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Angie Corogin: Mindfulness for Stress Management – Episode 109

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In this week's episode...

The Live It Challenge continues with Angie Corogin. 2020 has been a stressful year for the world. Today is all about stress and mindfulness. Angie shares how the practice of mindfulness may help you meet challenge and stress differently. And you will enjoy the exercises Angie walks us through as she explains. Relaxation here you come…

Empowering You Organically – Season 12 – Episode 109

Title: Angie Corogin: Mindfulness for Stress Management

Hosts: Joni Jones

Guest: Angie Corogin, MEd, ERYT200, RYT500 – Mindfulness Educator & Mindset Coach

Description:  The Live It Challenge continues with Angie Corogin. 2020 has been a stressful year for the world. Today is all about stress and mindfulness. Angie shares how the practice of mindfulness may help you meet challenge and stress differently. And you will enjoy the exercises Angie walks us through as she explains. Relaxation here you come…

 

 

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Angie Corogin

 

Angie is a heartful yoga and mindfulness (MBSR) instructor, yoga studio owner, mindset coach, and certified integrative wellness consultant. She supports communities, corporations, and individuals to integrate functional wellness practices into their modern lives. Angie is committed to an earth-conscious lifestyle, from what she eats & drinks to all of the things that she consumes and is inspired to share this way of life with others. Angie has earned degrees in Environmental Education (B.S.) and Intervention Services (M.Ed).

 

Mindfulness

 

Today is all about stress and mindfulness. I would like to share how the practice of mindfulness may help you meet challenge and stress differently.

 

These practices are easy, nothing you haven’t done before, however, this is not so simple.

 

Let’s start with a practice, I invite you to minimize all of the extra windows on your devices or life, begin to gather yourself here.  Totally here. Calling yourself back from all of the places that you are.

 

Short Attentional Focus Practice

5-Sense Pause (look around, hands/feet, soundscape, soften the mouth/jaw, breath)

Rub hands, eyes / tap forehead, temples, cheeks, chin, chest

Brush off arms and shoulders

SH massage / GB 21 (neck, shoulder, headaches, too much thinking)

 

Standing Yoga 

Mountain/ arms up & down

Edges of feet, ankle rocks

Knees
Hips

Swing arms/chair
Sunflowers

Mountain

Sit/ Thymus thumps

 

We took that time to practice because we can use all of these words to point at what mindfulness is. We can quote studies, articles, and interview experts too, but we really can only know mindfulness through the direct experience of the practice, our own practice of paying attention. And now, I am going to attempt to use words to describe stress and mindfulness, which are both, felt and known by each of us… and known by us differently.  We all describe stress and mindfulness a little different.

 

Definition of Stress 

 

I’d wage that humans have been feeling stress since day 1. This look at stress with the lens of science is relatively new. Researchers have had a difficult time agreeing on an acceptable definition of stress. Some have conceptualized stress as a demanding or threatening happening or situation (e.g., a high-stress job, overcrowding, and long commutes to work). Such conceptualizations are known as stimulus-based definitions because they characterize stress as a stimulus that causes certain reactions.

 

But stress is more than that. Stress is something that we each feel. Stress is the state which is seen in response to internal or external stressors. And here is what I think, its difficult to define something that is so…so individually experienced. Every system of the body responds to stress in varying ways. Sweating, quickened breath, fast heartbeat or skipping beats, holding our breath, blinking a lot, it can manifest in as many ways different as we are different from one another.

 

Stress enlists changes affecting almost every system of the body, influencing how people feel and behave.

 

History of Stress

 

I want to zoom back in time a bit and keeping this brief, but I want to go back to something I said.  The “formal” study of stress is relatively new so lets have a quick chat about that.

 

In the 30’s Walter Cannon coined flight or flight. He was studying dogs swallowing buttons, and the swallowing mechanism.  He discovered emotions impacted this somehow. He found fight and flight.

 

Fight I can meet this challenge.

Flight I can flee this challenge.

 

Around the same time Hans Seyle was exploring the concept of general adaptation syndrome, a study on stress, any kind – mind, body, emotions. When we encounter stress, especially when its prolonged our body biology changes.

It 1984 Stress researchers Lazarus and Folkman at Berkeley expanded and proposed a way to look at stress differently. Their transactional theory of stress considered stress as a transaction between a person and their environment that is appraised as taxing or exceeding resources and endangering their well-being.

 

So, this theory introduces the idea that our perception of the stressor could be the source of stress. Stress is transactional.

 

Let me break it down. We have some awareness we can bring to assess our ability to meet our stress. Ex. I’m making a new meal for dinner and am excited to share it with my husband, he was supposed to be home at 6, and rolls in at 630… I’m frustrated and disappointed and trying to figure out how to enjoy the cold meal.  It’s the next day, dinner is at 6, I’m busy at work, I have NO idea what to make and need extra time.  He gets home at 6:30 and I’m relieved. Same situation, my appraisal of it is different.

 

OK, so what can we do with all of that.  Stress has been defined in lots of ways; we know it in our own way.  A powerful, a potent antidote to stress… is mindfulness.

 

Definition of Mindfulness

 

Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally, in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.” JKZ

 

It is holding our attention to whatever is rising. Being here.  HumanBEING not humanDOING. This can be hard at first, boring, restless, thinking we aren’t doing it right.

 

We sense the world through, hearing, tasting, touching, seeing.  That is our only way to know anything at all. Our senses inform our thoughts.  And this is our perception, from where we form opinions and then make decisions and hold positions.  Its a completely a personal experience but one that we can often collectively understand and benefit from sharing our experience with others.


Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

 

The timelines of stress research and mindfulness research start to merge in 1979.  Jon Kabat-Zinn recruited chronically ill patients not responding well to traditional treatments to participate in his newly formed eight-week stress-reduction program, which we now call Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This program includes mindful meditation, mindful eating, walking, and mindful movement (aka gentle yoga).

 

Substantial research has mounted demonstrating how mindfulness-based interventions improve mental and physical health—comparably so to other psychological interventions

 

Our body is a partner to each moment. Here in the west, we spend a lot of time disconnecting from our body.  Body shaming, and in fact spending a whole lot of time up here, in the mind, thinking.

 

And so again, mindfulness – paying attention for the sake of paying attention. We can start to recognize our habitual patterns. Knowing our patterns can really change things.

 

You can do this practice long, short, in a car, while washing dishes, having a cup of tea, eating a meal, walking, in the shower. Mindfulness can be invited into each and every moment. It’s a practice, not a performance.  We just keep coming back to each moment.  Giving each moment incredible value, importance and attention.

 

Simple right, not so easy. A very important aspect of mindfulness is bringing an attitude of kindness to our own self. Right, what’s that?  Yes, being kind to ourselves is a thing.

 

Visualizing Resistance

 

Make a fist. This is resistance. Resistance in your body, mind and soul.

 

Try to pry it open. Come on, pry it open. What do you notice when you pry and push?

 

Now use the other hand to support and be kind. Now what do you notice? Powerful because we can feel it. You can use this in your practice because you can actually do this.

 

Stress is a sense of threat. Things happening that I don’t want to happen. OR wanting a particular thing to happen that is not.

 

So, what is this hand, what is support to your stress….
A deep breath.
Counting to three.
Looking around, find a few green or blue things.
Feel your feet, hand.
Sense into the sounds around you.

 

Take a deeper breath.

 

Breathing is a huge tool for many of us that we underutilize.

 

Parts of Brain

 

Our stress response is hard-wired, automatic, habitual. When we experience a threat, the automatic sympathetic nervous system goes into high gear (with signals from the brain stem and limbic system).

 

Different parts of the brain are responsible for initiating this automatic reaction:

 

This here is the brain stem and is the earliest part of the brain to form was what many refer to as our reptilian or lizard brain (brain stem). This is the survival part of our brain.

 

Responsible for basic survival—keeps our hearts beating, keeps us breathing.

 

Lizards that weren’t vigilant enough ended up getting eaten, which is why this part of the brain is hardwired to feel a constant, vigilant anxiety.

 

Next part of the brain to evolve was the mammal or mouse brain (limbic system – amygdala, hippocampus) regulates our emotions and desires. Its main job is to move us toward the things that maintain life. The amygdala is the smoke alarm, detecting stress.

 

The most recent part of our brain to evolve is the primate or monkey brain (cortex) handles the higher cerebral functions—thinking critically, problem solving, planning, making mental maps of our world, and connecting with others. In essence, our online brain. Monkeys that weren’t able to connect with other monkeys did not survive.

 

When encountering stress or a challenge that we appraise outside of our ability to meet. Thinking goes out the window and our prefrontal cortex goes offline.  We are operating from the lizard and mouse like part of our brain.

 

Fortunately, most of the time we do not find ourselves encountering life-threatening situations.

 

Unfortunately, physiologic responses to non-immediate stresses are largely the same as when you’re fighting for survival. Our body doesn’t know the difference. But we can tell it!

 

We’re still prone to go into fight or flight when our sense of control is threatened, even if we’re just driving on the freeway or we receive harsh feedback from coworkers. Our brain still perceives events in terms of mortal threats to our well-being and sense of self, even when there is none.

 

THIS IS AUTOMATIC, HARD-WIRED, HABITUAL REACTION FINE-TUNED FOR SURVIVAL.

 

SO, what can you do?  

 

If it’s a non-life-threatening moment, we can one – breathe.  Take a few breaths.  Let your prefrontal cortex come back online.  You might want to sit or lay down, lower your eyes, take a slow walk.

 

Most of all, we can get to know how stress feels as it begins in our body. We can also develop wisdom in how to support ourself in the heat of the moment. In the senses, we can often find a way back to homeostasis.

 

“We can’t stop the wild and painful catastrophes of life, but we can learn to cope.” JKZ or as
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and revered teacher says, “Without the mud, you cannot grow the lotus flower.”

 

Breath Focus Practice

 

Take a moment and find something to let your eyes rest on.  Soften your gaze but looking. You might like to rest your hands….  And when it is comfortable begin to let your eye lids lower, any amount or all of the way closed. Feel yourself sitting, standing, know what you can about being right here.  Only this moment matters right now. What can be known?  Begin to look at the inside of the eyes.  Look with awareness. Look to know, to see what’s there.

 

Move your attention to your breath. You might even feel this ability to look inward at the breath. From any perspective that you can you know the breath. From the nose, the nostrils, the throat, the chest, or ribs moving or belly.  You might sense warmth and then cool as your breath enters and leaves.

 

And then gently open your eyes again. And continue to look with this awareness.

 

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Joni Jones:

All right. Welcome, everyone. It’s time to get started on our second class in our LIVE IT Challenge. Congratulations to all of you. You have made it to week number two, very proud of you. This week you had 5,500 steps every day. Five minutes of breath work, breathing. Conscious breathing. Five minutes in the morning, five minutes at the end of the day. I hope you’ve done that, because it’s such a gift to give yourself just that oxygenation and that relaxation. It’s beautiful.

Joni Jones:

And then, you’re here for the class, which is lovely. And, we’re glad you’re here. I’m Joni. I’m the producer of the Organixx Podcast, Empowering You Organically. Here at Organixx, we’re passionate about vibrant health, and dedicated to empowering you organically, whether that’s through squeaky clean supplements, engaging education in our podcast episodes, or an in-depth article in our inspired library, which if you haven’t checked out, you definitely need to go to. We are a treasure trove for you of information. So, think of it as adding tools to your tool belt as you continue your journey to health.

Joni Jones:

So, let’s just be frank about this. 2020 has been a tumultuous year for all of us, the world actually. So, stress is insidious. It belly crawls its way through our life and it sets up camp. And the physiological effects of stress are felt. I mean, we feel that increased adrenaline, we feel an overactive parasympathetic nervous system, that’s what it is that you’re felling. And the difference between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic is the sympathetic prepares your body for flight or fight. The response for any potential danger.

Joni Jones:

On the other hand, our parasympathetic nervous system keeps the body from overworking and restores the body to calm, composed state. So that your digestion can do its thing, all of it. So, with all of this stress, it’s just almost impossible not to feel the effects of that. In fact, the CDC did a survey in June of this year. And they found that 40% of the US adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse. So, last week we had Ruth Cummings here and she shared the connection between our emotions and disease in our bodies.

Joni Jones:

So, today’s guest, like the rest of us, has had to adapt and overcome. And fortunately for us, her pivot led her deeper into the field of study of mindfulness. So, let’s gather some more tools for our health’s journey here. And learn how to deal with the emotions that stress brings, so they don’t get stuck in our body and wreak havoc. We’re thrilled today to be bringing you Angie Corogin. Our team experienced the benefit of her deep knowledge, and now it’s your turn.

Joni Jones:

So, Angie, let me tell you a little bit about Angie, she is a heartful yoga and mindfulness instructor. If you ever see the, what is that word, MBSR are the initials for that. She’s a yoga studio owner, she’s a mindset coach, and she’s a certified integrative wellness consultant. So, she covers the gamut. She supports communities, corporations, and individuals to integrate functional wellness practices into their modern lives.

Joni Jones:

Angie is committed to an Earth conscious life style, I love that, from what she eats and drinks to all the things she consumes and is inspired to share this way of life with others. Angie has earned degrees in environmental education and a master’s in intervention services. And I want to give you this little tidbit, because I know you’re all taking copious notes. You can find Angie on Insight Timer. It offers a growing catalog of free meditations there. And if you go to insighttimer.com\angiecorogin, then you’ll find her free meditations there.

Joni Jones:

And just know, nobody panic, we’ll have the links and everything there for you, so that you can access her information, because it is beautiful. So, with that said, I’m going to turn it over to Angie, and let her work her magic for you.

Angie Corogin:

Awesome, thank you, Joni. It’s a pleasure to be here today with you. And we’re stepping right into an area of my passion, my flow. I am a certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher. I studied with Brown University and that has been an incredible journey. I’m still in process, actually, of deepening my education and my ability to bring that to the community. So, I’ll talk more about MBSR, but later.

Angie Corogin:

But, today is all about stress and mindfulness. The relationship there. And I want to share how the practice of mindfulness might help you meet challenge and stress both differently, but perhaps with more tools. So feeling like you have more agency and choice in the matter.

Angie Corogin:

So, the practices that we’re going to talk about are easy, really, they’re simple, they’re very quite simple. They’re nothing you’ve not done before. But it actually isn’t so simple. These practices are basic. So I’m going to give you a brief idea. The general arc of today’s time together and what that might look like. So, we’re going to start with an actual practice. We’ll sit for a few moments, then we’ll stand up, we’ll stretch. Then, we’re going to come back and have more of a discussion around stress and mindfulness, and how they’re interrelated, and how this can be meaningful to you on your health journey.

Angie Corogin:

So, I invite you to, right now, minimize all the extra windows on your computer, your tablet, however you are catching this chat today, to minimize all the things and to bring yourself to a good seat. So, if you’re driving, your eyes are open, on the road. If you’re at home though, you might find yourself sitting well, sitting tall, and you might even choose to blink your eyes closed or look down. This is just to minimize all that you’re seeing. Again, just taking account your environment.

Angie Corogin:

And just take a moment, you take a deep breath, you might notice sounds right away, you might find you have closed your eyes and want to blink them open, this is okay. But just take a moment just to feel yourself hearing in your space. There might be something that grabs you, your mind might pull you back towards a task or what you were just doing. But I encourage you to focus in on something in your hands or feet that you might feel, you might feel your seat in your chair, or on the floor. You might take a moment just to tune into your soundscape, noticing what’s here, what sounds sounds close and far.

Angie Corogin:

You might draw sense to your mouth, to softening the jaw, and even taking a deeper breath. And you might sigh out, open the mouth and let the breath go. Again, do that, just feel the breath. And the mind will keep turning, that’s what brains were made to do, to think thoughts. But we have this very innate ability, so a known ability to be able to direct our focus. Feel your hands, your feet, the sounds. Notice your body. Take a deeper breath. And just one more moment here. Just a little pause.

Angie Corogin:

Then, begin to come back and let your eyes begin to open if they were closed. And just start taking the room. Not wanting anything, not needing to get up and fix or straighten. But just taking in with your eyes the sort of same ability to know. Know that you’re seeing. And if you’re able, so if the environment you’re in allows it today, let’s bring our hands together. We’re just going to begin to rub our hands. So rubbing the hands together, this isn’t a supportive action today. You might take one hand against your leg, and just rub. So, if that feels better, rubbing both hands though, and just creating friction. Any speed, any amount. You might notice the sound.

Angie Corogin:

Our goal is just to be here, right here, and keep directing the mind. If it’s weird, you’re bored, you’re feeling restless, we just keep coming back to the hands. What’s happening here. And then just rub enough that you feel warmth and friction beginning. We’re going to take the heels of our hands, the palms of our hands, and let them rest right over your eyes. And so your fingertips just draping on your forehead and just holding here for a moment, just noticing what there’s to notice. Notice temperature, pressure. Anything that there’s here to notice. It’s fine. It’s good.

Angie Corogin:

Take one more moment, one deep breath. And then we’ll release the hands off the eyes, and we’ll take all of our fingertips and just begin to sort of tap the forehead. And so you can do this in any way that feels good to you. It’s a nice like tap, we’re just tapping. You might move along the temples, and just down the jaw line. Just tapping, waking thins up. Tapping the chin, the cheeks. Good. And then bringing it down, so tapping the neck, maybe the back of the head a bit. And then bringing your hands to your chest, and just wrapping the hands across the chest. You could tap lightly, sometimes people like to take fists, that might feel better. And just tapping gently. Good.

Angie Corogin:

Then, let’s brush off the shoulders. Like brush off the arms. Like maybe you’ve walked through a dusty room, and you’re just brushing it off. You could even think about this, as you brush off the shoulder, you’re just brushing off anything bugging you, just letting it go, off the back of the shoulders. Good. Maybe off the top of the chest.

Angie Corogin:

And then come back to a still place. And you might just settle again. So, give yourself a chance to settle. Let your hands rest. And just notice what it’s like to transition from movement now to stillness. So, we’re going to target a place in the body that often can get sore when we think a lot. It’s actually an acupressure point, or acupuncture point, called gallbladder 21. So you could read more about this by putting in GB21 into a Google search.

Angie Corogin:

So, you might cross, I’m taking my right arm across my left shoulder to the top of my shoulder. And just run your hand for a moment across the top of your own shoulder. We’re going to choose to pause and stop at the middle. So the middle point, and this is actually the hump of the trapezius. And I’m just going to turn my video off really quick and back on, it looked a little blurry.

Angie Corogin:

Okay, so we’re looking for the hump, the top of the trapezius, which is this muscle on the top of the shoulders. We’re going to slide our fingertips back, so you’re hooking on to the shoulder, and just rub here. So this is the place that if you’ve ever gotten a shoulder massage, it’s likely someone’s focus there. Now, there’s different techniques we can use to help release this area, or just bring some blood flow to this area. And the idea is we’re helping bring blood flow down. So if you’re feeling really anxious, or stressed, or a lot of movement in your mind, this can help. This is also helpful for headaches, and soreness in the body.

Angie Corogin:

So you can also simply press down. And so, in my body, this is more effective actually than the rubbing. So, just holding as you press down, there might be tenderness or soreness here. We’ll just take three or four breath, so you could hold this up to 90 seconds, it can often take that amount of time for our fingers to sink through the layers, [inaudible 00:13:48] the fascia, then into the muscle.

Angie Corogin:

And so, when you feel satisfied, we’re all different, we’re going to switch sides. So, finding the opposite shoulder. Some people like to use same hand, same shoulder. It feels awkward. And others like to cross the body. So know that you have options. So we have the option to rub, now what might be your right shoulder with your left hand, or you can press down, hold, taking just a few deep breath here on this side.

Angie Corogin:

So this is impacting the muscles, this can impact the energy in the body. And giving us a chance to get know ourself just a bit better. Take one more breath here. And just release that. And we might roll the shoulders a bit, or shake it out. So if there’s any tension there.

Angie Corogin:

So, I’m going to invite you to come to standing. But now that these next few movements that we’re going to do to move our body could also be done seated. So, if you’d like to stand, I’m inviting you to stand. And so, as you come to stand wherever you are, it makes not any difference, feel your feet underneath your hips, and your hips under your shoulders, you might let your hands just naturally hang beside the body.

Angie Corogin:

And just feel yourself standing, we’re just standing to stand. You might like to move a little bit, it might be important for you to pedal-like your feet, or shake out your hands. If you’ve got some movements that needs dispatched, offering yourself that. But then come back to this place of standing. And we call this, this is a named posture, we call it mountain pose.

Angie Corogin:

And so, it’s this pose to remind us of our strength and stability. And so, just stand here and feel the floor. Feel the contact points of your feet on the ground, the earth. And even if you’re moving, swaying, begin to notice this stability that exists in you. Your very own stability from within. Even when the storms roll in, the mountain is still there. And so notice that you can tap into this mountainous part of your own self. Take just one more breath. Good.

Angie Corogin:

And then, let’s breathe in and start to reach our arms up. And you can go about doing this anyway you might like. You could also take one arm up, both arms up, but beginning to reach the arms up. And then beginning, as you breathe out, to bring the arms down. This might be one arm, both arms. The point of this movement isn’t to get anywhere. It’s not about the top or the bottom. It’s actually really more about just knowing that you have arms that move, and then breathing in whenever you’re ready, and again starting your way up, bringing the arms up, taking it slow enough that you can sense what’s going on, if there’s any discomfort or things feel good or if you ought to pause, reaching any amount, feel the fingers spreading.

Angie Corogin:

And as you’re ready, bringing the arms down. Anyway, could be out to the side, forward back. Good. Letting the arms come all the way back down to the sides. We’re going to begin to feel the feet a bit. So, just rock over to the side, both sides, the blades of the feet. So you’re sort of rocking onto the sides of the feet. And then come back center, both feet to the floor. And rock the other way under the blade. So, the blades of the feet. So feeling the inner and outer ankle stretching, but also feeling your [inaudible 00:17:56]. Do this nice and slow. Slow it down so you can notice the beginning, the middle, the end, the transition.

Angie Corogin:

And just a few more times, the feet, there’s more bones in the feet than there are the entire rest of the body. And so just giving a bit of attention as you rock side to side. Good. And then let’s come back into center and just shake out the legs. You can just kick it out, shake it out. You might even like to shake out the arms. You can shake out the hands like you’ve got water on them. And let’s begin to swing our hands. So just swinging your arms. And you can soften your knees. And if you really like, you can start to sit down low. So sit down low, and then swing your arms up high.

Angie Corogin:

So, this doesn’t have to look any particular way. There is no right or wrong way to do this. But feel every joint in your entire body moving. Your arms, your fingers, your knees, ankles, everything in-between. And just moving one more moment here. This can be little, this can be big. Feel your body moving. And when it’s good to slow down, just slow this down. Just start to slow down the swinging arms and the moving feet. And come back to stand.

Angie Corogin:

Come back to that mountain and take a deeper breath in. You might like to breathe out your mouth. This cleansing, this clearing breath out. And feel those. Feel your feet on the earth, here, these feet right now, and feel the body sacking up from the ground. Just take one more deep breath, just feeling the body and this aliveness of movement. Beating heart, quickened breath.

Angie Corogin:

And when you’re ready, if you are standing, let’s make our way back to our seat. And take just another moment here to settling in. As much time as you need to feel your feet, hands. And when you’re ready, you can open your eyes if they’re closed. So we took that time right there, to sit, check in, check in with the senses, and then to move the body. We did those practices because we can use all of the words, all of them. The point at what mindfulness is, we can quote the studies, articles, we can interview experts, but the truth of the matter is you can only really know anything about mindfulness through the direct experience of the practice. Of your own experience of paying attention. It’s hard to learn about mindfulness listening to someone else’s personal experience of swinging their arms. But you know what it’s like to swing yours.

Angie Corogin:

And then, when you hear someone else talk about it, it makes sense. So, now I’m going to attempt to use words to describe both stress and mindfulness, which are both felt and known by us. Known by us differently. So we all will describe it a little bit different. So I want to take us back and look at the definition of stress. I think there’s something interesting here.

Angie Corogin:

This is a very non-comprehensive look at how this science and study started by the way. But, I’d wage that we’ve been feeling stress since day one. But this look at stress through the lens of science is relatively new. In fact, 1936 was some of the very first emerging science. And so, researchers have had a really difficult time agreeing and accepting a definition. What is this stress? What is it?

Angie Corogin:

So, some have conceptualized stress, so saying that it’s something that’s happening. So it’s your high stress job, it’s all the overcrowding, it’s that you have a long commute to work. But these conceptualizations are stimulus-based definitions. Because they’re characterizing stress as a stimulus. But it’s more than that. It’s something we feel, like an inside feeling. And it’s not only something that’s caused outside of us, but I think we each might be able to tell a story of a time that we created our own stress.

Angie Corogin:

So, it’s difficult to explain, because it’s so individual. The science is telling the story that every single system in our body responds to stress. Just in varying ways. Some of us sweat. Some of us have quickened breath, a fast heartbeat, a skipping heart. Some of us hold our breath, some of us blink a lot. It can manifest in so many different ways, as many different ways as we are from one another.

Angie Corogin:

But here’s the deal why it’s important, is that stress enlists every single system of the body. And it influences how we feel and how we behave. So, the history of stress, keep it brief, I will keep it brief. There is a lot here. But the formal stress, in the ’30s, Walter Cannon, he coined this term, you heard Joni refer to it at the beginning, flight and fight. So he was actually studying dogs. He was studying the way they swallowed buttons. And he was looking at the swallowing mechanism. But what he noticed was that emotions impacted this somehow.

Angie Corogin:

And so, that’s how he found fight and flight. Fight, I can meet this challenge. Flight, I can flee this challenge. Now, freeze and fawn came much later. So, [inaudible 00:24:40] the beginning. And around the same time, Hans Selye was exploring this concept, it’s called the concept of general adaptation syndrome, for those of you that want to dig in. But this was a study on stress, any kind. It could be mind, body, emotional. But what he was finding was that when we encounter stress, especially when it’s prolonged, our biology changes. We change.

Angie Corogin:

It was in the ’80s then that Lazarus, these guys, and Folkman, studying at Berkeley, they started to say it was a little different. They said there’s more, that there’s this transactional theory of stress. So, and what this means is that they said that this was a relationship between how a person appraised the situation, or their environment. So, it’s when we appraise something as taxing or exceeding our resources, so we are feeling endangered, our well-being is in danger.

Angie Corogin:

So, this idea, let me break it down, this is an example. So, I have a new recipe, I’m super excited to make it, my husband and I agree, he’s going to be home at 6:00 for dinner. I have it plated on the table, and he rolls in at 6:30. I’m frustrated and disappointed. And trying to figure out how to enjoy this cold meal. But it’s the next day, okay? So it’s the next day, dinner is at 6:00, I’m so busy at work, I’m just super busy. I have no idea what to make for dinner, and I need extra time. He gets home at 6:30. And I’m relieved. The same situation, but my appraisal was really different of it. One stress, one not, one relief.

Angie Corogin:

So, what does all of this even have to do with this? So, we’ve got stress defined all these different ways, but we know it in our own way. So, there is, within this, a linear line starts to emerge, mindfulness starts to become studied. This is a powerful, potent antidote to stress. Also know, also something that we haven’t known, we haven’t studied it, again, we’ve all been breathing, eating, tasting, listening, seeing, touching for our whole life. But have we paid so much attention to it to be able to understand it? Understand why it’s so important. In a day and age where everything goes fast and fast, and there doesn’t seem to be quite as much respect given to being. There’s a little more respect given to doing.

Angie Corogin:

So, mindfulness. We’re there, we’re to this piece. To talk about it, talk about the experience of mindfulness, which is just as different as the experience of stress. Mindfulness is not a magical wand that makes our problems go away. But it is something that we can practice again and again. The first person to define it in such a way, Jon Kabat-Zinn, he says mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose. In the present moment, without judgment, and in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.

Angie Corogin:

I know that was a lot. It’s holding your attention to whatever is rising. If you’re sad, be sad. If you’re happy, be happy. If you’re both, know that it’s possible to be both and to hold both. And that’s actually wise, that’s not crazy, that’s wise. That’s a wide window of tolerance, the ability to know that pleasant and unpleasant can coexist.

Angie Corogin:

So, being here, human being. Not a human doing. At first, this is boring, dare I say, you might feel restless. You might hear the voice telling you you’re not doing it right, it’s not going to work for you, you’re different. You are different. But it will work for you. Because getting to know yourself actually is the only way through. No one else can get to know you for you.

Angie Corogin:

So, we sense our world, actually every single thing that you know about anything, you know it through seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and feeling. And now the sixth sense, per perception, being able to sense it around you, knowing it’s there.

Angie Corogin:

So, if that’s the case, if our brain lives in the dark, and is informed by our senses, would it make sense to spend a little more time with yourself, to look again? To ask a followup question, to listen a little more mindfully, to make sure we didn’t mishear, to savor our food, so you’re not like me, sometimes half way through a dish of ice cream, before I realize I don’t even really want it.

Angie Corogin:

Mindfulness, it’s really this idea of being present. And this is where Jon Kabat-Zinn came in with that MBSR, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, in 1979. He was studying pain, he was specifically working with patients that were at sort of their wit’s end. They were not responding well to traditional treatments, and he formed an eight-week group program that we now call Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. And this program included looking at your own reactions and responses to pleasant and unpleasant, to difficult communication.

Angie Corogin:

And then, introducing the practices in a really beautiful way of mindful meditation, mindful eating, mindful walking, mindful movement. Honestly, mindful living. And since this time, that this program [inaudible 00:30:59], the research has begin to really emerge of science, the science of mindfulness and the science of stress. And this research, it’s showing how mindful-based interventions, mindfulness-based interventions improve mental health, physical health, socio-emotional health, and in fact, we’re showing that these treatments can compare, or even are more effective than some of our other psychological interventions. It’s exciting stuff.

Angie Corogin:

I had the opportunity to use this in our K12 schools last year in a 20-week program. Around week 10, we started to notice, in the halls, the student saying, “Take a breath, dude.” Or, “The mindfulness lady said,” and it made my heart just smile, because there’s not even spaces we’re educating to remember to breathe, to remember to slow down. And so, I want to take just a moment to show for those of you that are watching, but for those of you that are tuning in today, and listening, I encourage you to visualize this in your mind.

Angie Corogin:

Making a fist with your hand, if you can, you can make a fist with one hand. This represents resistance. This can be resistance in your body, this can be resistance mind, emotionally. Hey, now, make it tight and now try to pry it open with the other hand. Pry it open. Come on, you can do it, get it open. Pry it open. What you notice is you resist. This is a lot of work, right? Okay, let that go for a second.

Angie Corogin:

And bring the hand back up into the fist, a nice, tight fist. Make it again. There’s a part of mindfulness that is important, I haven’t mentioned it yet, it’s kindness. Your other hand is kind. The kindness. The support. Bring it in underneath your fisted hand and hold it. Actually hold it. And notice what happens to the fist. I might exaggerate a little bit, those of you watching, my hand has started to open. Okay. But just notice if it just softened for you.

Angie Corogin:

So, you can release your hands now. The point of this exercise is to show that the support of kindness makes a big difference. So, when you’re noticing, “I haven’t taken a breath today. I’ll never get unstressed if I don’t breathe.” I mean, it’s not helpful. Waking up to the moment and going, “A deep breath, oh yes. I finally remembered, I get to breathe.” And taking that breath in, and kind deep breath.

Angie Corogin:

So, stress is a sense of threat. We feel threatened. We don’t want it to happen. Or we find ourself in a situation that we want something to happen that’s not happening. So what is this hand that’s supporting? What is that… If I translate that to real life, that’s a deep breath. It’s counting to three, it’s looking around and finding a few green items, blue items, whatever you pick, but letting your mind get out of panic, stress state. You might tap into feeling your hands, your feet, like that mountain, feel your feet on the ground. If you can’t feel your feet on the ground, maybe stomp them a little. Step them. Feel your feet. You could listen to the soundscapes, sensing to the sounds that are here.

Angie Corogin:

So, I want to share something that I share with schools. [inaudible 00:34:54] my hand model, this is a commonly known hand model of the brain. And I think it helps us understand. So those of you, again, tuning in, I’m taking my hand into a fist, but this time, tucking the thumb under and in, under the fingers. The fingers are wrapping around. This represents a model of the brain. The wrist is the brain stem. And we would often call this our reptilian brain. It was the first part of our brain to develop.

Angie Corogin:

And when we lift our fingers up, and we see that folded thumb in, so this part of our brain is what they call the mammal or mouse brain or limbic system. This thumb, you can think of the thumb as the amygdala, the smoke alarm, the smoke alarm that says, “Hey, something stressful is happening.” And then the four fingers that fold over, so we can fold them over, this is the prefrontal cortex. This is what science is calling our monkey brain. This handles all of the higher functions. So thinking critically, problem solving, planning, mental maps of our world, connecting with others, et cetera, et cetera.

Angie Corogin:

Our online brain, what makes us human and different. Like even monkeys, they found that monkeys couldn’t connect with others, if they didn’t connect with others, they wouldn’t have survived, and this is the part of the brain that allows us to connect. But when we encounter stress, this really interesting thing happens. If it’s a cheetah, a cheetah comes out of nowhere, or maybe a dog, maybe you don’t live somewhere where there’s cheetahs, but a dog comes out of nowhere. And you’re not going to think, “Hmm,” with your prefrontal cortex, “Hmm, there’s a dog running at me. Should I stay right here? What should I do? Should I climb that tree? Maybe I’ll run. Maybe I should run.” That’s not how our brain works.

Angie Corogin:

Our brain, the smoke alarm goes off, the amygdala goes, “Dog, run.” You do your thing. The thinking brain flies offline, and you will either fight or you will run or you will freeze. Those are this part, this reptilian part of our brain, like a lizard, “Safety, safety, safety.” That’s what they do, all day, “Safety, safety, safety, safety.” That’s what you’re in, the mode we’re in. We’ve probably all felt this offline brain mode, where you just go into this automated state.

Angie Corogin:

There’s something to be known about this in yourself, this reaction, this moment when your thinking brain goes offline, and you start reacting and fight, flight or freeze. And mindfulness is the tool, one of the tools, one of the very effective and impactful tools at getting to know what is the smoke for you, what creates the smoke that makes your amygdala send the message to the prefrontal cortex, which makes you panic. And when you panic, when we stay in this prolonged state, we start to have this situation of flooded hormone in the body of cortisol, adrenaline, epinephrine.

Angie Corogin:

And for most of us, know that if you don’t get to dispatch that hormone, if you don’t get to run from the dog, if you don’t get to fight the dog off, so then those hormones take 48-ish hours or so for your body to break down and release. So you live with them. We lay in bed with our eyes open, “Why can’t I sleep? Where is my appetite? Why did I just snap at that person I love?” So, the mindful practice is this invitation to slow down, to start to notice your own habits, to notice your own patterns, to notice how you respond.

Angie Corogin:

And so when we notice that the prefrontal cortex has gone offline, and we are in fight or flight, we start to know what works for us. Is it breath? This is the first technique that I teach when I’m teaching in schools or working even with private clients, breathing. You’re probably not breathing if you’re in a state of panic. Take a couple deep breath and go from there.

Angie Corogin:

So, we’ll close today, I’ve enjoyed… I could go on and on, by the way. But I do want to close us just with a really brief practice again. So find yourself sitting, sitting low, sitting dignified, sitting in this way that you’re like, “I know I’m sitting.” You might feel your feet on the floor. Jon Kabat-Zinn says that, “We can’t stop the wild and painful catastrophes of life. But we can learn to cope.” [inaudible 00:39:37] said just in that more poetic and beautiful way, Thich Nhat Hanh, he’s a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and very revered teacher says, “Without the mud, you cannot grow the lotus flower.”

Angie Corogin:

So just take a deeper breath and let your eyes rest on something in your room, something in your space. Just let your eyes rest. Soften your gaze, but looking. You might notice your hands while you’re looking. When it’s comfortable, you can let your eyes lower, close your lids, let your eyelids close.

Angie Corogin:

And still feel yourself here sitting, or standing. Know that you’re sitting or standing. And begin to look at the inner eyes, look at your own inner eyes. And just see what there is to know there. Look inside the eyes and what can be known. Just take a deeper breath, a deep breath knowing you’re breathing, you might feel it in your nose, your throat, your chest. You might hear the sound. And look back to the inner eyes again. So, eyes are closed or lowered, but just seeing the insides of the eyes.

Angie Corogin:

And when you’re ready, blink your eyes open, but keep this awareness. Just this softness and this awareness taking in whatever is around you. Know that at any time during the day you can close your eyes for a few moments and just tap in, tap in to what’s inside, to who you are, to how you’re experiencing the moment, and moving forward in a way that supports you.

Angie Corogin:

I want to thank you very much for your time today. And I encourage you to find me in the places, I would love to share more, I’d love to practice with you. I hold weekly classes online. And I’m launching soon an MBSR course that will being November 23rd, 2020, and there’s one coming out quarterly. So I’d love to practice with you and share more information. But thank you very much for having me today as a part of your beautiful community.

Joni Jones:

Oh, Angie, thank you so much. I don’t know about you, but I definitely needed that today. I did. That was beautiful. Like Angie said, all of her information, we’re going to have all the information with the link so that you can contact her and get to know her a little bit better. She has beautiful, beautiful programs that I highly recommend, especially with 2020 being such a tumultuous year, I think that we all deserve a little mindfulness education. All right, with that said, I hope everybody has a beautiful Saturday, and we will see you here next week. Thanks, everybody.

 

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