In my over 40 years of working with horses and as the mother of three spirited children, I often wished I had a reset button!
A way to stop a tantrum, a way to bring a horse out of a nervous state, a way to calm a panic attack.
My work is based on the Feldenkrais method and on the belief that we all have more choices available to us than we are aware of.
That is why our group lessons are called "Awareness through Movement" ...its about the awareness, gained in this case through non habitual movements and becoming aware of what we actually are doing.
I have taken this approach and am applying it here on an emotional level. I didn't used to think that I had a choice in emotional states...I just felt the way I did.
And then feelings changed like the weather, nothing I could do about that.
There is a fine line between ignoring a feeling and pretending to be " just Fine" or feeling helpless over my emotions.
I do think it is important to acknowledge just how I feel and then choose how I want to respond to that. I might need to cry it out, I might want to talk, to write, to feel sad...for a while, not permanently.
The pandemic has brought up so much fear and uncertainly that
I want to offer you a way out of these emotional states and show you how you can feel in control and respond with your best self.
But first, lets talk a bit about our nervous system!
I think it is important to be able to distinguish between two parts of our nervous system:
The first is the sympathetic nervous system, fright and flight. This is an old pathway that has helped many of our ancestors survive. When they felt threatened, for example a tiger was attacking, this part of the nervous system knew just what to do:
It set Adrenalin free in seconds, shut off unnecessary parts of the brain and the immune system ( the frontal lobe, where all the higher function if the brain are being engaged) it sent lots of power to the legs and heart so that we could run fast and get away from whatever was hunting us. This has served us well in our quest for survival.
The second mode of operation is the parasympathetic nervous system, rest and digest, when we feel safe and all is well.
We have access to the higher functions of our brain, no Adrenalin is needed.
We can think clearly and make good decisions, not simply react from survival instincts.
By design the sympathetic nervous system was meant to be used for short times of extreme danger only, not as a permanent mode of operation.
It's as if you put your car in high gear to pass another car and then shift down and get back to a normal speed. If you keep your car in this high gear you are likely to burn our the engine!
In human terms engaging the sympathetic nervous system for long periods of time can lead to adrenal fatigue, a weakened immune system, inability to make good decisions and irritability.
Many people have gotten very used to living in survival mode. It almost seems normal, just like it suddenly seemed normal for everyone to be wearing as mask.
How can you tell which part of the nervous system you are using?
When you take just a few minutes to check in with your Body you can look for these signs:
* Shallow and faster breathing
* Racing thoughts, inability to think clearly
*Where are your shoulders? Are you pulling them up with out even noticing?
* How does your jaw feel? Are you clenching your teeth?
*Can you feel your feet grounded on the floor?
When people don't feel safe it is easy to get stuck in reactions that come from a place of survival.
This does not serve us anymore for the most part.
How can a nervous student do their best in a test when the thinking part of their brain is not readily available to them?
How can a horse learn something new when it is in survival mode? I am always looking to set humans and horses alike up for success and this is a vital part of it.
There are ways get out of fright and flight and one of them is using an
Just recognizing from which part of the nervous system you are operating in itself gives you the ability to navigate.
I think of it as being lost, and once you realize where you are and have found a landmark you recognize, you also know the way home.
Here is how I use an oil as an aromatic anchor:
I find an oil that I can hire for the job at hand: If I need to calm down, I might hire Lavender, if I want to uplift my mood, I would ask a citrus oil to help with that.
All oils have special gifts and properties and you can choose the one that seems most helpful with the task at hand.
If you are new to oils, there are great tools to find the right oil. We have charts and books where you can look up a feeling and get oil suggestions that have proven to be helpful.
Just put a drop or two in your hand, rub lightly and cup them over your nose, inhaling deeply. As you smell the aroma say an affirmation or visualize being in the emotional state you want to be in. Come out of fright and flight and back to yourself.
Repeat as often as needed!
For horses, let them smell the oil from you hand, apply over the chest an poll.
Why are they so effective and work so quickly?
Oils travel through the olfactory system directly to the limbic system of the brain, the seat of emotional learning and memories. They go to work directly in the brain, for humans and horses alike.
By doing this I am installing my reset button, creating a new pathway where the smell of the oil goes along with feeling safe and activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
When you are under stress you can use this reset button.
Its like finding the emergency break in a runaway train.
Say your trains destination is an anxiety attack, you can use your oil, pull the emergency break and get off that train and consciously choose a different direction.
Yes, this takes practice and just like any other habit it takes a while for it to become second nature...and it can and it will.
You and your horse will be so glad to have this option and tool at hand!