Most people today would say that they feel a significant amount of stress all the time. It’s that uncomfortable feeling that says, “There’s no ability to relax.”
Over and over in my private craniosacral therapy practice, I find that people are saying “stress” is their “normal.”
What would it like to NOT feel stress? People don’t know.
I believe we must stop to examine what stress really is. We begin with the “principle of opposites.” If there is such a thing as stress (and that is all too real to people today), then there must be an opposite. The opposite would be peace.
Peace is different from “relaxed.” Peace is something that must be felt dimensionally. We feel peace in our mind, in our heart, AND in our bodies.
So if we want to address the issue of “stress,” we must know that we have to work with all three dimensions. What are the things that impact us -- telling us the word “stress” is normal, and not “peace?”
Our mind deals with paradigms. A paradigm is the way we choose to see the world. For example, I am driving down the road, and I see the road, the street signs, and the traffic. But I am NOT going to choose to concentrate on the scenery, for if I do, I will lose sight of the road, and I may be in an accident. I have to choose the things I concentrate on, to see, though.
Our hearts deal with how we feel about what we see, or how we feel about what we THINK we see. That is a very important thing to understand. I worked with a woman once who had been severely, ritually abused, by her parents, for over 40 years. At the time I worked with her, she had been in a safe place for a couple of years. She knew that she was safe on an intellectual level. Yet - when someone came to her door and knocked, bringing her a plate of cookies to welcome her to a new home, this woman trembled, her heart raced, and her body physically would not let her open the door. She was in a state of extreme fear. Even though she “knew” she was safe, her feelings reacted to her old way of seeing - her old paradigm. She had yet to be able to change that on a heart level.
Our hearts change as we feel safe, and that happens as we have experiences that allow us to change tension patterns in our body. That’s why our bodies are so important. Our bodies allow us to bridge the gap between old (tense, uptight,) way of seeing, and a new way of seeing. As we choose new ways of seeing things, we have to remember to let our bodies relax, to help our bodies adjust, so that our hearts can heal and change too.
How do we choose new ways of seeing things?
If I am feeling stress, and I want to feel peace, I have to first find my paradigm. Remember that a paradigm is what I see as truth. A paradigm is the meaning I assign to what I see, or notice, or believe. If I’m feeling stress, what is it that I am believing, noticing, and feeling?
Many times we feel stress because of external influences. There’s a deadline for a project at work. That can be very stressful. The deadline is external, imposed by someone else. If I want to keep my job, the expectation is that I will somehow meet that deadline.
However, it’s what happens internally as a result of that external influence that will cause me to feel stress. Internally, if I think to myself: “There’s not enough time. I don’t have the skills I need to do the project,” my body will react to those words. My body will tighten up. Essentially, my body will speak at the cellular level to myself:
“All right, cells, tighten up. Shut everything down that is non-essential. We know we can’t meet this challenge, so we just have to manage as best we can to conserve physical life here. Shut down everything. No relaxation allowed till this crisis is over - be vigilant!”
So - what will we feel? Our breathing will be shallow (requires less energy). Our muscles won’t be as free and relaxed. Of course - we will feel stress. And - with that stress - will we able to function as well? Absolutely not.
There are definitely external influences. There are things we can’t control. Deadlines. Events. Hard things. But - when we learn how to help our bodies be “on our side,” and when we learn how to direct our thoughts so that we can think with a new paradigm, we can then feel peace at a heart level. When we do that, our heart can run the show. We can learn how to use our body’s ability to help us feel a positive INTERNAL influence.
Our heart is the guy who says: “All right, cells, this is a time when we must utilize our full effort to meet the deadline. We’ll need every cell to start by taking a deep breath. Then, mustering your full ability to work, let’s put on our fight song, and let’s remember that WE CAN MEET the challenge. We’ve done it before, we can do it again! Get your workout clothes on - and let’s rise! In just a little bit, we’ll have it done, and then we can relax. That’s what we’re here for - to use our muscles to expand, and then to relax. Ready? One, two, three, repeat after me: I am powerful, and I can meet this challenge!”
There are a couple of resources that I believe will help you internalize how to make this idea work for you. I invite you to see how the principles will help you feel peace, not stress.
The Martha Principle was written for women who feel overwhelmed - who are doing the best they can, but still feel stress. We talk about the story of Mary and Martha in the New Testament to show how this works. Martha was not wrong to be busy doing things. Jesus did not chastise her for working hard. What He told her, though, was to understand her emotions. That’s a powerful idea, and so very important for women today.
In our Principles of Communication course we talk about how the very words we use can create stress - or invite heart-felt connection. As we learn to communicate with others using words that invite connection, and not resistance, we will find that we communicate with ourselves differently. We will become able to see how important it is to be kind to ourselves, and we will learn how to facilitate that kindness. Who is that little person in your head that you argue with, anyway? (You know - the one who says, “You should have done better.”)
Learning how to understand your emotions will definitely help you find heart-balance. Our minds work overtime - isn’t it time that we learned how to have our heart be part of the equation? Our classes on emotional health are designed to help us understand principles that will allow us to understand how the heart, mind, and body work together to create peace.