Our July is full of family fun & tons of travel. I've enjoyed the flow of exploring nature, being cozy indoors, relaxing in/by water, traveling on lengthy road trips, gaping at the mountains, existing in solitude, laughing amongst loved ones, and writing on planes. And with such eclectic experiences have come extreme emotions (calm, excited, happy, panicked, etc.)
And so, I've been practicing my ability to stay serene in all situations. And I've been relying on my training as a forest school teacher to support me in this journey. This year, I have completed three wilderness survival courses so far. One common theme is being able to make calm & rational decisions in the middle of a stressful (even life or death) situation.
My first mommy & me wilderness class earlier this year was in-person & extensive. And honestly, I left feeling equipped, exhausted, and incredibly cold (and wet). I departed wanting to learn more about the mental fortitude it takes to survive, thrive, & think clearly in the most stressful life events.
And so, the following classes focused on swiftly moving my body from one response to the other - a Wilderness Survival masterclass with Jessie Krebs (U.S. Air Force SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) specialist) & a Nicole Meline Montana wildlife class.
They both focused on advancing our minds & bodies from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. This allows us to focus on the situation & solutions at hand vs. being trapped in the mental loop of fear and panic.
"The parasympathetic nervous system predominates in quiet "rest and digest" conditions while the sympathetic nervous system drives the "fight or flight" response in stressful situations. The main purpose of the PNS is to conserve energy to be used later and to regulate bodily functions like digestion and urination"
Funny enough, activating the vagus nerve is something I researched for more prolonged stressful situations.
My first sign of stress is a tight body - clenched jaws & fists, tensed neck & shoulders, and I hold my breath. So as soon as I feel tightness, the key is to begin to inhale & then let out a long exhale.
I had no idea I could instantly activate my rest & digest response through breathing. I can shorten my panic response by stopping shallow breathing, slowing down my breath, and lengthening my exhales. Stepping out of a panicked mind allows space for me to remind myself that feelings are waves and typically last 30-90 seconds.
PS Feels irresponsible, not to mention while in nature; you don't want to be so positive, calm, and laid back that you are unprepared. The attitude that nothing wrong will happen can equate to not having first aid, survival kits, and water/snacks. Like life - preparation is key to reducing stress & being ready for whatever comes. Also, (like life), don't be so tranquil, jolly, or lackadaisical that you aren't alert. Seeing the signs of a change in weather, large animal scat, distinct landmarks, or high grass (that hides snakes, vines (trip), sharp sticks, etc.) can create an unsafe situation.
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.” - 2 Thessalonians 3:16