In today’s episode I’m chatting with my good friend Seth Oberst, DPT, CSCS. I’m such a fan of his approach to physical therapy because ultimately he helps people cultivate a deeper awareness of themselves. He educates people on how to regulate their own body so that they may take back control. He strives to help people feel connected to themselves in the present moment. And in case you didn’t know, Seth is actually a returning guest from season 1 here on the podcast! You can check out the first episode we did here: LPP #3 Connecting With The Present Moment with Seth Oberst
Ever catch yourself clenching your teeth? Unfortunately this is one of my default responses to stress. And I’d like to take a minute to dive a little deeper into this word “stress” because I feel like it gets thrown around a lot. Stress is such an ominous term, and it doesn’t really help us get a handle on identifying the root cause. So I think a more useful approach is: to get curious and more specific about what it is we are feeling.
To go back to my teeth clenching. I can pinpoint the moment when I became aware that I had developed this habit: I was a senior in HS and I was in the process of applying for colleges. Sure you could say I was stressed, but I think a more useful way to frame it would be to say: I was feeling really uncertain about what I wanted to do with my life. I had no idea what I was looking for in a college. I had no idea what I wanted to study. I felt immense pressure to keep this facade like I had my shit together. I felt confused, uncertain, and downright overwhelmed.
It was so interesting to learn, from this week’s podcast guest, how this habit of teeth clenching I developed was actually serving a purpose. On some subconscious level it was soothing me. Our bodies are so remarkable; and so my body was all “I got you” → and she came up with a coping mechanism to calm my nerves & give me a sense of control. The only problem now is that old habits die hard. And I’m still doing it all this years later.
IN THIS EPISODE WE DISCUSS:
x Stress is the perception of threat and the inability to cope with the situation
x Movement patterns are then created to help us tolerate/cope with the difficult sensations (e.g. fear, shame, anger, or guilt)
x Common patterns often expressed as pain or tension in the body include: clenching your teeth, holding your breath, curling your toes, arching your back (low back pain), tightening of the abdominals, and neck pain.
x Why clenching our teeth helps us feel like we have a sense of control.
x How many of us are not living in the present moment because we are stuck in these stress response loops
x The INITIAL component of emotion first occurs in the body.
x We are not thinking our emotions, they are “floating” up to consciousness. Our emotions are brought up based on the state of our system at that time.
x Situational vs. dispositional behavior
x On a physiological level when we are under chronic stress: Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal (HPA) axis becomes dysregulated and doesn’t respond appropriately
x which can present as a host of diseases: depression, anxiety, autoimmune diseases, joint pain, muscle pain. Over OR Under active response to stress
Rocky Mountain National Park © Seth Oberst 2016
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