Brought to you by Healthy Minds Therapy
Story by Alycia Burant, MA, LPC, CMHIMP
When the sound of your partner’s name no longer brings butterflies to your stomach, but rather feelings of emptiness and despair; when you long for the touch of your mother’s soft, warm, caring hand on your face just one more time; when the place you filled with so many memories, laughter and joy is now filled with moving boxes, dust piles and empty halls; when your body is no longer full of energy and health, but feels worn out and dragged down and when your thriving career that filled you with purpose and passion is suddenly ripped away, leaving you feeling directionless and hopeless, you may not know where to turn. As a woman, it is likely you will experience one of these stressful life events while simultaneously needing to carry on your other responsibilities of maintaining the household, paying bills, keeping food on the table and seemingly “doing it all” with a smile on your face.
Divorce, death of a loved one, moving, health concerns and job loss are the top five stressors someone can face. Stress is not unique to women, but as women, we wear many hats, often exasperating the amount of stress we endure. When we encounter a major life stressor, it is important we know how to take care of ourselves, as we often want to put others first and prolong our own healing process. With all these stressors, the common thread and theme is typically grief. With change comes loss. Often during these times of stress, we are grieving the loss of what was comfortable, safe and reliable. When a top five stressor hits a woman’s life, her world is rattled and her foundation is shaken.
I want to offer hope that things will get better. I want to share words that we are all grieving. I want to share some techniques that may offer some respite during these difficult times.
These are three techniques to help alleviate stress during these times of grief:
Grief Point Exercise
We carry so much grief with us that transcends generations and experiences. Often, we are triggered in situations of loss and transitions of things we are not even consciously aware of. Often, we want to ignore our grief and make it go away. In this exercise, we acknowledge it, create space for it and touch the center of where grief manifests: our hearts.
- Along the sternum, over the heart, is one point that is more sensitive than others. Find that point, gently touch it and allow yourself to feel and release the pain.
- Now, come down four finger widths further from the thymus point (this is six finger widths from the collar bone/clavicle soft spot).
- Use your middle finger to feel for areas of tension on the breastbone. This is the grief point.
- Apply gentle pressure to the grief point, close your eyes and breathe.
- Allow yourself to feel the losses you’ve had, not to fight or resist them.
- Enter into the heart, where grief is held. You may feel a softening or lightening of pain or tension.
- Do not judge, seek, nor yearn. Simply pay attention.
- Do this for a minute.
- Take your hand away and give yourself a moment, then open your eyes.
Adaptogens help one deal with stress by increasing the capacity to cope and respond. Adaptogens are plants and extracts that provide support to adrenal function, therefore building endurance and decreasing fatigue that may be brought on by stress from major life events. Women sometimes don’t realize how high their stress levels are. Incorporating adaptogens into our nutrition and wellness can fight off illness when we are feeling run down and overwhelmed by grief and loss.
Women specifically can endure increased health symptoms beginning with stress: fatigue, irritability, menstrual cycle distress, depression, pain, fibromyalgia, insomnia, anxiety, food addictions and digestive distress. Stress sets off a cascade of physical responses that affect immune function, our hormones, our cognitive function and, importantly, our internal clock, called our circadian rhythms. If these stressors persist, this leads to chronic illness.
Here are a few adaptogens I recommend starting with to help alleviate stress:
- Polarity Tea
Whether you lost your job, your marriage ended or a loved one has passed away, it is important we keep talking about it. We must move through our grief and talking about it can help. Women sometimes feel like a burden to others when sharing grievances and sadness with friends or family. It is likely that is not the case. Your supporters want to be there for you in times of stress. Here are three tips to help “talk about it” to help process the change:
Dedicate 20 minutes each day to actively acknowledge the loss and change. Give yourself a dedicated safe space and time to cry, vent, yell, etc.
Write. This can be in the form of journaling, quick bullet points, poetry, prose or any other form that helps you express your feelings in a space where they can be revisited and reflected upon later. Talking out loud. Record yourself speaking your thoughts and feelings aloud or engage in a conversation with a loved one, whether in person or virtually.
There are many ways to heal and address change, grief and loss. The most important part is that you do it. As women, we have lots of ambition, motivation and societal pressure to do it all. The reality is, life has other plans. I want you to feel comfortable and supported that when one of these stressors happen, you have resources that will help you towards the path of healing.
If you are feeling particularly uneasy or the grief is unmanageable, Healthy Minds Therapy is here to assist. Portions of the information from this article are adapted from Dr. Leslie Korn’s Integrative Medicine Institute website.
MEET THE AUTHOR
ALYCIA BURANT, MA, LPC, CMHIMP
Alycia is the founder and owner of Healthy Minds Therapy, a thriving group practice in Northern Virginia. Alycia is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over two decades of experience providing direct patient care to adults, adolescents, children and families. She is a Certified Mental Health Integrative Medicine Provider as well as a Level 1 Certified Sensorimotor Psychotherapist. Alycia is also a Board Approved Clinical Supervisor for the state of Virginia.