We are stressed to the max.
Somewhere in the region of three quarters of the adult population of the UK struggle with feelings of overwhelm and being unable to cope, according to research. Nearly a quarter of the adult population of the UK have cardio-metabolic disorders, many of which have their roots in the stress experience.
This is epidemic, pandemic even!
Not only that but young people and children are experiencing stress, overwhelm and feelings of being unable to cope more and more commonly.
I was talking with a child psychiatrist recently and was informed that children as young as four years old are being medicated with pharmaceuticals to help them focus, be present and work with the symptoms of their mental health.
Take a moment to breathe through these statistics…
We evolved to live in small bands of our relatives of up to 150 fellow humans, all of whom we would know from birth to death. They were all familiar and we all knew our place in the small bands we inhabited. This was recent enough so that our genetics have not yet had time to catch up.
Epigenetics is a different thing and is affected by how our recent ancestors lived. Epigenetics affects how genes are expressed, and yet if we look at our war torn history, we can see that maybe even those recent ancestral epigenetic expressions are not always of benefit.
Despite the protestations of new age believers, you cannot change your genes (unlike your jeans) by wishing, believing, vibrating, resonating or wanting them to change. You can however change your epigenetics, perhaps to alter the expression of genes in your lifetime, but certainly you can pass these on to your descendants.
How you behave and the choices you make benefits your descendants.
Have you ever wondered why you feel so at home in the green of the forest, hills or fields? It is because humans naturally find green the most relaxing colour to be around. We find shades of blues and browns particularly relaxing as well.
And that is because we are not just of nature, we are nature. We are expressions of nature doing its thing, currently as a human.
Let’s put this into context. We used to live in familiar family bands in wild places of green, blue and brown. We now live in vast cities of concrete with mostly varying shades of grey, and the faces of strangers around us.
Living in a desert of concrete surrounded by unknown faces makes our amygdala (emotional brain) activate, and so our fear responses are quietly but permanently on. With our fear responses activated, our bodies build up low levels of tension, and this tensional pattern is conveyed as information through the sensory web of the nervous system to the brain, so the brain sits in this puddle of gentle anxiety as its daily operating system.
That’s before we add in complex relationship issues with our family, partner, work colleagues or people in our immediate community. Perhaps the people downstairs or the ones across the road you want to avoid because…
This is before we add in issues around money, and money is one of the greatest emotional and stress triggers, as it is connected to value and worth and it is, after all, what we trade our life energy for.
One hour of our life energy, which we can never have back, is worth how much?
And how much do we spend on x, y or z?
That depends on how we have worked out the equation between time and money, luck, inheritance and any financial education we may or may not have received.
Then there are the informational demands, FB messenger, SMS, WhatsApp, E-mail, TikTok, Signal, or whatever systems you currently engage with your online community. And post Covid that has massively increased. The social media algorithms are designed to keep your attention on the screen, scrolling and checking for the next message. Have you checked? When was the last time you checked? How many times have you checked, even perhaps, whilst reading this?
Your digital discipline and digital hygiene is already a key marker of how stressed you might be.
Then there is your head. Our brains are set up to look for what is wrong, what problem needs to be fixed, to rehearse social interactions and to anticipate the future in endless preemptive cycles.
Our brains are set up to make meanings out of all our sensory information and we either grab a meaning off the shelf from Facebook or Reddit or wherever, or we try and make one up about who we are, what life means, where it is all going and how to make sense of it all.
In an era of expertise where every aspect of life requires years of study – to be a specialist in neuroscience, you have to go into a specific domain of neuroscience or you end up as a generalist. It’s then most unlikely you will also be a robotics specialist. The web of knowledge is now so vast we need experts, and to listen to expertise, unlike what the likes of Trump and Johnson insist. We actually have to be able to suspend our opinion making, our sense-making and hand some of it over to expertise.
In this domain of how our brains have evolved to work, and how the web of information is so vast, we have to learn mind-training to create internal peace, or we will be in relentless and infinitely anxious sense-making, to no avail.
Mind training is a crucial element of our capacity to be at peace as a contemporary biological entity in an increasingly complex world.
In our ancestral human bands, there would be moments of stress and then time and space to down-regulate, to relax, for our stress hormones to stop pumping and to find a sense of peace.
To manage our nervous system in the contemporary world we have to practice and learn skills to down-regulate, to learn how to end stress hormone cascades, and find a sense of inner peace where everything feels as relaxed – or more than if we were in a sense of the green eden that we evolved to feel relaxed and at home in.
- Scared of the future and what it holds
- Anxious, depressed
- Your body is tired and hurts?
- Can’t focus well?
- Losing creativity, mojo?
- Losing libido?
- Not fully present with your loved ones?
- Can’t sleep?
- Feeling heart palpitations, headaches?
- Getting colds and minor illnesses way too often?
These are just some of the systems of the pandemic of stress. Because modern life is stressful to our biology, it creates inflammation that leads to a host of diseases.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, and this is the secret…
We cannot get rid of stress, or to give it its correct title ‘distress’. Nor should we want to, since distress gives us frictional edges against which we can grow and learn to thrive. Distress builds anti-fragility, as Nassim Nicholas Talib describes – if we can look at our relationship with the stressors.
This is the secret, not what stressors do to us, but what we do with stressors.
Can we address the meanings we make around stressors?
Can we breathe our way through them, keeping a healthy, relaxed nervous system as we process the triggers and stressors, then learn from them? Or do we collapse into dysfunction?
Stressors and stress can build resilience, and they can build disease. What choice do we have?
One thing is for certain, the stressors are not going away. But the stress response can largely be up to us.
So there is a process of taking responsibility for our nervous system and learning how to calm, pacify, transform, engage, energise, revitalise, build resilience and antifragility and find empowerment.
The first step is recognising it might be possible. The second step is deciding to do it.
The third step is learning the bio-hacking skills of using diet, movement, breath and mind training through mind-skills and meditative depth to change – not our reality, but how we engage with what’s happening.
Things being as they are, what do you choose now?
- Learning how to destress through movement, breath and mind.
- Learning how to build resilience.
- Learning how to prevent stress through Jedi mind skills and the practice of presence.
Cutting through the body and mind stress system and its cascades of peptides, hormones and neurotransmitters with powerful breathwork, such as all the breath practices of Evolutionary Breathwork gives us the edge.
This is just the beginning. We are about to navigate the terrain of quantum computing and artificial intelligence. Machine learning will control us if we do not control our own minds.
If you have not yet seen The Social Dilemma, then watch it.
Then make a choice, train your mind through mind-skills, meditation and conscious breathwork or be controlled. However you see it, whether you like it or want it, the game is already on!
There is a big difference between distress and eustress. Eustress means good stress. It is a fabulous night of love-making, running a marathon, playing chess or rugby, anything that engages our nervous system in challenge and takes us to a place of full flow, full engagement and full presence, even to the point of near exhaustion. Eustress is powerful.
The question is not so much ‘can we get rid of stress?’, but can we change our relationship to life so that what was formerly distress is now eustress?
For me and all those who work with me, the Magic Key is evolutionary breathwork.
Take a breath, a slow breath, and find awareness in all its flows and nuances.
Begin the study of how to optimise your own biology. No one else can do it for you. But we, here at Embody Evolution, can certainly show you how.
To get started, check out my online courses or take the 30 day free trial for my Embody Evolution membership.
What choice will you make? You decide.