Over the past month – even before this rapid shift in world energy – I’ve had several conversations about one particular topic that I wanted to share with you: the stress of heightened and prolonged fight-or-flight response.
It might show up in your life in this way:
- Your plate is so full of responsibilities, you always have to be “on”, and you’re feeling completely depleted by the end of the day
- You’re finding yourself constantly on edge, waiting for the next bad thing to drop (if you’re glued to the news, you might be feeling this right now)
- Your usual “safe” foods are flaring your IBS and your list is getting smaller and smaller until you can’t figure out what to eat anymore
- You’re unable to sleep, waking several times a night overthinking, or even stuck in a problem-solving loop in your dreams…and you wake up tense and completely unrested
- You’re irritable and short-tempered, snapping at your partner, kids, co-workers when you don’t really mean to
- You’re feeling panicked and uneasy with physical distancing, and even though you have more time now, your mind and body haven’t been able to relax
- You’re exhausted and you’ve been running on fumes for a long time but you feel like you need to keep pushing.
The underlying sensation is that you don’t quite feel safe. And that’s perfectly natural because for our ancestors, the fight-or-flight response was meant to alert and protect us in imminent physical danger. It’s an emergency alert system.
But in our modern times physical danger has lessened, and more frequently our fight-or-flight is an activated response to mental/emotional stressors.
Fight-or-flight is not meant to be a prolonged state: our sympathetic nervous system boosts our alertness, increases our heart rate, gets us ready to protect ourselves for short bursts of time. Our natural state should be in parasympathetic rest-and-digest, the time when we focus on replenishing and restoring our energy through sleep and nutrition.
Many of us have trouble calming our minds and bodies, deactivating the sympathetic nervous responses and coming back into parasympathetic restorative mode. I’ve certainly been stuck in that stress state before and it can be frustrating, exhausting and detrimental to your overall health.
Ironically, even though we’re all physically safe at home right now, the uncertainty of the Coronavirus may have re-triggered the mental/emotional fight-or-flight response.
So what can you do to get back to parasympathetic rest-and-digest?
If you’ve been in my community for a while then you know important breathing is to restore flow. It opens up space in your body, relaxes your muscles, intakes more oxygen into your bloodstream, brings you back to present, back into your physical body.
2. Clear your mind.
Although meditation is not meant to help you clear your mind, visualization exercises can be helpful here. I used to do this as an overthinking teen: lay in bed and send my thoughts into little boxes up on the ceiling to keep for me while I sleep. Or, write all your thoughts and ideas out on a notepad before you go to bed. That way they’re there when you wake up and you don’t need to worry about them when you’re in rest mode.
3. Let go of what you can’t control.
Sometimes it takes knock on the head by the universe for us to step back and take stock of what’s really important: what’s worth worrying about and what’s not (I consider this time a global knock on the head)! Take this time to sort through all your anxieties, your worries, and decide which are important and which aren’t. Are they things you can control or not? If not, energetically toss them out, release your stress, let them go and make space for more peace and calm.
Some of these things are easier said than done, and I want you to know that I’m here to support you if you’re ready.
Struggling with IBS means you are stuck in prolonged fight-or-flight, so this is a small sample of the important tools I share with my clients in the Conquer IBS program.
If you’d like to be guided through them as we navigate these uncertain times, book a call so we can talk about you joining the program.
Take advantage of the time and space we’ve been gifted right now.