In this article we look at why emotional expression is vital to reclaiming wellbeing. The first step, self-knowledge, is the foundation of all the other steps. So, knowing more about our emotions and how they affect our hormones and nervous system; physiology, is key to undoing a vicious burnout cycle.
The next three steps;
- adaptibility, all work on physical and vagal nerve health, indirectly affecting physiology and hormonal balance. This short article looks at our how we can affect our hormonal and physiological health. And why they’re influenced by breath, energy and emotions.
HORMONES THE CHEMICAL EXPRESSION OF EMOTIONS
Hormones are complex. And for women even more1 so because not only do we cycle each month between fertile, full, falling and fallow, we also cycle through a lifetime of complex and wonderful changes that enable us to create an INCREDIBLE NEW LIFE. Fully intelligent, able to grow and evolve on it’s own. Something no science or tech will ever be able to achieve no matter how wealthy and powerful a man becomes. Sorry guys. It’s the one power women will always have till the end of time ;).
It’s also the reason women suffer more often from burnout2; 60%3. because this complexity makes balance a much more precise art of scienctific and chemical self-regulation. Medicine either gives you the chemicals your body isn’t creating, or represses the production of certain chemicals, both due to an underlying imbalance.
These chemicals, Candace Pert PhD., a phenomenally passionate neuroscientist and pharmacologist called the molecules of emotions. These molecules of information are our neurotransmitters and hormones. There’s no difference between them, only that their effect happens in a different part of the body; brain or organs and tissues, and therefore their effects either rapid, seconds, or long lasting, hours.
Hormone means setting in motion. Emotional expression ensures hormonal balance. Emotions are energy in motion and need to move through and out of the bodymind by expression, to avoid build up.
EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION PREVENTS CHEMICAL BUILDUP
They trigger a cascade of chemicals to connect different systems within the entire organism; endocrine, nervous, muscular, organs, respiratory, cardiovascular, lymph and immune, to name a few. Enabling communication of what is going on and which joint effort the organism is to orchestrate; jump up, dance, dive and hold the breath.
When we think, say or do something, we create a feeling within ourselves, which our vagus translates to the brain; visceral/afferent information. The brain responds/emotes to this stimulus with emotions, causing us to act, feel, think and interact in return. It’s the input and output of the chemical charge within our body.
This is healthy.
Anyone who disagrees still believes that we need to supress or manage emotions. Yet it’s not by supressing or managing that we co-create a better world. It’s through emotional awareness and literacy. Being able to discern our emotions and know what prompted them and what steps they want us to take.
Emotions also hold a great deal of energy and charge behind them once they’re released. We need to understand they’re innate message and move with them, rather than repress our body’s inherent wisdom, which leads to hormonal and chemical buildup in the tissues.
HOW EMOTIONS AFFECT HORMONES, MOOD & ENERGY
These curious chemicals are received by the receptors of a cell. The cell starts vibrating with and from this information4, opening up to the orchestrated joint effort, like bees dancing to pass on information of a new nectar source.
Every cell in your body has receptors for every hormone and chemical cocktail our body can make when it has the right building blocks. And we can naturally make all these hormones ourselves. The fact that our endocrine system is both responsive and receptive, to our external as well as internal environment, it needs sufficient rest, intense exercise, healthy whole foods and according to the cycles of the day and year; biorhythms. Affecting our bio-energy, inturn affecting our biochemicals.
Our bio-energy and biochemicals is the basis of our ability to build the blocks of our cells, tissues and more complex systems such as organs and nerves. All chronic disease is due to a chronic chemical imbalance5, which over decades goes on to create dis-organised tissues and organs, unable to communicate, receive or respond well.
We can can reverse this cycle by increasing our ability to absorb, integrate and use these building blocks through improving diet, exercise6 and activities7, both the doing ones, active and productive, and the being ones, reflective; yoga, meditation, mindfullness, gratitude and prayer.
Part of reversing the cycle is listening to what we feel and want to emote and do so in a beneficial way for all involved, we turn the current of energy and hormones from detrimental to beneficial.
Clear, healthy emoting leads to long-term physiological and psychological wellbeing, and inadvertently affects our vagus, brain and nervous health too.
EMOTIONAL CONNECTION IMPROVES RELATIONSHIPS
All this to say, by honouring our own emotional need for expression we allow ourselves and others to truly connect, feel good and therefore allow our receptors to open up to the chemical information our body is communicating. Opening up is a huge part of our bodymind being able to heal.
Relating and relationships, personal and professional, are built on emotions. Living well depends on our emotional literacy and awareness. Helping us distinguish who is sending which energies in any given space, and deciding which steps are set in motion for a healthy outcome, is possible with the first four steps of safety, calm, resilience and adaptibility.
Clearly communicating our feelings and emotions sets healthy boundaries, clears misunderstandings before they mount and prevents psychological overwhelm.
- Self-expression of emotions leads to physiological homeostasis within mins-hours
- Emotions are the expression of our subjective feelings. They are not right nor wrong, but personal and meaningful to us.
- Emotional literacy enables voicing our feelings beneficially
Life is relating. Emoting is output, feeling is input.
Because breath affects our physiology and vagus nerve, it influences our hormones too. We can use breath and gestures, which also affect how we feel through neural wiring and the spillover effect to our hormones,
Feel any emotion that’s present right now in your body. Feel its temperature, quality, movement direction and maybe any associated colour. Then strength on a scale from 1-10 of this current.
- What event or circumstance is this emotion related to?
- What is it trying to set in motion?
Now imagine befriending it. Breathe into it and out of it until it starts to open up and move through you. See if you can follow its movement, what is it saying? Can you guide the energy into a direction that benefits you? A poem, a song, dance or bodily movement? Maybe a constructive conversation, change of plan, new project or relationship that honours what you feel about any given situation.
Know it’s ok to feel what you feel, even if it’s not the same as others. It’s subjective and relevant to you. Relating them as a personal is asserting emotional experience without fear of rejection or shame. Enabling you relate issues with confidence as they arise. Changing how you feel, wake up and live each moment is reclaiming wellbeing.
Lack of communication an emoting creates a build-up of electric charge and eventually bogs us down. A healthy sense of self is found when the energetic charge behind the emotion needs is released and directed in an assertive and clear channel; creativity, self-expressive communication, dance, sing and other inventive channels of output.
And we can be creative, benefit ourselves and others while enjoy doing it! Eventually.
4 Candace Pert, Molecules of Emotion, Scribner, 1997.