April is Stress Awareness Month 2021 so let’s take this opportunity to talk a little bit about stress. Perhaps you’re feeling stressed right now. If you are, consider this question, ask yourself what does it ‘feel’ like to be stressed? What are you really feeling when you are stressed? What happens in your mind when you are stressed? And what happens in your body when you are stressed? What emotions do you associate with feeling stressed?
Maybe your mind races and you can’t seem to control your thoughts, or think clearly.
Physically, maybe your body gets tense, or your blood pressure rises, or your palms sweat, or you lose your appetite, or your breathing quickens.
Emotionally maybe you feel anxious, or angry, or frustrated, or out of control.
Notice that these all happen together, never seperately. It’s a total experience encompassing our mind, body and emotions all at once.
If you’re not stressed right now, consider also that imagining stressful scenarios, will also make you feel stressed! This is of course obvious once pointed out but still mostly overlooked in our day to day life.
Ruminating on a conflict, a rejection, or an embarrasing moment will bring about the same bodily responses as if the event were actually taking place!
Have you ever blushed when remembering a particularly embarrasing incident? Or felt your stomach drop when anticipating that big presentation you were preparing for? Or noticed your teeth and fists clench on recalling a particularly heated confrontation or argument? What is going on here? What are these sensations that occur in us when we are either living the stressful situation right now OR imagining (the future) or remembering (the past) stressful events.
When you ponder this for any length of time you can come to only one conclusion. You cannot feel stressed, unless you have a body for the feelings and sensations of stress to be expressed through. The same goes for sadness, anxiety, excitement, joy, disgust etc.
After all we call them feelings, not thoughts. And feelings are bodily. Because we feel them in our selves as bodily sensations. And all bodily sensations are the result of muscular contractions on some level or another whether voluntary (conscious) or involuntary (subconcious).
So the feeling of being stressed then is simply the feeling of our muscles contracting in some way in response to a stressful situation, event or thought.
Well “yeah”, I hear you say, “But so what!?”
Bear with me. If the feeling of being stressed is just an expression of muscular tension, however subtle or strong, then if you could control the muscular contraction… you could… regulate or even control the feeling of being stressed!!
Control the muscular contractions to control the ‘feelings’.
Make the muscles relax and you will feel relaxed. And if you think about it, is it even possible to feel stressed when your muscles are completely relaxed?
Try it, imagine how it would feel to be completely relaxed AND angry.
Or completely wound up, tense AND care free.
It’s impossible, because all our responses are Somatic. Encompassing our mind, body and emotions all at once. Because experientially mind, body and emotions are one. Therefore methods of regulating our bodily stress responses represent potent self care tools.
So if you’ve been struggling with stress during these most challenging of times and you’d appreciate some help, I’ve got something especially for you…
My upcoming Stress Relief with Somatics Online Class on April 29th at 6pm (GMT). Two hours of guided Somatic Movement plus feedback and Q&A. During this class you will learn how to use Somatic Movements to quickly and effectively relieve the physical effects of stress, reduce muscle tension and experience deep calm and relaxation. I’d love to see you there.
As alway thanks for reading!