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  • Patti Norris

Are you bracing?

Are you bracing? In your body? In your mind? Do you find yourself constantly waiting for for the "other shoe to drop?" Sit back, take a deep breath, and notice if your jaw is clenched; if your shoulders are up around your ears, or if you are holding some other part of your body in tension and stiffness....

This is a valuable exercise. And not surprisingly, at this point in our history, I suspect many of us would answer "yes" to the above questions. The kicker here is that, a lot of the time, we don't even realize we are doing it. Our nervous system is locked in the "on" position, in fight or flight mode, waiting for the next bad thing to happen. The next upsetting headline, or notification on our phones, with someone asking us to do or fix something. The advent of smartphones, and our ability to be constantly updated and available has been a major contributing factor to this perpetual state of "bracing."

I am sure you are aware that there are a lot of downsides to this. We are not physiologically designed for our nervous systems to be stuck in the "on" position all the time. We simply cannot sustain this level of hyper-vigilance indefinitely without paying a price for it, and pay a heavy price we do. There is an epidemic of chronic pain, anxiety and depression plaguing much of the developed world right now, despite the fact that we live with conveniences that even kings and queens wouldn't have dreamed of a hundred years ago. If you are reading this, then chances are you have a roof over your head, food in your fridge and clothes on your back. In fact, if we are being honest, you probably have access to more than one room to hang out in, more food than you could eat in one sitting, and more clothes that you could wear at one time...this is the definition of abundance, my friends! Yes, we certainly do face many challenges as a species, but the reality is that most of us, most of the time, are safe and okay, which is much more than many of our ancestors could say.

Most of us realize that prolonged periods of elevated stress do nasty things to our bodies. What many may not understand is that the connection between what happens in our heads and what happens in our bodies is an intimate fact I would go so far as to say that they are one and the same. Our bodies are a direct reflection of our mental state; a mirror, you might say. While western medicine acknowledges the idea that high blood pressure, heart attacks, and ulcers can be the direct result of elevated stress levels, there has been little acceptance of the idea that chronic pain, and depression/anxiety are also manifestations of chronic stress. Dr. John Sarno, who ran the Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine for the better part of 50 years, was the first M.D. to take the concept of the Mind-Body connection to the mainstream. His first book, "Healing Back Pain," was a revolution, and has been the catalyst for so many people to regain control of their lives, including myself. :)

Dr. Sarno developed the diagnosis of "TMS", or "Tension Myo-neural Syndrome." The basic concept here is that unexpressed and unresolved emotions can be the direct cause of mental and physical disturbances. While the exact mechanism has yet to be concretely nailed down, we have all experienced this. Someone says something embarassing to you, and you blush. We have a stressful day at work, and we develop a tension headache. These are obvious examples of mind-body manifestations, and are pretty easy to wrap your head around. But what if tension and anxiety, pushing and striving, not speaking up and expressing our truth are habitual ways of being? Where does all of this excess tension go? That's guessed it...we "wear" it in our bodies! All that energy has to go somewhere...

So, how do we stop all of this "bracing," take our foot off the gas pedal, and let our body and minds go into "rest and recover" mode? One key is in letting your feelings and emotions have a voice. There are a number of great ways to do this, journalling, and talk therapy being two examples. However, in my experience there is some danger of getting stuck in playing the old stories, over and over again, and actually strengthening the neural pathways that support these feelings and the physical reactions to them. Clearly, if we truly want change and to live a life free of chronic mental and physical pain, then we need to find a way to give our feelings a voice, while moving purposefully forward in the direction of the life that we want.

It is also freeing to realize that you are NOT your feelings, or the movies that play in your head, but the observer of them. Think of the thoughts that run in your head, all day long everyday, as your "inner roommate." We can choose to get drawn into the melodrama that plays in our head, or we can choose to recognize our thoughts for what they are...clouds moving through the sky. When strong emotions come up, we can choose to notice them, and lean ever so slightly back, away from them, and let them move through us, rather than closing around them. Life is too short to do anything else! As Michael Singer, author of "The Untethered Soul," says, "When you are comfortable with pain passing through you, you will be free."

I have developed a system that allows you to acknowledge and process experiences from your past, and the emotions that accompany them, while not getting stuck in change how you hold them neurologically, keep the wisdom that you attained from these experiences, and let of the pain. What would it be like to be able to change your past "programming," stop "bracing," and live your life looking forward to the future with a healthier mind and body?

I look forward to helping you live a life that you love.

Reach out to me at and let's get started on living the life that you deserve!

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