Previously, we talked about various ways your body expresses your mind and soul. In our last installment in the series, I’m exploring somatic expressions of stress response with Madison Madden, A.D., founder of Livewise Ayurveda and author of Mind Body Food.
Before we dive in, be sure to download my free ebook on “The stress effect”. You’ll learn why zebras don’t get ulcers but we do, why stress attacks the heart, the real reason for practicing yoga, and more.
Ok, let’s get started…
In the time of COVID, are you seeing any unusual somatic expressions?
Madison: Pericarditis. It’s the inflammation of the pericardium, which is the water sack that surrounds the heart. I started noticing it mid-pandemic. People coming to me with pericarditis were testing negative for COVID-19.
The pericardium is directly connected to the diaphragm. The diaphragm is responsible for deep abdominal breathing. In a state of fear or stress response, one of the first physiological things that happens is that the diaphragm contracts, which directly influences the pericardium, and therefore, the heart. This affects the circulation and the oxygenation of the whole body. It’s a systematic issue. That’s why you can’t breathe deeply and why your blood pressure goes up when you’re under stress.
COVID-19 has created a global systematic stress response. Most people have been under a tremendous amount of stress—fear of life, death, money, family. They’re in a contracted diaphragmatic state, which affects the pericardium. This state of stress has been going on for a long time now.
How does a sustained level of stress response affect the body?
Madison: Stress response has 3 forms: fight, flight or freeze. The pandemic and stay-at-home orders largely triggered the freeze response because you couldn’t fight the pandemic and you couldn’t run from it. A lot of people felt numb during this time because an expression of the freeze response is numbness. It’s a survival mechanism.
When you stay in the freeze response for a long time, it becomes a normalized stress response and your system starts to shut down. When that happens, it starts to create disease in the body. So, we need to find a way to get out of the freeze state as soon as possible and express the stagnant energy.
What’s the key to unblocking stagnant energy?
Madison: The word emotion often gets villanized. Emotion is vital energy and when it doesn’t get expressed, it can create destructive expressions. Think of your emotion as a messenger that’s trying to bring something forward. You have to let it flow through you. You have to process your emotion.
Everyone has creative energy so when you feel stuck, think about what you really care about and what gets you going. That’s the antidote to feeling stuck.
When I see people with pain, I always ask them when their pain started. Whether or not they realize it consciously, it often corresponds with an event. So my next question is about what needs to change, what they’re dissatisfied with, and what’s not OK anymore. The purpose of this questioning is to uncover what’s trying to express itself through the person that they’re not allowing.When you feel stuck, think about what really gets you going to help move forward. This and other things you can do in this somatic expressions and stress blog. #stressmanagement #ayurveda Click To Tweet
Can you share some tools for unblocking stuck energy?
Madison: When you’re in the stress response phase and someone tells you to take a breath, you’ll inevitably take a shallow breath into your chest, which will make the situation worse and increase your stress response. So don’t start there.
The first thing to do is to get yourself in a parasympathetic state, which is your body’s natural rest and digest state. I like to tell people to slow and elongate their breath, and feel like they have a balloon inflating inside their belly. That slow, deep, elongated abdominal breath relaxes the diaphragm and helps transition the body out of stress response. Only in this relaxed state can you truly listen to your intuition.
Your intuition wants to help you so let it guide you. It can even reveal to you how you can unblock stuck energy. Perhaps through a massage, spending time in nature, and even crying.
Thank you, Madison, for helping bring attention to this topic!
In case you missed it:
- Somatic expressions: how your mind talks to your body
- Somatic expressions: how your skin expresses your mind and soul
- How’s your mind connected to the rash on your neck?
Image by Anna Shvets, Pexels
Disclaimer: the purpose of this blog is to give you a different perspective on the connection between body, mind and soul. It’s not medical advice.