Survival Mode

I have been learning a lot lately. I love to learn. It is something that used to come fairly easily for me but recently had been incredibly difficult. I didn’t realize how much stress was affecting me in so many areas.

Stress is such a complicated thing. Some of it is really easy for us to detect and some of it is sneaky and operates under the surface avoiding our radar. Even when we do recognize stress it is often difficult to know how to manage it. Some things that cause it are out of our control. As a health and fitness coach I deal with stress in my clients daily. When our bodies are stressed, it can have damaging effects on our hormones. A body in this state will not respond well to diets and exercise so I spend a lot of time helping clients recognize what are stressors in their lives and finding ways to mitigate that stress so that their bodies can return to homeostasis and respond to their nutrition and exercise in a positive way.

Chronic long-term stress can have devastating effects on our bodies that may take years to reverse if they are reversable at all. The more I dive into my life and try to learn from my past experiences the more I see the effects of stress on my health. I know that it has had a direct impact on my ability to learn and retain information which is why I am so excited to finally feel like I have capacity for that again. I know that my stress contributed greatly to the development of my Hashimotos and I have seen that correlation play out in many of my client’s experiences as well. These people often were like me, unaware of the amount of stress that they were actually carrying around for years. Sometimes our bodies go into survival mode and we are chronically in this state without realizing it.

I have been learning how to recognize when I am in this state and how to allow myself to down regulate while still giving space to the feelings that caused the stress response in the first place. I have also been learning how important that space and processing is. I realized today that this year I had finally, for the first time, actually allowed myself the time and space to process something that had caused a stress response in me. It had taken me a year to do this and I still will have moments of it but instead of pushing down my feelings or ignoring them I had identified them, welcomed them, sat with them, understood them, honored them and therefore processed them so that my body could let them go. This was incredibly powerful and freeing for me. I can feel the positive effects physically when I do this, the stress and tension leaving my body.

Why do we lose this ability to process emotion? We are born very capable of this necessary skill. You can see it on the face of a baby who is smiling wide and then gets startled and you see every changing emotion played out on their face and body as their eyes get wide and their muscles tense. Their sweet innocent faces then wrinkle into a cry and tears fall freely. What happens between that open and aware new baby ability to process and an adult female with hashimotos due to suppressed and unprocessed trauma. I think it can be many things. We take cues from the world around us and some of those will tell us that having emotions is not safe or accepted. Some of it may develop with our personalities. Often, I think it is a coping mechanism because the things that we go through are so difficult that we do not feel capable of looking them in the eye.

How do we fix this? How can we help people or better yet children avoid falling into this pattern? I don’t have the answer to that. I hope that by bringing awareness to it that it can slowly improve. Approaching children’s thoughts, emotions and feelings in an accepting and curious way is probably a good place to start. I know for my clients it is an important part of what I try to teach them. I know for me the biggest change happened when I really looked at myself with a desire to change. I did not understand why or how but I was open to learning and sought it out even though it was incredibly uncomfortable most of the time. Usually, growth is uncomfortable. I hope that through my journey others can find their way out of the chronic survival mode limiting their growth and potential. I hope that you can come to terms with your past experiences and allow yourself to process them and anything that you walk through in the future. It is a never-ending process. I still have a long way to go but now the road is hopeful…dare I say exciting? I feel like the possibilities are opening up. I can finally begin to envision a future again. In survival mode a future is not a part of the picture. You cannot worry about the future when you are surviving the here and now. Having the future peeking back at me again is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world and I am going to make friends with her. She looks like a good time.

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