I get so frustrated with how many ‘experts’ out there talk about stress - with so few practical solutions that actually work. They may have lots of theory but often there is a big gap between theory and what works in reality.
NOT controlling stress in life results in poor health, sadness, agitation, diseases and death. The cost is HUGE and sadly most people will only realise the effects of stress on their own life when it is already too late. Right now you have a choice - either be a statistic or wake up and be one of the very few people who will learn how to master the most valuable skill of the 21st century and be one of the very few people who is in control of their thinking and possess a calm mind and stronger more resilient body.
Ask yourself these questions...
- When you're stressed, are you aware that you are holding tension in your body, if so where?
- Does stress cause you to become irritable or more easily annoyed and agitated?
- Does your stress cause you any symptoms like headaches, back/neck pain or anxiety?
- Do you feel a constant feeling of being on edge?
- Do you notice how little things can trigger large reactions?
- Do you at times feel overwhelmed or disconnected?
- Do you feel that life would be much better if you had a whole lot less stress in your life?
- Do you feel that you have a high stress job / work environment ?
- Do you feel as if life is speeding up as you go?
If you answered yes to a few of these questions then keep reading this report. You are about to learn how to think about and see stress in a whole new way that will change your life - but only if you apply what you learn.
Which direction are you heading?
Drip, drip, drip. It’s almost midnight on one of the coldest and windiest nights of winter and just before you go to bed, you discover you have a tiny leak in the ceiling. You quickly grab an empty bucket and place it right underneath to catch the drip and very slowly drip by drip it begins to fill up. At first you are not concerned. You think it’s just a tiny problem because it’s just one single drip. I mean how big can the problem be? You go to sleep only to wake up 8 hours later with a small problem that has now snowballed. You guessed it, the bucket overflowed. The carpets are now damaged. It’s still raining, the local roof repair man is busy and can’t get to you until later in the evening. Even worse, you have to miss work and stay at home all day so you can empty out the bucket whenever it fills up. We often don’t think our stress has that much impact on our lives but every stressful event is like another drip in the bucket.
What happens when it overflows?
We are so busy dealing with our day to day challenges and worries, we very rarely take any time to think about what are the long term consequences of living in this stressed out state. To be honest, even if we were aware, what could we do to change it? It’s not like we can slow down, this will only make everything worse and increase the stress and anxiety you feel.
What is really scary is that stress is becoming a really, really, big problem. In fact stress has been called the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO estimates that 75-90% of all doctor visits are due to stress related complaints , and their Global Burden of Disease Survey calculates that mental disease, including stress-related disorders, will be the second leading cause of disabilities by the year 2020.
Researchers have also found that people dramatically increase their use of the health system during times of job insecurity (stress). For example, doctor visits increased by 150%; episodes of illness increased by 70%; visits to hospital outpatient departments increased by 160%.
Stress management and anxiety counselling really does have the power not only to improve your quality of life but it can SAVE your life.
The Mayo Clinic is a medical practice and medical research group that specialises in treating difficult cases. It is known for innovative and effective treatments and for being at the top of most accredited quality standard listings. The Clinic reported that psychological stress and anxiety is the strongest risk factor predictive of future cardiac events, including myocardial infarction and cardiac death, among individuals with existing coronary artery disease.
Did you know that women in New Zealand are seven times more likely to die from Cardio Vascular disease than from Breast cancer? However, and I find this very fascinating, there is so much more fear around breast cancer and far more money spent by the government on policies like breast screening campaigns. Unfortunately, there is far less we can actually do to stop or treat cancer compared to cardiovascular disease, which is largely preventable but still the Number One cause of death.
We are only now learning what the long term consequences of stress and anxiety actually are for our health and quality of life, but we already know more than enough to know that we need to make dealing with it a priority in our lives. Not only does stress affect us in many serious ways as mentioned above, it is also responsible for causing lots of common challenges, aches and pains.
As a society we are becoming more aware that stress and anxiety contributes to rising levels of serious conditions like depression, as well as what may appear on the surface as less important symptoms like headaches or back pain. But we often underestimate the importance of these symptoms. They might even be an indication of generalised anxiety disorder.
Your stress right now is taking your life in a direction even if you are unaware of it, and it’s probably going in the opposite direction to what you would like. It is affecting your health and your quality of life. But we think it’s ok, it’s only for today. If I just make this next deadline, or just keep going until I get the promotion, or soon I will get a holiday and very slowly, drip by drip, we fill the bucket. We think about the immediacy of today and tomorrow and say it’s just one drip in the bucket. But the bucket is filling.
The Problem with Common Sense when it comes to Stress
When we are feeling agitated, overwhelmed, irritated or just plain stressed, the common sense suggestions are not always actually that helpful. The biggest myth is that stress is caused by having lots on and that you should try and do less. We all know how older people seem to have a skill in doing that. They manage to fill up an entire day with a few small jobs. Yet if you were to ask them to do a few jobs to help you out, it would stress them out because they are already very busy. We also know the saying if you want something done, give it to a busy person.
One attribute that makes people more successful is an ability to do more work, not less, to be more productive and more efficient. We are growing or we are dying. We are designed to keep learning as least this is how the brain works best. You know the saying: if you don’t use it, you lose it. The brain likes learning new tasks that are of a higher complexity. To illustrate this, think of a kid learning to catch a ball, you slowly and carefully throw a big ball, perhaps a beach ball, and he catches it with two hands clumsily. But over time he/she gets more finely tuned and they grow into smaller balls that take a greater skill. By the time the kid is 10 he is catching with great skill, and with one hand, he can catch a ball thrown at great speeds. As he keeps growing he will develop amazing hand eye coordination.
However, few people keep developing their skills. Think of the difference between someone who continues to learn and someone who stops before they reach their potential. Think of the skill level of a wicket keeper. His mind is on high alert, he is focused. He most probably loves playing the game. But, I am assuming he would be very bored if he was still only at the level of playing with a beach ball. So we all have this neurologically hardwired desire to grow, adapt, and evolve into more complex behaviours. But few of us do. We get familiar with where we are at. We become comfortable or complacent. We don’t take the time and effort needed to get our skill to the next level and so we remain stuck at a lower point. Sometimes because learning was not fun as a kid, or perhaps we are afraid to fail.
Our ability to deal with situations that are currently making us stressed is like developing any other skill. If we don’t learn this new skill set then we will feel as if stress is something that happens to us. Only by learning this skill can you become empowered. Think about what new strategies, if any, you are using today for dealing with difficult situations or difficult people that you were not using last year. Or think about how you manage time differently today than last month. Most of us are not focused on growing our skill set, so we are stuck looking at our problems. Often stuck with the same perspective, and end up with the same problems for many many years. In itself this is stressful.
So someone comes along claiming to be an expert on stress management or depression treatment and suggests you to take some time off or to do less. Sure, this would be lovely. But when you get back to work, when you get back to your reality, you will have the same problems and so nothing would have changed. I never suggest people do less as a long term strategy, because if we all did this whenever we got stressed all we would have is lots and lots of retired like people in old age homes. While you have the energy to move around, to grow and adapt you would be wise to make the most of it.
A small challenge I have with a few of the common stress management tricks and techniques out there is that they focus on ‘managing’ stress. It covertly makes a presupposition that you will be stuck with stress and that you need a strategy for letting it go in the short term. Like weeding. You have to keep doing this over and over again. Now this can be useful in the short term. But it often keeps us at lower levels and not learning new skills, so we are not really going to actually grow or learn anything. The weeds will just keep coming back. If you have to take deep breaths to relax yourself, to calm yourself down because you have a fear about deadlines fast approaching, and you never deal with your time management issues, then you will be stuck in this pattern your whole life. So it’s not a strategy that will really help you. Doing this is like removing a symptom without first figuring out why the symptom is there in the first place. It’s like taking the battery out of the smoke alarm machine when it goes off, or just turning it off because the sound is irritating you without first knowing what caused this If there's a fire in my house I want to know about it. And if I can remove the weeds so they stop coming back, I’ll do it, because I just don’t like weeding. Although, granted, occasionally a weed will break through and it can be nice to know how to pull out one or two weeds when needed.
If you learn and grow today you will be in a better space in the near future. And if you are wanting to learn and grow from stress it’s helpful to first learn what it is, why do we have it and what is its purpose?
So what is stress?
Stress is the bodymind's response to fearful situations. The reason we say bodymind as one word, which is still quite an uncommon term, is that stress affects not only the mind like some people think, but also the body. And there is more and more evidence in support of the concept that the body and mind are in fact the same thing.
We humans are firstly a survival ‘machine’. From an evolutionary perspective this makes sense. We need to keep ourselves safe so we can survive and our species can carry on. We need to protect ourselves at an instant. So in the days of cavemen, we had to be able to run away from danger or fight to protect ourselves and because danger can approach us so quickly we have to be able to act in an instant . The house of this survival machine is the nervous system. The nervous system controls all other systems in the body. For example, if you want to lift your arm to pick up a rock, your brain sends a signal down your spinal cord out at the level of your neck through your shoulder and down to your arm muscles, where it sends the appropriate signals for chemicals to be released and muscles to contract and others relax. If you feel the need to go to the bathroom, a signal comes from the bladder up through the spine towards a part of the brain that registers this message. Our nervous system regulates and controls our hormones, emotions, digestive system, lungs, heart etc....in a word, everything.
Most of this control is unconscious, meaning we don’t have to think about how to breathe or have to control our heart beating; it’s just automatic, it happens all by itself. In fact, it is controlled by a part of the Nervous system called the ‘Autonomic Nervous system’. The Autonomic Nervous System has two parts, a Parasympathetic and Sympathetic division. These are two different collections of nerves that travel to the same body parts and have opposite functions. The sympathetic is more commonly known as the Fight or Flight response, or the stress response; while the Parasympathetic is known as the Rest and Digest. Just like a seesaw when one side is up, the other is down, when the stress response is active or the sympathetic nervous is being activated, the parasympathetic or part of the nervous system responsible for being relaxed is inactive.
Let’s say someone very threatening came at you with a knife and you decided that you were going to either fight or run away (hence, the- fight or flight response). You have a split second to act if you are to survive. In this split second the sympathetic nervous system takes over, it sends signals to the heart to pump faster for more blood to go to muscles for fighting. It also takes away the blood flow and redirects it from the digestion process. Adrenaline is pumped from the adrenal glands and dumped into the bloodstream and hundreds of processes take over, so that you can do what you need to do to make it more likely you will survive.
Stress is therefore a great response. It has a purpose. It is a built in survival response that is there to protect us. It is a fantastic short term response, but as soon as the stressful situation is no longer present the Parasympathetic division should take over and we should go back to a more relaxed state. If we are in an environment where we are continually stressed, we will not switch over and we will stay “on” stress mode. When we are stressed for prolonged periods of time, this begins to affect our ‘wiring’. Because the nervous system is plastic, meaning that it is responsive and adapts and changes when you continually have a certain experience (being stressed), it becomes easier to have this response again. Just like the first time you learn a new word, or hear someone's name, it may be hard to recall, but after a few repetitions it becomes easy. Or the first time you learn to play a chord on guitar it’s clumsy and awkward, yet after doing it many times it becomes effortless. Great when learning to play guitar, not so ideal when it’s activating a stress response.
So the more this stress response is activated the more it affects you and the easier it can be to activate. You become ‘hypersensitive’. This is where you become stressed very easily, and it can be the smallest things that interrupt your state and get you feeling stressed again. Many people feel that they are always on edge, as if they are always ‘on’. This is especially true if someone has grown up in a stressful or unsupported environment. Perhaps with high stress parents, violence or abuse. Few people realise that the stress of a pregnant mother will actually pass through and affect the unborn baby. This has an effect on the neurological development of the sympathetic nervous system of the unborn baby and will affect him/her for life. So simply put, if you have had lots of stressful situations or prolonged situations of stress, then you are more likely to become hypersensitive and have it impact on your life even more. I often use the analogy of ‘we are always walking around holding a glass of water, which can obviously hold only so much water before it will overflow’. Most people are walking around with their glasses already filled up quite high, some very high, and it only takes a few drops to spill over. Do you know anyone who always seems on edge, easily stressed? This is what is going on for them.
You may be thinking that there are not many situations in your life that have been that traumatic, serious or stressful, but what few people realise is that stress comes from a variety of sources. Some of them you will not even realise have been placing a stress on your life. And each of these different areas needs to be addressed differently. You can’t move forward until you become aware of where you are right now, and what your stressors are.
The three types of stress
The easiest way to break down the different stressors that we each experience is to put them into these three categories: Physical, Chemical and Emotional/Mental.
Physical stress consists of traumas, injuries, car crashes, broken bones and falls. A common area of physical stress that is widely recognised as affecting almost everyone is poor posture. But few people realise the degree of impact posture has on their general wellbeing and health. If you have bad posture and you’re at your desk for long periods, over time this places a large stress on your body. Poor posture has been shown to cause many challenges and symptoms like headaches, tingling in the arms, sleep disturbances, restricted lung capacity, low energy levels, back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, hip and knee pain and foot problems. It is also hard to dissipate tension if your posture is fixated and less flexible.
Another area that is often overlooked is the amount of physical stress that is placed on a new-born’s head and neck during the delivery process. Even in a natural birth the pressure exerted on the delicate structures in the neck can be tremendous. Often this goes undettected and can cause many troubles down the line for the child.
Chemical Stress consists of all the drugs you take. The medications you are prescribed, the alcohol you drink, or the smoke or second hand smoke you ingest. Our environment also can be very stressful if you're working with hazardous chemicals (pesticides, asbestos, heavy metals, acetones, radiation). Yet even on a smaller scale our city environment, can and will, place a stress on the body. For example, being in an air-conditioned room for long periods of time or being in the city with all those car fumes. A recent study took the blood of 10 new-born baby's umbilical cords and tested for chemicals, and found a staggering 217 neurotoxins in the umbilical cord.
Our diets can also get us into trouble and not just because of the alcohol we might drink. Diets too high in red meats, with far too much refined carbohydrates (such as carbonated drinks), too many coffees or just too much sugars, are all bad for us. Most of us are guilty here, and I suspect I am not telling you something you don't already know. You know the foods to avoid and which ones to eat. You are just probably not aware of the actual extent to which, a bad diet, can and does, contribute to your health challenges or how it causes stress in your body. But now, perhaps you will have a bit more motivation to stick with your healthier diet.
Cardiovascular diseases and deaths are largely preventable and mainly caused by poor diets and lifestyle choices. If you place enough stress on anything, eventually it will break. If you have a steel chain and place enough stress on it, it will snap. If you place too many things into the body that are not meant to go in there, eventually it will break down and function less effectively. Few people wish to be aware of this because it means they might need to change their diet; it’s hard and makes us feel uncomfortable, so we try to ignore it. We just allow our buckets to slowly fill up - drip by drip.
And last, but not least, we come to what is believed to be the biggest and most damaging of all three - Emotional/Mental stress. Work stress, relationships stress, financial stress, work life balance; these are what most people think about when they think about stress. So what goes on in our minds, and why is this most damaging? One key reason might be, because something that happened to you a long time ago, can and often does affect you, many years later. Every time you think about this traumatic experience you re-experience the stress of it on some level. I have had many clients who think about something that happened to them 30 or 50 years ago every single day; this means every single day on some level they are reliving this stress.
Today we are not being chased like the cavemen by woolly mammoths or any other animals that might want to make us their dinner, but we are feeling stressed, most of us believe more than ever before. Today the triggers are often thoughts like upcoming deadlines, or a meeting, or the fear of judgement from peers. We worry about not doing a good enough job, that we may fail and let down our partner, we often lose belief in our self and get stuck in a position we don't want to be in but can't get out of, so often we get stuck in a toxic relationship or environment because we don't know how to listen, adapt and grow. The emotional mental scars of the past often keep us in a stressed state.
The best news about emotional and mental stresses is that they are easy to work with and create a profound impact on your life when you do. Not only do you become less stressed in life, you resolve something that was on some level holding you back. It’s like finally having the brake fully released (which you may not even necessarily know it was on) and you can now move in the direction and speed you want to.
At the end of the day, regardless of which stress or the very complex combination of all three, they all affect you, whether you know it or not. and it’s all stored in your body. This last phrase needs connecting better.
Where the Body stores Stress
If you have ever been in a car crash, where before there was impact you knew you were going to crash you will know the feeling when, just before the impact you hold your body real tight. Poor sentence You tense up your whole body almost as if you are locking everything in its place. Next time you feel real stressed, notice how you are sitting, how you are breathing, and your posture.
When we are stressed we hold it in our bodies, mainly in and around the spine. This is the body’s very clever adaptive response. This is because, at the time of the event, it’s often overwhelming. We can only process consciously five to nine bits of information at once. Anymore and we become overwhelmed. Because we don’t have the ability to deal with the huge amount of information being processed during these very tense and stressful situations. There is just too much going on, so the body stores it away as tension, as a fuel for later. For when we are no longer in this fight or flight triggered response.
But the thing is, for most people, we very rarely get the ‘time’ or even if we do, we don’t know how to stop the stress response and release the tension from the body. Let’s use the example of a car crash again. In this kind of situation, we don’t have the ability consciously to deal with the sensory overload of information of what just happened, because our immediate concern is having to make sure everyone is ok and not seriously hurt. That’s first; then insurance, police reports, sort out the car, getting to the mechanic, and we now have to figure out how we are going to get around for the next few days. And, to make everything just that little bit worse, because of all this going on we realise we’ve missed an important meeting! There is a lot happening, let alone everything else that has been going on in our life. At that point, all our other worries, fears, issues, challenges, are still present.
Let’s say you were also struggling to pay your mortgage, you know the saying, when it rains it pours. Your financial hardship has not gone away, it might temporarily slip into the background or it could intensify this stress. So we store the ‘energy’ of the experience until it’s safe to deal with later. But later never really happens, because when we get home, we still have to look after our kids, and we still have our health issues to deal with. We might still have relationship stresses, or other life stresses . The stress may even have caused you to drink more or smoke to calm yourself down. So when is the time and place for peace, when is it safe for you to let go - next week, next month, during the end of year holiday? Because most people don't create the time or space to let go of the stress, the body just holds onto it until it is safe. And for those very few people who are lucky to have the time and space to let go, with no other stresses pressing, what can they do? How can they let go of this stress? Has anyone taught them what to do? Because it’s not taught in schools. If you look around you will see that very few people actually know how to do this.
Slowly layer upon layer we build and store more and more tension in our bodies. We feel some of it, a bit of tension. But most of it we are unaware of, because we are used to it, we very slowly accumulate and it’s always present. Have you ever sat in a room watching TV and someone comes along and flicks on the light. When you started watching TV it was daylight and you had no idea it was so dark outside. Because the change happened gradually and your focus was elsewhere it was not very noticeable. Some people think that they are totally fine, relaxed and are holding no tension. They say “I am not stressed, I never get stressed”, and that is because they have nothing else to compare it with. Their current level of tension is just ‘normal’ for them. I clearly remember working with a life coach as a client once, who was certain that she was not tense. I found this amusing because her shoulders were almost at ear level. She had no awareness of the tension she was holding onto. It amazed me that we can be so unaware of how much tension we are holding onto. And this is all because over time we gradually store more and more tension, but a little bit at a time, so it is very hard to notice.
I think living for most people is like walking around with a big empty backpack, and every time we are under a stressful situation it’s like adding some weight to it, like a piece of coal, with really big stressful events we are adding a very large heavy brick like chunk of coal to our already heavy load. Over time we keep adding to the backpack, so it’s getting heavier and heavier. Consequently, most people walk around burdened by life, struggling with the heavy weight. Perhaps they even blame others for the weight they have to carry or they simply don’t realise that they can actually take out the coal from their backpack and let go of it.
We just keep adding to the backpack not knowing we are doing this; oblivious to the consequences. Often someone will come in to the office and say I just bent down to pick up a pen from the ground and out of nowhere my back just went on me, I heard a cracking noise and heaps of pain. That action of bending down was just the last straw breaking the camel's back, or just the last drip causing the bucket to overflow.
When there is all too much tension, how does your body let you know?
Because we only have a limited capacity to deal with stress when we begin to approach the point just before we cause ourselves damage, the body has to find us a way to let us know that we have too much stress stored up in our bodies, mind and life. We are in the danger zone. As a result, it sends us a message, a sign, and this is in the form of a symptom.
Our message or symptom usually starts off quite subtly for most people and gradually intensifies if we don’t listen. And by listen I mean pay attention and actually do something about it. First a whisper, and if we don't act, if we ignore it for long enough, it will become a shout then a scream.
It may start as an uneasy feeling, perhaps being irritable or annoyed and flustered, Or for some it might manifest as physical tension around the shoulders, maybe intensify or move into a back or neck pain. Over time you may develop headaches. This process can be quick or take years. The longer we leave it, or ignore the symptom, the worse everything becomes as we continually add stress.
Some people know that their symptoms are stress related, but many people are far less aware. They just know they get headaches occasionally and are not sure why. So they buy the drugs to remove the symptom, and if they are lucky, it goes away. But because they did not really deal with the cause (the drugs don’t take the stress away), it just keeps coming back. They believe they are just someone who is unlucky and gets headaches. They think there is nothing they can do, so they take stronger and stronger pills over the years. Not an ideal approach. Sometimes they seek alternative healers who help, but, in a similar way, the results are temporary. They have to go back continually because once again they are not dealing with the cause.
My assumption is that if you are reading this report then you are aware that stress is having a negative impact upon your life. For some people the body lets them know they are at that danger point with physical symptoms like headaches, neck aches, and backaches, while, for others, it’s more of an emotional or mental signal, like feelings of being irritable, or a lack of concentration. These days more and more commonly the symptoms that appear are Anxiety and Depression. Often if the person is still not responding, they will get warning signs in both body and mind. It is not uncommon to have people who are depressed and in pain, or anxious with headaches and backaches. Often these people frequently seek help, but sadly, the cause is never addressed. We as a society are addicted to quick fixes for removing the problem. But often, all we are doing is removing the message - the symptom - not the cause. So, if you are lucky enough to be aware that your symptom is caused by stress you can seek help and get to the cause.
The Big challenge that most people face when seeking help
Let’s say you were unlucky enough to not realise that your headaches were caused by stress. It had got to the point where you decided you needed to take action and ask for help. So you looked at your options, which could help you. You decided you would go to a few people, and ask for their opinion. This is what a lot of specialists would likely say after they all perform their consultation with you. The Acupuncturist would tell you that you had an energy blockage. The Physiotherapist would tell you that you had tight neck muscles in spasm. The Chiropractor would show you the joint that is out of proper alignment and The Medical Doctor would prescribe some drug. So who is correct?
They are all right, from their own perspective and they all might have great results, but they are short term ones. What I would want to know, is why the joint is out of correct alignment? And why is the muscle in spasm, and what has caused the energy to become blocked? It’s not the ‘things’ these experts are telling you. It is in fact your response to something happening in your life. It is your body failing to adapt to the stresses you are placing it under.
People go to their healers for years for help, and some are satisfied with these temporary results. This is because they believe this is the best option for them.
Symptoms are the body’s way of telling us that something needs to change. However, most healers set out to rid the body of the symptoms. It’s like a king killing the messenger before he has had the chance to give his message, and the reason the king does this, is because he does not like the idea of receiving bad news. Unfortunately, often seeking help or taking pills is our way of unfortunately killing the messenger far too early.
Another challenge is that most doctors, healers, helpers, and techniques out there, are focused on either just bodywork, or just the mind. This means that you can work on your mind, by visiting a coach, counsellor or psychologist and you can try and resolve your stress by talking and gaining insight. This can be valuable. However, often the insight that you gain is not integrated into your life, so you know about what you ‘should’ be doing, but nothing changes.
The other approach is that people seek out body work; this could be chiropractic, acupuncture, osteopathy, yoga pilates or breath work. Once again, the shift can be huge, but often people don’t have any insight into why things have shifted for them, and without the why, often the old patterns emerge; especially when once again they are placed under stress.
Since we are both body and mind, and both sides are equally important, and because stress affects our thinking, our feelings and our physiology (the functioning of our bodies), we need an approach that will work with both body and mind at the level of the nervous system. Why?, because at the end of the day stress is a response to fearful situations and has its effect on us through our nervous system. So anything that has long lasting results will need to work with both the body and mind. The more directly you deal with the nervous system, the faster and more transformational the results will be.
One great example here of working with both the body and mind is meditation. Meditation has been shown to get great results with stress management. One of the biggest challenges here is that it takes a long time to see sustainable results; sometimes years. And very few people have the time needed to meditate for up to an hour a day. Another challenge I have observed is that many people who really need to meditate are so ‘stressed’ that when they try to do so, their mind races around like crazy and they just sit there holding themselves in. Ironically, their tension is just recreating the pattern that they are trying to get away from.
What do we do, and how do we move forward?
Before you can move forward, you first have to make a decision about what you want to achieve.
You may of came into this report just wanting a technique or two to reduce stress, but now realise that this is only, at best, a short term strategy. So you have to ask yourself, do I want a short term strategy or do I want long term sustainable solution. In a nutshell, you have to decide if you want to get to the cause. If so, you need to do this by working with both the body and mind at the same time. And if you want lasting results you need to work through the nervous system.
If you want more for your life, if you want to grow and develop your skills and grow just like our brains are designed to be used then read on and I will explain to you the approach which I use with my clients to get outstanding results. I will also suggest what you can start doing and thinking, so you too can get amazing results and live life less stressed.
My objective with working with clients is to help them get from A to B as quickly as possible. If you were to come in for a session I would sit with you and together we would discover what are the major negative stress patterns that you are playing out in both your mind and your body. This is a great process because we get clear about what has got you to this point. I will be looking at your thinking patterns that are causing you stress and pain and at the same time look into how your body is storing the stress; particularly the negative patterns of tension the body is holding/storing And I will be looking at what your nervous system is doing and how it is responding to the stress you have placed it under.
Then we help you become clear about what B looks like, so we can help you get there as quickly as possible.
After we have gained some insight, we then move onto working with teaching your nervous system how to let go of the stored tension. If you remember back to the analogy of how we walk around with big overloaded packs on our backs.You are about to have your first experience of grabbing some weight out of your backpack and putting it down on the ground and letting it go. The feeling you will get from this is a great experience. Indeed, for some people this is a subtle process, yet almost always it seems to be profound.
At the end of the first session people often walk out feeling light, and free, and they often describe their mind as blank and calm - often for many people the first time in a very long time. So much has happened, and it’s clear we have just started an exciting journey together.
Most people seem to realise that we are quite complex in the way we manage to tangle ourselves up with our own thinking. Our bodies are also often in patterns of going into defense quite easily because of a life of being stressed so many times or for long durations. So we have to teach the body to become aware of this and teach you how to become self-aware and self-correct so it does not revert into these old negative patterns.
Before I tell you about how I Help people with stress I want to share with you my story.
I was in chiropractic college and very surprised to find my asthma started to disappear. After so many years of trying many different things, a variety of different drugs, breathing techniques, meditation, chi kung and the list goes on but nothing ever worked. All of a sudden my asthma was going with chiropractic care. At that time it was only a temporary release, until I started having a form of chiropractic called Network Spinal Analysis. As time went on, I noticed that asthma was no longer an issue in my life and even better I realised how much I had been experiencing my world from a stressed out reactive defensive way. Because of NSA I was now loving living life in a new, freer way. It was like I got a new lease on life. Everything became brighter, but more importantly to me, my goals all of a sudden became more achievable. I was less scared to be myself. I was not completely aware of why this all happened, until years later.
Naturally, because care had made such a big impact on my life I decided early on to specialse and learn to master this technique too to help others in a similar way.
A few years later I graduated from chiropractic college and attended many many seminars overseas to learn this new technique. I started my own private Clinic from scratch. It is a very odd thing when you first go into practice, because you don’t know if your good, great or terrible.
I was told at school that “healing takes time”, but I also knew of stories of people making great progress quickly. My fear was how would I be able to know if someone was just taking a little bit longer to get results or just not responding to care. I had heard stories of people going to ‘healers’ for years and still not getting the results they were after. I would hate that, people coming to me and not getting results. I guess you could say I am impatient and want my clients to get results quickly.
I knew peoples expectations were high of me, they trusted me with their time and money. And I came across a few people with unrealistic expectations, even though they may have been in pain for decades (with nothing ever helping so far) they expected me to be able to help them in a couple of sessions. Not wanting to disappoint, I did my absolute best to help them as quick as I could and so I branched out of the norm. I dug deeper in a way that few people do. I went outside the box and discovered something very powerful.
I believed that getting great results would grow my practice, and I wanted a big practice where I could know that I was helping hundreds of people. So I focused not on marketing (like most new graduates) but on developing my skills.
My practice was in its early stages and so I had extra time to work with people, and so rather than seeing someone in 5 - or 15 min (the industry standard) I would spend as long as I needed to to get a better and faster result. Often spending an hour with a client. Always exploring new ways of working with clients. In my first three years of practice I learnt more than what I believe most people do in decades or in their entire careers, and the reason I say this, is that I have seen many practitioners who are doing the exact same thing 30 years later in practice is what they did in their first year, which is what they wree taught at school.
In my first year I understood some really profound concept that very few people know. I learnt that by removing someones symptom on a physical level only, the majority of the time the results were at best temporary. I also learnt that most practitioners have no problem with this because it means repeat business over the years.
I also became painfully aware that one person with one symptom could go to a variety of different ‘healers’ and depending on who they went to, they would end up believing a different ‘story’ about why they were in pain, a chiropractor would talk about the bones being out of proper alignment perhaps from a childhood fall, the physio would talk about muscle imbalances, the acupuncturist would talk about an energy blockage and on and on. Each of these ‘healers’ would get great results and have amazing success stories, but most of them had the same phenomenon of pain that would come back - or manifest again as something else, often seemingly completely different.
But the biggest concept that I really began to understand and see was that - almost all of our pains in life come from our stress, and most people are unaware of this fact. The few who are aware are generally unwilling to admit this or do anything about it.
I wanted to grow my business and thought the best way to do this was to obviously create amazing results for my clients. So I helped my clients become aware of what the symptom was about in their life, why it was there, and what was its meaning. And in almost every situation when we uncovered the pain, it was connected with a life stress, and their bodies inability to deal with it effectively. We brought what was outside their awareness to their awareness and they would connect the dots and then two very interestingly things would happen. One is that the pain would resolve itself and two, because they learnt what was really going on, their level of day to day happiness went through the roof, they were so much happier in life.
Stress will get to the point where it will cause you either physical, emotional or mental pain, if you remove the pain but don’t first address the stress, you are only temporarily fooling yourself. You must listen to the stress, what is really going on in life and grow because of it and your life will open up in a powerful and rewarding way. This will give you not only lasting results, free from the pain but will take you towards a life of increased well being.
So how do we work with both body and mind through the nervous system?
Unfortunately, the answer is very complex and involves an understanding of neurology, anatomy, surface EMG, mathematical modelling and I don’t think anyone really wants to read it. So I will explain it more in terms of your experience.
Unfortunately, the answer is very complex and involves an understanding of neurology, anatomy, surface EMG, mathematical modelling and I don’t think anyone really wants to read it. So I will explain it more in terms of your experience.
SoHere goes: there are five major patterns that we work with helping you create powerful new healthy strategies to replace the limited restricted patterns we all find ourselves in when we are under stress. We call these “the five stress phases”. Each of these phases is associated with a different tension pattern in the body and a different thought process. We all experience all of these patterns to a certain extent. Often one more than others. Which is your dominant tension pattern or phase?
The five stress phases.
Phase 1) Occurs when we are focusing on the pain of the past; remembering what was painful or traumatic, being reminded of how you got hurt or thinking about what went wrong in the past.
Did you know with the challenges that we face today, the way we respond to stress is largely shaped by our experiences as a child. If you think about it, lots of us are still holding onto limiting beliefs (“I am a slow learner”, “I am not good at public speaking”,) about ourselves, even though we are now adults. We have changed, but we are still living in a restricted way because we are anchored into the pain and perspectives of the past.
When the body is anchored with this pattern and its dominant we will find it very hard to learn new things, or to make great amounts of progress, even though we try, often very hard. Your experience is that you find yourself just slipping back into the old, sometimes destructive ways of doing things. So you may read heaps of books, but don’t make the changes, because the old patterns are too strong. Some people call this self-sabotage, but it’s not just a mental thing. As you can see now it’s the body being anchored into the past and what was painful about it. When we help people break through this pattern the past no longer controls them, so imagine what begins to open up. People begin to try new things and feel safer to explore more than they have ever done before. When they learn something new it sticks. They get to create new beliefs about themselves that are more accurate and are more supportive. Since now it’s easier to learn (because we are not anchored into the old). When we are placed under stress we learn and adapt to it, and grow to a point where it no longer affects us. This is very powerful.
Phase 2) Fear of the future, events or confrontations. Your mind focuses on something about the upcoming future that you do not like or something that will hurt or will make you feel uncomfortable. There are two factors here that will assess how much stress this ‘predicted’ event will cause. One is that the closer to the event the more stressful it will be. For example, if you don’t like doing public speeches or presentations and you have to do one in front of everyone in your office, having to do this in two hours time will affect you differently compared to if you had to do this in two months time. If ‘youre on’ in a couple of hours you would be really feeling uncomfortable, nervous, unsettled, maybe with butterflies in your stomach. The other predictor that intensifies the stress is how undesirable or potentially painful the event will be. Given the brain is hardwired to avoid pain, if you expect an event to be really painful, you will really do your best to avoid this situation. But often the event is unavoidable. Let’s say your boss has made it mandatory for you to do this presentation, but your biology doesn’t know this, so it does it’s best to help you avoid pain. As a result, you have this strong pulling away and an uncomfortable feeling inevitably follows on.
There is a part of the brain called the limbic system that alerts you, so if a past experience has been painful, it will be on ‘lookout’ for similar situations to avoid you hurting yourself again. But when the body is anchored into this phase 2 stress pattern we are often overly sensitive to what could go wrong, and we are therefore less likely to step out of our comfort zone. We become scared to fail and scared to try. Resulting in us staying stuck.
Do you ever worry about what is happening in the future, or play out an argument in your head that you ‘think’ you are going to have with someone? This is you experiencing this stress pattern.
When we break this pattern we learn how to be more trusting and to believe in ourselves that we can in fact do more than we have been allowing ourselves. Think about some of the great people of our time and what they have managed to achieve. The reason they achieve great things is that they have a great vision. But they would never have moved forward if their future focus was in pain. They have a strong sense of trust that they will make great things happen. They trust in themselves, they trust that they will be fine; they know that they will learn and grow and they know there is no such thing as failure. From this viewpoint everything is just feedback for growth and knowing that you will adapt and grow for the better. As you find this new strategy in your body you will find yourself doing things you never before would have imagined you could do. I can speak from experience too. I found myself giving stand-up comedy a go because I liked the idea of the challenge. But when I was a kid, I would avoid answering the phone if I did not have to because I found it uncomfortable; it was outside my comfort zone. Letting go of the stress patterns has been very freeing for me.
Phase 3) Conformity of your Identity. All the “shoulds” in life, all the ways you should act, what you should think, how you should ‘be’ around certain people. It’s also who you are as a ________ (just fill in your list, your labels) e.g. a mum, wife, daughter, as a boss or an employee, as a co-worker, friend, neighbour, or even as a good person... and the list goes on.
The mind spends so much effort restricting our actions in order to avoid doing the wrong thing. Because doing the wrong thing is painful. It begins when we are kids, we learn to do things well and we get rewarded, and we get told off for being naughty. We learn we have to do things a certain way or be a particular person to get love or attention. Lots of us grow up, still trying to please everyone. Many adults are still trying and struggling to get approval of their parents. We often don’t want to step out of our peer group’s expectations, because we know we will be judged. Even wearing the wrong types of clothes could get us criticised. And remember our brain is hardwired to avoid pain. We have this need to conform our whole life and it is coming from so many different angles. In essence, we conform so we can get love, and at times we restrict ourselves because we are scared to express ourselves completely. Why? Because doing so might lead to us to being judged. Being ostracized is one of the most painful things out there, so we will conform and often deny a part of ourselves. Often we did this from a young age. It’s very common at teenage years, and often never fully leaves us.
In New Zealand we have a very strong Tall Poppy syndrome. Just by being successful, by standing out, you can, and likely will, come across some type of outside pressure to pull you down. This is phase 3, the more you are anchored into this pattern, the more it will affect you and the less likely you will allow your talents to emerge. Unless of course you are in a group of successful people who encourage this.
When we help people with this stress pattern that is anchored into the body people notice that they begin to be more confident being themselves. We learn to value ourselves more, and find that we are, indeed, all unique and that we each have our own gifts to share with the world. We begin to express ourselves more freely, and become less inhibited, and, as a result, we have more fun and are often more spontaneous. Did you know there is an inverse correlation between the need for certainty and quality of life? Meaning if you can have more spontaneity in your life you will have a higher quality of life. As you become less affected by this stress you will notice more and more that you are expressing yourself more the way that you want to because you are free to do so. The nervous system no longer needs to protect you - because there is less to fear. You will therefore naturally express more courage, just like me getting up on stage to do my stand up show).
Phase 4) Being caught up in your head. Agonising over making the right decisions, thinking around and around all the possibilities, getting lost in circular thinking. Perhaps being in your bed, awake for most the night, mulling over an idea or something that happened that day. Planning and replanning. You’re caught up thinking will it be right, will it be good enough? Always looking at problems from the same perspective and having the same challenges continually, over and over again. All of this is you being caught up in your head. Once again, it is a defensive reaction, a protection response. Without us being aware of it consciously, we are afraid to make the wrong decision that will result, once again, in pain. So we go back to the drawing board, before we even left it Lots of us are like architects who keep pondering over the plans, tweaking, and changing, never satisfied, never finished, and never quite ready. This is just to keep us from failing. So we think about taking action rather than actually doing anything.
This pattern keeps us locked into playing it safe, and it also keeps us doing things that don’t work for us. It is very tiring and energy draining being consumed by your thinking and not making any progress in life. As we help people free themselves from this defensive pattern people they will discover that they can in fact do stuff, that they can take action, make mistakes and learn from it. Just like a child learns to walk, by making thousands of mistakes and making constant corrections and is threfore constantly learning from the porcess and not concerned with over thinking.
We become more driven from our passions, from our heart. We make decisions more from our intuition because now we are in a place to actually listen and respond to our intuition. Passion is the energy that we use to take action and do things. We act, observe ourselves modify and adapt and continue to adjust, and we enjoy the journey. We are not so consumed with making the right or wrong decision, because we are loving being and doing.
They say the longest journey is from your head to your heart. But it only takes a long time when we are stuck in our defensive patterns. Imagine how free you would be if you knew that by moving towards one of your goals, you could do no wrong.
When this tension pattern is no longer affecting us, we feel compelled to act and take action for different reasons. So rather than when we were stuck in a defensive pattern of trying to protect ourselves by not taking any action we begin to access our inspiration and take action - because of a burning desire and passion to do so.
Phase 5) Lack, This is when you feel that there is not enough time, not enough money, not enough help, not enough health, not enough happiness, not enough sleep, not enough energy, not enough… whatever. When we feel that we are in lack or whenever we feel limited we wish for more. Have you ever thought if I only had more ‘x’ in my life, then right now everything would be so much better.
Our focus is often on the external, on the things we don’t have. What is upsetting to us and actually more painful is that it’s not what it seems; it’s not an external thing. In fact, it is an internal thing. It’s about our own skill set and our resourcefulness. We look at our current situation and we just don’t know what to do to get help, or how we can raise the funds, or what to do to earn more, or how we can manage time more efficiently. Of course, this is often too painful so we focus on the external and choose to feel unlucky. Or we create some story about how we are not supposed to have something, or that we don’t deserve it.
When we remove the phase five stress anchor, we start to look within and rely on our own resources. We realise that if we want something, anything that we want and don’t have, we are going to have to do it ourselves. Nobody really cares if you choose to have or not have. The world will carry on as normal if you have a job or if you don’t. If you become rich or if you decide to walk the streets. Only you can take your life in the direction that you want it to go. By the way, the more that you wish for others to take care of you, or to help you out, or to look after you, the more you are stuck in this pattern. As soon as you are not bound by this, you start doing more and realise that you are capable of more than you have been doing. You’re previous limitations that you set about yourself were in fact just illusions. As a result you become more resourceful, which also means you will become more creative too. You also realise there are many paths to get to the same place. You see more than one way of getting to a point where before you saw none. Now, doors all of a sudden begin to open for you. The more you look the more you seem to find. This is why lots of people who are curious to see how far they can run, end up running longer and longer races, often finding they have more than they once thought possible and so they push further. They start as a fun run, then soon move onto a marathon, and then an Ironman. This concept of continuing to expand and go further to find greater resources scares most people, since they are locked in defence. But the people who do it, who dig in to find out what they have, are rewarded. Most of us will never begin to dig when we are anchored into defensive patterns, and that’s why it’s so important to remove them.
It may seem like there is way too much
It may seem like there is far too much to let go of and release. Coping with a life full of stress and defending ourselves, and keeping ourselves safe. But what's surprising is that people notice how when their body is no longer anchored into a stressed response, they begin creating less pain for themselves with their thinking. And they very quickly notice a greater clarity and increased sense of peace in life. They also gain far more resiliency and when they are stressed, if they do get stressed, it’s shorter lived. This is because the nervous system is less ‘plugged into’ this stressed response.
When stressed, the part of our brain that is more active is the reactive part. We react, based on survival and reflexes. Often this means we will do what we have always done, even if it does not support us. When we are no longer activating our stress response, a different part of the brain is being stimulated and this results in you becoming more proactive. You become more trusting and open. When our clients feel this, they notice a deeper connection to themselves and to others. They also notice they can more easily create change and stick to it.
Each session we work with one phase that is present. We work with one stress pattern and help the body release this. By doing this we are lowering the sympathetic tone, turning it off, if you will. And at the same time, creating a new automatic response, so we can be less affected in the future. One of the reasons that I love working with the nervous system is that it remembers. You know the saying, you never forget how to ride a bike? Well because you have this awareness and experience in the body, it becomes like a ‘muscle memory’ just like riding the bike, and you will have this new skill forever. In every session you learn a little bit more effectively how to do it and your body becomes more successful at relieving stress, by becoming more resilient.
Do you know how much energy you are wasting each day? Do you know how much energy it takes to hold yourself in defense? How much energy it takes to hold onto tension and keep it there? Hold your hand in a tight fist for a few minutes and when it starts to ache you will get an idea of how much energy you are using up and that is just by holding your fist. Think about how much energy it takes to hold your whole body in defense, holding your spine in this locked up defensive pattern takes a lot of energy. No wonder most people have a lack of energy. We hold onto tension. Even when we are sleeping we are locked into this holding pattern of defense. It almost becomes obvious why so many people have sleeping challenges.
Now if you did not have to use this energy all of a sudden you would find more energy to do what you want with it. This is a great experience, because it means you start having more life. It’s not that you have more time, it is using the time you do have to do more with it. Have you noticed when you feel great you seem to be more productive and you’re in a flow state?
So how do I actually do this?
The technique that I use to release the stress and tension in the body, and teach it new patterns, is called Network Spinal Analysis (NSA). It is only taught at a postgraduate level to Doctors of Chiropractic. Believe it or not chiropractic was never initially about back and neck pain; it was not about manipulation, but about helping people have the maximum expression of life.
If you come to watch me work at or see me at one of my demonstration evenings, or come along for a session yourself, you will notice that there is no manipulation, no cracking or popping of the joints. Instead we use a very precise and gentle series of contacts on the spine to help the brain engage with the tension pattern, and then the body engages, it moves around a little bit, stretching and moving in a way to connect to the tension and then release it.
Often accompanied by a change in breathing: slower, deeper, and more relaxed. The experience on the table is very different for most people as they feel a very deep sense of relaxation, often with powerful awareness's that pop into your mind. When we get off the table people seem to notice they hold themselves differently, lighter, easier to sit up, so they are taller. Their mind is much clearer, often blank, and there is less pain if they had any to begin with. They have more flexibility and ease in the body, and they often have a smile on their face. Because, although they can’t quite explain what just happened, they know something has, and they like it.
One of my gifts or talents is that when I am working with people, I am very good at helping them become aware of the patterns that are outside of their awareness that are causing them pain and then knowing which strategy to use to replace it. So during the sessions, if appropriate for you and when the timing is right, we might have a quick chat about something that has been blocking you. These conversations I am very glad to say have changed many people’s lives in really profound ways. These conversations inspired me to write my book “Wellness Words, how to think speak and feel great”, which also is really helping people understand how they are moving towards or away from wellness, and offering heaps of tools to help move people in the direction they want to go. I am glad to say the book is changing people’s lives too.
Combining the two together, body and mind, and working with the nervous system so it becomes “built in” and lasting, creates a powerful, positive life changing experience that improves two things -probably the most important things - your health and your quality of life.
You probably did not realise this, but your spine and nervous system is the gateway into a healthy more relaxed stress free way of life.
So what’s your next step?
Come in for a free personalised, private 20 minute consultation on me, and we will determine if your pain is in fact caused by stress and if you are likely to respond well to care before you commit to any treatment program.
A final thought to think about:
You know right now where you are at; if you are honest with yourself you know lots about how you respond to stress. You probably resonated with lots of the material in this report if you are stressed and have been for a long time. Whether you have had a history of lots of stress and trauma or you’re just pretty confident that your pain or anxiety is caused by stress and you want to check it out, make sure you do something today.
Why do I say this? Because one of the biggest blocks I see in most people, is they put things off. They say they will start tomorrow. Or start soon. If you are saying tomorrow or soon there is far less chance that you will actually do anything. And then you will be in the same place in a few months and a few years, maybe worse.
Imagine you’re standing in a fork in the road. You take one path, the path of thinking about doing something about stress, but not actually doing anything This is what most people actually do – choose the easy road. Imagine where your life will be one week from now, one month from now, one year from now, five years from now. Imagine what happens as a result of not making the change you know in your heart will be best for you.
Now imagine you are standing at the fork in the road again but this time travel down the other path. You did what very few people will do, you took action. You decided you will be open minded and explore. Imagine what will open up for you in one week’s time, in one month, in one year, and in five years. A small shift over time creates the biggest changes. How will your life be in five years’ time if your body is not anchoring you into defensive patterns. If for years, you had had more energy because you were not wasting it holding up your heavy shield when it was not even necessary. If you were walking around with a backpack that was very light because it was empty of all your coal or even better that you turned that coal into diamonds.
One of the challenges about my job is I seem to care too much about my clients, I find myself caring often more about people’s success and happiness than they do. So if you're reading this I really want you to take the path and learn and grow and start today because I know where you will be five years from now. Seeing and helping people make this transition is what makes my life fulfilling.
“Opportunities multiply as they are seized” Sun Tzu
Right now you are presented with an opportunity to make a huge change in your life, for your health and your well-being. This will not only impact on you, but also your family and everyone who you are close to. My clients always share with me how they notice how they begin to make much more impact on people’s lives around them. When you take this opportunity to improve your life you will also notice this more and more. And very soon you will find your life on an upwards spiral. If this is what you want, call me right now to book in your consultation 021 88 19 37. AND, if I am busy, please leave a message, I will call you back.
About Dr Dov Phillips
I am a Dad (two and a half year old son – Noah) and a husband (wife Joy).
Author - “Wellness Words, how to think speak and feel great”
Owner of Inspiring Wellness
I am a very fun, light hearted person. I love comedy, I am in an improv theatre group that performs in the comedy festival and have done stand-up comedy a few times. I am planning to combine a lecture on well-being with comedy. I have been working on this for a few years now.
I love meeting new people; I think we are all so fascinating.
I love the way our minds work.
I love helping people find wellness after years of struggling.
I love helping someone who has been in pain for years walk out completely differently.
I love helping people tap into more of their true potential.
Why did I start Inspiring Wellness? - I love the idea of doing something which appears so small and, yet, having it result in profound life changing results.
Many times my clients and friends have come up to me and said “Your work must be so rewarding” I always nod and say yes it is.
I am very grateful that I have found something I love to do and seem to be great at it to.
If you need someone to help you, if you’re living in pain, or you have too much stress affecting your life, give me a call. Let me help you transform your life. 021 88 19 37
About Inspiring Wellness
A wellness clinic in the heart of Auckland city. A little sanctuary of wellness in the busy stressful streets of Auckland city. A place to come to let go, to grow, to expand, to learn to be the happiest you, you can be.
If you want someone to help with your pain and or stress in life, then Inspiring Wellness centre is the very best place to be. Especially if you are aware that your pain is caused or made worse by stress.
We help you replace negative patterns that are causing your stress and pain in your body/mind with newer healthier strategies for stress and pain free living.
About My book “Wellness Words - how to think speak and feel great”
This book will have a direct impact on the quality of your life. The happiest people in the world speak, think and say things differently to those who are sad, depressed, anxious, stressed and angry. By becoming aware of what you say and how you say it, you empower yourself to speak, act, feel and think exactly the way you want. Wellness Words give you the tools to create powerful, lasting change. It also gives you the ability to help those around you become happy and well.
Seminars and workshops.
- Choosing happiness because being depressed sucks Anxiety be gone, hello freedom
- Why my symptoms keep coming back over and over and over again?
- More energy? – Yes, Please
- Sleep well - Wake up feeling great
- Stand up tall - because your time is now
- Go through the wound to find your gift
- Somato Respiratory Integration workshops (1-12)
- Come and watch the magic take place - Inspiring Wellness Demonstration evening
- The Wellness Shift - talking about my next book and how to create lasting change.