It is unrealistic to think that we can cut every single stressor out of our life.
I mean, would we even want that? Healthy stress can actually help us grow! Our brilliant human bodies have evolved in extremely intelligent ways to be able to respond to life threatening stressors effectively and quickly! However, in our modern day society we are constantly faced with a constant influx of small stressors (ie. emails, negative thought patterns, deadlines, etc) with no time for recovery. Our bodies haven’t evolved yet to effectively respond to this type of stress in a healthy way. We can choose to fall victim to the hormones of stress, or we can take steps to understand their influence within us and find ways to consciously interact with them. We can learn to adapt in the face of adversity. We can build resilience.
Week 1: LEARN (Lesson + Review) - I suggest completing the review immediately after the lesson, as this will help seal the information into your neural pathways. Set aside a 1-2 hour chunk of time to focus on this content.
Week 2: REFLECT - set aside an hour of time to fill out the Stress Resiliency Reflection guide (except for questions #3 & 4) and the Stress Resiliency Activity. You could also split it into several days and complete one question every day. You’ll probably end up completing the Stress Resiliency Activity slowly throughout the week, writing down stressors as they present themselves to you.
Week 3: APPLY - Complete Stress Resiliency Meditation 1x a day, either upon waking or before bed, for a full week. Review the content from Week 1 by re-watching the Lesson and reading through your notes in the Review Guide.
Week 4: INTEGRATE - Set aside 3-5x to practice the Stress Resiliency yoga class. Schedule these classes into your routine and stay committed to your practice! At the end of the week, use the Stress Resiliency Toolkit to create a daily plan (questions #3 & 4 of the Stress Resiliency Reflection Guide) that will help you build stress resiliency into your daily schedule moving forward.
This lesson offers a general overview of the nervous system, as well as talks about the biological cascade of hormones referred to as the stress response. The material is dense - there is a lot packed into 25 minutes!! Rather than listen as you are doing something (driving, cleaning, etc), I would sit down with this one and take notes. Pay attention to the diagrams. Pause, rewind, and rewatch as needed. When you are finished, you should have a solid general understanding of terms related to the nervous system: neural pathways, cortisol, adrenal glands, etc, as well as a whole new understanding of what stress actually looks like on a biological level.
Use the review guide and suggested reading to help support you in your learning process:
Suggested Reading: The Physiology of Chronic Stress
Now that you’ve learned about the stress response, it’s time to reflect on how the information applies to your every day life. Complete the following reflection guide, and know that your answers may change and grow throughout the next week or so as you reflect on your stressors throughout each day. Please wait to fill out #3 and #4 under ‘Taking Action’ until you move into the APPLY content for this course.
Complete the activity slowly throughout the next week, adding to it little by little. A lot of building stress resiliency is simply becoming aware of what stresses us out, whether it’s certain relationships, thought patterns, environmental pollution, etc. When we create more awareness around our internal and external stressors, we can take appropriate action to either make changes or build resiliency.
This may include:
1) Take action so that a stressor is no longer in your life
2) Minimize the amount of exposure you have to a stressor
3) If neither option above is possible, you can build awareness so that when you are exposed to a stressor, you don’t become absorbed in the stress response. You can rise above your triggers. I call this courageous consciousness, which actually does wonders for our health!
Step one is knowing what we stressors we are working with, and understanding what it feels like in our body when we experience them.
For the next week, incorporate this meditation into your daily routine. It’s only 8 minutes! Meditating is a great way to start your day, so morning is ideal. However, this would also be the perfect midday break - whether in your break room with your ear buds, in your car (parked, of course) before you go into an important meeting, or outside in your backyard after a long work day before you spend quality time with your family.
2- BREATH EXERCISE
Dirga Pranayama is a three part breath that does wonders for activating the parasympathetic nervous system and evoking presence. I suggest doing this breathing exercise before or after your daily meditation!
Notice how you feel before the exercise, and after. Feel your heart beat, experience the movement of your breath, and notice areas of tension in your body, etc. Note how these sensations change.
1 - YOGA CLASS
I would suggest working this yoga class into your schedule at least 3 times a week for the next 2 weeks. I’ve found that set sequences can do wonders for the nervous system - they help ground us in many ways. As a society, we are always looking for the most new and flashy class, product, information, etc. The beauty of dedicating yourself to a set sequence is that you can grow with the postures. Not only will you deepen your physical practice over time, but you’ll find that you don’t have to think as hard to move through the sequence. As your body becomes more and more familiar with the movements and the postures, you will be able to enter more deeply into a flow state, a way of being that is intuitive and deeply present.
So, set a schedule for yourself right now. Establish 3 pockets of time throughout the next week that you’ll be able to dedicate to an at home yoga practice. Make sure you actually write them the into your schedule, rather than just let it be an idea in your head. Are you super busy? Make it work. Wake up an hour earlier. Reschedule a meeting. Move your schedule around so that you prioritize your own wellbeing before anything else.
Lastly, determine a practice space. Where will you practice? If it’s in your home, make sure it’s quiet and without interruption. Maybe you need to take the computer outside and practice under the sun! If there are too many distractions in your home, maybe you need to find some other place to practice - book your favorite studio at your gym. Ask your friend to lend you her spare bedroom. Plan ahead so that when the time comes, you can slide right into your practice without the roadblocks.
Please note, actually applying the information we’ve learned is incredibly important - change and growth won’t happen without doing so. If you want, feel free to rewatch the presentation before you take class! I find that learning something intellectually, then physically experiencing it a very effective way to absorb new concepts.
If you would like music with this yoga class, start the following playlist at the same time the class starts in the video. Adjust volume as needed!
2 - CREATE A CUSTOMIZED PLAN
Now that you’ve experienced the benefits of yoga, meditation, and breath work, it’s time to create a customized plan for yourself moving forward. Take the next week or two and implement your plan.
The following toolkit lists a variety of yoga postures and breathing exercises for you to choose from as you build your plans. If you don’t know what the yoga postures look like, feel free to look them up on online or book a private session with me! Please note, your plan might contain activities that are not listed in the toolkit - there are trillions of different ways that our neurons link up, hence, countless ways to soothe our system.
Other activities could include (but not limited to): epsom salt bath, hike, journaling, evening tea, running, sun gazing, etc, etc, etc. The list goes on and on and on!!!
Lastly, be specific. Just like scheduling in your weekly yoga classes and breathing exercises, make a tangible plan for yourself that is realistic. Write it down in your schedule. Most importantly - actually do it. Commit to it. If you need an accountability partner, find one. The change lies in actually DOING THE WORK. Carving out time for recovery and rest. Letting their be space in your schedule for your parasympathetic nervous system to express itself.
Congratulations on completing the Science & Magic Stress Resiliency course! Feel free to share your #brilliantbrainstory on the Science & Magic facebook page. We would love to hear how this work has helped you find more ease in your body, work, and life.