Oh, loves. <3 Our bellies, eh?
How many of you walk around most of the day sucking it in? Or sucking it in when it's time for a pic? Or realize you're holding it tight because you're stressed, upset, scared, or feel like your shirt's too tight today, you ate french fries last night, etc etc?
Can we give our bellies some love? Especially the womxn out there. Especially the empath's and sensitives.
I did. I grew up in a home with someone who had a temper. Never directly towards me or anyone else but there were loud, audible sighs of irritation and impatience, doors slamming, looks of disdain, head shakes, etc. Little me just wanted to feel safe. I was already sensitive and aware of people's feelings and moods so I used that tool and became hyper-attuned to their energy, mood, and body language. And I became super aware of how much noise I was making, how much space I physically and energetically took up, where they were in the house relative to me, and also how I looked, as there were comments and glances regarding that.
Of course, I didn't realize I was doing this. I was young and just wanted to feel safe and loved, so the intelligence in me lead to these defensive behaviours. And that's the thing, I was on the defense. How do we hold our bodies when on the defense? Tight, rigid, walled, blocked, controlled. When the body is this way it's focused on survival, getting from one moment to the next, fight, flight, or freeze. More about this here. Needless to say this isn't a healthy mode to stay in for long periods of time. It's meant to be in short bursts until you get to safety and then the rest and digest response kicks in to recover and heal from it. After a while in fight/flight/freeze your digestion will suffer. The body's not putting energy towards that. It just wants to protect the vital organs and stay alive. And so begins a variety of problems related to digestion.
I myself have had a journey with digestion. I've experienced candida overgrowth, h. pylori, stomach pains, bloating, abdominal swelling, abdominal pain, constipation, etc etc etc. It's not fun. And it's difficult because as a human we need to be eating and digesting food daily. Yes, there are cleanses and fasts, I've tried some of them. Some of them work at first, some of them made things worse in the long run.
If any of this sounds like you, here are a few loving suggestions:
1. Relax your belly. Completely. As much and as often as you can.
Our society doesn't show us or inform us that soft bellies are ideal for digestion, reproductive health, and overall health. The Goddesses and Queens of the past had round voluptuous bellies and were seen as beautiful! Let's bring this back!
A soft belly will lead to deeper breaths which leads to the rest and digest response which leads to better digestion, healing, etc. A soft round belly doesn't mean you're lazy or fat or any other negative connotation you may have around it. A soft belly means health.
2. If you have several digestive issues and food sensitivities/allergies I recommend seeing a holistic Allergy Elimination Practitioner. A holistic practitioner in this field will use NAET or a similar technique to help remove allergies/energy blockages around foods and environments, experiences, and emotions associated with those foods. It's really quite amazing! If you're in Fredericton, I recommend seeing Lisa Leaman at Forever Healthy. She can also do appointments virtually or by phone if you're outside Fredericton.
3. Begin healing your past hurts, nervous system, and bodily response around taking up space, being heard, and being seen.
If like me, you've been carrying this energetic pattern of shrinking yourself and molding yourself to other people's energy, moods, desires, it's time to bring this pattern to light, shine awareness on it, and begin to shift it to a pattern that's healthier, more freeing, and allows you to express yourself and show up. You deserve that. A hundred times yes, you deserve that. No matter who you grew up with and what they told you about who and how you are, you deserve to be you, fully.
If you're ready to shift these patterns, I'm happily here to be your guide. <3 Reach out, fill me in, let's see if the lovely wisdom of your body that helped you survive is now ready to help you heal and thrive.
Sometimes I feel like I sound like a broken record. ;) But it's because there are some key foundational things that we could all benefit from knowing and most public schools don't teach them. Things we could all use some knowledge on in order to empower ourselves and take care of our own mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health.
One of these things is two of the ways our nervous system responds to life, experiences, food, interactions, etc. I'm definitely going to be simplifying this. I'm not a physiologist, or doctor, etc. I'm a human sharing about being human, with you humans. :)
Fight or flight. The nervous system's response to a threat, to danger. Breathing, blood flow, heart rate, everything speeds up in order to protect the vital organs, in order to keep us alive, in order to survive. Think running away from a saber-tooth tiger. But we've evolved since then, we don't often encounter saber-tooth tigers in our world (thankfully). So today some things that can trigger fight or flight are stress at work, a riff in a relationship, natural disasters, financial problems, illness, illness of a loved one, etc etc. The thing is when you run away from a saber-tooth tiger, you're going to relax and take a deep breath when you know you've made it, that you're safe from the threat (the tiger).
However the issues we're dealing with now continue, compound on one another, occur over a long period of time, are reactivated when reminded of, triggered, etc. And so many of us are in fight or flight mode for an extended period of time. This intelligent response of the body is meant to be short-term, move beyond the threat, and then move the nervous system back into rest and digest in order to recover from the output and the strain of fight or flight and anything else that the body needs healing from. Do you see where I'm heading with this?
Rest and Digest. The sweet spot. Where we slow down. The body recovers and restores from stress (fight/flight). Where we want the nervous system to be in order to heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And literally digest. When we're in fight or flight, blood and energy flow move away from the digestive organs. Digesting food is the last thing on the list when you're trying just to survive.
There's so much goodness here in the rest and digest response. So much ability and capability for healing and to feel good. And it's naturally built into the body. Amazing! There could be a whole other post on just this response. For now think of the last time you really took a deep breath and felt like you were in the moment. When your mind didn't rush to the next thing you should be doing, and you allowed yourself to just be still. In that moment, you may have even heard some stomach gurgles as your body came into rest and digest. You may have felt like you could breathe deeper or longer. You may have felt like all was right with the world. This is deeply restorative and nourishing for our minds, bodies, and souls. <3
So the problem becomes when we're living stressful lives or re-living trauma on the daily, our systems don't have the chance to reboot, restore, recharge, rebalance. We're perpetually in fight or flight. We're literally burning both ends of the candle. And then we wonder why we can't sleep, can't digest food, can't relax, can't be present, can't feel good. Because your body thinks it's in danger and is putting energy into survival instead of these things, instead of thriving.
So what do we do? We start to notice where our bodies are on the scale of fight/flight and rest/digest. And if we're in a space where we can shift down into rest and digest, we breathe. Breathe deeply. Soften the belly. Let it fill and expand on the inhale. Let it empty out on the exhale. Slowly count to 4 on the inhale, and then 5 or 6 on the exhale. Soft belly, slower breath, longer exhale, all lead to rest and digest. Start with one of these, you don't have to do them all at the same time.
Give yourself time to rest. Batteries need to recharge at some point, and so do you. Rest is subjective. And can be a 5 second break from the computer, close your eyes, take a deep breath. It can be spending all day in the hammock reading a book. It can be everything in between and even deeper opportunities for rest if you have that ability. You deserve it.
Move your body. Sleep and rest always come easier after you move some. Walk, dance, do yoga, bike, hike. Also, nature elevates all these activities and your body's ability to come into rest and digest afterwards. Movement and nature are powerful healers.
And most of all know that you are worthy of rest and that you don't have to push, grind, and hustle all the time in order to be good enough, worthy, or deserving of everything you desire and more. It's true. Read that again. ;)
PS. Both of these nervous system responses are beneficial! It all depends on the context.
PPS. We're often not fully in one or another of the responses but somewhere in between. Now you have the awareness to notice within yourself and shift if it you choose, and your body and the context allows. <3
Natalie loves life, people, animals, plants, and trees. She believes in the flow of life and approaches each day with gratitude.