders tensing up to your ears. Maybe a pit in your stomach, your heart beating like you just ran a race, or your breathing shallows and quickens. Maybe all you sense is the tunnel vision and the inability to think about anything other that what is worrying you- your thoughts spilling into future catastrophes. 

Stress isn't what happens TO you. It's what happens IN you.

You can start hacking your nervous system and your hormones to get a handle on stress and restore your sense of radiance and vitality by keeping it simple and unique. Here are 4 simple strategies that will radically change how you approach your stress. 

Tune into Sensation

In moments of stress, many people may get overrun by worries and thoughts.  These restless thoughts drag us around and often write future narratives, defining our uncertainty into catastrophe. For example, the other day I needed to reach out to an old colleague that I didn't have the best experience with. Before I texted her, my brain was running scenario after scenario, each more bleak and unsettling than the last. I was getting more and more agitated and upset just thinking about sending this text (Can I get 🙋‍♀️ if this happens to you too). Our brain will write our future before we've had a chance to live it. Why? Because our brain doesn't like uncertainty. It's normal. 

Instead of getting caught up in the tsunami of story making, we can interrupt it by simply tuning into sensation.  Notice what your body feels like in the moment instead of staying stuck in the narrative. Acknowledge where your body feels uncomfortable and stay with it in the presence.  

In my scenario, I noticed my chest felt heavy and the tension in my shoulders was heightened.  I simply noticed these sensations without any judgement and acknowledged my body for what it was carrying and alerting me too.  I practiced breathing into those sensations until they shifted.

The key here when you notice some of these uncomfortable sensations, is to not try to push them away. It seems paradoxical, but welcoming them helps them move through your body and allows you to move through the stress response. Resisting something, increases resistance and amplifies tension.  

It's hard to ruminate on the past or perseverate on possibilities when you focus your attention on building connection to your body in the present (your brain may still try but repeatedly drawing it back to sensation helps).

If it feels more overwhelming to notice the sensations of distress, don't stress- try the next technique.

PS: This might be a practice you might want to bookmark for later if you experience dissociation.  It may be too much sensation and cause some overload or flooding so may be best to start practicing with a therapist or licensed practitioner who can help guide you through the experience.

Count It Out: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

This is a good technique for when you may be feeling pretty overwhelmed but can still manage on your own by tuning into your 5 senses. It works like this:

Name 5 things you can see

Name 4 things you can hear

Name 3 things you can touch

Name 2 things you can smell

Name 1 thing you can taste

Still a little overwhelmed when you get to the end? Repeat it again.

Write It Out

Not gonna lie, I have a thing for journaling. Turns out, research backs me up.  Simply writing out your thoughts, worries, gratitudes or even your to-dos, helps your brain process them. You can try adding it in as a regular part of your rhythm in the morning or evening or simply do it when you're feeling stressed- both are effective. 

Test It Out

Stress is well known to cause physiologic changes- changes in your nervous system, in your hormones, in your gut.  It quite literally changes everything.  It's meant to. Stress itself isn't bad because our body is designed to be adaptive.  However, stress related physiologic changes are LINKED to 90% of chronic illness.  Thus, if you are having symptoms that lead to a diagnoses of some kind, stress is likely playing a role.

Thankfully, Functional Medicine excels at testing that helps identify these changes so that you can do something about them.  Whether you have symptoms like anxiety or depression, or full blown chronic heart disease, digestive disorders, or autoimmunity, specialty testing can identify the physiologic changes that have taken place that have brought you your symptoms and conditions and give you the answers you need for natural solutions. And not the general natural solutions of "stress less" and "practice gratitude". Solutions that are designed for YOUR BODY specifically. As personal and unique as you.

I'll be straight with you here, testing is absolutely where things can radically shift because it is the key that unlocks and exposes the secret inner workings of your body. Your body speaks in symptoms but its language is imprecise at best. It only has a few symptoms and sensations to use, you only have 5 senses after all. 

Understand what's happening IN you and there is so much more that you can do.

My Burnout To Brilliance Toolkit will help you unlock some of those inner secrets so that you can start feeling like your best self again :)

Hoping you have everything you need for healing,

XO,

~Christine Simons~

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