In our last article we looked at how your nervous system plays a role in stress management.
In this article, we’ll take the next step in mindfulness based stress reduction with an advanced lesson in techniques to reduce stress.
Lessons for a Happy Nervous System
By now you may have sensed a trend as each part of biofeedback training builds on earlier tips and exercises.
Your mind is now learning how to use conscious awareness to sense and make conscious choices about how to communicate with your body’s mind.
You are at “graduate” level now in your stress management exercises.
This material will provide an even greater sense of control and you’ll discover even more ways to feel like “all is well” often and on purpose!
Think of it this way:
Managing stress and anxiety means tuning into that feeling of nervous system tension or that feeling that “all is well”.
You want to be aware!
Tips for Stress Reduction
In this article and future articles, I am going to show you several steps you can take to help your nervous system gain that feeling of calm and safety.
Start gaining these stress management skills with the following tips:
#1: Notice Your Nervous System
Your nervous system is telling you things…all the time.
Are you listening?
When your nervous system is readying for battle it can signal your body to pull the blood away from the tips of your fingers and toes and the tip of your nose.
(This reaction goes back to our instinctive response to battle preparation…think that your body is preparing you so that if you get cut in the up-coming battle you won’t bleed out as fast.)
For those of you with asthma, anxiety, or migraine headaches or IBS or immune system issues or high blood pressure….this awareness of what the tips of your fingers, toes and nose feel like will be something you can use to keep track of when your nervous system is preparing for trouble.
You can begin the process of controlling your symptoms…which are as you now know, stress symptoms that appear when your inner three year-old thinks danger is at hand!
Which is probably NOT what is happening…you are having a failure to communicate!!!!!
#2: Are You Running Hot or Cold?
Here’s a simple tip to see if your nervous system is ready to jump into the fight:
Make it a habit to touch your finger tips to your palm or your neck.
Your finger tip temperature should be about the same as the temperature of your neck.
If they are cooler than your neck, your body is readying your nervous system for battle.
If they are as warm as your neck your body is NOT readying your nervous system for battle…it is relaxed.
#3: Warning Signs For The Negative Effects of Stress
Now many of you may be asking: “What if I just have poor circulation in my finger-tips? What about that?”
Remember what I said about listening to your body?
Poor circulation is the language your body is using to tell you that it’s getting ready for battle preparation!
“What about if I am just feeling chilled?”
The truth is that your body and with that your nervous system, can get stressed ABOUT being chilled and then cool your fingers.
It can show up in the oddest of times…
If your nervous system is stressed you can be walking on a warm tropical beach in Hawaii and your fingers can be ice cold!
Now think of the Sherpa climbing in the Himalayas with little protection against the cold…their bodies have adapted or learned to feel safe in those conditions and so they stay warm and don’t freeze to death!
It is not the cold but the stress ABOUT being cold that cools the fingers and toes.
We on the other hand may sense danger and cold fingers would be just one of the warning signs…your body is talking to you!
Listen in…your body has intuition and can sense things, it notices patterns that escape the conscious mind…it keeps an aware mind informed.
Obviously if the nervous system is stuck in the ON position you won’t get valid information because it keeps saying danger…danger.
#4: Using The Power Of Your Mind To Train Your Nervous System
So what do all these warning signs mean?
It’s pretty simple…
The environment does not HAVE to trigger stress, but often it does because we aren’t using our conscious mind to guide our bodies’ response.
Instead the nervous system listens to those old habits and just shifts into the instinctive response such as “I could freeze to death!”
Or going to work or school or driving in traffic is dangerous!
But it doesn’t have to be that way…
You can help your body feel safe (think: warm fingers) even if you are feeling chilled by using SELF-REGULATION!
Self-regulation is really at the core of biofeedback training.
One more thing…
I want to touch here on the temperature of your toes.
Your toes will not warm up as much as your fingers.
Wonder why that is?
Your toes are further away from the heart than your fingers.
And since your heart provides the blood that warms your toes, it cools down more by the time it gets to your toes.
Gravity also plays a part here as the blood tends to pool and cool a bit in the toes.
Finally, as you learn how to warm your fingers and toes you will have more awareness of your fingers because we use them so much more than our toes.
That is why we focus on fingers when you are learning self-regulations.
Being aware of this obvious sign, you can make a faster connection with your nervous system.
You for sure want to keep your stress management practice going until you have noticed toe warming too.
That sign tells you that you are really in touch with your nervous system and can accomplish even deeper quieting that when you warm your fingers.
So remember, your toes will always warm more slowly and generally never be as warm as your fingers.
Are you an over-achiever?
You will know you are getting really skilled at biofeedback training when you are able to warm your toes!
(Warning: Trying too hard like over-achievers tend to do, will actually trigger a stress response in your nervous system especially and make the temperature cooler!!!!
More in the next blog on this.
Mind Over Matter…Matters!
Do you understand the mind-body connection here?
Your body and your nervous system will follow your mind even over reality…you can create a new habit so you can warm your fingers even if you are in the cold of a winter day.
You hold the power!
In our next article, we will talk further about stress and relaxation techniques by seeing how to ask for warming.
Stay tuned for the next article!
Want to learn more about stress management?
Take the first step!
Click here for my Special Report: Biofeedback Training- Discover the Power of Your Mind to Control Your Body
Author: Jinny Joy LaRock, RN, BCB Sr. Fellow