Four Ways to Reduce Your Stress That Actually Work

Four Ways to Reduce Your Stress That Actually Work

Want to know why you’re still stressed out despite all of the stress reduction techniques you’ve tried in the past? If you’ve taken 500 bubble baths and go to yoga every day and you’re still stressed out, here are 4 things you need to consider to find more ease and balance in your life.

  1. PEO:

PEO stands for “Person, Environment, Occupation” and it’s a concept that comes from the world of Occupational Therapy. (BTW — “occupation” here refers to anything that occupies your time, not just work. So it could be your occupation as a mother, or a crafter, or a student.) When looking at stress reduction through the PEO lens it’s important to consider three factors. 

The “person” part refers to who you are as a person. What are your skills, strengths and relative weaknesses?  What are your preferences and dislikes? What’s your personality like? (Something like the MTBI, enneagram, human design, or Gallup strengths finder can be useful here if you don’t feel like you know this info well enough.)  

“Environment” refers to the place you’re in when you’re trying to function. Maybe your home environment feels more relaxed than the office (or vice versa). Or you prefer the mountains to the desert. Why is that? What is it about the environment that’s a better fit for you? Different environments are also better for different tasks, for example, an energizing environment would be better for work, while a calming one would be better for sleep or meditation. 

The big “O” is the occupation you’re performing. What are the demands of the task at hand?  Do you have the resources for that task? Do you have the skills? The right tools? Proper instructions, guidance, and support? 

Try looking at one of your routine tasks (either at work or home) through this lens of PEO and see if you can make any adjustments to the environment or the occupation in order to make it easier for you. For example, maybe you work better in a bustling environment full of energy. Or maybe you function better when you don’t have access to your phone to distract you. Maybe you can only fully relax in nature, and so the crowded yoga class in the gym doesn’t help you de-stress. 

Take a look at your daily occupations and see how good of a match it is between who you are, the environment you’re in for that task, and the task itself. 

  1. Sensory Profile: 

Every single human on this planet has a unique sensory profile, it’s like a fingerprint. Your sensory profile looks at each of your 8 senses and your preferences and awareness for each. Do you like bright, vibrant, crazy designs? You’re probably a visual sensory seeker. Do you like calm colors and less clutter? You are probably visually sensitive. There are quizzes you can take to find out your specific sensory profile, but you can also think about each of these and ask yourself if you’re a seeker (you like it big and bold), avoider (you’d rather stay away from too much of this type of input), sensitive (you don’t hate it, but too much will grate on you) or low registration (you’re not even aware of those types of sensations).

  • Visual (sight) like bright colors and busy environments
  • Auditory (hearing) like music and talking and louder environments
  • Olfactory (smell) like strong scents
  • Gustatory (taste) like bold flavors 
  • Tactile (touch) like strong touch or softer touch
  • Vestibular (sense of head movement in space) like swings, rollercoasters
  • Proprioceptive (sense of body position in space and feedback from joints and muscles) like dancing, moving around, lifting weights
  • Interoception  (sensations related to the physiological/physical condition of the body like hunger, heart rate, breathing, and more) like needing to pee, being hot or cold, or ASMR tingles.

If your environment is not a good match for your sensory system, it can cause some serious nervous system dysregulation. Your body will release cortisol, you’ll have trouble concentrating, your emotional regulation system will become depleted and you might get cranky or depressed, and you’ll be exhausted at the end of the day. 

  1. Interoceptors and Mindfulness: 

Interoceptors are the sensations we feel related to the physiological/physical condition of the body like hunger, heart rate, breathing, etc. When you’re are stressed, your body shuts down information from the interoceptors (who needs to know that they’re hungry when a lion is chasing them?!) and you become what’s called “low registration” for that type of sensory information. 

If you’re chronically stressed at home or at work, your interoceptors can become permanently set in the low registration setting and you lose touch with what you may need on a basic, physiological level. This is why mindfulness doesn’t work for so many people. If you aren’t aware of what your body is feeling, how can you pay attention to it? That’s like giving someone noise-cancelling headphones and then asking them to tell you about the noises in their environment. If you can’t hear it how can you pay attention to it? 

Personally, I love mindfulness as a stress reduction technique, but before I got any benefit from it I had to heal my interoceptors from years of stress and shut down. Only after slowly cultivating my awareness of these types of sensations was I able to really tune into myself and be fully aware in the present moment. 

If you think you may be low registration for interoceptive sensations, start by concentrating on one sensation, like the feeling of your belly moving in and out as you breathe, and observe it with gentle curiosity, not trying to change it, just trying to befriend it and bring it back to your awareness. Once you start to be able to feel that sensation, try another one, like tune into your thirst and see what it says. Is it there at all? How intense is it? How do you know – what does that feel like in your body? From there you can start to play and experiment with other sensations and emotions and see what they feel like in your body. 

  1. Boundaries

Oh, how I love boundaries! Boundaries start with an awareness of what we like, dislike, will tolerate or won’t. It’s a compendium of the things that make us sing with joy, the things that trigger us, and the things that are neutral. As you learn this stuff about yourself, putting boundaries in place means communicating compassionately and firmly with yourself and others about what works for you, what your needs are, and what will set you off. Having your boundaries ignored or not tended to, by either yourself or others, can be a major cause of stress. 

The first step is to get clear on our boundaries through observing what stresses us out or triggers us, what brings us joy, and what we don’t really care either way about. The next step is to learn to feel comfortable (aka not ashamed, bad, unworthy or fearful) about communicating those needs to yourself and others. Some examples could be giving yourself a 10 minute break when you feel overwhelmed or asking a coworker not to come by your desk for a chat when you’re working on a project. 

Boundaries are a life-long project, both because we get to know ourselves better over time but also because our joy and triggers change over the years, in different environments, with different people, and different tasks (Oh look! We’re back at PEO, where we started.) Having a practice of observing and identifying our boundaries can be a huge step towards a more joyful, stress-free life.

Honestly, I could write SO MUCH MORE on all of these topics. If you’d like to learn more about these, please comment with your questions and I’ll do my best to write about them in a future post!

Xo Megan

What’s the Missing Piece for Healing Your Developmental Trauma?

What’s the Missing Piece for Healing Your Developmental Trauma?

Let’s talk about what’s missing for many people as they recover from their childhood trauma. For me, doing the typical emotional and physical healing work alone was not enough. When I finally added spiritual awakening to the process, I went from being a hot mess of anxiety, depression and ill health to the more balanced, grounded version of myself that I am today. (Although I still reserve the right to be a hot mess sometimes. Hot mess is an important stage of any growth process!) 

I want to outline why I think BOTH traditional modes for healing from CPTSD + spiritual awakening are important and how you can start to use each of them in your own life. 

CPTSD is a collection of emotional and physical symptoms that stems from prolonged periods of stress without the ability to periodically reset to a state of safety and rest. For most people, this comes from developmental trauma during childhood. (If you’re not familiar with CPTSD, I suggest you read this post, then come back here to read on.) For many years, the focus of CPTSD treatment was only psychological, addressing the emotional and behavioral components of developmental trauma. More recently, because of things like ACE research (adverse childhood experiences) and books like The Body Keeps the Score and Waking the Tiger, we’ve started to expand the discussion of CPTSD effects to include physiological aspects, as well. 

The mental-emotional effects of trauma are the most widely known and are usually where people start when they first start to heal themselves. There are many ways that the mental-emotional aspects of CPTSD can show up in our lives, but the most common are anxiety, depression, perfectionism, people-pleasing, anger outbursts, ADHD, difficulty following through, quitting things when they get too hard, a harsh inner critic, or feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy. All of these are a direct result of your particular nervous system response: fight, flight, freeze or appease and the mental patterns you created in order to protect you from your particular set of traumatic experiences. There are many ways to help heal the mental-emotional damage from CPTSD. Some of the best ways I’ve found are therapy, energy healing, coaching, meditation, self-help books, shadow work, self-compassion, plant medicine, and making friendships and other healthy relationships a priority. 

The physiological effects of CPTSD can be more sneaky. Trauma and stress get trapped in the body and cause imbalances in our immune system, hormones, and other physiological processes, which eventually can lead to illness and disease. This can look like chronic fatigue, autoimmune issues, digestive issues, headaches and migraines, or even things like heart disease and cancer. There are a number of ways to address the physical aspects like yoga, TRE (trauma release exercises), forest bathing, chi gong, massage, acupuncture, vagal nerve reset, and energy healing. 

Addressing our health, both physical and emotional, is vital to healing CPTSD and it’s what most experts recommend as the best way to find healing from past trauma. 

But there’s a second aspect that’s just as important. 

For me, my healing didn’t really get supercharged until I started on the path of spiritual awakening. Let me explain why I think spiritual awakening is the secret sauce that’s missing in current discussions of developmental trauma healing. 

One of the primary reasons for all of the deleterious effects of developmental trauma is the lack of safe, consistent parents or caregivers. Whether your caregivers were dealing with addiction, were emotionally immature or distant, or had other mental health issues, the resulting trauma was the same: a stressful childhood that felt unsafe or unkind. When our primary attachment style is created in this sort of environment, we end up with dysfunctional relationships with ourselves (inner critic and bad self-esteem) and/or other people (friends, partners, bosses, etc). It’s really hard to trust yourself or other people after spending your formative years bathed in gaslighting and emotional abuse or neglect.

Spiritual awakening is the antidote to those formative, traumatic experiences. In therapy and other mental health practices, we learn that we need to move through the fear to learn how to trust the kind, caring people in our lives. But it often takes years of developing relationships with people until our inner child deems them safe enough to fully trust with our hearts and vulnerable, soft places. However, in a spiritual practice, as soon as we connect with source consciousness, we feel an immediate rush of love, acceptance, safety, and peace. This doesn’t take years to develop, it’s instantaneous. All of those feelings that we’d missed out on in our early development are there for us, ready to be experienced. When we return to our spiritual home through meditation, channeling, and plant medicine ceremonies, we’re easily able to find a model for the caregiving we never received as a child. 

These experiences of being loved and cared for unconditionally by my source consciousness have healed me in ways unlike any other practice. There’s a saying that we change our views of how our world works through “time and evidence,” meaning that it takes repeated experiences over a long period of time for us to believe something is really true or has really changed. Having a spiritual practice means that anytime we want to access those healing experiences of unconditional love, we can — all we have to do is meditate! (I’m joking about that part. Nowadays all I have to do is meditate, but it took 20 years of meditation practice along with an NDE and various plant medicine ceremonies over the years, and even so I still have days where I just can’t find that spiritual bliss during meditation.) 

This is why both mind-body healing and spiritual awakening practices are vitally important in finding balance and peace as we recover from developmental trauma. If you’re interested in learning more, please write to me and ask! I’d love to know what further questions you have on these practices and what I can do to support you through them. 

Xo Megan

Why Do We Choose To Incarnate?

Why Do We Choose To Incarnate?

As a channel and mystic, one of the things I’m asked most often is, “If it’s so wonderful in the place we go after we die, why would we ever choose to incarnate again?” I have to admit, it’s a question I often ask myself, too. When things are tough, I find myself thinking, “Why did I sign up for this!?” 

Here’s my best understanding of what’s going on and why we choose to incarnate again and again.  

As I explained in a previous post, after we die, we rejoin all of consciousness (aka source, God, universal consciousness, etc) and experience a feeling of unconditional love, acceptance, and oneness. 

So, why would anyone want to leave that and become a human being again? 

First, it’s important to understand that our perspective on existence is completely different there. In that place, we exist in all time, space, and awareness simultaneously, so deciding to spend a mere 80-100 years as a human doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. My guides have said it’s like choosing to go on an adventure vacation, like planning a few weeks of hiking in Machu Pichu or exploring the Pyramids in Egypt. You wouldn’t think it was that big of a deal to go see the Pyramids, right? I mean, it’s only a few weeks, so any inconveniences or suffering would be worth it for that awesome experience!  It’s way too hot? Smells like camel pee? Sore muscles after a long day of hiking? Those things seem minor in comparison to the experience of being able to see the pyramids! 

When I’ve looked at my life from the perspective of universal consciousness, even the things that (from my human perspective) feel huge and horrible like heartbreak, shame, or even cancer seem like camel pee and sore muscles — just minor inconveniences that are part of the larger experience. In fact, the experience wouldn’t be the same without those inconveniences. A massage at the end of a long day of hiking feels absolutely amazing! But without the hike, a massage would just be…nice. 

From your soul’s perspective, things like living in a timeline with only one direction or having a bodymind that feels emotions and physical sensations sounds like a grand adventure. If you think about it, so many of our human experiences come from the fact that a) there are beginnings, middles and ends to things and b) we are separate beings, able to feel connection, disconnection, change, free will, etc. After eons of floating around as All That Is, your soul gets almost giddy to be able to incarnate and have the full spectrum of human experiences, both what we would consider good and bad. As part of universal consciousness, you don’t get to experience any of those things, and a few decades with a new perspective sounds just like the adventure you crave. 

Even though I know all this and have guides that are constantly reminding me, sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. I often get lost in the purely human experience of this incarnation, especially when times are tough and I just want it to get better. But then I remind myself that this is all a story, and I am the creator of worlds. As I ease back into the awareness that I am a spiritual being having an experience as a human, a sense of deep peace and a connection to that greater awareness washes over me. 

You are connected to this larger consciousness, too, I see it in every person I encounter. This means you can access that deep sense of peace and connection for yourself. Some are more aware of it than others, but it’s always there, waiting for you to remember that you are a spiritual being having a human adventure. So, enjoy both the wonder of pyramids and the stench of the camel pee, it’s all part of the plan. And if you’d like some help finding that place of peace and connection, send me a note, and I’d be happy to help. Think of me like your spiritual sherpa, I know the way and I can show you how to get there. 

Xo Megan

What happens when we die?

What happens when we die?

Have you ever had an experience where you realize something that seems so obvious once you’d thought about it? Well, That happened to me the other day. I was meditating, having a conversation with my guides, and I asked what I should write about next. They said, “You should write about us, write about the truth behind reality. Write about why we incarnate, and what happens when we die. Write about the esoterica.”  (I admit, I had to look up what esoterica means, it’s one of those terms that I vaguely knew, but felt like I didn’t have a good handle on.) 

“Oh, right!” I thought, “Not everyone can just pop into a meditative state and communicate with spirit guides.” 

Yeah, I know. Should have been obvious. 

So, I’m starting a series of essays about esoterica, that truth beyond the truth, the “Great Mystery”. Esoterica is defined as “knowledge having an inner or secret meaning” but honestly, it’s no big secret. In fact, it’s right there in front of us, waiting for us to remember it. It can feel like a secret if you haven’t stumbled on how to communicate with it in your own life but it’s right there, waiting to be revealed.

In mystical traditions, it is one’s own readiness that makes experiences exoteric or esoteric.

The secret isn’t that you’re not being told.

The secret is that you’re not able to hear.

~Ram Dass

One surefire way to get closer to that Great Mystery is to listen to other people talk about their experiences or awareness of it. There’s something inside you that will recognize, remember and resonate with what you’re hearing, and it will open up a part of you that’s ready to know more of the mystery. 

I’d like to be one of those guides, or mystics, and talk about my experience with the mystery, or the true reality of who you are beyond this human body and mind. 

Are you ready? Good! Let’s explore the mystery! I’ll be your cosmic Nancy Drew! Or maybe I’m more of a Veronica Mars? (I’m certainly not a Jessica Fletcher, as much as I’d love to be.)

I’ll note that all of the following is information I’ve seen through my NDE, meditations, and channeling. None of this is new information, mystics, holy folks, and artists have been saying this same thing for eons, but I know for me, sometimes I have to hear the same message from different sources and in different ways, and each new perspective unlocks another aspect of the mystery.

Where should we start? I think we’ll begin at the ending, and start with death.  

What happens after we die? My first encounter with what I now call my “guides” happened when I had a near-death-experience in the middle of cancer treatment. I was on the brink of death from the chemo drugs and I was given the option to die. I was so weak, miserable and in so much pain that I didn’t know if I could go on. I heard a voice say, “You can let go” and I knew in that instant I was being offered the choice — did I want to die or did I want to keep living? Since that experience, I’ve had additional downloads about what happens when we die, and what the dying process is like. 

I’ll start by saying that there are some similarities for everyone and some differences. For all of us, there is an experience of becoming disconnected from or leaving behind our human body. There is a part of us, an awareness, that continues on without our body or mind to house it. 

Some people have a similar experience to what I did during my NDE, where we suddenly are aware of being a part of this larger consciousness matrix that feels loving, accepting and all-knowing. There’s a feeling of relief there, too. For me, it felt like finally coming home after a long journey. I’ve heard others say it felt like finally taking off an uncomfortable shoe. 

Once we have reconnected with our guides and all of consciousness, there is a period of reflection on this life. It’s sort of like if you were an explorer and have come back to tell your village what you saw and experienced while you were away. This is so that you, and all of consciousness, can process and learn of its experience of itself that was the “you” that incarnated. Since there is no time in this place, I can’t exactly say how long this takes, but there are differences. Maybe it’s more accurate to say some are more intricate and complex than others. Or that some are unravelled and examined piece by piece, rather than all at once, in order to be better understood. 

After the period of reflection, we get to bop around as unincorporated energy of consciousness for a while. It’s a place with no time and space, no emotions, no beginnings or endings, just an experience of acceptance and oneness. How long do we do this? It depends! It’s until we decide to incarnate again or have another type of embodied experience. Believe it or not, floating around as all of consciousness can get boring after a while, so we want to incarnate again and spend some time as a “separate” being (I put separate in quotes because we’re never really separate, that’s just a handy illusion, but that’s a topic for another essay) who has highs and lows, beginnings and endings, and can forget their true nature at birth in order to go on the spiritual journey of remembering again, if they so choose. 

I think that covers the basics, but as with all of these topics, there’s so much more I could write. I’d love to know what esoteric, mystical questions you have about life, death, incarnation, time and space, where we go between lives or anything else about the Great Mystery. Let me know, I’ll ask my guides and then write about it in a future post! 

Xo Megan

How Do I Tell if It’s Trauma Anger or Healthy Anger?

How Do I Tell if It’s Trauma Anger or Healthy Anger?

It’s been an angry week for me (both feeling my own anger and being on the receiving end of someone else’s) and I’ve been thinking a lot about the two types of anger, healthy anger and trauma response anger. Let’s look at ‘em, shall we? 

Healthy anger moves you forward in a positive way, one of my mentors even called it the most spiritual of all emotions. In the five-element cycle, anger is the Wood element and it precedes Fire, which is joy. This means that in order to get to joy, we have to go through anger first. What does this look like in real life? I’ll give you a personal example from this week. As you probably know, this week a draft of a supreme court ruling that would end access to abortion in the USA was leaked to the press. I could go on and on about why this is horrific both in terms of women’s control of their own bodies and in how this is a huge step towards the crumbling of personal freedoms in the US, but there are people who can speak to that much better than I can, so for the sake of this post, I’ll stick to talking about anger. 

When I heard the news, I was furious. It felt like a slap in the face to everyone who has been working on social progress in the last 50 years. I felt an anger welling up inside me and I knew I had to take action to change this. This is the hallmark of healthy anger, it drives you to change something for the better, it makes you strive to create a world for yourself and others that contains more joy, acceptance, compassion, freedom, or understanding. This anger drives you forward to do something that is in alignment with your highest values and that makes a positive change in your world. Positive anger leads you to create positive changes that lead to better things.  

Trauma anger feels very different. Earlier this week, I was on a call with a client and I sensed she was repeating a trauma response pattern (appeasing) that I had seen before, so I voiced my concern. Pretty quickly, she got angry and said she didn’t like what I was accusing her of and she felt attacked. She let me know she didn’t like being yelled at and was done talking about it. It was pretty clear this was a trauma response — I was not yelling and hadn’t attacked her at all. By the end of the call, she was able to see how her anger had been a trauma response, how it had clouded her judgment of what I’d said and how I’d said it, and process through it. 

Trauma anger isn’t driving you to take action towards a better world, it’s purpose is to shut down an uncomfortable situation that reminds you of a similar, traumatic situation from your past. It could be a situation where you felt misunderstood, or like you were “bad”, or unheard, or trapped. Trauma anger is a way of derailing the conversation and making it about something else — your anger — instead of the issue at hand. It’s an escape, and works quite well to get us away from traumatic situations. But now that you’re not in a dangerous place anymore, it’s preventing you from being present with uncomfortable situations, even if you are with safe people that can give your body mind a different, safer experience and help you grow. 

The way to identify trauma anger is to check in with your body and ask, “is there fear or shame beneath this anger?” (To do this, you must be familiar with what the sensations of fear and shame feel like in your body, so doing mindfulness + somatic work is a vital prerequisite here.) If you can answer yes, then it’s trauma anger. Another sign is when, after the event you think, “Wow. I was really angry. I’m not sure why that made me so mad.” There’s a saying “If it’s hysterical, it’s historical” and the awareness that you were more angry than the situation warranted can be another good clue that it’s trauma anger.

I want to stress that neither type of anger is bad. Heathy anger drives, inspires, and motivates us to create a better world. Trauma anger helps us see areas where we still live in shadow and illuminates where we can do more healing work with ourselves. It’s through our own healing work that we lessen the harm we do in the world and simultaneously act as a model for others of what healing looks like. As Ram Dass says, “I am arriving at that circle where one works on oneself as a gift to other people so that one doesn’t create more suffering. I help people as I work on myself and I work on myself to help people.”

With gentle noticing and acceptance, take a look at your anger when you are able to be present with it and ask, “Is this healthy anger or trauma anger?” If it’s healthy anger, go out there and change the world! (Or at least your small corner of it.) If it’s trauma anger, know that you made it as far as you have today because you were smart enough to protect yourself this way. But now that you are safe, you can work on doing it another way, if you’re ready. 

Xo Megan