With the latest full amazing full moon on January 31, 2018, the topic of stress, tension, and
anxiety has come up in many of my clients. Most of us going through life changes, family issues,
illnesses, and loss, have all been coming in to talk about the devastating effects of these
situations in our lives and how to deal with them. Some have started to take medications, while
others are looking for a more natural way to cope; either way, these people have found their way
to my massage table in search of relief and guidance. With that said, I wanted to take a moment
to shed some light on what stress is when related to the mind & body and why it has such a
gripping effect on the world.
What does stress do to the body?
Did you know that over 7 Million Americans suffer daily from constant stress and anxiety?
That’s right, about 2% of our population currently suffers from stress from rising from their beds
until they have fallen asleep! Roughly speaking, our bodies are under the constant effects of
these hormones for more than 10 hours a day. But what does it mean to be “under the effects of
stress hormones”? We have spent most of our time learning that stress causes the adrenal glands
to kick into gear to start releasing the hormones of survival, namely Cortisol. This hormone
readily uses available nutrition to protect our bodies from the danger we are interpreting while at
the same time depleting our levels of Omega-3, Vitamin C, and essential nourishment as these
hormones travel around in our bloodstream. The other depleting hormone that is released is
Histamine! That hormone most of us think is related to the itchy, running nose and allergic
response to things is also pumped directly into the intestines, causing inflammation and
inhibiting the body from absorbing nutrition. This effect on the body means that whatever you
eat for the day, from your vitamins to your daily meals, is being stored right away (yup, making
more fat!) or being expelled by the body through sweat or urine. That leaves little time in the day
to focus on healing and repairing our organs and cells. This is why stress is one of the biggest
instigators of sickness in the body!
What stress does to the mind!
So, what happens if we spend 10 hours a day with a flood after flood of stress hormones flowing
freely through our blood and gut? How do we survive? Like all forms of life, we learn to adapt!
The body will do whatever it takes to live, including learning to operate with high hormones
floating around regularly. Even when there are times when those levels drop, the body reacts
with emotions and feelings that elicit the mental response to get our organs to produce more of
these stress hormones. This reaction of the mind to the body’s craving is where people start
developing mental anxiety patterns. When the body isn’t feeling “normal,” it will begin to
produce emotional responses that cause our brains to react and imprint on what external
environmental surroundings around us as being defined as a “stressor,” thus causing the reaction.
This is the pattern of addiction, which I know is a scary word because how can any of us
conceive of having an obsession with stress? But it is true. So, it is safe to say that our minds and
bodies eventually become addicted to wanting more stress hormones! So, to take a step back,
we just connected that our mental perception of the world is conditioned to creating a seemingly
never-ending cycle of stress.
How Do We Break the Cycle?
Science has found that the best natural ways to combat stress hormones are Diet, Exercise, and
the practice of Meditation/Mindfulness, which have proven to reduce levels of these hormones in
the body and stop the overproduction of the hormones from starting. That’s right; there is truth to
the mind-body connection. Practicing Meditation and Mindfulness helps the brain interpret the
body’s responses in a more balanced manner instead of defaulting to the autonomic response to
stress, which means that those moments that seem to test your patients and stress you out become
less impactful and more comfortable to move through regularly. So, if your mind isn’t always
interpreting the world as stress and anxiety, your body isn’t responding, and you’re not using
nutrition to fight the stress hormones but to heal and properly maintain your physical well-being
throughout the day. That is a straightforward way to talk about a complicated process of breaking
the grip of anxiety on the body and brain. Other experiences from our histories tie into the
process of what we perceive as stress, but we can work on the physical and mental sides first.
I want to take a moment to introduce some fantastic friends, the Caltons. Dr. Jayson & Mira
Calton have created a system of balanced nutrition that our bodies can quickly absorb. They have
also written some fantastic books, the first of which I recommend to EVERYONE to own an
actual physical copy of. The book Rich Food, Poor Food is the best decoder for all those words
on the side of your boxes, where they came from, and how they affect the body. I regularly use
this book when experimenting with new food products (like the truth behind gluten-free flour
right now!), how many different names MSG has and where you would never believe you would
find them, and so much more.
I cook at home a lot for all of you who know me or are just starting to! I love to entertain friends
and colleagues and provide healthy and delicious Food. So, this book is a must-have when
contemplating changing your diet and lifestyle. The next book and program they have come up
with are The Micronutrient Miracle. It is a 28-day program that helps you integrate all aspects of
physical health into your life while answering some of the most critical questions about the
process. I regularly take their vitamins and omega, and I don’t have the reactions I have had in
the past to supplements and the smell that comes with fish oil pills. I encourage you to see where
this information can help you. Check this direct link to their site for more
The other half of the cycle to break is the mind. When we talk about changing our minds, a few
things need to happen. 1. We must become aware that a problem needs to change because it is
not honoring us. 2. Connect the subconscious and conscious minds to ensure this change will
stick. There are a few ways to go about this process, and today I wanted to talk about meditation
as one of them. (I would also like to list that hypnosis, psychological professionals, and changing
behavior patterns are a few others that you can explore.) When we meditate, our conscious minds
can go into a place of calm and relaxation to learn to exist in that manner as a base for all
behaviors and emotions. It becomes a place where you can learn to experience thoughts and
feelings of the physical body and become aware of what’s happening there. When you encounter
these feelings and ideas in a mental place of calm and relaxation, you can become 1. Aware of
when they are happening and what triggers them, and 2. No longer allow them to overcome you
and shape your decisions.
Where do you start? What is the right amount of time? How do I fit this into my day? I’m
not a spiritual person; I can’t meditate!
There is a form of meditation for everyone out there, and not all of them have to do with religion
or being spiritual. Whether you sit in silence, play relaxing music, follow a guided meditation, go
to a course on mindfulness, hop on YouTube and explore, or go to group meditation, there is
something for everyone, and not one thing is better than the other. Because everyone is different
and has different stressors, exploring and trying different techniques is essential. Some people
enjoy becoming aware of their body by slowly connecting to each part of it, starting at the toes
and working up to the head. Being mindful of each sensation in the body and then letting go by
slowly moving on. While other people can find happiness in quietly listening to the waves of the
ocean. 20 mins a day is the optimal amount of time to spend practicing meditation, and
generally, when done in the morning can lead to a smoother day. Although even as little as 5 min
at any time to help alleviate overwhelming feelings at the moment works too, and for all of you
who think these practices are about being silent inside, please think again. When in your
meditation, especially in the beginning, everything (including whether or not the coffee maker is
still on) will come rushing to you all at once and continuously. This is how your mind is
programmed to deal with the busy, stressful world around you. The key is to acknowledge the
thoughts and let them go for the moment because these topics are not going anywhere. At the end
of your 20 minutes, it will be waiting for you to deal with it, but in that 20 minutes, breathe and
let that be the time for you. So, I invite you to find a chair, sit and enjoy 20min with yourself!