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  • Writer's pictureAnna Rathbun, NC

Stress and Your Stomach Pain

Would you benefit from a stress reduction therapy? Does your own stress response naturally raise and lower in a healthy way? Stress can lead to fear which is damaging to your health or it can lead to inspiration which is awesome. We can use physical and mental techniques to calm the fear and switch stress to inspiration.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdown we saw this difference in how people dealt with stress. Some people put that stress into new work - instantly developing virtual businesses while others found themselves curled up on the couch for months and others were required to work right through the shutdown regardless of how they felt about it. There is not one way that is better – there are simple techniques to help us shift our stress response when we feel stuck or stress is damaging our health. (More on COVID-19 and stress here)

The stress response changes our body processes– during stress we instantly have more blood flow to the brain and limbs and less blood flow to healing and digestion. This allows us to think and move faster and stronger to deal with the threat of a mountain lion while not wasting any energy on healing and digesting. Today’s stress usually isn’t about a lion, so we have no outlet for the stress and instead many people freeze, sitting in stress hormones with no outlet. Fight, Flight or Freeze – what is your stress response?

I have spent the last 2 months talking about symptoms, food and supplements to compensate and heal from an overrun stress response and adrenal fatigue. I am not a therapist, a breathing coach or a meditation teacher. Nutrition is much easier than shifting the brain, but I like to get to the root cause of a problem and the root cause is how we deal with stress.

Which of these therapies could help you to manage the stress response?

Deep Breathing is the simplest and most effective way to alleviate stress in the moment. The body cannot simultaneously send cortisol pulsing through the system and take a deep breath at the same time. Taking a deep breath actively turns off the stress response and returns the energy to healing and digestion.

Simple sit or stand up straight – take a deep breath counting to 6. Hold the breath while counting to 6 and then breathe out while counting to 10 – to make sure all the breath is out. Notice how your stress level is now.

Counseling – good old-fashioned talk therapy. There is no substitute for talking with a trusted person about stress. Simply speaking your stress out loud and having it heard can lessen the burden. A friend or a loved one can do this too, but a trained therapist knows how to say the right thing to help you move on from the stress.

Meditation – We have all been conditioned to react out of fear and stress to certain triggers. In meditation we sit with the actual fear and stress long enough that it loses its power. A simple way to begin meditation is to start with free guided meditations here .

12 step programs begin with giving up control of the problem which immediately reduces the stress response. You may think of 12 step for alcoholics, but the system has been applied to many different stressful family dynamics; helping us to truly understand how to accept the things we cannot change (lower fear) and change the things we can (move to inspiration).

Acupressure, Acupuncture and Qigong can help to open the meridians in the body where stress physically gets stuck. I find these therapies useful in transferring stuck stress into inspiration.

For you it may be a walk on the beach, dancing, religion or a day on the couch. Any activity can be stress relieving if you are taking deep breaths and lowering stress during the activity. Review the questionnaire here for symptoms of adrenal fatigue and notice how your activities improve or exacerbate stress symptoms.

There are two ways to improve a stress response – Number one is to channel that stress into something healthy and inspirational and the second is to intentionally lower cortisol and the stress response when it is not needed.

Any type of stress prepares our bodies to run from a threat or fight off an attack. Stress causes cortisol to pulse through our veins making us faster and stronger in that moment. Ideally, when the stress is gone the adrenal hormones return to baseline allowing you to relax. The problem is that today’s stressors don’t work like a single lion attack – instead, todays stressors are ongoing pressures that we have no control over. The cortisol raises so we can run or fight, but we can’t run or fight with covid-19 and politics so instead the cortisol just sits there – damaging arteries, exhausting the stress response and setting the stage for autoimmune disease.

Stress has found to be beneficial when it leads to inspiration and damaging when it leaves us frozen with no options. What is your default stress response? Is it damaging your health? Is it feeding your energy and inspiration? Would you like to talk about how you deal with stress?


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