What is Stress Management?

Stress is built in to being human, as we manage challenges and respond to problems. It is a fundamental part of being alive. It is also a whole-body event, with physical, mental, and emotional effects. Our bodies are designed to experience stress as a temporary state, and then return to rest and relaxation mode. However, modern life often creates chronic stress, where the body and mind do not fully reset.

Stress Management creates a set of tools that allow us to intentionally counter the effects of chronic stress in our bodies and minds. High levels of chronic stress put our wellbeing at risk. These fight or flight responses can reduce quality of sleep, slow healing times, affect digestion, strain heart health, and weaken your immune system. Because stress is a survival response, the body is basically pulling energy away from non-essential systems in order to fend off a lion attack.

Another way to think of stress is as a set of alarms. If our lion attack alarms are going off all day every day, our system doesn’t put energy toward long term health and wellbeing. The tools of stress management allow us to turn down the volume of the alarms and counter the signals of chronic stress. Through mindfulness exercises and daily physical practice, we are able to access the nervous system in a way that changes our physical, mental, and emotional states.

Because the effects of chronic stress build on themselves, layer by layer, over time, stress management can have profound effects. Physical discomforts, mental health impacts, and emotional resilience can all see positive results. Even if an issue is not caused by stress effects specifically, it is often made worse or heals slower because of the effects of chronic stress. Turning down the stress alarms frees up energy for the body to heal itself.

Stress management is key to our overall health and wellbeing, because chronic stress has comprehensive effects on our body and mind. Creating a sense of calm safety on a daily basis allows our survival-sensitive inner alarms to turn down the volume, which in turn lets our natural healing mechanisms get to work.

Restorative Yoga

Restorative Yoga is about relaxing into each pose, allowing the earth to hold you completely. Using props like blankets, bolsters, and blocks, the body is fully supported so that you can release layer after layer of tension. This resets the nervous system toward rest and digest mode, which creates space for healing and thriving.

Restorative yoga is also a form of mindfulness practice. It invites the mind to become more and more aware of where the body is holding tension. This helps to connect the body with mind, and uses neuroplasticity to cultivate stronger paths to relaxation in the nervous system. As we bring awareness to tension and then release it, we create ease and find room to change the habits of unnecessary tension that we hold in our daily lives.

Conscious relaxation creates a cascade of health benefits in the body. Heart rate slows, breathing deepens, and blood pressure lowers. Tension begins to drain out of the diaphragm, the pelvis, and the neck and shoulders. Muscles relax, allowing nutrients, oxygen, and blood to nourish and repair the tissue. As tension releases along the spine, vertebra make subtle adjustments toward alignment. The nervous system begins to turn down the volume on pain signals and various complex systems of the body better regulate themselves, like the digestive system, circulatory system, and sleep patterns.

In many ways, gentle is the new advanced. Restorative yoga is a gentle, subtle practice that creates profound results. Using the pull of gravity instead of muscular effort, it speaks to the healing processes of the body in a different, and very effective, way. It may be gentle, but it is not always easy to cultivate mindful relaxation.

Mindful Yoga is a Treatment for the Whole Self

Yoga, at its heart, is therapeutic. It is an ancient system of connecting the mind and body so that they move together and support health and vitality. Though it is popular to use yoga as a means to fitness goals, that is a narrow interpretation of a comprehensive system of health and treatment.

Yoga is a form of mindfulness practice, cultivating awareness from within the body. By bringing attention to the breath and alignment, it trains and conditions the mind. This has been shown to help improve cognitive function, boost memory, and reduce baseline stress levels.

In many ways, gentle yoga is the most advanced yoga. Without fast pacing or high physical challenge to occupy the mind, your attention is able to turn to the wealth of information percolating up from within the body: the exact angle of knee bend that begins to make an old injury ache; a perpetual knot in your shoulders that brings certain memories to the surface; the joy that comes from releasing tension in the low back. By tuning in to this body wisdom, we are able to better engage with our health and support ourselves.

Slower, more deliberate yoga is therefore able to treat imbalances and address discomfort, often before they become a bigger issue. It supports flexibility, lubricates joints, develops strength, increases balance, and reduces mental, emotional, and physical stress levels. Also, because it does use slower and gentler poses, it is accessible to a wider range of practitioners. Do not mistake it for easy, but know that it creates space for a wide range of bodies, ages, and levels of experience.

At Ha.Lé, our yoga classes are based in mindfulness practice. They are designed as treatments to support health and to continue the care we offer in our appointments. Therapeutic yoga is an effective way to support the whole self, bringing body and mind together to create health.

Breema Brings Deep Nurturing and Wholeness

Breema is a set of techniques based on 9 Principles of Harmony. It does not require mental beliefs, only attention to the experience of the body. It provides a way to feel nurtured, rather than drained, by your experiences and relationships.

Breema can be done as self-care, done with a partner, and received as a bodywork. It uses simple forms of natural body movement to free your energy for productive work. Our physical energy is consumed by our mind, body and feelings. Conflicts and tension tie up more of that energy than necessary, and restoring harmony makes it available for other things, like our body’s natural healing processes.

As tension and conflict eases, it restores vitality and suppleness. New movements and postures become available. Mind, body, and feelings are able to create new relationships and function more cooperatively. Mood can regulate, stepping out of the cycle of pleasant and unpleasant states so that the mind can return to being a naturally supportive presence to the body.

Breema is done fully clothed on a padded floor, and brings an experience of wholeness. All our lives we don’t include ourselves in our impressions of life, and we think of our body as discrete, labeled parts like hands, arms, liver, heart, etc. By including the whole self and emphasizing that unity of being, Breema creates an experience. When we move into that experience, we remember that we are all part of a whole, our body parts are all part of our whole, and we are able to release tension and conflict in order to return to harmony.

The experience of Breema makes you simpler, not more complicated. Instead of fighting illness, it works to increase vitality. By moving toward harmony, vitality, and wholeness, Breema treatments restore natural function and bring a deep sense of wellbeing.

Focus on Feeling Better: Mind-Body Connection

Our minds and bodies are connected into a single whole, and emotional states express themselves physically in the body. We get butterflies in our stomach when we are nervous, or blush when we are embarrassed. These are easy, momentary examples, but the same kinds of physical reactions happen for chronic stress, depression, anxiety, and other emotions. This means that mental and emotional healthcare is a cornerstone of treating health concerns and supporting overall wellbeing.

On a biological level, there are multiple networks of communication between the mind and the body. When the brain feels an emotion, it is a signal that activates the neurological system, the endocrine system, and the immune system. The body can then move toward readiness to face a threat or relax into rest-and-digest mode. Hormone levels adjust, which can affect your ability to take quick action, to heal, to feel hungry, and to feel tired. Your immune system can also ramp up or down, depending on the situation.

Because of these deep connections, treatment for many health concerns may be most effective when it includes sessions that focus on mental and emotional states specifically. Mindfulness Counseling, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics can all have a deep impact on creating health. These treatments each focus on different aspects of supporting a mindfulness practice, addressing possible trauma, developing more positive behavioral health habits, and working with the emotions stored in the body, especially when things feel “stuck”.

The mind-body connection is powerful because there is no real division between the body and the mind. They are both aspects of the same whole, and effective treatment takes this into account. Whether mental and emotional healthcare is addressing a cause of distress, a reaction to distress, or some of both, it is an effective aspect of feeling better and creating health.

Deep Harmony through Being Present

Being present allows the stress of what has happened (past) and what has not yet happened (future) to fall away from the mind. Instead we turn our attention to the present, which is where the body lives. Common, simple techniques focus on the breath or the rhythm of our heartbeat. By shifting our awareness to our physical sensations, we can begin to relax the alarm systems of stress and allow our bodies to turn on the internal systems of nourishment and healing.

There are many ways to cue the body and mind to come into the present, and one of our favorite techniques at HaLé is a gentle, supportive bodywork called Breema. Based on Nine Principles of Harmony, Breema teaches that we best support ourselves and one another by being present in the moment.

Breema combines different nurturing touches to support whole-bodied relaxation and health. This includes stretches to relieve tension along with compression and gentle touch. It also incorporates rhythmic movements and stillness as a way to keep your mind in your body and so in the present moment. Sessions are able to assist with physical flexibility, emotional balance, and mental clarity.

Breema and other forms of mindfulness practice that are based on awareness of the body help support an overall sense of vitality. Being in the present opens us to a sense of joy, connection, and gratitude. This in turn expands our understanding of self and helps us live a more meaningful life.

Emotional Support for the Holiday Season

November and December can be some of the most wonderful and most stressful months of the year. Family closeness, preparing for celebrations, and colder, darker days can all bring depression and anxiety as well as comfort and joy. HaLé has expanded our psychotherapy offerings in time to support you through this potentially difficult time of year.

Susan Dendtler, MA, believes that we are all born with a great capacity for love, creativity, joy, and kindness. She has taught Restorative Yoga classes at HaLé for the last year, and is now seeing psychotherapy clients as well. She specializes in restorative practice and integrating yoga with mental health, and is able to meet each person where they are.

Susie embraces those of different cultures, genders, ages, and sexual orientations, and she is committed to creating a welcoming environment for everyone. She sees individuals and couples to process emotions, heal, and overcome any internal or external barriers to reaching their full expression of self. She has extensive experience working with children, teens and parents who have experienced trauma, grief, and loss, and is certified in Trust Based Relational Interventions and Trauma Informed Care.

Whether you need a little extra support through seasonal anxiety or depression, or have deeper emotions ready for healing, Psychotherapy at HaLé can help provide the emotional nourishment you need for your own health and wellbeing.

Diabetes Support

Diabetes is a stressful and common condition that requires constant management. It puts tremendous strain on the physical body, and elevates mental and emotional stress levels. Creating health and support for diabetes means treating the body systems that are under strain and reducing overall stress levels so that you can switch the nervous system out of fight or flight mode and into rest and repair mode.

Bodywork and massage increases the circulation of blood and lymph, which brings oxygen and nutrients to tissues and boosts insulin uptake. It also calms the nervous system, helping to turn off the alarms, and is effective at treating the stiffness and mobility issues caused by high blood sugar levels.

Mindfulness practice helps to both lower blood sugar levels and to better self-manage diabetes. In one study, 16 weeks of practice improved mood, lowered stress, addressed sleep issues, and decreased fasting blood sugar levels.

Therapeutic Movement classes like yoga provide the physical activity needed to increase circulation, especially to the arms and legs, where people with diabetes most have issues. Regular physical activity also helps the body improve its response to insulin, and helps directly lower blood sugar levels by reducing stress hormones in the body.

Acupuncture is able to reduce the nerve pain and neuropathy that can come from diabetes. It also helps to lower blood sugar levels, and to regulate the urge to eat too much, drink too much, and pee too often. Overall, it helps to rebalance and support the many physical systems under strain from diabetes.

The constant management of diabetes means that you are in an ongoing conversation with your body about its health status on a daily basis. There are ways to have that conversation and to reduce the strain and stress of this condition through health care that also increases your overall sense of wellbeing and supports your whole self. All of these therapies, including bodywork, mindfulness, therapeutic movement classes, and acupuncture, work with the care of your doctor to improve health and quality of life.

Relief for Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a common source of joint pain, caused by wear on the protective cartilage cushioning the ends of the bones of the joint. It can start at any age, and by age 60, most adults have some arthritis. The bones most often affected are in the hands, spine, knee, and hip joints. Bodywork and massage, movement classes like yoga, and mindfulness practice can all help with the pain, stiffness, swelling, and decreased range of motion of osteoarthritis.

Part of osteoarthritis is that collagenous tissue will settle in to create a patchwork of scars that creates a lot of stiffness, and bodywork is effective at helping to restore that lost range of motion. It also works to realign posture, which relieves strain on affected joints, and decreases swelling. Additionally, massage and bodywork reduces pain by directly impacting the nerves of the affected joints.

When it comes to movement classes, the general rule for students with osteoarthritis is: if it hurts, stop and do it a different way. The benefits of yoga and other therapeutic classes include increased mobility, balance, and range of motion, all of which help to reduce arthritis pain. Everything done in class can be modified to accommodate physical issues, so if any pose or motion is uncomfortable, let the teacher know so they show you another way.

Mindfulness techniques are also proven to help treat people with osteoarthritis. They retrain the brain away from focusing on pain and thereby magnifying it and making it worse. The effects of mindfulness practice are cumulative; the more often you do it, the more it helps.

Osteoarthritis may be a common cause of pain, stiffness, and discomfort, but it is possible to feel significantly better through treatment. Supporting your health through bodywork, therapeutic movement classes, and mindfulness can improve both your symptoms and your overall sense of wellbeing.

Treatments for Autoimmune Disorders

There are over 80 kinds of autoimmune disorders, where the body is either attacking itself and causing physical problems in the organ or system it is attacking, or where it is creating excessive amounts of inflammation. Treatment focuses mostly on symptom management, and bodywork, movement classes, and mindfulness are all effective at treating autoimmune symptoms.

Bodywork supports clients with autoimmune disorders by reducing levels of inflammation and irritation. It helps move the body out of fight or flight mode and into rest and restore mode, which supports nutrient flow and reduces stress on organ systems like the adrenals. It also releases muscle tension and aches, which in turn helps to ease strain on the spine and joints. Bodywork sessions are able to be uniquely customized for specific disorders to support affected tissues, treat secondary symptoms, and move lymph fluid.

Movement classes like yoga and qigong also help treat autoimmune disorders by helping to lower immune response and inflammation in the body. The physical activity of the class helps to quell inflammation and reduce levels of stress hormones in the body. The mental awareness and focus of the classes support a sense of calm and well being, which helps relax the accumulated mental stress of a chronic condition.

Finally, Mindfulness is also effective treatment for autoimmune disorders. It is a proven method for reducing pain and discomfort, as it is able to turn down the volume on pain signals from the body. In the case of autoimmune disorders, this shift then sends a “cooling” message to the body’s inflammatory response, helping it to subside and come back into balance.

Autoimmune disorders are often chronic conditions that impact daily life in difficult and painful ways. At HaLé, we see firsthand how treatment through bodywork, movement classes, and mindfulness is able to help reduce pain, reduce inflammation, and improve quality of life.

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