Have you ever seen a cat taken by surprise by an over exuberant dog or toddler? They arch their back, poof out their fur and hiss. However, once the threat is gone, they give their body a shake and then, within a few minutes, they’re sitting quietly grooming themselves. Within half an hour, they’re curled up napping in their favorite spot.
Do you think later that night, or 6 months or 5 years later, the cat is lying awake thinking about the dog/toddler incident? Of course not! They experienced the stress, processed it and let it go. We humans, on the other hand, are quite skilled at hanging onto stress for days, weeks, months, even years after the stressful incident has passed. We tend to hold onto stress, not only in our minds but also, quite literally, in our bodies.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE) looked at the medical histories of over 17,000 adults and found “direct correlations between unresolved childhood emotional trauma and several physical conditions” including “heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, bone fractures, depression and drug use.” A study that was released in March, 2019, found that adolescents with spinal pain have higher levels of stress, depression, loneliness and a lower level of acceptance by their peers. Spinal pain in adolescence is strongly associated with spinal pain in adulthood.
The problem? We tend to use our body as a stress storage facility. We hang onto mental and emotional stress and don’t actually process it – not because we can’t, but mostly because we don’t know how to process the stress effectively and let it go. (Did any of us ever have the option of taking a “How to Process Your Emotions in a Healthy Way” course in high school or university?) Plus, most people don’t want to revisit painful memories or they feel uncomfortable addressing their emotions. As the research indicates, this unresolved stress literally gets stored in our body. It can then go on to manifest into a wide variety of diseases and physical pain. The good news is that I’m going to share with you two techniques that researchers have shown to be extremely effective in processing and releasing emotional baggage. (These are techniques I’ve used myself for years! They work!) It’s time to clear out the stress you’ve been storing in your body so you can be a happier, healthier you!
First of all, if you have a physical condition that has not been diagnosed or if you are overwhelmed by stress to the point where you are having trouble functioning in your daily life, see your medical doctor. For example, if you have developed a physical condition related to stress like high blood pressure or insomnia, you’re wise to take a Western Medicine approach for the short term. High blood pressure, as you probably are aware, is linked with heart attacks, stroke and kidney disease. Chronic insomnia also leads to a whole host of bodymind health issues. Similarly, if you’re dealing with tight muscles, joints and headaches from stress, seeing your chiropractor, sport physio, athletic therapist, acupuncturist, and/or massage therapist can be very helpful to deal with these symptoms of stress. Receiving sessions from a Certified BodyTalk Practitioner can also be helpful in dealing with mental/emotional and physical stress. If you’re suffering from stress related digestive system issues or general fatigue, seeing a Naturopathic Doctor may also help you.
However, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The real solution to your bodymind stress isn’t going to come from the outside in. The long-term solution is going to come from the inside out. That’s right, it’s an inside job! Let me explain.
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It’s an Inside Job
Over the years I’ve met many, many people who seem to be doing everything right but are still suffering from chronic physical pain and other conditions. They’re eating all the right foods, taking all the right supplements, drinking lots of water, doing all the right exercises, meditating twice a week at their yoga class, and seeing a myriad of western medical, eastern medical, as well as natural health practitioners. Now don’t get me wrong. Doing all those things is very important. However, they’re doing everything from the outside in and not actually working on processing their emotions. They’re receiving treatment from others (from the outside in) but not learning and using tools to truly help themselves resolve past traumas (the inside job). Not resolving past traumas is why their current mental/emotional stress and chronic physical issues continue. Famous Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung is quoted as saying, “What you resist, persists”, meaning that old emotional hurts you hang onto, continue to cause you pain – mentally, emotionally and physically.
Did you know that world renown Harvard Medical School has had a mind-body medicine clinic since 1982? However, it’s taken a long time for that approach to be incorporated into mainstream health care. In fact, mainstream health care is still dealing with physical and emotional/mental health issues as separate entities. I was fortunate in the late 1980’s to be introduced to mind-body medicine and have taken this approach in my practice, teaching, writing and my own health for decades. Today I want to share two simple and powerful stress processing tools with you so you can quit storing all your stress in your body and become a happier and healthier you!
Before I share these amazing techniques with you, I want to talk about two things: the difference between big “T” and little “t” trauma and the difference between stress management and what I call stress processing.
Big “T” and Little “t” Trauma
Big “T” trauma refers to a significant event or series of events such as childhood abuse, rape, or witnessing the horrors of war. Little “t” trauma refers to an event or series of events that may challenge or exceed our ability to cope for a period of time. Some examples could be the death of a loved one, going through a divorce (either as an adult or being a child of divorce) or experiencing financial difficulties. It could also include being mocked by classmates in elementary school when you stood up in the front of the class to give a presentation.
Everyone will have experienced little “t” trauma in their lives at some point. While a single big “T” trauma could result in something as serious as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), the accumulation of little “t” traumas that never got dealt with can also cause serious bodymind health issues, which I talked about earlier. Often times we don’t bother to address this type of stress, we just push through the situation. Time and again I’ve heard people say “Well, it could be worse. I’m just going to let it go”, which really means they didn’t express their emotions and they just stored them in their body somewhere.
How to Avoid an Emotional Bypass
The other thing that people tend to do is what’s called an emotional or spiritual bypass. This happens when people say “I was really angry (or whatever emotion they had) but I decided to just focus on a positive affirmation. Let go and let God.” While this may sound like a good approach (indeed, affirmations and prayer are very powerful), what really happened is the person “bypassed” the painful emotions all together, as a defense mechanism, and didn’t address them. Again, the emotions got stored in the bodymind somewhere. This leads me to identifying the difference between stress management and what I call stress processing.
Stress Management vs Stress Processing
Stress management is exactly that; you’re managing a problem but not necessarily getting to the root of it and clearing it out. I define stress processing as dealing with the underlying emotional cause and clearing it out.
An analogy would be if you have dandelions in your front yard. You can manage the problem by cutting off the tops. However, dandelions, not unlike unresolved emotions, tend to come back again and again. Their roots can go deep. Now, if you were to go and dig up each dandelion by the roots, plus encourage the healthy grass to grow in where the dandelion was, presto, the dandelions are going to be dealt with and will not likely come back!
You might be thinking that one of the tools I’m going to recommend for you is meditation. Indeed, research clearly shows that meditation is a very powerful stress management tool and more and more people are becoming aware of the health benefits of a regular meditation practice. I encourage my patients and students to meditate and I teach a variety of ways to do that. Indeed, there are many ways to meditate. In fact, in the first chapter, called “Meditation: Which Type is Right for You?”, in my book, Stressed Self to Best Self™: A Body Mind Spirit Guide to Creating a Happier and Healthier You, I highlight nine different ways to meditate. While there are many significant bodymind health benefits to meditating, unless you’re doing more advanced meditation techniques (like what Dr. Joe Dispenza talks about in his book Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One, for example), it’s not going to necessarily resolve the real cause of your stress. Here’s a scenario. If you’re stressed out because you’re a chronic shopaholic and your credit cards are maxed out, meditation may help you to relax and sleep better at night, but it’s not going to deal with what is causing your chronic overspending behaviour in the first place.
2 Powerful Processes
OK, now I want to share with you two powerful techniques that you can learn to use yourself to process and release stress from your bodymind! The first one is called The Sedona Method. The second one is Emotional Freedom Techniques aka EFT or Tapping. It’s important to realize that there is definitely a time and place to see a psychologist or counselor. Some psychologists even use The Sedona Method and EFT with their clients. What I love about these techniques, though, is that anyone can learn how to use them for themselves. They can be very effective in dealing with your past as well as current stressors – from the inside out! The Sedona Method and EFT Tapping can also work beautifully with any other treatment you may be receiving from a health care practitioner.
The Sedona Method was developed by Hale Dwoskin who was inspired by the work of his mentor, physicist and entrepreneur Lester Levenson. There are a number of exercises and techniques involved in the Sedona Method. The main approach involves categorizing your mental/emotional concern (called resistance) as either an issue about wanting control, security, or approval. Once you’ve identified the category, you ask yourself four questions in this order: Could I welcome the feeling of (whatever your resistance is)? Could I let it go? Would I let it go? When? You keep repeating each of the first three questions until it feels comfortable to say “Yes!” You may end up saying “No” the first few times depending on the level of resistance. You repeat the final question until it feels comfortable to say “Now!” Depending on how much resistance you’re feeling, you may have to go through several rounds of asking yourself these four questions until your bodymind is ready to let it go and you get a “Yes” or “Now” that feels light and liberating.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you need to give a presentation at work next week but you’re afraid that your boss won’t like it. You would ask yourself, is this fear about wanting control, security or approval? You might identify it as being about wanting approval from your boss. You would then ask, “Could I welcome the feeling of wanting approval in the form of being afraid that my boss won’t like my presentation?” Answer how you feel, yes or no. It might be a “No” or a weak “Yes” the first few rounds. Then ask, “Could I let it go?” and answer yes or no. Then you ask yourself “Would I let it go?” Again, it might be a “No” or an unconvincing “Yes” the first few rounds. The final question is “When, would I let it go?” or just “When?” The answer at first might be “I’m not sure” or it might be a weak “Now” or a strong “Now”. You keep repeating this sequence of questions until you can answer “yes” very easily to the first three questions and “Now” easily to the last question, with no resistance in your bodymind.
The Sedona Method may seem very simplistic, but that’s the beauty of it. Plus, you can apply it to many areas of your life including health, relationships, career and more. I would encourage you to get the book, The Sedona Method , and work through it. That’s what I did back in 2005 when I first heard about this technique. I still use this method today. It has simple and powerful exercises to do that will really help you not only identify your emotions, but understand, at a deeper level, where they’re coming from. Then you can use The Sedona Method to release and clear out old emotions so you’re not storing them in your bodymind any longer. It can also help you achieve the health, happiness and success you want in your life.
The second technique I want to share with you is Emotional Freedom Techniques, also known as EFT, Meridian Tapping or simply Tapping. It’s an extremely powerful tool that has a wide range of applications. For example, EFT Tapping can be used to significantly decrease stress and anxiety, overcome limiting beliefs and mental blocks to success, help with business and sports performance, and more!
EFT is an energy psychology technique. What does that mean? It means that it combines energy work in the form of tapping over a specific set of acupuncture/acupressure points while stating out loud the particular issue (mental, emotional and/or physical) that is bothering you. In many cases you can literally clear out old stress in a matter of minutes without having to relive all the emotional pain and anguish of past events. It’s also very effective in quickly relieving stress in the present moment.
EFT, which actually includes a variety of techniques, was developed in the 1990’s by Gary Craig. After studying Thought Field Therapy, a technique created by psychologist Dr. Roger Callahan in 1980, Gary decided to simplify Dr. Callahan’s approach so that it would be more accessible and easier to use. He called this Emotional Freedom Techniques or EFT.
EFT has been researched in more than 10 countries, by more than 60 investigators, whose results have been published in more than 100 scientific papers. To date these studies involving EFT have shown its effectiveness in treating stress, anxiety, depression, food cravings, pain and even PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). There are also numerous case studies showing how EFT can help with other things such as relationship issues, phobias plus business, school and sports performance.
I first came across EFT Tapping in 2012 with Jack Canfield and Pamela Bruner’s bestseller, Tapping Into Ultimate Success: How To Overcome Any Obstacle and Skyrocket Your Results. In their book, Jack and Pamela reveal how to use both EFT Tapping and The Success Principles (from Janet Switzer and Jack’s NY Times bestseller, The Success Principles™) to help you break through mental and emotional blocks plus achieve your goals. I was so blown away by the effectiveness of EFT that I decided to become a Certified EFT Practitioner!
EFT is extremely versatile in that anyone can learn how to use it as a self-care tool. However, you can also work with an EFT Practitioner to dive deeper to get to the roots of issues that may be preventing you from achieving the health, happiness and success you want in your life. My focus with EFT is to help people address blocks and limiting beliefs that are holding them back from achieving their health, happiness and success goals. (I help people, literally world wide, break through blocks in personalized EFT sessions using online video conferencing. This enables you to experience powerful transformations in each EFT session from the comfort of where ever you are!)
As I mentioned, EFT actually consists of a number of techniques. However, the most commonly used one is called The Basic Recipe. To learn how to do this technique, just click on this link: https://drjenniferharrison.com/eft-tapping/ There is a video, disclaimer and more info for you there. I’ve also uploaded some EFT Tapping Videos you can follow along to addressing things like getting motivated to exercise and overcoming overwhelm. You can find them by hovering over the “Emotional Freedom Techniques – EFT Tapping” menu tab. However, remember if you want to dive deeper and would like to work with me one-on-one, click here: https://drjenniferharrison.com/book-an-eft-session/
While there are many great self-development tools out there, I really encourage you to explore The Sedona Method and EFT Tapping. They are simple and powerful techniques that will help you to effortlessly clear out old emotions that are negatively affecting your bodymind health. You no longer need to use your body as a stress storage facility. Plus, they can help you create the health, happiness and success you want! In other words, they can help you Go From Your Stressed Self to Your Best Self™!