Fight or flight, it’s a term most of us know and likely have experienced, frequently or infrequently, throughout life. You may know it originates in our ancestral strategies for survival and that it involves danger and adrenaline, but it’s actually a more complex process and involves more than either defeating a foe or running for our lives.
There is a far less often considered, yet far more common third option in the “Fight or Flight Response”; FREEZING UP! This happens in nature too. The instant before a lion pounces on an antelope the prey animal’s nervous system will trip wire the Freeze Response as a final attempt at survival when other options have failed. This is similar to a temporary paralysis. The animal goes limp and the nervous system pulls its energy out of the nociceptors (pain receptors) to minimize the experience of pain, and slows the heart and respiration rates to minimize blood loss in case of survival. This gives the prey animal an opportunity to survive an attack.
Gosh it’s an intelligent system!
Once any of these responses are activated in your biology there are after effects, even from minor stressors, unless the energized nervous system has a resolution. This can, and does, have a lasting impact, which we typically refer to as trauma.
The real dangers of stress come from chronic exposure and incomplete stress cycles, as well as the frequency of exposure. In nature, animals (and our more primordial human ancestors) would encounter dangers and environmental stressors. How did they recover? Essentially, stress is a feedback loop and it requires a functional outcome in order to close it. Failing to do this leaves behind the chemical markers associated with stress triggers lingering in our bodies. What does that mean? In the case of the “Fight or Flight Response” it means a large surge of energy that expresses itself either in the output of a physical altercation or in a supercharged fleeing from danger both of which can help close the loop. In the case of a “Freeze Response” things can be a little more complicated.
If your boss is riding you at work, you can’t exactly stand up and knock him out just because you feel like it. Far more likely, you sit there and take the abuse even though your adrenaline is running, then it takes time for the adrenaline to run its course. In nature, when a prey animal does happen to escape from a predator relatively unscathed, it still needs to process the nervous system energy of the Freeze Response. Think about it; the mind is still running in a highly agitated beta brainwave state trying to escape from the aggressor but the body is on a totally different vibrational course, still as stone. A dis-integration happens. In the case of the animal, it will work off this excess nervous system energy by shaking. The vibration in the body releases the energy of the fight or flight response and brings the body and the mind back into alignment. It’s not exactly the same for someone sitting in the office after they just got told off by their boss.
We’re taught from an early age to tolerate stress without response. It’s considered socially acceptable, but ultimately is this a healthy thing? Ideally we’d have an opportunity to literally “shake it off” after such an experience, but instead we likely find ourselves breathing shallowly, shoulders raised and rounded, with belly clenched, to protect the vulnerable neck and abdominal regions. This is an instinctual reaction that we’re not often aware is occurring. As a result, we continue to hunch forward, tighten our abdominal muscles and our deeper core structural muscles because we haven’t processed the stress stimuli. It undermines our very authentic need to maintain harmony between body and mind. This is the nature of trauma. Trauma happens when we dis-integrate and we’re left with the structural and chemical markers of extreme stress, chronic or acute, just sitting in our bodies.
How do we get back into balance? Massage can help! It brings us into a state of awareness wherein we are more easily able to sense patterned movement, inertia from lack of movement, and pain in the body that we don’t normally register on a daily basis. This can be empowering for the client both on and off the table as they relearn to work with their bodies. Working chronic tension out of the musculature is a great way to trip wire the brain into deeper healing from stress and trauma.
Massage can also stimulate catharsis providing deep Emotional Release. Catharsis can be a useful tool for transcending mind to body stress patterning. This is often the result of realigning adhesed tissues in the areas of our bodies where stress tends to manifest physically. Stimulating physiological relaxation and feelings of comfort, care, self-value, and safety are incredibly healing tools for chipping away at the cumulative effects of chronic stress and retraining our chemical receptors for calm.
Massage is just one way to achieve this. There are many other methods for habituating feelings of peace and fulfillment. Positive affirmations, calming music, yoga, and meditation are all great tools to help prevent the onset of the stress response to begin with. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to handle stress. Stress, being associated with tighter more rapid brainwave patterns, resolves easily when we push ourselves to move our bodies at a pace that matches the speed our minds are moving. When we get our mind in resonance with the body again we can then allow the mind to settle along with the body during the cool down.
My ultimate goal for each of my clients is to help them on their path to happiness, peace, fulfillment, and self-worth in life. I find it extremely valuable to apply certain types of therapeutic, structural, deep tissue bodywork as part of a treatment program for chronic stress and trauma recovery. I often advise clients who are ready to change their lives and wish to experience the fullness and joy life offers to develop a treatment program in conjunction with chiropractic care and acupuncture. This allows us to address the physical results of chronic tension comprehensively, working the soft tissue, tendons, and ligaments, while encouraging proper alignment of the skeletal system. I also like to encourage clients to add counseling to their treatment while they learn to identify core values in connection with self-worth and for making action plans to make effective, positive life changes.
Healing is possible! It takes work but it doesn’t have to take forever. Blessings to you on your healing journey!
I see just about everything in my life as a teacher. When I take the time to look, most experiences and relationships have something to show me…but I’ve had a rocky relationship with anger. Growing up in a culture that did not really tolerate anger as a healthy expression, I never really knew how to deal with it. In fact, I would deny I experienced it at all. “I’m not angry…I’m disappointed, frustrated, tired, sad.” As a result, I don’t get really angry very often. Let me tell you what, last night I was angry! In fact, I was LIVID! The details don’t really matter…It had to do with my children and some acts of defiance. I have dealt with these things before, but something in me just snapped and I was DONE. In those moments, when I realized I was really and truly angry, I got to decide how to act. If I had opened my mouth and really let out my feelings, I would have had many things to apologize for later on. I decided to let myself be angry and I hid out in my room for a bit to let the feelings cool down. I gave myself permission NOT to work it out just yet. I’m not proud of the fact that I was triggered or that I felt such rage growing in my body, but I was proud of the fact that 1) I could acknowledge, finally, that I was indeed angry; and 2) that I could sit in the anger and wait.
After some time to process and an apology from one of my kids, I’m feeling better and ready to start talking about it with them. It’s a paradox for me as I think about it, I am actually glad that my kids get to see my human-ness. That they experience my anger in a way that’s not destructive or long-lasting. I need them to know that their actions have consequences and that they can be resolved through good communication and that I do, in fact experience pain. In the end, in my opinion, my healthy expression of anger and boundaries creates a more loving, connected and trusting relationship. By being open, honest and real, I avoid resentment and passive-aggressive tendencies. I’m proud to be working with my own imperfections and trying to show them what it means to be human, with all its chaos, messiness and beauty.
May your experiences with anger be the catalyst for greater intimacy and clarity of boundaries in your relationships.
I was given the opportunity by Massage Track to evaluate and review the benefits of their product. I was excited to receive it as I am new to the foam rolling revolution and I liked the potential for this product to achieve specificity that I felt was somewhat lacking in the traditional foam roller. I am a Licensed Massage Therapist and am, obviously, a huge supporter of soft tissue work. The work I do is technical and structural in nature… in other words…very specific. While I am also a believer in relaxation and stress reduction, the majority of the work I do is geared towards the alleviation of pain and imbalance in the body. Recently I was in a motor vehicle accident and came to realize that, while getting work done by my qualified practitioners is really important, when I am able to augment that work by self care at home, the results were much faster and more effective.
When I opened the bag that my Massage Track arrived in, I decided to try it out first, without reviewing the materials, to see how intuitive it was. I made the common rookie mistakes of trying to roll my spine up and down the track and it was quite uncomfortable! Ok, so let’s look at the instructions now and see if there is something I missed. I have to say, that the video was very helpful. I realized what I was doing wrong and corrected it. The best way to do soft tissue work is slowly. The video emphasized this with every segment. By the end, it was drilled in my head that if I wasn’t holding the position I was “wasting my time.” The only thing I didn’t like about the video guide is that they use different balls and sizes than the ones I got in my package. In a way that’s good because you can see that the Massage Track works not only with the balls they offer, but also just about anything you have at home, tennis ball, lacrosse ball, etc. For me, though, I like to see how things are done with what I have been given.
Once I got a better idea of how to use the Massage Track, I was able to utilize it much more effectively. I love how the track keeps the massage balls in place. They don’t roll around which makes it easier to get them where you want them. I especially like how I can get to my upper ribs (shoulders, traps) using the track. Getting direct pressure there is so helpful! (And uncomfortable!!) There are also directions for getting to the psoas (which I LOVE!) as well as working on forearms and lower legs. These areas have been a challenge for me to access, so I’m grateful for a self care tool that allows me to do so.
In the end, I’m very happy with this product. While nothing substitutes for the skill, caring and intuition of a trained soft tissue worker, having a tool that gives such controlled and specific relief is a practical and efficient tool towards my own self care routine. I highly recommend it!
I’d like to share some thoughts I’ve been having lately. The past few months have been ones of incredibly growth for me. I have been intently focused on some pretty important internal changes and the confrontation of some of my more glaring weaknesses. This has been painful, challenging work, but incredibly rewarding. Through all this I have noticed how hard it can be to sit still through feelings of discomfort. You know, that pit in your stomach, the itch in your mind that says “Exit stage left IMMEDIATELY!” That flutter in your heart that expresses your body’s fear response kicking in. Not knowing how to act, respond, think or speak. Have you ever felt this? Well I have been looking that dread monster, Fear and Discomfort, straight in the eyes and I am learning a lot by doing so.
One of the great lessons I have learned is that experiencing Fear and Discomfort can be fertile ground for profound personal growth. Our conditioning and our ingrained habits can become manifest when we hit this wall. I won’t try to tell you how to overcome your own fears. We are all different, with different anxieties, worries, strengths and weaknesses…but what I would love to share is that the perception of this experience can shift from “Danger” to “Opportunity.” When this state is reached…Stop, take a step back, take a deep breath and PAY ATTENTION. When we take a moment to think and process, new ideas and ways of problem solving come into view. We find the razor’s edge between reaction and action, the point between shrinking in fear and lashing out in aggression.
When discomfort strikes, May you find that space where it’s ok to be uncomfortable, calm and at peace. Much can be resolved when we maintain our center and act from this balanced place.
I feel the turbulence in our daily lives. Current events make it feel as if there are two choices in life. Bad and Worse. There are many times in my life I can remember feeling this way. As if the only choices left up to me are limited and, well, awful. I am thus left with the task of choosing which awful thing I want to experience. Sometimes this might be the reality. Sometimes it seems as if the only options are are hard; choices that make us decide which scenario contributes less to our ultimate suffering. More often than not, however, I have found that there is a hidden choice (or several!) This hidden choice can be uncovered by thought, communication and introspection. When we calm our minds and hearts, when we open ourselves to possibility, we begin to see solutions to problems that never occurred to us. Solutions that transcend the “bad to worse” mentality and actually offer kindness, compassion and joy. Hey, sometimes a stumbling stone is just a rock. But sometimes that rock is a stepping stone. An opportunity to get to know ourselves better, to get inquisitive, to ask more questions and seek deeper to find the answers.
Next time you are faced with a “lose-lose” situation, take a deep breath, clear your head, tune into your heart, and observe your situation as if from a distance. Maybe you will see something that was just out of sight before. Maybe that is just the answer you need.
Spring is in the air. It is so wonderful to look outside and see the blue sky. My daffodils are blooming and the air is starting to lose the bite of winter chill. It was such a joy to get out in the garden and start clearing the blackberry bushes. It got me thinking about how important it is to root out the invasive plants earlier than later. The plants were beginning to grow new leaves and they were ready to burst out in new activity. If I waited too much longer the mess would be twice as bad.
There is a valuable message here if we can listen. It is similar to “a stitch in time saves nine.” When we pay attention to our situation, our bodies and our sense of well-being, we are usually given messages to let us know when changes need to happen. If we act early, the changes are much easier to accomplish. If you find yourself with a large thicket of issues (like the blackberry briar bushes) don’t let yourself get discouraged. Just get out the machete and start. Today is better than tomorrow. Tomorrow is better than next week.
That being said…It is always important to acknowledge the times and seasons of life. Sometimes we genuinely don’t have the energy or time to hack away at the bushes and deal with the scrapes and puncture wounds that dealing with these issues causes. If that’s the case…relax into taking care of yourself and at least enjoy what you can. (Like the tasty blackberries!)
For this message, I want to talk a bit about the difference between Relaxation and Therapeutic (or Deep Tissue, or Medical) Bodywork. First, I want to state, that Relaxation is, by itself, quite therapeutic. Helping to alleviate stress is a HUGE step in the right direction towards achieving wellbeing. The benefit of touch in and of itself is extremely important. Most people, on some level, want to be touched and can sometimes have a difficult time finding “acceptable” situations to get those needs met in a safe manner. For the purpose of description, however, I will separate Relaxation massage from Therapeutic Bodywork.
Relaxation massage is what most people think of when they hear the word “Massage.” It usually incorporates various strokes from the Swedish style of body work such as effleurage, (Long gliding strokes, usually with lotion or oil) petrissage, (kneading strokes) tapotement, (think karate chops) and compression (pressing the muscles into a hard surface such as the bone underneath.) This style of massage is usually performed with oil or lotion and soft music to encourage a state of deep relaxation. Sometimes Aromatherapy is also used to deepen this relaxed state.
Therapeutic Bodywork (or Deep Tissue or Medical Massage) is all about getting to the cause of pain and alleviating it. This work can be done with draping or in comfortable clothing. It can also, at times, feel deep and intense. It is important to remember, however, that you are the one in charge of the session and must communicate with the therapist regarding level of pain. This work is not about suffering in silence or suffering at all. It is about communication and targeting sore spots. Sometimes muscles get strained, over-tightened, over-lengthened or stuck together. Sometimes parts of the muscle get ischemic (lack of blood flow) and create tender spots or trigger points (which refer pain to other areas) and need to be worked out and loosened. This work can be extremely difficult to do on your own and sometimes a detailed knowledge of anatomy is necessary so you are not stretching already over-lengthened muscles. A qualified bodyworker can really help alleviate pain and suffering to the point of eliminating the need of prescription pain killers in some instances. Another point to consider…deep work is not the same as deep pressure. Some people come in to get a massage and say they want deep tissue work when what they really want is deep pressure. Therapeutic Bodywork can also be very gentle. Myofascial work can feel very light and still be extremely effective at relieving chronic pain. A good bodyworker will listen and respond to the needs of your body in that day. Sometimes lighter work is needed, sometimes a little firmer pressure is needed. Again, the key is good communication between client and therapist.
Here are some things you can do for yourself to assist you in your wellness goals…Get plenty of sleep, drink tons of water, stretch and elevate your heart rate every day.
We at Avalon Holistic Therapies are passionate about the work we do. Check out our website and contact us today to see what we can do to help enhance your state of wellness.
In health and healing,
Ann-Marie Hall, LMT #17372
First of all…These tips come from my own experiences. I am not a lawyer or a doctor and I don’t prescribe, diagnose, give a prognosis or legal advice. The following are just some tips to keep in mind as you navigate the difficult situation of having been in a car accident. If I have overstepped my bounds in any way, it has been done in ignorance and I will remove any offending material if there be any. This is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice from a trained professional. That being said… Let me share some insight that might help avoid some pitfalls that I have seen happen to clients as they have gone through their treatment.
1) Get checked out ASAP
Even if you don’t feel very bad, do not say that you are okay. Pain symptoms can take 2-3 days (or longer) to manifest. Sometimes a claims adjuster will call within the first 24-48 hours to get you to settle the claim. Don’t do it until you have given it enough time to evaluate your condition and have been checked out by your primary care provider. This can mean traditional medical doctors or, in Oregon, Chiropractors or Naturopaths. Check to see who is considered a primary care provider in your state. When you are checked out make sure to accurately report all symptoms. This not only includes things like neck pain and back pain, but also headaches, dizziness, nausea, extreme fatigue, etc. Anything new since the accident needs to be put in the report.
2) Be honest
ACCURATELY describe your pain. This means don’t exaggerate or UNDER report your pain symptoms. Determine a good pain scale with your physician and just be consistent. For example: 1-3 = mild pain; 4-6 = moderate pain; 7-9 = severe pain. Some clients have reported a 3 on the pain scale and then describe how they can only sit for about 10 minutes before having to move around because of the pain. This isn’t the time to ignore your pain. Be in touch with your body. Notice how it affects you and how you have to compensate because of the pain. All of these details are important to tell your providers as they are helping you and to see how well the treatment is working, or if a change needs to be made.
3) You can choose your team
Some people have health insurance or managed care providers and think they need to get their treatment from these avenues. YOU DON’T. If you are happy with the care then continue. You do not need a prescription to see a Chiropractor or Naturopath in Oregon. They are primary care providers. If your doctor sends you home with muscle relaxants and pain meds, this does not address the cause of the issue. Your body just went through a major PHYSICAL TRAUMA. It makes sense to get physical manipulation of bone and tissue to help with that trauma. Car insurance pays for the treatment and care in most cases, so call and verify coverage with your provider. If your practitioner doesn’t automatically recommend Massage Therapy (a lot of them do) you can request it. Most will have no problem writing a prescription. Other providers that may be helpful might include, Chiropractors, Naturopaths, Acupuncturists, Physical Therapists, etc. You may even need help with housework in the beginning if you are aggravating your condition by doing so and if it is keeping you from getting better. You can help make the decisions for your care and treatment. It is your body and you will have to live with the results, so don’t hesitate to voice your opinion.
4) Your treatment is your job
It is sad to admit but recovery can seem like a part-time job. Between the appointments and phone calls with insurance companies it can seem like everything revolves around this brief moment of time that changed your life so drastically. Keep a good calendar so you show up to your appointments consistently and on time. If you are not consistent in your treatment it might be determined that you are “all better” and your care will come to a halt. Keep a pain journal. How does the pain affect your life and how do you have to change things because of it? How are you sleeping? How long can you sit, stand or walk? Are any activities avoided because of the pain? These can all be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment as the frequency and duration of pain flares decreases over time. It really could take months to regain pre-accident status so be patient and keep showing up for yourself.
5) Do your homework
When dealing with the insurance companies, do not undervalue yourself or your property. If your car was totaled and you will need to purchase a new car, make sure you know the values and advocate for yourself. It helps to receive assistance from others. Ask a professional. This might include people in the auto body shop, your care givers, or even a lawyer. Make sure you educate yourself and don’t sell yourself short.
6) Do your other homework
If your care givers offer “homework” do it as well as you can. It will only speed up your recovery. This could include stretches, exercises, Epsom salt baths, Ice, dietary changes, etc.
7) Ultimately, the medical bills are your responsibility
The auto insurance pays for your treatment and care. If you have Personal Injury Protection it pays for the treatment of your condition as you receive it. If you don’t have PIP (it is required in Oregon) then the insurance may not pay until the case is closed. As this can take months it may put your provider in a difficult financial situation. You will need to discuss this with your provider and come up with a mutually agreeable arrangement. Become aware of what your coverage offers. Do they cover rental? How much? Do you have PIP? How much? Also, if your PIP runs out or the insurance company decides you are done (for example after an IME – See below) then they may stop paying your providers and the responsibility becomes yours. They won’t necessarily tell you when you are close to running out of PIP money so be proactive and make sure you know where things stand. This protects you and your providers.
8) Check your PIP now
Make sure you have PIP in your insurance plan. In Oregon it is required but in other states it is not. This is NOT an area to skimp. Your body is your most valuable possession. Make sure you can get better if you have an accident. Also…most people have about $15,000 in PIP. You may be surprised how quickly medical bills can add up. If you have a very bad accident and end up in the ER you can use most of that immediately. Check out options and weigh the value of a few dollars for a higher PIP.
9) Alert your team about any IME
If your insurance company wants to send you to an “Independent Medical Examination” please notify your care team as soon as possible. If you are sent to an IME it could mean the end of your treatment and it may mean that your bills will stop being paid. Discuss options with your treatment providers and possibly even a lawyer.
10) Be gentle with yourself and give yourself plenty of time to heal!
It can be hard to not be able to do as much as you did before the accident. Overstressing yourself may slow down your healing process. Be patient. Oh… and drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep…Because that can never be said enough!
Hope this helps! Stay safe and get lots of massage! 😉
I grew up thinking that doing things for myself was selfish. That I should think of others first. It’s better to give than to receive. I get where this is coming from…if we are dealing with a group of people who are completely self-absorbed and only self-serving then this is very good advice. Doing good for others, assisting others for the betterment of the group; these are admirable traits. What I have seen in my own life and in the lives of many of my friends, colleagues and clients, is that this is taken to mean that taking care of self is not important, and in fact, detrimental to our well-being. Self-sacrifice wins the day as our bodies (and minds) slowly fall apart from lack of TLC. What is ironic is that these same people would give the advice to others, “You should take better care of yourself. Go do something special just for you.” Ironic, no?
I have (finally) learned that Self Care isn’t a luxury. It isn’t something we do when we have nothing else to do. (Because that NEVER happens.) It is something to be planned FIRST. This is incredibly hard when time and money are at a premium. Be creative! There are many ways of taking care of yourself. Obviously I LOVE massage and feel that regular bodywork is ESSENTIAL in maintaining proper functioning, AND…what about taking a walk in the woods? A hot bath, reading a good book, having a cup of tea by the fire in sweet silence, crafting, quilting, talking with a friend, taking a nap, visiting someone who helps you feel better, gardening, etc. It isn’t what you do that makes the difference…it’s how you FEEL about it. Do you feel energized? Does it put a smile on your face? Does it help your body feel more relaxed. This isn’t just for emotional well-being either. Stress is a killer and we need to actively address it.
I love the wisdom of the heart…the first artery to come off the aorta is the one that feeds the heart. It takes care of itself FIRST. Put your oxygen mask on before trying to help others put on theirs and you will be amazed at how much more productive and effective you are in your obligations and other relationships. Self Care is not Selfish…it is essential.