Don’t Just Relieve Stress—Release It!
Feb 07, 2014 08:47PM
By Hilary Bilkis
Stress, ever present in our lives, affects us at every level of our being — physical, mental, and emotional. But it’s how our minds and bodies handle the craziness and tensions of daily life that determine whether stress becomes “stuck” and accumulates, leading to pain and illness, or whether we release stress, allowing ourselves to heal naturally.
Our bodies’ reaction to stress is regulated by the sympathetic nervous system’s flight or fright survival instinct. Whether we’re in a car accident or find ourselves in any other kind of stressful situation, our bodies release hormones and chemicals that create specific changes, such as a racing heart or sweaty palms. However, once the “danger” subsides, the parasympathetic nervous system is supposed to restore us to “pre-stress” function, allowing our hormones to become regulated and our bodies to rest and repair.
The problem is that for many adults and even some kids, the stress reflex is ALWAYS on, and the only time the body can repair itself is during sleep. Unfortunately, many people aren’t sleeping well because their “stress reflex” is so overworked; it can’t shut off to allow the “repair reflex” to come on. Those suffering from insomnia — or even frequent bathroom trips in the middle of the night — are not getting the full benefits of the repair reflex. If the body cannot repair itself, it ceases to work efficiently, and stress begins to accumulate.
We store unexpressed emotions, feelings and thoughts about our crazy, sometimes painful, lives in our bodies. Our connective tissue and even our organs hold onto all of this stress while we continue to function — that is, up to a point. When that point arrives, the body figuratively throws up its hands and says, “I can’t hold onto this anymore!” And the accumulated stress manifests in any number of ways: chronic fatigue, illness, digestive issues, depression, anxiety and sudden or chronic pain.
There are many ways that people deal with stress or try to relieve it. We may choose to self-medicate with food, drugs or alcohol — none of which is a good idea. Or we may choose healthier alternatives that involve making time to do something we love, such as dancing, reading, getting a massage, being in nature, watching funny movies, journaling, yoga, and exercise. These are great activities, but none of them addresses the need to release accumulated stress.
Through craniosacral therapy, which focuses on the connective tissue and organs where stress becomes trapped, many have found a way to release accumulated stress. Specific techniques encourage the sympathetic nervous system to wind down and allow the parasympathetic nervous system to wake up and function efficiently.
Using gentle Visceral Mobilization techniques to address specific organs – and dialoging about their life history, all of which is stored in the tissue – clients have found relief from all sorts of sudden or chronic pain, in their necks, shoulders, backs and legs.
Long-held negative emotions, whether anger, resentment, fear, sadness, guilt or grief, can cause any organ to get fixated. Though it may have happened years ago, the emotional “trauma” is still living in the body as if it happened yesterday. When memories and feelings, long since buried, begin to surface, and are recognized by the conscious mind, the tissues begin to unwind and healing can begin. Even concussions can heal more quickly, and clients have fewer negative side effects, by working with the bones and tissues in the skull to restore proper motion and release the force of the impact that caused the concussion.
We hold in our bodies memories of ourselves at different ages, experiencing things that were too stressful, painful or even traumatic to deal with. Often times, these parts of us just need to be heard, since they were never heard at the time of the incident. Bodywork sessions give your body and your memories a voice, validating without judgment. Clients are empowered to be proactive in their own healing process through easy rebalancing techniques they can do at home, keeping the healing process moving forward.
The results of unstuck stress are profound: The feedback from clients speaks volumes. They have reported feeling more peaceful and calm, centered, grounded, focused, confident, lighter, free, unburdened, energized, pain free and less moody. They also report that they sleep better, digest better and eliminate better.
Remember: It took your body years to accumulate stress, so it will take a little bit of time to release it. Light-touch bodywork sessions are like peeling away layers of an artichoke. After we get past the hard, dense, fibrous protective layers, we uncover the heart. It is in this place where sweetness and joy can live again in peace and spiral outward to families, friends and co-workers.
Hilary D. Bilkis, MS, LMT, CST, is the owner of Awakening Wellness, LLC, a holistic light-touch bodywork practice in Morristown. She has been in private practice since 1997. Visit Awakening4wellness.com.