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This post is an extract from my book ‘Everything I Wish I’d Known About Stress: A Hopeful Toolkit’.
We’ve all heard the term ‘bottled up’ used to describe when someone might suppress, mask, or refrain from showing their feelings. It turns out that we can literally bottle up our emotions by storing them within our bodies.
Think of some of the common phrases where we use the body to describe how we are feeling:
• ‘That so-and-so is such a pain in the neck.’
• ‘I’m fed-up to the back teeth with it.’
• ‘I feel sick to my stomach.’
• ‘I’m getting cold feet.’
• ‘I feel as though I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.’
• ‘I’ve got a gut feeling that…’
• ‘My heart just skipped a beat.’
Consider the tension you feel after a prolonged period of stress: the aches and pains, the knots, the clenched jaw, the grinding of teeth, the migraines, the digestive issues, the nausea, and the tight neck and shoulders. Our bodies clench up and get stuck that way. That’s stored stress or emotional information, and it can be stored everywhere; in our tissues, organs, skin, and muscles.
There’s a more common understanding now that there is not physical health and mental health, separately, but that they’re intrinsically linked and inseparable, undeniably so. And that’s why chronic stress is so awful, why it affects everything about us, making us generally unwell. Remember, the stress response is designed for short, sharp bursts. The effect on us when that stress response is constantly cruising is a detrimental one.
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