why we experience a bodily reaction to our environment!
The experience of anxiety and stress can have such an intrusive impact on our emotional health and well-being that it is not something that we can just ignore. It is the response that we all dread, leading to withdrawal and disconnection from our friends, loved ones and family members. Headaches, a restless body, racing thoughts and stomach complaints are just a few ways that anxiety and stress are felt by those of us that experience these bodily reactions on a regular basis.
Hygge Me Calm supports our stress responses from an autonomic perspective; this is sometimes referred to as our ‘fight, flight and freeze’ response. This means that we look at how the body reacts to the environment and provide supports and strategies to calm those responses. Those of us who experience anxiety as a consequence to repetitive thought patterns will also benefit from the strategies provided because calming the body will also support slowing the mind, but it is recommended that if you do experience regular anxiety and intrusive thoughts that you seek medical advice from your General Practitioner in addition to the supports listed here at Hygge Me.
Anxiety is our safety signal to tell us when we may be in danger.
I firstly want to highlight that anxiety is NOT a sign of weakness. In fact, anxiety is a biological function that is there to support us and keep us safe. Without experiencing anxiety or worry our lives would be a disaster. We would be rushing into situations that were possibly dangerous and harmful and getting into all sorts of trouble. It is helpful when exploring anxiety that we understand our body’s stress responses from an autonomic perspective. This is otherwise know as our fight, flight (run away) and freeze (staying very still) responses. To understand the origin of why we have these responses it is best to consider our ancestors and their environment.
When our ancestors were tribes people they needed to respond to the dangers around them in order to keep themselves safe. If our ancestors were in eminent danger whilst fighting or hunting, they would need to either fight to protect themselves, run away to safety or stay very still and hide so not to be seen. These biological reactions supported our ancestors to stay safe.
Within today’s society we do not have the same dangers that our ancestors had. Society expects us to process our anxiety through our logic rather than respond through our biological responses yet for many of us this is not possible due to having such adverse bodily responses to our day to day environment. This leaves societal expectation and our biological reactions in direct conflict with each other.
We are expected to behave in one way yet our body is responding to it’s environment in the same way our ancestors did when fighting and hunting.
When we are feeling a stress response our brains find filtering what is a direct physical threat and what is a perceived danger apart. This means that we do not need to see a dangerous lion in order to get these body reactions, we may merely think about the lion and our bodies act in the same way as if a lion was about to attack. Obviously lions and tigers don’t figure a great deal in many people’s day to day worry any more, but the same is true of modern day worries and anxieties such daily demands, organising the house and changes in routine. We get the same body reactions to a meeting that we feel unprepared for, an unexpected bill that we didn’t budget for or going to a new place that we haven’t been before in the same way we would if we were faced with a lion. These modern day ‘threats’ cause this same biological reaction in our body so in conjunction with a sensitive sensory system it is no wonder that many people find managing their physical stress response so difficult.
Hygge Me Calm is designed to support you to understand why you have these bodily reactions and provides you with the tools to explore the supports that work for you.
BIOLOGICAL REACTIONS TO STRESS!
It is important to recognise that the biological reactions that we have during stressful situations are as automatic to us as our heart is beating and our lungs are breathing.
They are not within our conscious control so when they happen it can feel like we lose control. This in turn can cause worry thoughts reinforcing the biological process, the one designed to keep us safe.
By understanding what the autonomic responses are within our body we can work on responding to them in a way that is acceptable in today’s society and most importantly more comfortable for us.
There are four key biological functions that underpin our autonomic stress responses.
1) Our heart rate increases.
2) Adrenaline and cortisol are released.
3) Our digestive system slows and there is an increase in gastric acid.
4) Our frontal cortex functioning slows reducing our ability for logical thought.
These four biological functions mean that we may have more energy - our body wants us to fight, run or hide and because our frontal lobe (which is responsible for decision making and logic) reduces in function we can not think our way logically out of the situation.
This leaves our body having a great big physical reaction with no way to expel it.
For those of us who experience sensory processing differences these autonomic responses can be triggered by a multitude of different environmental factors such as bright lights, too much noise or visually busy environments - for more information on sensory processing please see article: Sensory Support.
People may have varied responses when their autonomic system is triggered:
You may fight, argue or become angry.
You may want to hide away from the world and not risk any additional ‘dangerous’ situations.
You may freeze and stop talking.
You may feel restless, uneasy, or sick.
Past a certain point these reactions are beyond our direct control but we can learn ways to calm the biological response before our body enters fight, flight and freeze reactions.
CALMING OUR AUTONOMIC SYSTEM.
It is recognised that every person is unique and what works for one person may not work for another but through exploration and trailing new supports you will find the combination of supports that work for you.
When we consider the functions of our autonomic system; fast heart rate, increased hormone release etc autonomic focused techniques support your system to not get to the point of fight and flight, therefore keeping you in a place of logical thought.
Preventing anxiety as caused by environmental stress is a much more manageable option than managing yourself during the fight, flight and freeze responses. By working through the strategies listed within the package and creating a plan for your day you will start to feel much calmer and in turn the anxiety associated with environmental stress will reduce.
There are many articles included in this package that act as a template for you to explore what works for you. Within the article ‘Self-care, Self-love, Sensory-care’ you will learn how to regulate your sensory system using a controlled breathing technique and how to maximise its calming response through using an anchoring technique. You will also learn about deep pressure therapy and the different proprioception exercises you can do to support your daily regulation.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and I welcome questions so please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to help,
Love to your sensory self,
Jess x x