April is Stress Awareness month. Stress comes in many forms … relationships, work, finances, loss, change. But the stress response comes in one form … the fight/flight/freeze reaction. And prolonged stress causes a host of body ailments … tight muscles, pain, high blood pressure, allergies, increased risk of illness, stomach ache, headaches, constipation, bladder problems and more.
If you recognize the stress response, there are strategies you can use to counteract it. One modern way to recognize stress is through the Wellbe … this little bracelet monitors your physical state and cues you in to stressors in the moment as they are occurring. The app that goes with it also has stress reducers.
Would you like to own a Wellbe for FREE? This April I’m giving away a Wellbe (the one pictured below) and all you have to do is sign up by clicking HERE!
One big stress reducer is breath. Deep breathing to control stress is taught in Yoga and it’s taught in Navy SEALS training. In honor of Stress Awareness month I’ve included a step-by-step training below on correct diaphragmatic breathing. The respiratory diaphragm is innervated by the Vagus nerve and the vagus nerve is the fight/flight/freeze nerve … by consciously taking a deep diaphragmatic breath, you tell the Vagus nerve to relax, effectively down regulating the stress response from a physiological level.
DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING FOR STRESS RELIEF
You’ve probably heard a lot about breathing for stress management … it’s used in relaxation exercises, it’s used in Yoga … but do you know how to breathe? From the belly, right? Yes! But why?
Use your hands and find the bottom of your rib cage on the sides. Follow your rib cage as it comes upward to your sternum or breastbone.
Now trace your rib cage down again and towards your spine.
There is a muscle that attaches at your rib cage all the way around and goes through the middle of you.
On top of this muscle and within the ribcage is your heart and lungs.
Below this muscle is your stomach, liver, spleen, gall bladder, pancreas and intestines.
This muscle at the bottom of your ribcage is called your diaphragm … or more appropriately, your respiratory diaphragm.
Hold your hand in front of you as if it were an umbrella and you were protecting something from getting wet. This umbrella or mushroom shape is the shape of your diaphragm when it’s relaxed.
When you take a breath in, the diaphragm flattens out. Flatten your hand and then allow it to go back into the umbrella shape again.
The umbrella hand is like your exhale, breathing out.
The flat hand is like your inhale, breathing in.
You could simply breath by mainly using the muscles of your ribcage but you would only be able to breathe shallow (also called chest breathing) and your shoulders would get sore from trying to stay lifted up so your rib muscles could give you a breath. (Your shoulders are supposed to rest relaxed on your ribcage.)
By breathing by flattening out your diaphragm, you are taking in a deep breath all the way to the bottom of your lungs. Let’s try it … take in a deep breath. Did you use your diaphragm or did only your chest rise?
To take a diaphragmatic breath, you have to also relax your lower back and your belly … this allows the diaphragm muscle to flatten out … it kind of massages your organs and helps them work better. So you can’t try to tuck in your gut and take a diaphragmatic breath … it won’t work. It also won’t work if you have tight clothes on.
Let’s try again. Put one hand on the bottom of your rib cage and see you if can breathe down into your diaphragm and get that hand to move. Did it move?
Now take one hand and trace the bottom of your ribs around to your spine and rest the back of your hand on your spine … you’re going to take another diaphragmatic breath and try and make the hand on your back move. Allow your back to relax and expand.
Did it move?
If not, fold alittle forward and try again.
Still having trouble? If so, you might not be fully exhaling. It’s hard to inhale if your lungs are holding stale air in them.
Try this … pretend there is a candle flame in front of you and you are blowing just enough so the candle flame flickers … keep gently blowing on the flame … use all your air and when you think you don’t have any air left to blow, then push your belly in and up to push out the last bit.
Now you’ll automatically take in a breath all the way to the bottom of your lungs … feel how deep that breath went!
Take control of your stress like a Navy SEAL and practice diaphragmatic breathing. Learn to recognize your stress triggers by signing up for my free WellBe give-a-way!
Do you know how hard it is to talk about fear? It’s like people have a barrier up that says “keep out.” But keeping fear hidden isn’t healthy … it only festers affecting other areas of your life. You are not weak if you admit to fear. You are simply aware and courageous. Everyone has fear … well almost everyone. There is a person known as S.M. who had bilateral damage to a brain area know as the amygdala who exhibited a lack of fear. But you know what, S.M. also was the victim of violent crime because she couldn’t read danger. Fear has a purpose … to keep us safe.
Did you know you were born with two innate fears? The fear of loud sounds and the fear of falling. It’s no wonder we jump when a car backfires or we get anxious when we hear thunder. It’s no wonder people are wary of skydiving or mountain climbing. Yes, you can overcome these fears with self-talk and skills training but they are always under the surface, and will be more prevalent under stress.
Did you know there are survival needs and related fears? We need air to survive and this can underlie the fear of drowning or being buried alive. We need food and water to survive and this can lead to overeating or hoarding food. We need body protection (our skin is the first protection, clothing the second, and shelter the third) and this can lead to fears of contamination, fears of spiders or snakes or animals (bites or stings breaking the skin barrier), having a closet too full of clothes, or even being afraid of losing your house. We need body movement and this can lead to the fear of losing our freedom, the fear of being in circumstances beyond our control and claustrophobia … the fear of tight spaces. And we need sleep but fear creeps in when nightmares reveal our subconscious angst, or with people who have “sleep dread,” or those who dread not being able to get to sleep, or getting enough sleep (common with people with sleep apnea).
And then there are three main psychological fears … physical, mental, and social. Physical is relate to the fear of ceasing to be, the fear of death, and the fear of being unknown. Mental is the fear of failure, the fear of humiliation, the fear of the loss of personal integrity. Social is the fear of abandonment, the fear of rejection, the fear of not being wanted or valued.
All of these fears trigger the amygdala and that initiates the stress fight-flight response. You can train to over-ride the stress response and down regulate the amygdala. The NAVY SEALS have a well-known four-step method. Step one is to anchor yourself by thinking of someone or something or a pet that your deeply care about, to see yourself in the future with that anchor. Step two is to use visualization to mentally prepare for all types of fear scenarios. Step three is to use positive affirmations to counteract negative self-talk. And Step four is to practice deep relaxation breathing.
What fears do you recognize? Have you ever considered that training can help you handle fear better? Would you be willing to give it a try? Could you? When?
Each month I’ve shared a simple way I’ve worked on personal self-care by decreasing the toxic load on my body … a type of cleaning up the ‘in’vironment. Have you tried making any switches yet?
January – Natural Deodorant (doTerra, Schmidts)
February – Natural Shampoo, Soaps, and Lotions (doTerra, Arbonne, POSH, etc.)
March – Natural Pain Relief with Essential Oils (Deep Blue Rub, Peppermint, Blend of Juniper Berry and Black Pepper)
Since I just went to the Dentist last week, it reminded me that I now only use a fluoride-free toothpaste and am slowly working on getting my mercury amalgams replaced with the non-mercury fillings.
For April, I’ll ask you to consider the dangers of fluoride. Did you know fluoride is toxic to the human body? “Fluoride is a highly toxic substance. … In terms of acute toxicity (i.e., the dose that can cause immediate toxic consequences), fluoride is more toxic than lead, but slightly less toxic than arsenic. This is why fluoride has long been used in rodenticides and pesticides to kill pests like rats and insects.” Resource Link Here. Others have written even more on what body systems are affected … check out 9 Shocking Dangers of Fluoride Exposure.
I drink well water, so I’m not worried about fluoride additives in my drinking water but I did grow up with fluoride toothpaste and fluoride dental treatments. Did you know the FDA has required a warning for toothpaste that contains fluoride? Here’s a New York Times article on that.
Do you need any more convincing to switch out to a non-fluoride toothpaste? The simple switch for April is to begin using a natural toothpaste that doesn’t contain fluoride … you can simply use baking soda if you want but I love the whitening ability of doTerra’s natural toothpaste. You may have noticed I use a lot of doTerra’s pure and natural essential oil based products for the simple switches I’ve made but you can dig around and find many others out there! Taking care of the ‘in’vironment is getting more and more popular, come and join in!