The art of surfing is a beautiful skill. I admire the rider’s flexibility and the play of energy between the board and the wave. There’s a dance of balance and grace that must be sheer exhilaration for the surfer who catches the wave and shoots high on adrenalin with the force of the water.
Adjustment is a key theme in our ever-changing environments. I’m sure most of us would agree that life can have a balanced season, where we are able to paddle effortlessly through calm waters. It’s those other seasons that test our endurance, those unexpectant waves of disruption that deliver challenges, that are seemingly too big for us to handle. The feeling of being completely overwhelmed by the uncertainty of events and having very little power to control circumstances. Our mind is quick to flick the stress switch.
One thought can create a cascade of internal reactions.
The subconscious perceives a threat and our bodies release cortisol. This hormone has a direct effect on our cells. Waves of stress on a regular daily basis, over a prolonged period of time, trigger the sympathetic nervous system. Our primitive inner brain sends a signal, a bit like a smoke alarm. The whole body, except those functions not required for immediate survival, gets a message to ‘shut down’.
This system of ‘fight/flight/freeze reaction serves us in those life -threatening circumstances where we don’t have time to think. Survival instincts are a ‘good stress’, their function propels us into action. We have to run for our life to escape the saber-toothed tiger! Your body’s primitive brain is wired for immediate reaction, to meet the demands your hostile environment, either a real or ‘imagined’ threat.
Stress fires adrenalin and gives an urge to run. The heart begins to race, the immune system shuts down, glucose is dumped into the blood stream, breathing becomes shallow. This is a rapid response deployment at an automatic subconscious level. Your nervous system is in over drive, it is pumped with a massive dump of readily available energy. Psychological resources go ‘off line’, it’s as if you’ve flipped your lid, you can’t think… you begin to tell yourself the ‘same old story’ the one you have rehearsed over and over before in similar situations. We find ourselves in a negative feed-back loop of over- reaction. If the state of alarm continues, even after the threat has passed, metabolic disharmony results.
In our busy lives of endless demands, this biological survival machine is rarely turned off. The energy draining habit of scanning the horizon for possible threats has a debilitating impact on our health. Disruptions to sleep patterns, digestion, hormone balance and body weight are some of the visible signs of prolonged stress on the body. As long as we see the problem as ‘out there’ we diminish our personal power to change the circumstances.
Mindfulness is a simple way to bring energy and harmony back to your body/mind connection. A simple breathing technique is an effective pattern disruptor, a proven stress circuit breaker. Taking a few mindful slow breaths, as soon as you feel your bodily reaction to a situation, provides enough ‘space’ to allow for another response. A shift in cognition, being aware of your triggers, and the possibility of your personal role in maintaining the situation, realigns your resources. This is the beginning of healing change. In this regulated state, you begin to align with the solution.
You are a remarkably adaptable mechanism. Implementing uplifting routines can flip this state of high alert and bring new disciplines to your mind. Your brain rewires quickly. You can upgrade your beliefs and change your relationship with your external environment. Hack into the old ways of viewing your world and create a new image. Prioritise those demands that used to cause you the most stress, complete the tough jobs first. Notice how small changes bring relief.
Unexpectant ‘stuff’ happens. Most is not a threat to your survival, choose to see it is an opportunity for growth and shift perception. Discipline the inner critic, speak edifying words to yourself. “I am here right now and I am safe, in my body”. These words have power. Become aware of your capacity for pro-life thoughts as you regain a sense of being ‘in your body’. Good decisions are made easier when your mind remains ‘on line’.
Create a new mantra. ‘This is easy for me. I have everything I need to do this. Every good thing comes to me from every direction. I can do this.” Get creative, use every opportunity to reset your mindset. It can be fun reprogramming your mind and upgrading your attitude, you can do this!
Compassionate habits support harmony of mind and body. Your Heart has a magnificent energetic field of intuition and healing. Reconnect with your heart, look after yourself, you are responsible for nurturing you. Actively pursue yourself. Look at yourself with soft eyes, loving and accepting yourself exactly how you are, this is the key to lasting relationship. Even though you often do what you don’t want to do, stay loyal to yourself anyway.
Sustainable life style habits build inner resilience and strength. Enjoy nutrient dense foods, they bring balance to your body after prolonged stress. Fermented and probiotic foods provide the perfect environment for your digestive system. Rest is essential for mind health, sleep protects us from the impact of high cortisol and daily stress. It is far too easy to skip these two pillars of health. Unplug the electronics, turn off the phone and ignore the emails, they can all wait for you. You can take charge of this crazy ‘always on demand’ hypervigilance. Distance yourself from the phone and reclaim your personal space.
Rediscover what you love and pursue it. Exploring creativity delivers a rich harvest of personal fulfilment. Rekindle your mojo and balance your life with nourishing activities. It’s time for you to take stock, to have a serious consultation with those parts of yourself that feel neglected. Include practices that support healthy relationship, a sense of calm and feelings of safety. Hold yourself accountable as you integrate these shifts and align your thinking to action these changes. See yourself as a light transmitter of healing waves. It takes practice and commitment to balance the body’s energy system. Learn to ride the waves with Grace, the Art of Adjustment is a beautiful, life-giving skill.
YOU CAN’T STOP THE WAVES BUT YOU CAN LEARN TO SURF – JON KABAT-ZINN
Sue Ann Fuller