We are living in exceptional times
At time of writing, we are nearing the end of the second week of lockdown in the UK. We are not alone, similar conditions exist throughout both neighbouring and far flung countries.
Regardless of the faces we are presenting to the outside world, we are all under persistently heightened stress. The world we knew has suddenly changed beyond recognition in a very short space of time.
I am already becoming aware of many people suffering crippling fatigue, migraines, muscles aches, IBS and eczema flare ups, anxiety and loneliness.
While remaining positive in difficult times undoubtedly helps - putting on a brave face while feeling wretched underneath is a sticking plaster and there may be additional things you may be able to do to feel more at peace in these challenging times.
Stress is physiological condition - not a mental/emotional one.
It is of course true, that the causes of what we typically refer to as stress are often (though not limited to) mental/emotional stimulus - but the condition is in fact the phenomena of persistently high levels of stress hormones.
Our stress response is a safety mechanism to help us deal with emergency situations - such as running from a tiger. A perceived threat is detected in the brain and a chain of chemical changes puts us in a state of stress (fight or flight). When this happens all non emergency functions, such as reproduction, digestion, healing and immune function are suppressed while blood pressure is raised, muscle tension is increased and the survival instinct takes over our thoughts.
- This enables us to run away from the tiger - or not - either way the emergency is resolved quite quickly.
However when the stress is constant as it is at the moment - those stress hormones remain high, wreaking havoc on every aspect of our bodies and minds.
There is some good news
Understanding how this works is the first step in your fight back to inner peace - a state we should all strive for - but especially in these current times when so much is out of our individual control.
I have been a Teacher and Practitioner of Reiki and Energy healing for over 20 years, while the words might sound foreign and alternative for you, there are some very sound reasons why some of these practices can be helpful in such difficult times.
What do I mean by Energy Healing?
All forms of life are teaming with trillions of responses and processes that keep the organism alive. All this activity creates energy and we both project and perceive the energy of life around us.
To put this in context, think about the way crowds react in a collective way, or how you may have commented on the atmosphere in a room or how a particular person might change the atmosphere on entering a room?
- These are all concepts that subconsciously we are all keenly aware of and take notice of.
This is a survival mechanism to be aware of changes in atmosphere, to be aware of changing circumstances and conditions around us. It is intrinsically part of the same fight or flight mechanism that causes changes in our stress response and our ability to react to perceived changes in order to survive.
Healing in this context means balance not cure or solution. Energy Healing (which includes Reiki) therefore, is a method of promoting a healthy balance of energy in the body.
What are Energy Therapies and how can they help?
The premise of most Energy Therapies, which include things like Acupuncture, Acupressure, Bowen and Reiki -
is that the balance of energy in the body promotes homeostasis (an even balance of bodily functions and responses - including reduction of stress hormones) and improves the natural healing process.
There are other practices, that although they are not principally based on energy flow, they achieve the same state of homeostasis - such as meditation, mindfulness, massage and relaxation exercises. (Social interaction, while not classed as a therapy, is also really helpful in improving mood)
Creating a calm, relaxed sense of being reduces heightened stress levels - all body functions begin to operate in a much more balanced way and the energy we give off to others, is one of greater calm and this is good for us as well as those around us.
You can learn the principles and techniques of many of these practices to self-treat at home.
How can I help?
I have taught these principles to groups and individuals for many years. I am also a human being and I am just as prone to stress and emotional upheaval as everyone else. I know how anxiety and isolation feel. I am no guru, no paragon of meditative virtue, but I can teach you how to integrate the principles of energy balance and stress management into your daily life.
It is not my purpose to preach, but to offer a friendly hand to those who are seeking help. To this end, I have created a range of free and paid for tuition and resources to help you through the challenging times we find ourselves in. Please email me here if you would like to know more about these.
Things you can implement right now
There is a great deal you can do right now to reduce your persistently high stress levels - 'pulling yourself together' and 'bucking up your ideas' are not helpful. Recognise the changes that are taking place in your life and in your body and take positive steps to alter the natural response to it. This list is not exhaustive, but it is a good place to start.
- Hats off to all the creators of the many funny videos and memes circulating on social media - do your bit keep sharing them, the more you share the more will come back your way. These have been great at lifting our mood and giving us all a good excuse to reach out and share with people, that we might not otherwise think to contact. Reaching out to others and offering support automatically puts us in a position of less stress, as our self-focus is interrupted and our concern for others requires something other than fight or flight. So go through your email list or your phones contact list and reach out to people you may not have contacted for a while, check in on them and share as many silly amusing clips as possible.
- Make time to catch up on jobs you've been putting off. This will give you a feeling of purpose and achievement, which will reduce your level of stress hormones.
- Take time out - It's great to be busy, but if you are feeling agitated, taking some time out to listen to a favourite (calm) piece of music, meditating or simply putting your feet up for a short while can really help to reduce those stress levels. Set yourself a break time - anything from 10 minutes to an hour of pure switch off time. At the end of your pre-specified break time get up and do something else. This way you can fully enjoy your relaxation without feeling guilty or stressed about wasting time.
- Following on from the last point - start to recognise that relaxing your body and mind is DOING something - and it's doing something worthwhile. We are constantly told to push ourselves to the limit and shamed for having a sedentary lifestyle, but it's all really about balance. We need a balance of activity and relaxation so while exercising your body and mind are necessary and worthwhile things to do, so is relaxing your body and mind, it is as necessary to you wellbeing as all that activity! - and I do mean as well as and not instead of!
- Take yourself out for a walk, so long as you observe social distancing guidelines, getting out in the outside air will help to reduce anxiety levels and watching the wildlife continuing with life as usual is a great leveller.
- There is a therapy call EFT, which entails tapping on acupressure points to release negative emotions. One of these points is on the upper chest, just below the 'knobbly' bit of the collarbone. If you are feeling very agitated, emotional or stressed, take some deep breaths as you gently tap on this point (note the word gently!). This is a great exercise for calming down in the moment.
I hope this has been helpful, please feel free to share this and any of the other free resources on offer. Not everything will help everyone, but some things will help some people and the more we share the more help one another.
In the meantime, I wish you and all your loved ones a safe passage through the days and weeks ahead, much love, Tracy x