'I'm sorry I haven't done more, with everything going on in the world its just really hard to think about my posture right now'.
I was finishing up a catch up call with a former student--I typically try to reconnect with someone who has finished a course of lessons a couple months after to see how they are doing. This student had retained the mobility they had found from our learning together, but was embarrassed they hadn't been more mindful about the work in the last couple of months. In fact, they had called me back after our original conversation because we hadn't talked about the elephant in the room --the election.
'I've just been so stressed, I cant take my mind off of it, and I don't feel the energy to do other things, even to take care of myself.'
Does this sound like you? You aren't alone. Almost every student I have worked with since November has asked to work on stress relief strategies, and multiple students have expressed a sense of helplessness against the world's problems and a feeling of futility in attending to day to day life with such concerns constantly pressing in on us , often from social media (check out my post on Facebook, Fear, and Inhibition from just after the election).
This is certainly understandable. If you consider the current situation a threat to your safety or well-being, it activates powerful survival instincts--our systems are geared to move into fight/flight mode at the perception of any threat through something called the startle response (see my blog 'The Physicality of Fear'). If we don't have a way to resolve the threat through action (as many people feel about the current situation), our system transitions into a freeze response--it shuts down our feelings and sensations in order to protect us. It does this is by locking our body down with physical tension. Besides putting a stranglehold on our ability to move on a physical level--we have to overcome our baseline tension to make anything happen which takes a tremendous amount of effort--maintaining the freeze itself takes a tremendous amount of energy: tension is not static in our body, but is essentially constantly firing electrical energy. Therefore: we feel tired and drained all of the time and are unable to take care of ourselves or take action. The longer a freeze persists, the less ability to respond we have available.
There are indirect consequences as well. When stress is in our system, our digestion tends to suffer. The tension can cause headaches and activate migraines. And mentally, all the energy our system requires to maintain the freeze saps our conscious mind (which requires more energy) and we tend to fall back on our instincts and biases--which can easily be exploited and misled, leading us to be triggered deeper and deeper into the freeze (this is a complex subject--I recommend the excellent book 'Thinking Fast and Slow' by Daniel Kahneman if you want to learn more about how our brains form habits and biases and the consequences). This tends to lead to an us vs. them mentality and lazy fact checking, among other problems.
The result for someone wishing to make a positive change in the world is that they end up hamstrung--they are left exhausted, unable to act, depressed, reactive, and not able to use their conscious mind to select the best strategies for change or to realize when what they are doing might be working against them.
This is why self-care is so vital right now. Its not about selfishness--its a prerequisite to change and action. And its vital to know that, because if you are in a freeze, your instincts will try to keep you from breaking it.
Whether its through A.T. or some other means, I hope you take some extra time to take care of yourself in the coming months. This could take many forms: a bubble bath, a massage, creating some silent time for yourself, paying extra mind to sleeping and eating healthily, or even taking in some comedy (important: make sure it is stuff that makes you laugh in a way that goes deep into your body, helping to relieve tension--cynical or meme humor that makes you snicker or 'ha!' might actually increase the freeze--if it isn't connected to your body, it isn't a release). There are even apps that can remind you to be mindful and help support you.
Alexander Technique has specific benefits for you because the self-care strategies you learn in a lesson directly counteract the startle response that leads to the freeze state. Here are a few easy ways you can get some A.T. benefit in the coming weeks:
I want to finish with one of my favorite Victor Frankl quotes: "When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves."
I hope some of this thought helps you to make a positive change, and helps you to help yourself.
Keep Thinking Up!
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Thoughts on what is going on in the work and the world right now. Many posts to come.