Getting a handle on stress

It’s something that can bubble up in our daily lives, juggling deadlines at work, keeping on top of running a family or holding things together as you process an emotional or traumatic event in another part of life. 

But what really is stress and how does it show up in our body on a physiological level? 

Stress is rooted in the nervous system, and it is the nervous system that regulates our behaviour, our perception and our health. It specifically relates to the autonomic nervous system, the part which regulates the automatic processes, such as the regulation of digestion, hormone levels, sleep patterns and many other key body functions.

There are three main states of the nervous system:

  1. At rest
  2. Fight and flight
  3. Freeze

At rest, we are in our “normal” full-functioning mode, with good digestion, at ease and feel relaxed to laugh and interact easily with others (i.e. relaxed for social engagement and connection). 

When the stress increases, our body first shifts into the “Fight and Flight” mode. If we imagine coming across a tiger in the wild, this is the first survival response, and with it, our heart begins to race, the stress hormone (cortisol) increases and adrenaline is increased. The body begins to shut down functions such as digestion, reproduction, and regular sleep function as these are not needed to run or fight. Instead, it increases heart rate and circulation to the muscles to optimise the survival response. Whether the stress event is being confronted with a tiger or facing a vital deadline at work, our body response is the same. 

In a short burst in a work or creative environment, this extra buzz can be an asset, as it produces sharp focus & high-speed responses, but if the body is held at this stress level long-term, it can create serious health issues. It produces symptoms such as IBS, nausea, irritability & anger issues, lack of sleep and low libido, and affects the body’s natural ability to regulate.

In certain stress events, especially if there is no way to fight or run, our body will step into a “freeze” survival response, where we dissociate and disconnect from the immediate situation. In some ways, this inactivity can seem almost opposite to the “fight and flight” response, but it is another form of system shut down. 

When in one of these elevated levels of stress, it is hard for our body to access natural states of rest or balanced regulation of body processes. You may find that you want to rest and sleep, and yet even when lying down, your body can’t seem to “let go” and relax. 

It is the state of the nervous system and its layer of activation which determines your body’s regulation.

Craniosacral Therapy 

re-setting the nervous system and returning to rest 

Craniosacral therapy is a light-touch approach centred on rest and re-regulation. It is well-known as being highly effective as a therapy for newborn babies as the light contact releases tension at the cranial bones following birth and any trauma or stress experienced by the baby in the birth process can also be processed.

For adults, it is equally effective, working in a subtle way the light contact and stillness of the treatment allows for a deep settling. Any specific tension patterns from injury or stress show up on a physical level and are released and re-integrated. 

Working in this way, over a number of sessions, the layers of stress causing the elevated nervous system response slowly dissolve, allowing the natural rhythms of the body to re-establish. 

Craniosacral Therapy Sessions are available on Tuesdays at Breathe Wellbeing Waterloo, Colombo Centre, SE1 8DP.

The Breath of Life Conference 2017

13th – 14th May 2017, London

The international Breath of Life Conference brings together pioneering practitioners and scientists involved in grounding breaking research and the application of body-mind therapeutic approaches. It explores key factors that organise how we function, beyond just the physical form, providing a forum and meeting place for exchanging ideas at the cutting edge of health.

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“Expression of Health” – the origins of the name

A number of people have asked me where the name “Expression of Health” came from.

In Craniosacral Therapy one of the key things to look for is where the vitality and energy is within the body, this is referred to as “the expression of health”. It relates on a physical level to where the energy is strongest, this could be shown through a healthy circulation pattern, a deep warmth in the body, grounded calm or a number of other ways. It is where the health is rooted in the system.

Continue reading ““Expression of Health” – the origins of the name”

The Mind-Body Connection

Martial Arts, Yoga & Meditation

The 10 Series is a deep process of renewal and inner alignment, letting go of old patterns stored within the body whilst enhancing connection & embodiment.

The vertical midline is an important part of us as human beings. Established early in foetal development, it is around this line that we move and its relationship to gravity plays a huge part in our health, stability & well-being. This fundamental body principle is present in numerous body disciplines from Yoga, Craniosacral Therapy, The Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais & Psychotherapy.

The 10 sessions follow a sequence of release common to all human beings, working up from the feet to unfold the body’s natural alignment. Interestingly there are parallel cycles in unlocking creativity such as Julia Cameron’s “The Artists Way”.

With the body-mind connection, finding awareness of the mid-line & body centre (hara) brings a deepening of practice, catalyst for change & connection to the ground.


Upward Gravity

So often we are aware when we stand of a downward force, the weight of our body going down into the earth. But beneath this downward force, there is another contact force coming up.

A moment of exploration

Structural blocksIf you are curious on this take a moment, it maybe sitting on a chair or standing, to focus on the weight going down and the area of contact.

You may feel a sensation of weight down, but what if at that same contact point, the earth is pushing up? Keep breathing (you may feel yourself sink slightly).

Keep focusing on that sensation and rocking gently from side to side see if that upward force begins flows up through your body.You may be drawn to notice certain areas, it might flow easier through one side than the others.

This little mind exploration can be done anywhere (sitting, standing, lying down or downward dog) and is a great tool for allowing the body to naturally re-charge.