Disengaging the Stress Response

Letha Marchetti, to my mind, is a cool person – very cool. She talks slowly, but it’s a strong, reassuring voice.

I first connected with her in a taxi. We were both leaving from the same conference and heading to the train; having spied each other throughout the past few days, we quickly decided to share a cab. My back was really hurting. I was in pain, and I mentioned it. "All that sitting! My lower back is killing me!"

So Letha said, "Mind if I put my hands on you?"

I kind of looked at her sideways, but her face was so sincere, serene, and centered that I instantly said yes. And that was how she came to become one of my dearest friends. Five minutes, a few long breaths, and Letha’s cool, slow, strong voice later, I felt all this stress drain out of me and just an hour later, as she opened up to me, we both knew this was a connection that would last.

Letha’s specialty is neurodevelopment. She views the neural pathways we use most like freeways.

Thus, if our pattern is to be stressed, it feeds the stress response. This is all changeable.

Here’s a problem I brought to her today: going to bed with stress in your body. Letha, take it away.

Isn’t that a killer! It even sounds horrific. Of all the things to take to bed, stress is not on my list.

So if it’s been one of those days and stress is with you, without even an invitation, here are some ways to decrease its hold and even let it resolve.

How to Relieve Stress Before Bed

Before going to bed, if you can, take a bath (warmer than body temperature). Recline down into the water for 10 or more minutes. Between the warmth of the water and gravity working in your favor, the kidneys will want to back off the adrenal glands. This can change the release of those stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, bringing more calm into your body.

1. As you lie in bed, wiggle your toes, slowly.

Feel every bit of that slow movement from inside yourself. When you notice your body taking a deep breath, you are on the way. You are simply occupied with noticing. Nothing is forced. You aren’t trying to make yourself calm. You are just noticing - being in your body.

2. Think of something or someone you truly enjoy.

Notice how this feels in your body. It could be a lighter feeling, or perhaps a sense of being open in a part of your body. Follow that feeling. Does it have a shape, or maybe a color? If not, that is fine, too.

3. Feel your body where it touches the bed.

Feel the skin contacting the sheet, the muscles resting, supported by the mattress. Stay with your awareness of the sensations in your body.

Tomorrow morning, let me know how it went.

Letha Marchetti, OTR/L, C/NDT

The Baffling Behavior Expert

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