I accidently triggered a huge emotional detox last weekend.
During a training on lymphatic drainage, we were instructed to gently palpate along my sternum, to help release deep lymphatic fluid. I started gently massaging on both sides of my sternum, which felt tender, and immediately felt intense emotions well up and tears start to flow.
Almost on cue, the instructor mentioned that “this can be emotional point for people” which felt like the understatement of the century. In addition to extreme sadness, I felt extreme fatigue, to the point where I could barely keep my eyes open.
I heard the instructor explain that “if your sternum feels painful, tense or swollen it indicates that the central deep lymphatics are congested”, then succumbed to the fatigue and took a quick nap. Even after waking up, I continued to suffer from almost unbearable sadness and overwhelming fatigue, which the instructor classified as an emotional detox reaction for which he advised rest and hydration.
Intrigued by the intensity of my symptoms, I started to do my own research on emotional detox reactions and use myself as a crash test dummy to trial and error other options for lessening the symptoms of the emotional detox.
What is an Emotional Detox?
When you begin to release toxins from your tissues, you may release both physical toxins, like mold, metals and biological waste, along with emotional toxins, including emotions that you may not have been able to process during periods of intense trauma, like anger, fear, grief and sadness.
You may not realize that your emotions produce physical energy and when you release them you may feel physical detoxification symptoms like nausea, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, headache, joint and muscle pain along with emotional symptoms like sadness or anger, in addition to possibly unleashing memories surrounding the original unprocessed trauma.
These stuck emotions are similar to toxins in that they can contribute to stagnation and compromise the function of your cells, tissues and organs.
More specifically, certain organs have a greater affinity for certain emotions. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) trapped emotions are most likely to get stuck in and impact the function of specific organs. For example. anger is believed to correlate with your liver, fear with your kidneys and grief with your lungs.
Your sternum – the thick and flattened bone located in the front wall of your thorax which connects with your clavicle (i.e. collarbone) and the first seven ribs – physically protects your heart and your lungs. Grief, heartache, angst and frustration are all believed to be stored beneath and around the sternum.
It’s interesting to note that your lymphatic fluid which cleans the body of physical and emotional waste has to flow through the collarbone which connect to your sternum. All lymph flows through your collarbone and with it emotional toxins. That means that opening physical space around the sternum by relieving physical congestion may mobilize those stuck emotions allowing your body the space for an emotional detox.
Signs You Need an Emotional Detox
Emotional toxins can compromise cellular function presenting as symptoms including:
- Overreacting in Anger
- Insomnia or other Sleep Issues
- Lethargy or low motivation
- Little to no interest in things you used to enjoy.
- Tearing Up or Crying easily
- Feeling spaced out
- Muscle cramps, aches and pains
- Feeling jumpy, restless, fidgety
The Role of Fascia in Emotional Detox
After gently massaging my sternum, I immediately felt both incredibly sad and unbearably exhausted.
In trying to understand how the gentle brushing on this point unleashed my emotional detox reaction, I attempted to reverse engineer the domino cascade that I unleashed. The course focused on how fluid flows from high pressure to low pressure and when you open up space for the hydraulics system of your lymphatic system to flow, you allow fluid and congestion to move and open up more space. Deep cervical lymph nodes are located behind the sternum. I suspect the sequence of opening space downstream in the body prior to massaging the sternum allowed space for this deep, long congestion lymphatic fluid to move. The collarbone is a key point in lymphatic drainage. Lymph fluid from the entire body is filtered by the lymph nodes in the collarbone/sternum area.
When you start detoxify deep lymph and have an emotional reaction, I suspect it is that the fascia is releasing things into the lymph and it’s not just fluids that are moving, but trapped energy as well. And energy is stored in the fascia.
Research supports that emotions and memories are stored in the fascia. When trauma occurs, whether physical, mental, emotional or a combination of these, people respond with a flight-fight or freeze response.
It is believed that the “freeze response” in fascia is what keeps memories stuck and prevents you from fully moving forward and naturally healing from a traumatic event.
This physical tension in your muscles and connective tissue is a protective layer is known as “armoring”, a form of memory and will not release until you know that you are safe.
Releasing the fascia physically can bring up emotions stored in that area from the original trauma. As the memories and emotions are released, the original source of trauma or corresponding emotion may be retraced as they are released. Supporting the health and flexibility of your fascia helps you release the trauma and intense emotions associate with an emotional detox more easily.
Holding and guarding in fascia in the fascia tissue can delay the release of emotions and prolong the detox reaction. Fascia plays a key role in how we physically experience stress and heal from traumatic events. It is not uncommon to clench in response to danger or for the body, and specifically the fascia, to hold onto until feel safe
Fascia can harden and become dehydrated also as a result of emotional trauma and the body’s response to extreme stress. This dehydration, tightening, and hardening decreases the space between the fibers, causing fibers to shorten, thicken, and constrict, trapping emotional energy. In addition to physical fascial fibers, the hormones and neuropeptides – which are secreted when the body experiences various emotions – get stuck in the sticky fascial restrictions.
When you release restricted fascia, emotions get a chance to recirculate in the body before they are flushed out. Supporting the release of these constrictions speeds up the elimination of emotional toxins.
Essential oils helped me move through my emotional detox more quickly and easily. My sadness and fatigue were almost overwhelming and paralyzing. Within moments of applying the following essential oils I began to feel better:
Essential oils are a powerful tool to help “unwind” your fascia to move your mind and body out of a “frozen” traumatized state, gently releasing restrictions in such a way that your body does not have to protect itself. Essential oils can both help to emotionally signal your body that you’re “safe” and physically remove restrictions, rehydrate the fascia, restoring elasticity, and widening the space between the fibers to improve circulation and help blood and oxygen flow smoothly around the body again.
Oils are able to penetrate deeply into your body through your fascia.
Fascia lies just below the skin so topically applying essential oils onto the skin allows for easy and immediate access to the fascia. The skin is your largest organ and is relatively permeable to fat-soluble substances like essential oils.
Topical supplements play an important role in supporting fascia health and recovery from inflammation. For example, essential oils easily penetrate layers of restricted fascia, creating warmth to break up congestion, increasing circulation, lymphatic drainage and mobilizing adhered tissue.
Essential oils soften the myofascial tissue, allowing the deep and constrained tissue to stretch and move as it is designed to function.
The essential oils in our Fascia Release™ blend are uniquely formulated to simultaneously work on physical and psychological levels, working quickly to break down inflamed, fibrous tissue, removing toxins while unraveling deeply held tensions, constrictions and energetic blockages in your tissues to reduce pain, improve blood and lymphatic circulation and release fear, repressed emotions, and tension held in the body (organs, muscles, tendons, bones and joints) or the mind.
They support the body by creating homeostasis, bringing vitality and energy to the overall system, removing toxins inside and outside the cells, thus bringing the communication network back online. They are also safe and gentle enough to be used with infants, children, elderly patients, and even your pets.
Similarly, scent has direct access to the emotional center of your brain that controls your hormones and influences your emotions and your mood, known as your limbic system. On a physical level, only two synapses separate your amygdala from your olfactory nerve. No other sensory system has this kind of direct and intense contact with the neural substrates of your brain’s emotional control center. Your other four senses, including sound, sight, taste and touch must travel to other regions of the brain first, before reaching your limbic system.
This makes essential oils an incredibly powerful tool for calming the intensity of the emotions, allowing you to chunk the release so that it feels more manageable.
In this way, essential oils help you control the duration of challenging emotions like anger, fear and sadness – releasing just a small amount of the intensity at a time, much like you would slowly and carefully unscrew the top of a carbonated beverage to gently release excess carbonation and avoid an explosion.
For example, Heart™ balances the heart to enhance compassion and support, integrate and reset all the systems of the body, including supporting feelings of open-heartedness, expansiveness, receptivity while mitigating loneliness, sadness and grief. The heart integrates and balances the physical, emotional, and mental body, providing blood to every cell and every organ. It also serves as a complex information processing center, influencing brain function, the nervous system, hormonal system and most of the body’s major organs.
I recommend inhaling essential oils and gently releasing intense emotions with your exhale as a powerful strategy to allow you to micro-dose emotional release. Essential oils and the sense of smell allow you to activate and release intense emotions and sensations over brief durations – providing a small amount of stimulus to engage your body in releasing the pain without flooding and shutting down your system or keeping you stuck in denial. Just place the bottle under your nose and breathe deeply, fully inhaling the oil for 3 – 7 breaths. It helps you breathe into and work through the emotion. Try to extend the exhale and really allow yourself to release the painful emotion and any associated pain and intensity.
You can also apply 2-3 drops of Heart™ directly over the heart (left side of chest) to balance the heart and support, integrate and reset all the systems of the body, including mental clarity, physical health and emotional balance. The Heart™ blend also supports feelings of open-heartedness, expansiveness, receptivity while mitigating loneliness, sadness and grief.
During times of intense sadness, use as often as is needed (every 20 -30 minutes). During times of normal stress, use 2-3 times daily to calm and uplift the heart and the body.
Your vagus nerve – the bi-directional information highway between brain and body that helps regulate your autonomic nervous system – plays an important role in communicating changes in fascia to your brain. Stressful, traumatic or life threatening events may shift you into the fight and flight or freeze response.
The sympathetic branch or your nervous system, which is overactive during a fight and flight and freeze response encourages vasoconstriction and diminishes lymphatic flow. Activating your parasympathetic nervous system may encourage more normal pumping action of the muscles and improved fascial sliding motion. This helps the fascia restriction begin to melt, helping to rehydrate tissue so it may become mobile again.
Parasympathetic™ calms the nervous system and you wake up up the connections between fascia and your vagus nerve which helps you be present to the moment. This sense of embodiment and safety can prevent future Freeze Responses. Apply Parasympathetic™ over the vagus nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone) to activate the vagus nerve. This helps discharge energy and shift out of the freeze state into the healing parasympathetic.
Essential oils can help detox your emotions. As emotions release, you may experience memories, emotions, shaking, sweating. Try to relax and keep breathing as any uncomfortable emotions are detoxified and eliminated.
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