There is a growing interest in holistic medicine and stress management among today’s western culture. We are starting to discover the benefits of preventative healthcare and the ingredients for well-being which can help us to feel healthier and happier for longer. Well-being is a tricky concept to understand – it is our perception of this moment through our body and mind which is influenced by our past memories, experiences, beliefs and connections. There are lots of things that you have probably heard that can increase your well-being – a healthy diet, exercise, adequate water intake, vitamin B, omega 3’s and enough fatty acids can all help to nourish our bodies and minds. What it is generally not yet considered is how something like unresolved injuries or persistent pain can affect our levels of day to day stress and therefore well-being, holding us back from perceiving life with joy. This field of science is known as ‘interpersonal neurobiology’ and has been extensively researched by UCLA’s clinical professor of psychiatry Dan Seigel. Through interpersonal neurobiology, we can begin to understand the many facets of life that may be impeding our healing and transformative process, helping us grow in the direction we desire rather than being tormented by fears and anxieties.
Hopefully you’ve been prompted to consider the stressors in your life – stress seems to be a growing epidemic in the western world spurred on through our connection to a digital world which has resulted in a disconnection to the material world. It’s important to understand that stress is a normal and natural part of evolution; it has kept us alive in the face of predators up to now. The difference today is that instead of dealing with physical stress (a tiger) it is now generally psychological (late for work) or bodily stress (that foot that keeps bugging you). As our brain and body have not been able to adapt up with the relatively fast transition to today’s culture with sitting, fast food and psychological stressors, we essentially have a primitive neurobiological system in a modern world.
Harmful stress levels have the potential to form a negative feedback loop between the body and mind through our good friend cortisol. We can thank cortisol for some of the best times in our lives, the rush of adrenaline you get when you’re about to score a goal or the extra boost you need to get you through the end of your work day. This stress response – typically triggered from the limbic system – will send us into a sympathetic fight, flight, freeze or faint response. This can unfortunately lead to unwanted fears which can then feed back into the limbic system causing a negative feedback loop. These feedback loops can perpetuate and send us into ‘chronic stress’ leading to a dysregulated nervous system which can be seriously detrimental to our systems of living.
We have the potential to regulate our nervous system through practice of movement. One simple example is yoga – a combination of flexion (parasympathetic) and extension (sympathetic) postures can help to regulate the nervous system by opening it to change on the yoga mat. Interbody awareness has been shown to have carried over effects into well-being and compassion and can help us regulate ourselves in times of turmoil. Like any skill, the more it is practiced the easier it gets, improving our resilience when things don’t quite go our way. As we are all unique and different, specific release and neuromuscular retraining that is individual to you is the most effective way to result in permanent change and break the loop. If we can start to look outside isolated approaches to healing and look at ourselves with reverence we can shift our reality. Challenge your beliefs and start to look outside your limitations through self-discovery and self-realization. Learn more about integrative physiotherapy.