woman feeling the effects of stress


Stress is something that can manifest in many ways. As individuals, we all respond or react differently in any given challenging situation. This is likely to be dependent on multiple factors, the main one being “just how full our container is”.

What do I mean by this?

Think of yourself as a ‘you’ shaped container, with your skin being the outer wall. Into that container, throughout the whole of your life, you have stored not just mental and emotional memories but also somatic (sensation and feeling) memories. When we are very young, before our brains are fully developed, memories are stored somatically in the tissue and organs of the body, along with any physical injuries and accidents.

As our brains grow through early childhood, more and more connections are made. We become able to attach basic stories to sensations as our cognition develops. If all goes well and early life is kind to us, we are most likely moving towards full cognition around the time of puberty and then onwards into adulthood. If this is the case, our nervous systems should have the capacity to cope with stress fairly well. Real life is like a roller coaster with all its ups and downs. A healthy nervous system will be able to ride those waves.

It is only when major life events happen that the healthy, well-resourced nervous system may struggle.

However, this person’s container should have enough space within it for them to work their way through life’s difficulties. It may well be tough. But they will emerge on the other side with help from their own resilience and those close to them or even help from a therapist.

On the other hand, if our early lives or teenage years are disrupted and emotionally challenging, we emerge from puberty with a lack of cognitive maturity and an already full container. As we move into adult life, we may find our behaviour is still very much informed by the somatic memories of our younger years. Rather than being able to measure our response relative to what is happening in the present moment, we may find ourselves reacting to what is going on based on past experience.

To help us manage on a day-to-day basis, we may modify our behaviour in relation to everyday tasks. Rather than share our difficulties with close friends or family, we may keep our own counsel. We may avoid social situations or use potentially harmful coping strategies to help get us through challenging situations. We are less likely to ask for help, and there may be shame around the thought of not being able to cope.

Everyday life can become a stress in itself, and emotions difficult to manage.

Our container was already full to the brim with difficult early childhood experiences. Now, the nervous system feels constantly overwhelmed. We may even experience debilitating physical symptoms and feel we can no longer cope.

Peter Levine, the founder and creator of the Somatic Experiencing® approach, says that events that happen “too much, too fast, too soon or for too long” can push us to the point of overwhelm.

How can I help with stress?

From my perspective, putting in place strategies to help down-regulate my client’s nervous system is paramount. I keep it simple, teaching vital but basic exercises that can be remembered and drawn on at those difficult times. We also look at resourcing and awareness to help build capacity in the container.

Initially, we may look to unpick some of the less difficult experiences from the client’s container to create some space. These may be the result of physical issues, accidents, injuries or operations. By helping shift some of these physical blockages, we are able to help restore flow throughout the body. This can help lead to clearer thought.

I use a combination of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy and Somatic Experiencing®  to help clients unwind and release constrictions in their body tissue as well as to provide support for and rebalance their nervous system during the session. In nearly all instances, clients say they feel much more relaxed and calmer at the end of each session.

This allows the possibility of being able to sit back and take a look at where that person feels they would like more help to create change in their life. The bigger issues can be worked with when they are feeling stronger and more resourced.

Both Somatic Experiencing® and Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy are, by definition, trauma-attuned modalities. Used together, either online or in-person, they can facilitate the resolution of embodied trauma in a very profound but gentle way, honouring the unique wishes and needs of each client.

If you think you could benefit from working with me, please get in touch. Email sarah@ytenehealing.co.uk or call me on 07747 111040.

Please remember to contact your medical practitioner in the first instance if you have any concerns regarding your health.

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