Bodymind Health Tip of the Month

Identify your “Personal Stress Response” and get yourself “Back To Cool”.

At times of stress, no matter whether you are being attacked by a grizzly bear, cut off on the highway, or about to walk into a meeting with your boss, your nervous system reacts with a standard set of physical responses.

At times of perceived threat, whether it’s a physical threat, an emotional one, an actual threat, or an anticipated one (or one that we make up all by ourselves that isn’t actually true!), our magnificently brilliant nervous systems don’t know the difference!

© by Parvin

There are countless changes that happen in almost every organ and system in the body, on a gross level and a micro-chemical level. Some of the most common effects of stress that we can become aware of and do something about are listed below: Take a moment and remember the last time you felt upset or stressed by either a big event or a little moment; What happens in your body?

Often our stress response includes these three components:

1. Breath: We Hold our breath or breathe shallowly,

2. Tension: Our muscles tighten, often in the neck, shoulders, jaw, belly, arms…usually more in the upper body (getting ready to fight). We get a knot in our stomach or tightness in the chest or throat.

3. Center: We jump up, imperceptively; we become ungrounded, light on our feet and ready for flight. We may feel jittery, shaky, fluttery, sometimes even spacey or light headed, or our thoughts race, or go blank! We become hyper-vigilent. We may feel jumpy, or go in the other direction and freeze.

It’s easy to imagine these effects happening if we were being chased by a bear…but these things will happen ANYTIME you feel stressed, even at the littlest thing, and even if you’re not aware of it, and even if you’re making it up!

The problem is that most of us never unwind this response and our bodies and minds get stuck in these patterns, which leads to dysfunction in all systems of the body, including our immune system, cardiovascular system, and our mood.

The key is awareness.

As you go through your day, begin to tune in to these three effects and see if you can notice what your body does when you feel stressed (in the moment or perhaps in hindsight).

Then, once you are familiar with your particular patterns, you can practice reversing these effects (unless of course you are actually being chased by a bear, in which case, you may need that tension, alertness and lightness on your feet!!).

Remember the three effects: Breath, Tension, and Center; by their initials B.T.C…which also stand for “Back to cool”.

To get “Back to cool”, follow these steps:

  • First: Open your breath, take a long, slow deep breath and then keep your breath deep and flowing freely.
  • Next: Consciously drop your shoulders, release your jaw, open your contracted chest. Expand whatever has contracted.
  • Last (but not least): Plant your feet firmly on the ground, bend your knees and feel the weight of your body dropping down into your hips. Let your legs hold you up…they’re much better at it than your shoulders are! Sometimes even putting your hand on your lower belly and imagining that your breath is filling your hand, will help you feel more grounded, and therefore, more stable and safe, both physically and emotionally too.

Your body listens to your emotions and your nervous system, and your nervous system will listen to your body when you make conscious changes in your physiology and even just your posture! You can take back your health.


  1. Nina Manolson on August 8, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Mmmmm, just reading your grounded and clear words make me feel more centered! Thank you!

    I’m so delighted you will be sharing your deep well of wisdom with us through your new newsletter. It’s wonderful!

    Love and health,


    • Alison on August 8, 2011 at 9:10 pm

      Thank you so much Nina, It’s very exciting and fun to write and send out the ideas I’ve been talking about with my clients and students for years. I’m looking forward to conversations with innovative integrative healers like yourself as well as folks on their unique healing journeys. We have so much to learn from eachother! Wishing you well, Alison

  2. Cathy Zolner on August 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Alison, Congratulations on your wonderful newsletter! Great Tip of the Month that I will share with others (and of course – give your credit). Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I will look forward to your next email communication. Just referred a very dear friend of mine to your Cancer with Dignity Program.
    Wishing you much success in your journey of healing others, Cathy

    • Alison on August 29, 2011 at 6:57 pm

      Hi Kathy, So very sorry for the delayed reply. Thank you so much for your kind words! Your writings have been good models for me and I also look forward to more of your wisdom! And thanks for referring your friend to the Cancer Dignity and wisdom program. We have surpassed our enrollment goal for the fall program and have a waiting list started for the next program; maybe winter, maybe spring. Thanks for your support
      We’ll be in touch.


  3. Geri Pompeo on August 26, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Hi Alison
    I finally got around to opening your email. I am still on vacation and loved reading all you have to offer. This is great and it will give me somthing to look forward to. I eish you much luck and thank you for sharing your gift with us.

    • Alison on August 29, 2011 at 6:54 pm

      Thanks so much Gerry! You are very sweet. Thanks for the encouragement! – Alison

    • Kindsey on July 21, 2014 at 12:35 am

      That’s a wise answer to a tricky quietson

  4. Brett Johnson on September 26, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Excellent. This is timely (probably always, timely) and a wonderful reminder.

    I’m so grateful you’re taking the time to write, Alison. It’s a gift to all of us that come under your beam of healing and, are I say it, “sanity!” You are light (and darkness, and all that is good).

    breathing with you,

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