This is a continuation of a previous post. Click here to read Part I, which was about reducing stressors. Today we dive into my favorite topic: increasing adaptability to stress (because nobody can live in a magical stress-free bubble, amiright?)
Resilience is not about a resistance to stress, but rather the ability to roll with it - to have a response and then return to center unharmed. It's all about shifting from REACTIVE mode to RESPONSIVE mode. This is where we find true adaptability to life's unavoidable stressors. In the previous analogy of treading water with a backpack full of rocks (stressors), adaptability and resilience are about how strong your legs can swim to keep you afloat.
When we have more rocks in that backpack than our legs can keep afloat, the body succumbs to illness (like cancer).
So how can we increase adaptability to stress? I can think of 3 primary ways:
Downshift fight-or-flight aka survival mode in the brain
Make sure brain-body nerve signaling works without any interference
Ensure resource sufficiency (aka the checklist of building a healthy person - does your body have everything it needs?)
Shift From Survival Mode to Thriving Mode
The best way I know to do this is through movement. In fact, movement is so crucial for brain function that it's been proposed that exercise is more important for the brain than for heart, lungs, or muscles (not that it's not important for those things, but that our brain really can't survive or thrive without the specific nerve signals that come from healthy movement).
However, there's a big problem with most exercise: healthy movement signals only come from healthy moving joints. Any places in your body that don't move smoothly + fluidly (stuck, tension, or otherwise 'gunky') send alarm signals - and extra ones when you put extra mechanical demand on them (aka going for that run will wrench down on stuck places...sometimes causing pain and always causing alarm signals to the brain). So it's crucial that we 1) exercise in ways that are gentle on the body, and 2) *more importantly* work to unwind stored trauma in the body so it can go back to moving smoothly.
Stored tension in the body is one of the most significant influencing factors we know to perpetuating survival mode in the brain. And when the brain is in survival mode, it has no interest in fighting cancer or infections because those are long-term threats versus the potential tiger trying to kill you right now. Unfortunately, our brain doesn't know the difference between a tiger trying to kill you and stuck joints sending alarm signals.
Fortunately, we can feed the brain extra 'happy movement' signals with gentle, deep squeezes (think of using your hands to deliver tiny hugs all over your body, including both soft tissue and joints). But since I'm in more dire straits, my plan involves LOTS of dancing and Fascial Flow Method™ exercises, plus continuing the process of unwinding all the rigid places where my body holds unresolved trauma.
Ensure Clear Brain-Body Communication
This one is pretty easy - in concept, at least. Most brain-body signaling happens via spinal nerves. Really excellent chiropractors can find nerve interference with noninvasive tests, and find the associated joint restrictions with their hands...and then adjust those joints back to normal motion, thereby restoring nerve signaling between the brain and body. Lucky for me, I have a couple of chiropractors around me who fit the bill. Ideally, I get my spine and nervous system checked weekly during this stressful time, and my chiropractor delivers super-specific adjustments that work with my body's natural elastic (as opposed to many experiences I've had with chiropractors who are too forceful). If you have yet to find a chiropractor you love, I highly suggest you keep looking. Because there is no substitute for a neurologically-focused chiropractor who integrates science with artistry with a vitalistic philosophy. I consider this to be my most important healing provider.
Ensure Resource Sufficiency
Thinking together with my dad (an incredible healing wizard and champion of critical thinking), we wrote up the following list of all resources the body needs to function normally on its own:
Hydration (pure water)
Nutrients (healthy food)
Rest (sleep, vacation, naps, chill-out time)
Hugs (social support)
Aerobic + conditioning exercise
Nature contact (air, earth, fire, metal, water, sun)
So for this part of the plan, I look at what might be missing. The biggest thing I noticed was nature contact. Living with sensory sensitivity means I often default to resting inside rather than going outside. So I'm getting back to (short) walks in the woods, and even just stepping outside to place my hands and feet on the ground. I'm also reaching out for more social support (which includes sharing all of this with you!), and building even more rest into my life. Most significantly, I will be taking the longest break from clinical work since I started a decade ago - starting January 1.
This planned hiatus will also provide much-needed headspace to focus on writing and sharing my best thinking around healing, freeing the body from unresolved trauma, and living the most expansive life possible...all of which lines up more fully with my sense of purpose. And living in resonance with soul purpose is probably the most impactful thing we could do to support a self-healing body.
* The last part of my plan to heal cancer has to do with clearing the results of chronically elevated fight-or-flight mode. This is the part that is most like using crutches when you have a sprained ankle. It's about helping the body where it's struggling while it gets stronger, and is an important part of my plan because of the time urgency of my situation. Watch for my next blog post which will detail that part of the plan.
Satya Sardonicus, DC, CACCP
Champion of Human Potential
Founder | Chrysalis Studio PDX