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Breather: Stress Reduction for the High Performer

February 01, 2019 0 Comments

Breather: Stress Reduction for the High Performer

by Dr. Blessyl Buan

Similar to a slingshot, your projected success is related to how far you pull back. Rest, recovery, self-compassion and time for healing are all part of that pull back. When you ignore these, you fall short of your goals.

My story

I am a mom of four young children, a chiropractor and dance artist.  For the last decade I’ve been growing my family, my practice and opportunities to teach and dance. It’s challenging when time for self-care is lacking. But when you have a family, you can’t just hide under a rock and wish everything would get easier.

With a young family and career, I’ve battled extreme exhaustion and burnout. Yet, I’ve developed small, manageable self-care routines that have given the “breather” I needed to navigate the life that I’ve designed and to keep it sustainable.

What I’ve learned through my personal journey and what I observe in my practice is this: your talent cannot be of service if you don’t support your body first. My mission is to teach High Performers that Self-Care before Service ensures Sustainability.

Who is the High Performer?

High Performers are results-oriented individuals who thrive on being of service. High performers tend to be perfectionists, ambitious self-starters and leaders.  While they thrive on productivity, their downfall is that they may not ask for help and suffer in silence.  When stress is prominent, these individuals can fall into a perpetual state of pain, overwhelm and sickness. The universal trait among this group is their inability to ground their breath.  They experience chronic tension in their bodies.  This negatively affects mental clarity, creativity and ultimately performance. 

Good Stress versus Bad Stress

Stress can be good. High Performers leverage stress to create a sense of urgency to get things done. If you ask a high performer if they operate well under stress, the answer is often yes. In fact, I would say that they even thrive under pressure. Under stress you are focused, in action mode and our culture glorifies this.

However, sustained stress is not a viable option.  The human body requires recovery.  Sustained stress leads to chronic pain, muscular tension, fatigue, anxiety, brain fog, depression, immunosuppression and more.

The Science of Stress

The stress response is initiated in the primitive brain called the brainstem. Its prime function is to keep you alive. When stress is turned “on”, the brainstem prepares the body to either attack the stressor or run away from the stressor.  Think of a tiger in front of you. What would you do? This mode is popularly known as “fight or flight.” To put this concept into perspective, stress is binary like a light switch. It’s either “on” or “off”.

Stress activates the pituitary gland in the brain that initiates the release of the hormone adrenaline.  This causes the eyes to dilate, breathing becomes shallow, heart rate and breath rate become rapid, blood flows to the large muscles in the arms and legs, hands get clammy, the mouth gets dry and digestion slows down. Cortisol is released to breakdown glucose in the body that will provide the energy to get out of danger.

Interestingly, the cascade of reactions that stress initiates for survival is the same if you are worried about public speaking for example. Under long-term stress, this response is not useful and harmful for your health. If there is no life-threatening stressor in front of you, you can control the stress response by being mindful of your perception of stress and initiating the following self-care exercises.

Here are three easy steps to reconnect with your breath and to control the stress response.

1. Body Scan (head to toe)
This exercise reconnects to your mind to your body.  Start from your head, and work your way to your toes.  Without judgment observe the level of tension you are holding in your eyebrows, your forehead, your jaw, your throat, chest, hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, stomach, hips, thighs, knees, ankles and toes.

2. Visualization of the Blooming Flower
Note the areas of tension that you discovered in your body. Imagine planting a flower in the top 3 areas of tension. Inhale:  visualize the flower blooming
Exhale:  let the petals relax. Observe how your body unlocks tension and expands breath by releasing the diaphragm.

3. Get up & Move
To dissipate the tension generated in your large muscles, start moving from wherever you are. You can shake your body out, pace, jump, take a 20-minute walk or get up and stretch. 
 

Keep it Sustainable

Sustainability is finding the balance of productivity and enjoying life.  Recognize the season that you are in.  Discover ways to connect with your body to recognize where you are on the stress scale.  Dial back or forward accordingly.

Live your high performing life.

Want to learn more?

Join me for a free workshop on February 12, 2019 at 7pm

Breather: Stress Reduction for High Performers.





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