Stress

Part 8 of my personal stress journey

Story continued from previous post—link here.

In January 2017 my crazy-ass dogs and I were finally selected as the perfect tenants to rent out this little cabin. I had mixed feelings of relief about finally finding a home, and quite a bit of fear about living somewhere with no phone reception, insanely crappy internet service (at the time), surrounded by predators and dangerous winter road conditions.

But once I settled in, I realized I was home. It was the first time I had ever lived in my own place without roommates. I felt safe and secure and could 100% be myself and feel my feelings and process things whenever the hell I wanted.

Fancy smudge for my new cabin

Fancy smudge for my new cabin

The remainder of excess weight my body had been holding onto quickly melted away without me trying at all.

In that first month I learned how to build a fire, how to use an axe and when to stay home—because my little Civic couldn't handle things like driving through snow drifts, or too icy of roads. And I've been continually learning from there.

I realized what my NZ healing session was all about—I was greatly healed through the process of becoming a professional in the health and wellness field, and from moving to the forest, to become a mountain woman.

So that's the story of how I ended up in the forest, doing what I do, but that's obviously not where the story ends. I love learning, growing and developing—and sharing what I've learned along my journey, with my friends—which is why I'm so happy to have landed in this field.

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Who is Kristen Stephen?

Kristen Stephen is a bodyworker, practicing integrative manual therapy, in Nederland, Colorado. Her mission is to help people live lives with less pain and more joy.

Please note, all material on this website is for for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice.

P.S. I’m not into spamming and only want to send you content that you wish to receive. The zip code box allows me to send targeted emails to locals, for local classes and in-person specials. Adding it in helps to keep emails relevant to you.

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Part 7 of my personal stress journey

Story continued from previous post—link here.

The drive out was tough on all of us. I had just finished three weeks worth of working 12 hour days full of manual labor, getting my condo ready for tenants and getting rid of all my stuff. I was exhausted. My dogs were frustrated from being cramped in my car (along with a few plants I couldn't part with) and they had never stayed in a motel.

One of my drawings from my trip to New Caledonia

One of my drawings from my trip to New Caledonia

We had an appointment to look at a possible temporary home when we arrived in Boulder and thankfully we got it. I expected to be there no more than three months, but being a single person with two "not chill" dogs, finding housing was near impossible.

I was in that temporary spot for a year and then over the next year bounced to a couple other temporary spots while finishing up school. It was STRESSFUL, but I learned so much about myself and my critters through the process. And I had the support of some super amazing friends along the way, who loved me and my crazy-ass dogs.

As if by magic, right as I was about to graduate from school, my friend tagged me in a housing post on facebook. It was a little cabin, surrounded by forest, where they preferred people with dogs, and were totally cool with barking dogs, because they help to keep the animals away from the house. This was it, FINALLY!

Story continued here.

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Who is Kristen Stephen?

Kristen Stephen is a bodyworker, practicing integrative manual therapy, in Nederland, Colorado. Her mission is to help people live lives with less pain and more joy.

Please note, all material on this website is for for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice.

P.S. I’m not into spamming and only want to send you content that you wish to receive. The zip code box allows me to send targeted emails to locals, for local classes and in-person specials. Adding it in helps to keep emails relevant to you.

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Part 6 of my personal stress journey

Story continued from previous post—link here.

I had a lovely time in New Caledonia and ate the most amazing food! When I returned to the hippie hovel to stay one more night, before heading back to the States, I was nervous about my session with the intuitive healer. I had a feeling it was going to cause me to make some kind of massive change, and I was right.

The session didn't go as either of us expected. He seemed a little confused by the information he was getting about me. It seemingly had nothing to do with a healing, rather it told of my life's next step.

One of my drawings from my trip to New Caledonia

One of my drawings from my trip to New Caledonia

He didn't know this, but at the time, I had been looking into massage programs. The idea of going into massage didn't really light me up, but I felt like it was the general direction I needed to head in.

What came out of the session, however, was that I actually needed to learn Rolfing. Neither of us had any idea what this was, but he said I needed to go down the path of learning Rolfing and the remainder of the path would be revealed from there.

About an hour later the shuttle came to pick me up for the airport. At the airport, with the limited wifi I had available, I researched about Rolfing (or what I've come to call integrative manual therapy) and my soul came alive.

I signed up for three session when I returned home and I LOVED it. I knew this was the thing I had been looking for. I then applied to school and was accepted, and five months after my New Zealand/Caledonia trip I was off on my next adventure.

I sold/got rid of about 98% of my stuff, rented out my condo and drove out to Boulder, Colorado in my tiny Honda Civic, stuffed with all my belongings and my two doggies—because that's where I was to start my next learning journey.

Story continued here.

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Kristen Stephen's Signature
 

Who is Kristen Stephen?

Kristen Stephen is a bodyworker, practicing integrative manual therapy, in Nederland, Colorado. Her mission is to help people live lives with less pain and more joy.

Please note, all material on this website is for for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice.

P.S. I’m not into spamming and only want to send you content that you wish to receive. The zip code box allows me to send targeted emails to locals, for local classes and in-person specials. Adding it in helps to keep emails relevant to you.

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Part 5 of my personal stress journey

Story continued from previous post—link here.

New Zealand brought me back to life. My friend Emily, who had also walked the Camino with me in 2008, joined me the day after my tarp-covered gazebo stay. We went adventuring for two weeks and had an incredible time.

Me hiking in New Zealand June 2014

Me hiking in New Zealand June 2014

At the end of our two-week adventure, I only had $20 to my name and my credit card was maxed out (talk about stress!!). I still had a couple days until my paycheck from work hit my bank account, and I didn't want to borrow money. Emily was helping me brainstorm ideas, and came up with the idea of seeing how much it would cost to sleep on the couch at the hippie hovel for one night, before flying out to New Caledonia.

It costed me nothing. They allowed me to stay for free, in exchange for cleaning out their pantry (it literally took me hours to do), but I had excellent company while doing it and actually had a really great time.

It was then that I met the man who would help to lead me on to my next adventure. He was a sweet, quiet man with crossed eyes. And I came to know that he was an intuitive healer.

At this time in my life I was still really battling with all my ailments, my weight had dropped by 20lbs, but everything else was still very much alive for me at the time, so I was excited to see what he would tell me about my laundry list of dis-ease.

I was just starting to learn how to connect with my own intuition, so I was super excited to receive a session from someone who was extremely connected to his. We agreed that we would do a session when I returned from New Caledonia.

And when I returned, we had our session at the kitchen table, looking out over the tarp-covered gazebo that first brought me to that special place.

Story continued here.

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Kristen Stephen's Signature
 

Who is Kristen Stephen?

Kristen Stephen is a bodyworker, practicing integrative manual therapy, in Nederland, Colorado. Her mission is to help people live lives with less pain and more joy.

Please note, all material on this website is for for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice.

P.S. I’m not into spamming and only want to send you content that you wish to receive. The zip code box allows me to send targeted emails to locals, for local classes and in-person specials. Adding it in helps to keep emails relevant to you.

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Part 4 of my personal stress journey

Story continued from previous post—link here.

I am not a planner when it comes to travel. I like to have an idea of what I'd like to see, but schedule nothing, so if I meet someone and am invited on a random adventure, I can go.

However, as you’ll learn in a future addition to this story, ironically my travel persona and “real life” persona are quite opposite. When I travel I have no problem leaning into the flow and allowing it to take me, trusting the process every step of the way. When it comes to “real life,” however, I often find myself fighting against the flow, and freaking the fuck out when I don’t know what lies ahead (even though I know that none of us ever truly knows what lies ahead).

“The Hut” Aukland, New Zealand June 2014

“The Hut” Aukland, New Zealand June 2014

As a traveler I also often wait until the last minute to book a place to stay, which is why I ended up spending my first night sleeping in a tarp-covered gazebo in someone's back yard, in Auckland, New Zealand—and that was seriously the best thing that could have happened.

I intentionally chose to stay in this hippie hovel, because I knew it would be full of legit travelers with awesome stories. People willing to stay in those types of places have been broken down and reformed by the travel gods—like I had been during my time living in Spain and all the time I've spent in Mexico. I've learned over my travels, that sometimes comfort and luxury can get in the way of experiencing true adventure, so I knew this was place to be.

There were about 14 roommates in the house and 14 travelers, so the only spot left to sleep was the gazebo. And even though it dropped into the 30s that night (it was winter on that side of the world), it was actually pretty darn comfortable.

I was reconnecting with the true adventuresome Kristen that had been stifled for too many years. And it was in the moment when I look this picture, that I realized my life of extreme stress and pain was somehow behind me. I wouldn't know exactly how, until I unexpectedly ended up back at this house three weeks later, but I knew right then, deep in my soul.

Story continued here

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Kristen Stephen's Signature
 

Who is Kristen Stephen?

Kristen Stephen is a bodyworker, practicing integrative manual therapy, in Nederland, Colorado. Her mission is to help people live lives with less pain and more joy.

Please note, all material on this website is for for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice.

P.S. I’m not into spamming and only want to send you content that you wish to receive. The zip code box allows me to send targeted emails to locals, for local classes and in-person specials. Adding it in helps to keep emails relevant to you.

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Part 3 of my personal stress journey

Story continued from previous post—link here.

One of my biggest stressors was actually stagnation, and in 2014, I decided it was time to bring adventure and risk-taking back into my life. I hadn't had a true adventure since I finished walking the Camino de Santiago in 2008—my closing ceremony to my two-year stint teaching English in Spain.

One of my friends from college, Kristel, was getting married and she invited me to her wedding in New Caledonia (between Fiji and Australia) in July, and I of course accepted the invitation.

Mooney Falls in 2014

Mooney Falls in 2014

But before that, I saw a picture of this gorgeous 200ft waterfall (Mooney Falls) on one of my friend's facebook pages. She had been tagged in a group of people who were going to this gorgeous and magical place and I decided I wanted to go with them (I had a lot of vacation time saved up hahaha).

My friend wasn't going, so it was me and a group of people I had never met before. I went on a couple hikes with them beforehand, to make sure I would be good spending a week backpacking with them, and then I signed up.

Havasupai Falls is one of the most magical places I've ever been. It was also the most physically challenging adventure I'd ever been on, and I spent a month in 2008 walking across Spain—hahaha—but with this trip, I had an entire week's worth of food and gear on my back (and a 10lb camera on my front) and I was way more out of shape than I was in 2008.

This adventure brought me back to life and re-ignited my fire for challenges, risks and extreme growth. And two months later, I traveled across the world to spend two weeks in New Zealand and one week in New Caledonia for my friend's wedding. A trip that would forever change the course of my life, and I had zero idea going into it.

Story continued here

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Kristen Stephen's Signature
 

Who is Kristen Stephen?

Kristen Stephen is a bodyworker, practicing integrative manual therapy, in Nederland, Colorado. Her mission is to help people live lives with less pain and more joy.

Please note, all material on this website is for for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice.

P.S. I’m not into spamming and only want to send you content that you wish to receive. The zip code box allows me to send targeted emails to locals, for local classes and in-person specials. Adding it in helps to keep emails relevant to you.

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Part 2 of my personal stress journey

Story continued from previous post—link here.

Fast forward one year later...I grew tired of obsessing over my weight and health issues and I started following my joy, by hiking on weekends with friends (up until this point I hadn't hiked much in my life); I got a kayak; I gardened more; I started playing more with photography; I learned to make homemade sourdough bread, cultured veggies, kefir and kombucha AND I came across something that would forever change my perspective—not only on body weight, but on life in general (though I didn't know the "life in general" part until several years later).

Me gardening and being artsy-fartsy in 2013

Me gardening and being artsy-fartsy in 2013

Stress and the body’s response

The magical thing I came across was the work of Jon Gabriel of The Gabriel Method. Jon on lost over 220lbs without dieting or weight loss surgery. He discovered that our bodies' innate wiring causes us to perceive chronic stress in two ways 1) our bodies think we're being attacked, so they make us lose our appetites and we quickly drop weight, so we can easily fight or run, or 2) our bodies think we're either starving or freezing, so they slow down our metabolisms, make us tired, make us crave food and gain weight, to protect us. I fell in the latter category.

By starving myself on all the crazy diets I had been on over the years, I was only causing my body more stress, and causing it to gain even more weight, each time I finished a diet. After realizing this, I immediately stopped dieting and weighing myself and started working on my stress levels and years of inner emotional turmoil.

Up until that point I had never really thought much about my body's internal stress response system (or the fight/flight/freeze system), but I was living in a heightened stress response all day every day—and I think most people in today's modern day society are doing the same.

Story continued here

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Kristen Stephen's Signature
 

Who is Kristen Stephen?

Kristen Stephen is a bodyworker, practicing integrative manual therapy, in Nederland, Colorado. Her mission is to help people live lives with less pain and more joy.

Please note, all material on this website is for for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice.

P.S. I’m not into spamming and only want to send you content that you wish to receive. The zip code box allows me to send targeted emails to locals, for local classes and in-person specials. Adding it in helps to keep emails relevant to you.

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My personal stress journey

Though it may look like it, this is not the story of a weight loss journey, rather it's the story of my pursuit of happiness, which had the side benefit of over 40 pounds of fat loss and a significant reduction in my other symptoms.

One of my Instagram friends told me that she was curious about my mountain woman lifestyle and how I ended up here, so I decided it would be fun to start sharing bits of my story every Wednesday.

2012 left and 2018 right

2012 left and 2018 right

In my darkest hour

I thought it would only be appropriate to start at my lowest point, back in 2012. In the picture on the left, the most obvious symptom of the stress I was under was my weight—I weighed nearly 200lbs in this picture, had extreme chronic neck and back pain, pretty intense eczema flares, IBS, depression, anxiety/panic attacks, and a pretty decent drinking problem, which helped me to cope with all of that.

Although I was obsessed with health and nutrition, my stress levels wouldn't allow my body to benefit from any of it. I was working too many hours under super stressful circumstances; driving in traffic just to sit in a freezing cold, windowless, cramped "box of an office" for 40+ hours a week; not spending enough time with my dogs; and hardly spending any time in nature.

I hated my life and I hated myself for not knowing how to escape it. I knew I didn't belong in Orange County, CA and I knew I didn't belong at a desk-job—I just didn't yet know where I belonged—but I was desperately desiring to find out.

Reduce your stress, Kristen, and follow your joy

If I could go back to this point in time, I would give my 29-year-old self a giant hug and say "Stop beating yourself up, you sweet, kind, beautiful woman. You're under way too much stress, and you're not listening to your heart. If you just follow your joy, things will swiftly change—way faster than you could ever imagine."

Story continued here (link)

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Kristen Stephen's Signature
 

Who is Kristen Stephen?

Kristen Stephen is a bodyworker, practicing integrative manual therapy, in Nederland, Colorado. Her mission is to help people live lives with less pain and more joy.

Please note, all material on this website is for for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice.

P.S. I’m not into spamming and only want to send you content that you wish to receive. The zip code box allows me to send targeted emails to locals, for local classes and in-person specials. Adding it in helps to keep emails relevant to you.

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A new way to define trauma

When you hear the word trauma, what comes to mind?

Typically people only attach the word trauma to extreme situations of war, violence or abuse. Those are of course, all traumatic circumstances, but they do not fully define what trauma is.

According to Peter Levine, trauma can stem from anything that overwhelms us—things we go through that we perceive as threatening and we're unable to properly process—car accidents, surgeries, extreme emotional interactions, etc.

All of these things can traumatize a person if their body's natural instinctive reactions aren't able to process through to completion.

We all have built within us the instinct toward fighting, fleeing, or freezing in situations where we perceive a threat.

In fight or flight for example, if people or animals are able to successfully fight their way out of a situation, or flee, their bodies are able to complete their instinctual reaction and trauma is not stored within their nervous systems. In the case that they're unable to escape, instinctually, humans and animals are supposed to move into a freeze state - kind of like an opossum playing dead - where their senses are dulled (to save them from a painful death, in case of encounter with a predator), or to make them appear as an unappetizing meal (apparently some predators will not eat animals that appear dead, because they think the meat may be bad).

After this freeze state, the natural response is for an animal or human to go through a series of convulsions, then deep breaths before returning to a normal state, untraumatized.

Check out this video below of a polar bear processing through his freeze state after a very stressful chase and tranquilization.

Note: This is not my video. It's a video on YouTube that Peter Levine references in his book.

Humans are supposed to do that? Yep.

But our rational brains get in the way. According to Peter, because immobility is a state very similar to death, and because socially it can appear as weakness, the part of our brain that makes us uniquely human, is able to block out this state, causing the stress to be stored within our nervous systems! A beautiful explanation for the emotional releases that I've experienced through bodywork and that my clients have experienced during our sessions.

There's more to come on this later, but I thought you might enjoy this alternative view of trauma.

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Kristen Stephen's Signature
 

Who is Kristen Stephen?

Kristen Stephen is a bodyworker, practicing integrative manual therapy, in Nederland, Colorado. Her mission is to help people live lives with less pain and more joy.

Please note, all material on this website is for for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice.

P.S. I’m not into spamming and only want to send you content that you wish to receive. The zip code box allows me to send targeted emails to locals, for local classes and in-person specials. Adding it in helps to keep emails relevant to you.

Subscribe to my newsletter!

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