Everyday demands of high-speed urban lives make it more and more difficult for many of us to constantly having to adapt to the demands of the environment. Many stressful events result in physiological changes and observation of this relation as the root of diseases is the focus of psychosomatic medicine that links mind with the body. Sometimes, the body knows best, and before our mind realizes that there has been a disbalance. Every one of us has an individual internal capacity to handle stress, that Daniel Siegel called “a window of tolerance”.


Physiologically, our reactions to stress are controlled by a major neuroendocrine system: hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. It regulates many other body processes, including digestion, the immune system, mood and emotions, sexuality, and energy storage. The HPA axis integrates physical and psychosocial influences in order to allow our organism to adapt effectively to its environment, use resources, and optimize survival.



There are two modes to the stress response:


1/ The hypothalamus, via the pituitary, causes the adrenal cortex to release cortisol, which acts to release increased amounts of glucose from the liver’s glycogen stores. Cortisol release also causes retention of sodium and water by kidneys, increases blood volume and pressure, suppresses immunity, and reduces inflammation. Excessive levels are harmful as they can lead the body to use too much of its resources, damage tissues, and compromise immunity system.


2/ The adrenal sympathetic response is initiated by the hypothalamus. It causes the adrenal medulla to release epinephrine and norepinephrine. These two neurotransmitters increase blood flow to muscles and organs, allowing quick transportation of glucose to organs and muscles to allow the needed energy to fight or flee.



What controls this stress response?


We are equipped with an evolutionary physiological survival instinct called the fight or flight response coined by Walter Cannon. When faced with stressful situations our body releases hormones- epinephrine and norepinephrine to increase heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, metabolic rate, and blood flow to the muscles, gearing our bodies either to battle or to flee from the danger. Thankfully, our body is also inbred with the relaxation response (term by Herbert Benson) – an inducible physiologic state of quietude and ability to heal and rejuvenate itself. Both fight or flight response and relaxation responses are based on the mechanisms of the autonomic nervous system, respectively sympathetic and parasympathetic.


The autonomic nervous system maintains homeostasis by controlling heart rate, digestion, respiration, salivation, perspiration, sexual arousal, urination, and movement of blood flow to muscles and organs. Its two branches are sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. They are antagonistic in nature and can be compared to gas and brake pedals in a car. The sympathetic nervous system uses lots of energy to prepare us to focus on stressful stimuli, therefore we call it a catabolic system. It breaks down things to get more resources and puts on hold processes that are calming or not vital to our survival (like nourishment, reproduction, or elimination of wastes). It is vital to our functioning, but its chronic activation can leave the body exhausted and depleted. To counterbalance, we have a parasympathetic nervous system that is dominant when we are resting, sleeping, and digesting, therefore it’s called an anabolic system that concentrates on rebuilding the body’s resources. In a healthy human being, it is the default system.


Yoga as a regulation practice can help us exit the fight or flight mode. Mindfulness can potentially make us more conscious and receptible to the bodily signs and cues of stress so that we can react to it before the results get too harming. In an ancient classical yogic text called Taittiriya Upanishad, there was a mention of a concept named koshas (“sheaths”). According to this concept, our true nature is covered and surrounded by five layers of awareness through which our experience of the world is filtered. They are the physical sheath (annamaya kosha), the sheath of vital life force and energy (pranamaya kosha), the mental or psychological sheath (manomaya kosha), the sheath of wisdom and intellect (vijnanamaya kosha) and the bliss body (anandamaya kosha). Imbalances within the five sheaths create psychological and physical suffering that take us away from our true wellbeing.



In the view of Vedantic philosophy, we all carry an individual fragment (atman) of universal consciousness (brahman). In the model of kosha, this atman resides in our innermost core, covered by five illusions (mayas). Our unique perception of reality comes through our identification with these layers of illusions. Our over-identification with aspects of the sheaths separates us from the knowledge of our true nature. Yoga therapy uses this model as a diagnostic tool to view a person holistically to understand the root of suffering (physical, mental, or psychological). It enables yoga therapists to embrace a multifactorial assessment of a person’s needs and move beyond a one-dimensional approach to treatment.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced some old fears in many of us. And our most basic needs have been under question. The stress is real and our lower mood is a natural reaction to it.



>>>>> ADDRESS YOUR FEARS

Fears are here for a reason and we need to allow them to be there. They are the messages from our body- it simply shows what's important to us.

But once it starts to spin around and becoming the only subject of our attention, that's when it no longer serves us. And that's also a sign that our coping strategies failed and didn't filter accordingly.

Exaggerated fears may mean a lack of grounding. When it touches us too deep than it rationally should. When it takes over the control of simple daily activities. Then people come to see me and say they had panic attacks. Or they first experience somatic symptoms of chest pain, breathing problems and first see a generalist who diagnoses anxiety.


>>>>>>> BECOME RESILIENT

Not ignorant, but resilient to the negative effects of anxiety. Resilience is simply the way you respond to the crisis. How you're reacting shows your level of resilience. One way out is to go IN. Either by psychotherapy or with self-supporting tools of relaxation and breathing exercises. Make sure you pay attention to your kidneys. Too much stress and lack of proper ways to regenerate energy may lead to kidney fatigue.


<<<<<< SOCIAL SUPPORT MATTERS

Enjoying time with your family or simply having quality time to spend the way you usually don't have. The more time you spend your time doing things you CAN influence, the happier and more resilient you become. When you're concerned about issues that are above your control, you sabotage your happiness.


<<<<<  CULTIVATE YOUR SLOW PACE DAILY

You get to intentionally design a life you want to live. Make sure you choose exactly what makes you expand and feel fully yourself and as much in control as you can. A key is to notice this space of stillness between all the outside busyness and inner chaos, a time when you can be a human being, instead of a human doing, with your full attention. My slow pace happens throughout the day. Slowing down when I eat, appreciating the nourishing meals, making sure I get the necessary balance of action and relax, monitoring sleeping patterns, making conscious choices of what I spend my energy on.


Reach out for 1:1 online session when you feel you need support


I work via Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, Messenger or phone. Whatever suits you best at this special time.

Maybe this is a good opportunity to finally reach out for help with some long-forgotten issues that are coming to the surface now?

There are different phases in everyone’s lives. And every one of us needs a different amount of time for these phases. But there is also the time that finally the preparatory phase ends and there is time to act, to put words into action, to finally trust the intuition and switch from waiting in preparation to the actual real life. This moment is quite beautiful. This is precisely the moment in which you can become a fighter.




You spent all the time that you needed in preparation for this day to come. You finally know what is it that makes your heart beat a little faster. You discovered what is the actual role you need and want to play in this life and world. This is an enormous achievement in my opinion. It not only shows that you are sure about WHO you are and that you are connected with your purpose, but it also means that, by now, you’ve gotten all the answers about HOW you think you may get where you need. Only one step separates you from the start. Now is the moment to be a fighter.


The plan is there, your vision of this ideal life is hanging whenever you close your eyes. Unfortunately, when you open them, you realize that there’s a long way ahead. You feel it might be a little too far or too demanding. So, you either stay in the place of comfort or put on these shoes and start the walk. The walk where you sometimes will need to fight.

Fighting, for me, has also positive connotations. You can fight with the reality whenever it is not materializing as you wish it were, by changing your automatic thoughts or questioning the beliefs you’ve had for way too long. When they start to limit you, it’s a big sign for you to address them and sometimes fight them.


A fighter knows what tools or techniques she needs to win.

Do you know what do you need to succeed?

She knows her aim very clearly and is focused on it.

Where is YOUR focus? Do you spend time reaching your goal or on other things?

A fighter trust that she has what it takes- the strength and stamina to go through the obstacles.

Do you feel this power in you? Are you sure you have all it takes?

She’s in it to win it.

Are you THAT committed?


Trust that you’ll never be more ready to start. Just do it and modify the techniques when necessary. Only you have this special vision of what makes your life better. No one else will bring it to you. Step up and start your fight for it.


Fight to be you.
Fight to live YOUR life.
Fight for your right to be happy.
Fight for LOVE.
Fight for all the good things in life that didn’t yet come in your direction.
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 © Ewa Kampelmann 2019