I recently had a fairly intense discussion with a guy at a conference who argued that my focus on teaching my clients about their nervous systems was a waste of time.
“People don’t care about why it works, they just want to know what works.” He said. And I agreed with his statement. We’re bombarded by information and more than ever are looking for that quick fix. The quick fix is what we want, and internet clickbait is a testament to that. But I disagreed with his implication that knowing what works is enough.
The trouble is, quick fixes like that don’t work for someone who is suffering from chronic stress, is fatigued, or depressed, and struggling to achieve their goals or make essential changes in their lives. Rarely does “do this” work, because people are complicated, and people living complicated lives are, er complicatederer?
By the time people recognise that stress is affecting their lives, performance, families or friends, they are quite a long way along the road to chronic stress. One of the characteristics of chronic stress is that we progressively become desensitised to the messages that our bodies are sending us. The more stressed you are, the less aware you are that you are stressed.
Eventually your body gives up sending subtle messages, and starts shouting at you. Fatigue, anger, palpitations, sleeplessness, anxiety are all examples of your body shouting at you to calm the heck down.
The equivalent of “mechanic’s ear” in body function is called interoception. And there’s a huge body of research to support the fact that people with the highest levels of interoception tend to be amongst the healthiest and most resilient people amongst us. They naturally stop eating when full, go to bed when tired and go and exercise when they feel that they need it, they listen to what’s going on inside.
Our cultural norm is to stay in our heads for a large part of our day and in doing so we cut off our body from our immediate world and when this happens we no longer hear our biological signals. Do this for enough time and we are oblivious to how starved our bodies are for self-care, support and nourishment.
For example, a person gets home after a LONG day of work, staring at a screen and they are tense in their neck, jaw, shoulders and lower back. By being in their thoughts and upper brain centres all day, they have not once tuned in to their body signals that were actually giving them the message that things were “tightening up” – there was never a chance for a momentary pause of re-set and relief.
Signals such as their raised shoulders, their clenched jaw, their tight abdominals were unknown to them. The signals of thirst and dehydration weren’t on their radar. And then they think it’s the job’s fault, but in fact it is their lack of awareness that has led to the rising of their stress and tension levels throughout the day.
So when I work with clients, whether face to face, online or through e-Learning, I focus on the following:
Number 1 – Education on the biology of our stress response and our autonomic nervous system, and how those systems influence our body function, physical sensations, emotional health, decision-making and intelligence.
Number 2 – Building strong self-awareness and embodiment from a biological level
Number 3 – A broader understanding of the components of resilience such as mindsets and beliefs make it difficult to get chronic stress again.
When you can actually learn the intricacies of your own biology and how you respond to stress and how stress has affected you in the past, you can begin to re-route the toxic reactions to this stress in a much more intelligent way. You become your own mechanic.
When you get more biological knowledge on board you can begin to dampen and even eliminate unnecessary stress toxicity which means two things:
Firstly you get a decrease in an overall “pressure” that you feel, mainly because there’s less adrenaline being pumped out of the adrenal glands.
Secondly, less cortisol is being pumped around in the blood which means less chemical toxicity to the body’s organs and the brain. Of course we need cortisol to be released at specific times of the day, but we don’t want it on 24/7. When we can get ahead of our stress responses and bring more biological awareness and attention to ourselves and not continually simmer and bathe in stress toxicity we slow down our ageing process by reducing the wear and tear on our bodily systems.
Now I’m not saying that some of this couldn’t be achieved by the “do this” brigade, and if you find an off-the shelf system that works for you, great, but be sure to consider whether that solution on the internet is the tune up you need to perform at your best in life, or is it just a cheap paint job?
#interoception #resilience #stress