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Client – after three sessions

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Becoming Aware of my Overthinking Mind
and Making Friends with my Inner Four-Year-Old

HOPE shortcut
The method where people with chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s can reduce their stress-related symptoms and, with persistent work, break free of their diagnosis

One week after third session with Lilian and the Hope Shortcut

My Overthinking Mind
During my third session, Lilian and I talk about the inner dialogue, thoughts, the voice or voices in my head.

My mind has several voices running constantly. It is like having a TV on in the background that is constantly narrating, planning, ruminating, rehearsing, arguing, suggesting, doubting. It changes the channel frequently. It practices future conversations, or rehashes past ones. It plans for things that never happen. An overthinking mind can be dangerous – triggering the fight flight or freeze response continually.

One of its most interesting habits of my over-thinking mind is that it intricately plans escape routes. How would I get my infant son and the dog out of the window if the house caught on fire? Where would I hide if a gunman came to the house? It goes over the sequence of events in detail. I don’t sit down and plan these things. My mind just does it on its own.

Lilian tells me that not everyone’s mind is like that. Upon Lilian’s suggestion, I ask my friend what her mind is like. I assume, her mind is like mine constantly ruminating, worrying and planning. She has kids. I am sure she has a lot on her mind. She laughs and says her mind is usually pretty blank; it might have a dancing clown in it like Homer Simpsons’. That sounds peaceful.

“My mind has several voices running constantly.

It is like having a TV on in the background that is constantly narrating, planning, ruminating, rehearsing, arguing, suggesting, doubting”

We think we have a similar way of thinking - but we have not

We ask each other, “what do you think?” and get a story.


Next time ask in detail about HOW your friends are thinking.


Are they thinking in pictures, written text, a speaking voice, or with feelings?
How many voices do they use to think? 0, 1, 2, or more? Everything is ok, but having only 0 or 1 voice makes life easier and healthier.


Around 1/3 of the population are hardly thinking and doing well. The rest are thinking about yesterday’s regrets and the worries for tomorrow, or thoughts that drag your attention away from your body and the constant feedback you get from here.

My inner Four-Year Old
I notice that my freeze ups are often precipitated by internal pressure. There is the internal pressure I put on myself to do the things that I “should” do. I know I don’t want to do it, but I push myself anyways. Or I put pressure on myself to do something at 1000% effort. Somewhere inside, there is an inner protest or maybe an inner wisdom.

Lilian coaches me to have compassion for myself if I freeze up. To say to my body:
Its ok. This is what is right now, you are safe.

I have a profound experience when I have the opportunity to practice this. I sit through a freeze up and just let it be ok the way it is. This experience is profoundly different for me and I feel a shift.

There is the internal pressure I put on myself to do the things that I “should” do.

 

I know I don’t want to do it, but I push myself anyways..

Somewhere inside, there is an inner protest or maybe an inner wisdom.

I realize that I have been practicing relaxation and calming techniques for years. But I didn’t listen. I was just trying to get my body and mind to shut up and do what I wanted it to do.

This is one of the great things that my four-year old son has taught me. He is what people describe as “spirited”. I cannot just shush him. He demands to be heard and understood. Even if his concerns seem inconsequential to me, I have to listen, I have to acknowledge and empathize and then he will calm down. I can’t just tell him: “That’s silly. Don’t be upset about that.”

But I have not been listening to my body, to myself. My inner spirited four-year-old has concerns and is refusing to budge I have just been telling her: “That’s silly, don’t be upset about that” calm down, and do as you are told.

The good thing about spirited children, is that they bust up old patterns. They refuse to just comply with expectations and the “shoulds” that we try to force upon them. Therefore, they force us to evolve, to grow, to learn, to examine the shoulds that we have applied to ourselves and to rethink them.

Lilian is a bit like a spirited four-year-old. She is here to bust up old patterns and assumptions and evolve our way of thinking about stress and chronic illness.

Nicole St. Arnaud
23. march 2021, Alberta Canada

This is the third of a series of blog posts on the progress in Lilian Sjoeberg’s Hope Shortcut program for chronic illness.

You can learn more about her program here

The inner child

The inner child is a metaphor for you having a practical side.
You are maybe still hurt if someone is making comments as the bullies made in your school.


When you get an extraordinary feeling that is somewhat out of proportion with what happened, the “inner child” can still remember the past episode.


It is never too late to get a happy ending to this episode. Never too late to get a “happy” childhood. We cannot change what happened, but we can release the feelings connected to the devastating events

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Client – after two sessions

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Beating a dead horse
or taiming a petrified mare

HOPE shortcut
The method where people with chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s can reduce their stress-related symptoms and, with persistent work, break free of their diagnosis

Read her 1. article her – due to her son she had to stop therapy – but now she is ready!

One week after second session with Lilian and the Hope Shortcut

“Haven’t I tried everything?”

The computer screen before me contains two rectangular boxes, side by side. One containing the smiling face of Lilian Sjoberg against a dramatic mountain background and the other containing my image, just a blank white wall behind me. There is something about this new virtual environment where I get to observe myself from this vantage point. I get to look into my own eyes and see the expressions on my face. It is very revealing. I am slightly slumped in my chair. My eyes are squinted into slits with my smile. The thought “Here we go again” crosses my mind. I feel a fool. Haven’t I tried this already? Haven’t I tried everything? I have tried so many things, so many therapies, programs, practitioners, doctors. Honestly, I have had enough. I feel like I am kicking a dead horse. But, I know that Lilian is onto something. She has observed the patterns and made the connections. Lilian is sure, determined, generous and for some reason she is steadfast in encouraging me. Some part of me must have hope, because here I am.

Lilian is appalled at my use of the phrase “beating a dead horse” which I try to explain is just an English turn of phrase.  It is actually quite a gruesome image. She suggests a more hopeful way of looking at things. Yes, the horse has been abused, but we can rehabilitate it. Like Black Beauty, it can trust and be free again. Belief, hope and a positive image is so important for healing. I can’t make much progress if I see my efforts to heal as beating a dead horse.

The dead horse is actually me: my poor abused body that I have been dragging around for years, decades actually, pushing it and forcing it against its will, ignoring it, applying all sorts of remedies, treatments and therapies trying to fix it, and medicating it. The horse understandably, doesn’t want to get up.

Traumatic events are stored in the body

The surviver is the person that react with fear and run away or use the freeze instinct often.

The relaxed person get eaten very fast by the saber tooth tiger.

In modern world the brain is operating in the dark and still collecting information on when to react to survive the next attack from a predator.

If you want to get better accept this biological fact and learn how to get out of your instinct stress

I have felt shifts and changes since I last worked with Lilian over a year ago. My physical condition has deteriorated but I have become so much more aware of the emotional connections to my physical symptoms. My medication is not working as well and my “off” periods have worsened significantly. An “off” is when the medication wears off, or fails and the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease break through. With my symptoms more prominent, I can actually feel what is going on in my body. The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, when in full force so clearly feel like a full-body panic attack.  Well actually for me, it is mostly the left side of my body that feels the attack. My body is in fear for its life. It tries to stop me by freezing my muscles, stiff so I can’t move forward. My stomach tightens into knots, my throat closes, my eye gets wide dart from side to side. My jaw clenches, my body heats up, and my limbs begin to tremble. It is so clearly a deep terror, panic, all-encompassing fear, like the climax of a horror film when the victim lets out the blood-curdling scream. 

It has also become so 100% clear to me that often my physical symptoms are worsened, or are preceded by a fearful thought or an emotional response, even something seemingly benign, like my son making a mess in the kitchen, my inner critic judging me, or a perceived slight from my husband.  I have also talked to other people living with PD and some of them have confirmed their own experience that emotional upset can trigger an “off”. This not to say that I can control my symptoms, they still come and go on their own schedule holding me hostage for longer periods of time and leaving me with smaller and smaller windows of respite.

Interoception - the forgotten sense

Your skill to interpret what is going on in your body is together with balance and coordination very important skills.

We do not learn about them in school. But the ones that instictivly can feel and use their sence interoception are the ones that fast can do something fast and stop the decline in health.

The ones that understand the language of the body can avoid longterm stress and longlasting  stress symptoms

It is actually hard to really admit this observation. I feel so weak and frail. Is my constitution so fragile that the smallest upset can throw me into a frenzy of whole-body fear? Surely it is not that simple. There are layers of genetic and environmental factors that led to the damage in my brain that causes this intense reaction.  Lilian assures me that it is actually evolutionarily appropriate that survival of the fittest would have favored a heightened fear response. So, in fact, I am an evolutionary survivor. She assures me that this is not my fault.

It is difficult to accept the responsibility that my habitual thoughts, emotions and beliefs may be contributing to my illness that has kept me disabled for so many years. But this is an important starting point- to recognize that physical disease symptoms are linked to thoughts, beliefs and emotions.

This creates a tricky balancing act. There is a fine line that you must walk between seeing the correlation between symptoms and thoughts as an avenue for hope and seeing it as a reason for self-blame. It is not so easy to say, “oh just think differently and your disease will go away”. It is not that simple. There are layers upon layers. It is beneath conscious awareness.

The horse within me perks her ears and opens an eye. She lets out a soft sigh. I am finally seeing her.

I am finally listening.

She is not getting up yet, but there is hope.

Lilian is an observer and a trouble-shooter. She has observed the patterns clearly. She has made the correlations. She has noticed that chronic illnesses are grouping of stress response symptoms, Parkinson’s disease being a particularly obvious one. The growing understanding in the world is that 90% of disease is stress related.

Lilian does not base her approach on foregone assumptions about the mechanics of Parkinson’s Disease. The rest of the PD treatment world relies on the assumption that PD is caused by a lack of dopamine and focuses on that. Lilian has looked beyond that. She looks at each person individually and looks at each symptom as an overactive symptom of stress. She has developed a multi-step program to begin to alleviate the symptoms of chronic disease. The beginning point is the recognition that there is hope.

Her method of healing involves several steps.

  1. Adopting a new belief system that the physical disease symptoms are linked to thoughts, beliefs and emotions. (HOPE)
  2. Catching stressful reactions (Observe symptoms)
  3. Other healing modalities that reduce stress.
    E.g. exercise and getting to the root cause of subconscious or habitual stressful triggers and solving them (Pacify stress)
  4. Adding power to your own journey  (Engage)

 

In my first session with Lilian over a year ago, she explained step 1. In that year (this is not a standard length of time between visits, it is normally one to two weeks), I have seen so clearly and experienced the correlation between thoughts, emotions and beliefs so acutely in my body. And so here I am and I begin again. Ready to look deeper, to see if I can address what is keeping my body in a perpetual danger response.

The horse within me perks her ears and opens an eye. She lets out a soft sigh. I am finally seeing her. I am finally listening. She is not getting up yet, but there is hope.

Change your beliefs

You need to have  supporting beliefs on your journey toward smaller symptoms:

Of course you can get better

Mind and body are connected and interact

If just one person in the world can get better, so can I

Here I am ready to look deeper, to see if I can address what is keeping my body in a perpetual danger response.

.

Nicole St. Arnaud
11. march 2021, Alberta Canada

See my first post here

This is the second of a series of blog posts on the progress in Lilian Sjoeberg’s Hope Shortcut program for chronic illness.

You can learn more about her program here

Client – after one session

Parkinsons people can get a lot better by reducing stress in their life

What I Wish Everyone Knew About Stress

The author behind the blog www.aslowerkindoflife.com shares her thoughts about life with Parkinson’s disease and about the
HOPE shortcut
The method where people with chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s can reduce their stress-related symptoms and, with persistent work, break free of their diagnosis

One week after first session with Lilian and the Hope Shortcut

“Life is bliss, but my brain is trying to convince me otherwise.”

I thought I knew it all about the impact of stress on the body and mind. I’ve studied this topic many times over the many years I’ve been searching for healing. I thought I had it dialed. I know that stress has real physical impacts on the body, that the stress response called Fight Flight or Freeze, can be triggered by the most subtle thoughts, and that society is totally hooked on stress. I know how to counteract stress through relaxation techniques. I know how to create new patterns in the brain.

This is what I wish everyone knew about stress

  1. Your thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions can be a source of stress.
  2. Stress has a real physiological impact on the body.
  3. Most of us are caught in a habitual state of chronic stress.
  4. Chronic stress can create disease states in the body and mind.
  5. A subconscious trigger can initiate the stress response.
  6. Counterbalancing the stress response in the body is essential to good health.
  7. What we do to “relax” may not actually be relaxing.
  8. Techniques like progressive relaxation, meditation, heart coherence, qigong, yoga, tai chi can create the relaxation response in the body and counteract the effects of stress.
  9. Exercise is beneficial because it burns up the excess cortisol and adrenaline in the body created by stress.

I know that my sensitive little nervous system seems to be highly attuned and highly responsive to even the smallest stressful triggers. I am aware of the common sources of unnecessary stress, and I have designed my life not to waste my precious energy on unnecessary stress triggers. I don’t watch the news. I don’t get involved in drama or gossip. I don’t have a packed schedule. I try not to worry about appearances or what other people might think of me. I no longer have a stressful career. I have a peaceful life, so I thought. I also thought I had already done the work to uncover unconscious stress responses. I thought I had mastered my internal critical dialogue. I had healed that aspect of myself that thought I had to do something extraordinary to earn love and acceptance.

I was wrong…

I recently met a Danish biologist named Lilian Sjoberg, who is helping people with Parkinson’s disease and other chronic illnesses reduce their symptoms by becoming aware of their stressful patterns and addressing the root cause. She has recognized that symptoms of Parkinson’s disease look a lot like an extreme Fight Flight or Freeze response.  I find this hypothesis quite accurate, and I started to recognize it in my own body.

Last summer, I was standing in knee-depth wading pool with my friend and our two-year-old sons.  We were looking up at a bird flying by, and I suddenly heard a splash. Her son had slipped and gone under the water. In a quick moment of mommy instinct, she grabbed him and yanked him back up. He came up sputtering, but he was ok. I held my son more tightly. Moments later, my Parkinson’s symptoms hit me with full force. Tremor, muscles freezing, movement slow, brain foggy. I realized that it felt like a full-body panic attack. After this incident, I became more aware of my symptoms related to fearful thoughts. Sometimes I would note an extremely subtle trigger in my thoughts, and sometimes I couldn’t tell what had made a sudden worsening of my symptoms.

I had offered to help Lilian to reach a wider audience with her important message. She asked me to go through her coaching process and write about it. I still thought I already knew what she had to offer from my previous studies on stress. I was wrong. On the healing journey, there is always more to discover.

The first thing Lilian asked me to do was to record my thoughts, emotions, and physical responses throughout a day. I was surprised how stressed out I still am.

Although I am retired from a stressful career, I am now recreating that stress and pressure in my home life. It’s because my brain got so used to stress and pressure that it is literally stuck. The hard-wired pathway in my brain for stress, pressure, and worry is like a superhighway. The one for peace and ease is like a rabbit trail through a dense forest. I am slowly making it more discernible through inconsistent practice.

Lilian’s exercise allowed me to see the direct physical effects on my body as the stress accumulated in the day.

Observe your symptoms

In the process of learning the HOPE shortcut you learn how to keep a diary that helps you to connect symptoms and stress in your life.

Initially the reason is to give you a new belief about the disease

Later it becomes an important tool to reduce your symptoms one by one

This is an excerpt of what I recorded in only one morning (B is my 3 year old son):

9:00 am: B. asks to watch a show.

My thoughts: “But shows are bad for his brain. I shouldn’t let him watch shows. I should engage him in enriching activities. What a failure I am as a mother…”

My body: My stomach tightens.

10:15 am: B. slouched in the car seat and staring out the window blankly.

“OMG. Is there something wrong with him? Does he have the coronavirus? Is he going to die? I feel so helpless. Should I drive straight to the hospital?”

My body: My left hamstring cramps and spasms. My stomach is in knots.

10:20 am: B. says he is hungry

“I forgot the snack in the fridge. OMG. Why can’t I get it together? How do other moms seem to be able to do this, and I can’t. I need help.”

My body: My jaw and facial muscles on the left side tighten.

10:30 am, I do not have B.’s indoor shoes for the babysitting room.

“I forgot B.’s indoor shoes. Oh no. Maybe the babysitter won’t notice. They have to let him in. What if they don’t let him in? Why can’t I get it together?’”

My body: My leg is fully dragging now. My tremor has begun. I am having trouble focusing.

I obviously have a body that is extremely sensitive and at its maximum capacity for handling stress already. Would these symptoms still have come on without my constant barrage of worrisome and self-critical thoughts? I don’t know. I did notice that my thoughts have me in a constant state of self-criticism and stress.

In my first coaching session with Lilian, she recognized that the habitual worrisome thoughts and pressure that I put on myself is a subconscious habit that I picked up in childhood. We work through using different techniques.

Since my session with Lilian on Monday morning, I am feeling a new sense of peace

I had a better day with B. today, putting less pressure on myself and becoming more aware of my stressful thoughts before they get out of hand. I am feeling more confident that I can take a little bit of power back from my roller coaster of unpredictable symptoms by recognizing my internal stressors and using relaxation techniques when they arise.

The research is now very strong that certain specific techniques that counteract the stress response and change the internal state of the body can result in significant health improvements.

I wish everyone understood the impacts of stress on the body: that thoughts can create stress, that the brain becomes habituated to stress and will seek out more, and that there are things you can do about it.

Nicole St. Arnaud
2. march 2020, Alberta Canada

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The 5 stress types

The 5 stress types: Fight, Flight Freeze, Fawn, and social stress

Stress

This text is built on biological knowledge that we have all learned in school – fight, flight, and freeze. they are the body’s instincts modes. I put them into a new context, namely how these principles relate to the modern life where it is safe in most parts of the world. But our instincts do not know that, so if you are like most people, you live a life where you are in constant stress.

It is important to find your stress type. It helps you get more aware of your body, behavior, and how to stop the stress.
If you sign my newsletter, I send you a test where you can score yourself.

You all know the stress types Fight, Flight, and freeze. There is another one called Fawn. They all have mild and extreme forms. 

If you were a car, you could consider them as gears to drive in that have different advantages and disadvantages depending on your situation.

If we keep the analogy with the gears, you also have a couple of other stress gears: Alarm and peace.

We all have all the gears, but happenings in your past might have “learned” your body to go faster to one or two gears.

Now this here I am still investigating, so it is not carved in stone:

The characteristics of each gear are mentioned below.

To top it up, you have your sleep gear. If you are too stressed, you cannot sleep or can get nightmares. So sleep plays an important role in this.

Peace

If you live in a country with no wars and get your food every day, you ought to be in this gear most of the time.

You are calm and take every situation and do what is needed without any bad feelings. Your body is healthy, and if you get any signals that contradict this, you take proper action to get back to normal.

The body is healthy and always has the capacity to heal as you do not have any stress that takes away the natural process of a healthy body.

You do not have any old trauma or bad memories that make you misinterpret a situation. You meet all new people with an open mind – there is nothing to be afraid of.

Alarm

Your senses make you alert. You heard a noise, saw a shadow, touched something, saw an angry face. It is pure instinct.

Hopefully, your body categorized it as “OK,” and you go back into the peace gear.

If not, one of the stress gear is activated, and in seconds an instinctive decision is taken.

Is it time to accelerate into a stress gear or go back to peace gear again?

You probably have a favorite stress gear that you use more often than the others. This is based on your previous experience.
See the characteristics below.

Fight

You get filled with adrenaline, ready to fight for your life and family. Attack the enemy and close the deal. When your surroundings are cleared, you go back to peace.
But nowadays, we are taught not to fight. So, the stress is not used and stays for long in our body.
Fight stress response is also used if you have a big goal to achieve. You are fighting to reach your goal. You can do a little more and do it better and better. Use a little more time and raise the bar for the quality of your work. Maybe you sacrifice something for this sake. You down prioritize other things and struggles. Spending more time on this project and other important things have smaller and smaller timeslots (family, health, sleep, healthy food are underprioritized).

Flight

When the alarm gear “decides” that the enemy is too big for you to fight, you will run away, run until you are home in safe surroundings, and then settle back into peace.
But nowadays it is not OK to run. You are considered a coward, and you know from experience, that you, e.g., do not run from your manager or from being the one making the speech on a birthday. The adrenaline is not used in your body and takes a long time before it leaves your body.
It is found in a light version too. You are running around to do more things in a shorter time. You can do one more thing before you stop working (and collect the kids, go to bed, go home). Very effectively using the time. Thinking ahead and having a tight schedule is also part of the fight instinct.

Freeze

You instinctively decide that there is no way you can fight the enemy, no chance to run to a safe place. Then you go to the oldest defense gear: Fainting with the hope that the enemy does not detect you or decide to leave you and pick you up the next day. This gear is shutting down many of the body’s functions not to catch any attention – the predator hopefully does not notice you. If the predator finds you, you cannot feel pain if the enemy decides to eat you.
The light version of this is that you hide behind a tree with some of the Freeze symptoms: shallow breathing, no motion, no voice, cold skin to prevent your body from sending out andy smell.
And in a modern version, you do not need a tree to hide behind to get into this gear. In freeze, you have absolutely no contact with your feelings. Be course, your body has one priority, and that is to let you survive. It is simply not important if you worry about tomorrow’s birthday or you are jealous or mad. You need to survive. It can come as a surprise to some people that they can start to feel their feelings after treatment. And feelings can be hard to handle…especially if you have been in freeze for years. But trust that you should have access to your feelings because your body is working a lot better.

Fawn

With an open mind, you embrace the situation. Let things happen without interacting.  You have good faith in other people and your own body.
In the modern version, you are the type that says:

  • Let us see what time brings us.
  • Nothing wrong with me. It is just my body that is out of order.
  • I have trust in other people.
  • I trust in the doctor’s diagnosis and the pills he gives me.
  • I do not seek information or help myself on my own initiative
  • I am alive
  • a cure will come

If you are having problems, you do not look for help. You surrender to the situation and listen to the doctor’s advice. You are sure you get the best help. And do not bother to read about the side effects of your medication.
If you get more symptoms, you are sure it is part of the disease.

Biologically this means that our mental state is as good as possible even the situation is stressed. You do not freak out and waste energy when captured without obvious possibilities to escape the situation.  It is related to the freeze gear as you do not help yourself. But your Beliefs about the situation is good.

Social/emotional stress

Being together with people can be a pleasure or the opposite. As social animals, we are born to be. We are in constant awareness of other people’s reactions and feelings towards you and others.
How sensitive you are to this dimension depends on your past and your self-confidence.

Hundreds of feelings originally should help you survive in a herd.
If you get a cocktail of feelings every day due to you being surrounded by people at home or your work, it can stress you as well.
Guilt, jealousy, anger, regret is just a few of these feelings. This kind of feeling is meant to keep you in the herd and make you stick to the rules.

If you are not in a group, it is loneliness, fear, unsafe feelings that can haunt you. These feelings will guide you to find a group that can protect you.
There is nothing wrong with these feelings, but they can be exhausting and overwhelming if you have too many and give you stress and diseases.

Sleep

The body is recreating and sorting out important from unimportant information’s from the day before – and a lot more. It is lifesaving to sleep 6-8 hours a day in long uninterrupted intervals. There is a lot of new science in this field.

You can consider your sleep, from you decide to fall asleep and until you wake up as a result of

  • Your stress the day before
  • Your past traumas and bad memories
  • The worries you have about the future

It can be difficult to fall as

All gears

We all use all gear every day.

Most of the time, you must be in peace to avoid being ill or diseased. For too many years, using stress gears will harm your body. And it is only in the peace gear you can heal. Healing comes naturally when you are out of all stress in your life.

If you use the stress gears, you produce adrenaline and cortisol stress hormones. These hormones make you capable of fighting and running without the sensation of what the body needs and what you feel.

When you get older, you cannot cope with being so rare in the peace gear, and you get stressed, ill or depressed.

I can sense in my clients that certain diseases are associated with different stress gears. But each of us has our unique combination of how we use these stress gears, so it will take decades to reveal if I am right. 

How to get out of a stress type and spending more and more time in peace.
Here is some useful help:

  • Realize you are not in peace all the time.
  • Do more things where you feel at peace.
  • Observe yourself and find the situations that stress you the most.
    say to your self the next time you are in this situation:

    • “I do not have to fight.”
    • “I do not have to run.”
    • “I am in no life-threatening situations now.”
    • “My body tells me I have to act now.”
  • Find the root cause of the stress.
  • Eliminate the reason for your stress. You can do this in 1000 different ways.
  • Do not avoid healthy situations that most people find pleasure in. Find the root cause and eliminate the stress.

I, of course, recommend removing traumas in your life because I know it works.