Fear is an energy pattern that starts in the mind, body or spirit dimension and begins a series of symptoms that people call panic, worry, self-doubt, catastrophic thinking, obsessive thoughts, etc. No matter where fear initiates, most of us only “know” it is happening once the body moves into a flight or fight response, by ramping up the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). We might have an increased heart rate, sweaty palms, tensing muscles, or energy moving to our limbs to prepare us for running for our lives, whether the imminent danger is real or not. For some of us it feels like paralyzing self-doubt and shortness of breath, confusion and overwhelm.
For each of us the level and intensity varies according to our bodies, our sensitivity, our past experiences, and our emotional awareness of ourselves. Once the SNS is activated, many folks dissociate and become numb, others the fear feels like uneasiness under their skin and others have the unbearable panic response.
The good news is that no matter how you experience it, you can learn how to work with helping body know you are not in danger. You can know how to shift gears mentally, emotionally and physically and activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS), which is the part of nervous system that allows a deep relaxation and letting go of daily stressors.
This PSNS system gets atrophied when people have chronic fear and anxiety. We literally forget how to relax. When you never truly relax, your body becomes stuck in survival mode tension, or ego vigilance. It creates havoc with our sleep, eat and rest cycles. It messes with our hypothalamus. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Fortunately, there are many methods to change that and return our system to a calmer, healthier state. Biohacking is a new word that Dave Asprey, a computer security guy, uses to describe the work he is into. Basically, he hacks into his own body. Here’s what he says: “There are two perspectives on biohacking. One is that biohacking is something you do to biology, outside of yourself; you’re going to change a cell; you’re going change an amoeba and make it glow in the dark. The other perspective on biohacking, the one where I spend my time, is that you can hack your own biology, and you can gain control of systems in your body that you would never have access to.”
Whether we want to be trendy and call the things we do to help our body-mind as biohacking, plain old self-care, or mind-body-spirit wellness; The point is that we now know we can directly effect and impact our bodies autonomic systems. We now know genetic make-up can be change. We now know that our brains have the ability to change through neuron plasticity. We now know we can directly impact our immunity through our gut health.
And now that we “know“ these things we can eventually implement these things. Traditions of yoga, Buddhism and tantric actually knew this stuff thousands of years ago; that these physiological and psychological changes can occur and be repeated on purpose to get the desired effects. Indigenous cultures grew up knowing how to relate holistically with life inside and out of side of themselves.
But we civilized folks, who have grown up in this modern culture have to actually learn this. And eventually implement them. Unfortunately, we often learn good ideas but never put them into practice, so they are useless. I will offer a few basic strategies from my book, even though most of you won’t probably implement them, without more resources and guidance to fully engage and integrate them. But here goes.
Three primary simple ways to work with decreasing anxiety biologically is with grounding, breath and gratitude.
1.) Grounding is a term for energetically and physically making contact with your body and the Earth. A simplified definition is being present in your body awareness and experience. Grounding can be done anywhere anytime, with intention and awareness and breath. The results are a deep relaxation and letting go of tension in the body and mind. Cultivating mindfulness and peace restores the PSNS, lowering cortisol and calming the body. This creates a lowering of anxiety and stress.
2.) The breath has been studied and used for medical, mental, emotional and physiological changes in yoga and tantric tradition for a long time. The breath is natural free and powerful tool of intervention. It can directly change the nervous system, the heart rate, the blood pressure and organ function. The easiest form to use is deep belly breathing. It is relaxing and soothing and lets the body know that it is safe and out of harm’s way. Within three to five minutes usually one can experience a shift.
3.) The last bio hacking tip is gratitude. You simply envision something you feel grateful for in your mind, and then feel it in the body and then bring the feeling of it into your chest-heart area. You may notice an expansiveness and opening that feels relieving and releasing of stress and tension. Biologically, gratitude lowers biological immunity markers, and supports energy, sleep and mood.
Seeing how simply we can effect positive change with our bodies, our minds and our fear, the question becomes why don’t we use it?
The answer is because of the habits of the ego mind. Until we interrupt our default thinking and being patterns, we will not change. We cannot create new neurological pathways without commitment and practice. Any new behavior needs to be implemented and integrated regularly to become our lifestyle and wellbeing behavior. In our complex busy lives, we tend to not be able to do this without more structure, and guidance, like mind-body coaching. But give it a shot. Best Bio-Hacking!
Dr. Kate Dow is a best-selling author, teacher, psychologist turned empowerment coach for women professionals and entrepreneurs. For over 30 years, she continues to be passionate about supporting women to be their most alive, authentic, powerful versions of themselves. She has struggled lifelong with anxiety and applied mind-body-spirit modalities i.e. Don Miguel Ruiz’s Toltec Teachings that make a real difference for people. She founded Sacred Transitions in 1995 to offer powerful healing and growth for women in practical, compassionate ways. She published her book Fear-Less: The Art of Using Anxiety to Your Advantage in 2017 and launched the online training program that accompanies it. She is an adoring mother of two college students, her two dogs and her black cat Jack. She continues to be enchanted and blessed to live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.