Attuned Leadership for Women Podcast

Episode 010

Stress to Strength Series, Part 3

Master Nervous System Regulation  


**This episode is the third in the “Stress to Strength” Series!** 

In this episode, join Dr. Crystal Frazee, PT and special guest Shawnee Thornton-Hardy as they unpack a treasure trove of practical, body-based techniques designed to help you master nervous system regulation. They’re not here to throw buzzwords your way – this is about real-world strategies that they use themselves and that have been transformative for their clients. 

Picture this: whether you’re facing the boardroom’s hot seat or a traffic jam that tests your last nerve, these aren’t your run-of-the-mill stress-busters. Crystal and Shawnee are talking about practical anchors and grounding techniques that you can whip out anytime, anywhere when you’re caught off guard by stress.

Crystal and Shawnee share personal examples of how they use these strategies to keep chronic stress in check without adding hour-long sessions of running, yoga, or meditation. They understand that to master nervous system regulation, your techniques need to fit inside your busy day and not add more to your to-do list.   

These techniques are absolute game-changers and can be valuable assets to ensure your sustainability and help you get a seat at the table. 

So, if you’re ready to trade stress for a solid sense of self, hit play and uncover the secrets to not just surviving, but flourishing. 

A picture of me with text surrounding describing episode 006 and the importance of authentic personal branding to help women stand out in a male-dominant world.

Quotes from the Episode: 

“To put it simply, you can learn to tune into your body’s messages instead of tuning them out, know what they’re communicating to you, and know how to respond in simple, enjoyable ways that make you feel more whole, able to accomplish what you desire and cope no matter what comes your way.” Dr. Crystal Frazee

“I think we get caught up in this mindset that we just have to notice the challenging or uncomfortable sensations and then find strategies to make those go away. And the way that we actually build more capacity and more resilience is by being able to move between these experiences of noticing something that feels really good. The experiences of okayness. That’s what’s creating a container of safety, which is so important.” Shawnee Thornton Hardy 


[00:04:28] What is regulation?

[00:07:45] Anchoring throughout the day.

[00:11:46] Grounding practices for overwhelming sensations.

[00:19:44] Exploring stress in the body.

[00:22:24] Resilience and stress regulation.

[00:25:20] Self-contact and tactile tools.

[00:29:34] Neuroplasticity and rewiring the brain.

[00:36:07] Breathing for managing chronic stress.

[00:40:32] Humming for regulation.

[00:42:12] Glimmers and positive emotions.

[00:47:30] Gaslighting, emotional expression, and the trauma of being a woman.

[00:51:05] Reclaiming our core selves.

[00:54:40] Celebrating a cancer-free birthday.

[00:58:47] Mindfulness during everyday activities.

Mentioned In This Episode:

Part 1 of the Stress to Strength Series: Episode 008, Build Capacity Management

Part 2 of the Stress to Strength Series: Episode 009, Create Your Stress Map

FREE Audio Training How to Run Your Day Without It Running You

FREE PDF Training Stress & Overwhelm Relief Game Plan

About Shawnee Thornton Hardy:

Shawnee Thornton-Hardy is a seasoned business owner, accomplished author, and beacon of resilience. As a Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT) and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP), she has meticulously honed her expertise at the intersection of mind-body practices and holistic healing.

With a forthcoming book, “Yoga Therapy for Children and Teens with Complex Needs: A somatosensory approach to mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing,” set to launch on August 21, 2023, Shawnee is a thought leader in making mindfulness and nervous system mastery accessible. Her profound dedication to inclusivity and accessibility resonates through her pioneering work, making her a sought-after international speaker and trainer.

As the founder of “Asanas for Autism and Special Needs – Yoga to help Children with their Emotions, Self-Regulation and Body Awareness” and the visionary force behind “Yoga Therapy for Youth,” Shawnee’s impact is undeniable.

Her journey has been a testament to the power of healing, having triumphed over cancer and celebrating her approaching one-year milestone of living cancer-free. Shawnee’s heart-centered mission is guiding individuals through trauma, grief, neurodiversity, disability, and personal growth. She’s an exemplar of resilience, insight, and healing – a true beacon for those who seek to navigate life’s intricacies with grace and strength.

Connect with Shawnee:

Shawnee’s Website

Shawnee’s New Book

Shawnee’s Facebook

Shawnee’s Instagram

Connect with Crystal on Social Media:

Crystal’s Instagram 
Crystal’s LinkedIn
Crystal’s TikTok

Prefer to Read? Here’s the transcript!

*Just a heads up – the provided transcript is likely to not be 100% accurate


00:00 Dr. Crystal Frazee 

Have you ever wondered how to shift from feeling stressed out, like really stressed out, where you feel your heart pounding in your throat, your mind is racing, and you can’t sit still to being grounded, clear, and in control? I’m asking because it’s so important as a woman leader that when you notice cues of stress in your body, you know how to transform it. Double standards and microaggressions happen frequently and your success depends on your ability to access those skills. 

Today’s episode is the third show in my Stress to Strength series. We’ve done all the groundwork of understanding stress and what stress resilience is, upping our capacity, and even creating our stress maps to understand how we tick under pressure. But today is all about action. We’re diving headfirst into practical body-based techniques that are like secret weapons in your stress fighting tool bag. 

I’m joined for this discussion by a friend and colleague who specializes in this topic, Shawnee Thornton-Hardy. Welcome. I’m so glad to have you here. Shawnee is an author, international teacher on this topic with expertise in yoga therapy, somatic experiencing. She’s a business founder, cancer survivor, and so much more. Her second book is coming out August 21st and we’ll talk about that. But trust me, this episode is going to deepen your understanding of stress management and give you practices you can use to ground yourself in any moment, no matter where you are, without raising eyebrows, be it in the boardroom, a Zoom meeting, a busy street, or wherever life takes you.

Main Content: 

Dr. Crystal Frazee

Hey there, leader. Thank you again for listening to the show. I realize this is the third episode in the Stress to Strength series and I haven’t explained what I mean by the phrase ‘stress to strength’ and why I chose that name for this series. To put it simply, you can learn to tune into your body’s messages instead of tuning them out, know what they’re communicating to you, and know how to respond in simple, enjoyable ways that make you feel more whole, able to accomplish what you desire and cope no matter what comes your way. And in today’s leadership landscape, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a founder of your own business, in health care or working in corporate, stress resilience is one of the most important skills you can have for success and sustainability. 

Sharing the series with you is very important to me because it’s the knowledge that helped me personally and professionally to weather everything I faced from trauma to burnout, recovery, and being a leader of this movement to change the conversation about women in leadership and how to secure our future seats at the table. 

With Shawnee today, we are going to give you resources for three gaps that women have for effective stress management. I’m going to list these off and then we’re going to jump in and get started. The first one is that many women believe that relieving high stress requires taking a vacation or blocking an hour every day for some sort of formal relaxation activity, but that’s not really accurate. Two is that women lack role models that openly discuss and prioritize stress management, which makes it hard for them to value it as well and put it in their lives. And third, women lack knowledge of specific body-based techniques available to them and therefore don’t have an adequate tool bag of skills. And we hope today that we help solve that problem for you. 

So I have the pleasure of diving into this topic with Shawnee Thornton-Hardy, who I’ve known for over eight years. We’re both pioneers and dedicated practitioners of yoga therapy, certified through the International Association of Yoga Therapists. And Shawnee has many other credentials and decades of experience that she’s bringing to the conversation. She’s one of the most genuine down-to-earth and dedicated people you will ever meet. She’s used her business to expand treatment options for children with autism and special needs and has trained yoga therapists all over the world to help children and their families understand the nervous system, even neurodivergent ones, how to regulate and thrive. 

Shawnee and I were talking before the show, and she said that stress management is the ability to come back to a regulated state where you feel grounded after feeling stress. I would love if you’re comfortable, Shawnee, if you can start by explaining what does it even mean to talk about regulation? What is regulation? Just bringing everybody up to speed on that.

04:48 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

Yeah. Well, first of all, I just want to say thank you so much for inviting me, Crystal. I’m really excited to be here and get to have a chat with you. Regulation to me, and this is, I think there’s so much information out there on the internet and in social media that can sometimes get a little confusion about what it means to be self-regulated. And the way that I think about self-regulation is not that we are trying to fix something, change something, or make something different right away. It’s more about having first an awareness of our internal body states and what’s coming up that is showing that there is an experience we’re having that’s creating stress for us. And the regulation piece is about developing tools to meet the demands of the situation that you’re experiencing in that moment. 

Sometimes we need to have our systems to be more mobilized. We need to have more energy to meet the demand of the situation. And sometimes we need to feel more calm and more relaxed. And so regulation is not always about being calm and relaxed. And I think that’s often a message that is out there in the world that that’s what self-regulation is. For me and in my experience, it’s more about really noticing what’s happening in the moment and then finding those tools that can support me in showing up in the way that I need to for myself and others, really.

06:35 Dr. Crystal Frazee 

I couldn’t agree more. That’s awesome. That’s a great way and much more eloquently said. With the clients that I’ve had, one of the big barriers that I would guess that they’re feeling right now is fear to take the time and energy to develop that self-awareness. When people hear that, I think it sounds hard to them. You and I have been in this world. We live and breathe in this world and so it’s second nature. But to someone who’s living a busy life and this is new, what would you say to that internal belief that, you know, it seems like, oh, if I’m going to start to learn those things, that it would take away from my ability to do other things that are important to me? 

07:01 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

Yeah, well, it can feel, I think, overwhelming sometimes to know where to begin. And again, there are a lot of messages about self-regulation that it requires for us to do an hour yoga practice or go for an hour run. And what I have learned in my own body and my own experience is that these little micro, little mini practices throughout the day, these little experiences of anchoring throughout the day are actually more impactful than, you know, feeling like we have to rush to a class. 

And so first, I think it’s important to make it attainable and something that we can integrate very easily into our busy schedules, because as women, the reality is, is that we’re wearing so many hats. And when there is a feeling that we have to make so much space for something in our schedule, it can cause overwhelm. So exploring these little pauses or moments of connection in little micro moments can be really impactful because it’s more about consistency than it is about quantity.  

08:18 Dr. Crystal Frazee 

Yes, absolutely. I agree with that so much. In the previous episodes of this series, I tried to explain stress and what’s happening in the body and kind of define the difference between acute stress, which is like sudden onset high stress and chronic stress, which is persistent ongoing levels of high stress. And, you know, they really kind of are different physiologically in the body. And so as we talk about what are things that we can do to respond to them, maybe it’s helpful to separate those and talk about acute stress first. Does that sound OK? 

I would like to paint a picture so that we can all have a reference point for when we’re talking about acute stress, and what that means. So here’s an example. Let’s say that a person has scheduled to lead a meeting in a very authoritative type of organization. One member of the meeting has a history of challenging your authority and undermining you. And you’re mentally prepared to deliver a killer meeting.

But right when the meeting starts, this person says something disruptive and it feels critical. And although to everybody else in the room, it seems probably fine to you. It’s like this accumulation of this person, you know, undermining and having these microaggressions repeatedly. And it really throws you off. And, you know, maybe what somebody would be feeling in that situation is being flooded. Suddenly, their heart rate goes up and they’re feeling the effects of the stress chemicals going through their body. And it’s hard for them to access that critical thinking. Like they were prepared and now, oh, now they can’t even get to the thoughts they had about what they were going to say. So you talked about, you know, maybe some micro things that people can do. Is that what you would recommend somebody to reach for in this acute situation or would you recommend something else?  

10:32 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

Yeah. And this is so familiar to me. Even when you describe that experience, I had some sensations arise from that from past experiences. So I was even just noticing my body in reaction to your description of that experience. And the way that I like to think about when we go into a flooding experience is that we are moving into more of that fight flight response that’s happening. And that sympathetic system is coming online. And I often use the term from anxious to embodied and empowered because I believe that we can transform that energy into more of an empowered experience or response. And again, that takes consistency. 

But it reminds me and the way that you described the flooding is that we lose connection to that prefrontal cortex that gives us all of those skills and abilities to problem solve, to regulate, to have the right words to express ourselves. So what I like to do in those types of experiences where I’m feeling like all of this stuff is happening in my body is just to do some anchoring practices or grounding practices. Because oftentimes, if we go into that fight flight response, we really lose the ability to connect into our legs, into our feet and ground. And we go much more up into this upward motion of as you talk about flooding, it makes me think about moving upward and just kind of flowing out without a container.

12:21 Dr. Crystal Frazee 

In my personal experience, I would say I feel like a balloon. Like my head is all I feel. And it feels enlarged and like it is untethered, you know, where there’s all this sensation. It’s overwhelming, but it’s in like the head area. 

12:33 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

Yeah, so then there’s like it’s cut off from all of these resources that you have below the, you know, again, this is like what we call the survival brain or, you know, the amygdala that’s beginning to with the alarm systems going off. So the first thing is I really like to just connect with my feet and really notice and sense my feet on the ground, because I can very easily pop out of my body and not have a connection. So just bringing awareness to my feet. 

For some people that can be challenging who are really disconnected from the body. So I find that self-contact can be really powerful. Even just taking a hand on your heart, taking a hand on your, you know, torso and just noticing I’m here and sensing into that experience of that self-contact. 

And then that can go even deeper because what this reminds me of is that there’s younger parts that are vulnerable and that are coming through from this experience of someone really not giving them a sense of validation or those triggers will come up. The past is coming into the present. 

And so part of the response is a response that can be very young. You know, we might not even know exactly what it’s coming from, but to even get some awareness to your heart and begin to connect with your own sense of your truth and your sense of self, which sounds simple. But again, it’s a practice that we have to continue to come back to. 

So anything that gives me a little bit of anchoring into my body, my feet, self-contact, the breath can be an anchor as well. For some of us, our attention to breath might make us feel more anxious. For others, it might support us in being able to anchor into the present moment. Because those responses are either more in the past or in the future. So the more that we can bring our awareness and attention to the moment at hand, that allows us to have more of a sense of presence and gives us a container in which to hold some of that energy without just letting it flood completely outward.

15:04 Dr. Crystal Frazee 

To summarize so far, this event just happened. And these things happen in like seconds, right? Somebody says something in a tone that feels harsh. And then we have this body experience. And what Shawnee is describing is to find some way to ground within that second. Like you don’t have to get up and leave the room. You can be right there. Nobody knows you’re doing anything weird, right? You can have a moment and it can just be a moment, a physical touch. It can be a breath. But I think I just want to underline the point that she’s making, which is you have to be present to that sensation. So you’re feeling flooded and your brain is sort of scattered. You’re not really able to focus anywhere. And what she’s describing is grounding your awareness into one of those sensations. Is that right?

15:58 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

Yeah, yes. And sometimes if we concentrate too much on a sensation that feels really overwhelming, that can actually cause us to blow out even more. So sometimes what I might do to help me orient to the environment is one is the physical and it makes me think about even pushing my feet into the ground, pressing my hands on the table and pushing on the table. So that’s some of that fight or flight energy that’s moving through my system can be experienced in a way that doesn’t where I’m not running out of the room or I’m not pushing someone, but I’m getting some of that energy of actually being able to feel a sense of empowerment. And so noticing the sensation, but not letting your attention be there so much that you are going even more into overwhelm. 

And I think sometimes with sensation, I like to work from the peripheral, peripheral inwards. And so I might just start to connect to my senses and notice what is around me that gives me a sense that I’m here in the moment or what am I sensing on the temperature of the room on my skin and how can I orient to my environment that gives me a sense of being in the here and now. And notice some of those sensory experiences so that I’m not just hyper focusing on the sensory experience that’s feeling overwhelming to me. And so sometimes we have to work a little bit with what’s referred to in somatics experiencing as titration, where we can sense into that sensation, but we can also maybe orient to experiences in our environment that give us more of a pendulation or opposite experience that’s more resourcing, if that makes sense.

17:54 Dr. Crystal Frazee 

Mm hmm. Yes. Yeah. And for somebody with, you know, any kind of background with stress or trauma in this acute moment, based on what you’re saying, I, you know, with my clients, I think I would encourage them to go external to themselves. Right. Find something external that helps you ground just noticing the here and now. Like you said, light is one I like to use. So like, is there light bouncing off of a wall or a window or something you can be like, there is something that brings me to this moment. It could be the sound of the air conditioner or like, you know, the feeling of the temperature. And there’s this range, which is so wonderful that you can choose any of these as the anchor point. And it’s not prescriptive, right? Like what works for you won’t work for me and vice versa. 

So, you know, for the listeners, this is something that you want to experiment with and, you know, find ways that maybe don’t feel as intense as this example to play with this so that in these instances, you can access something. You have some kind of experience looking for anchors to discover what they are.

19:09 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

Absolutely. Yeah, it’s like a self exploration of first, what do I notice and sense in my body when I experience these internal sensations of stress and it’s good to even go to something. Yeah, that’s more minimally charging. Right. So not something that is just so overwhelming. But no, what is a little thing that brings an experience of stress in your in your body? And can you notice and sense into that? And then exploring some of these different practices and seeing what happens when you explore that? Do you notice that you take a more natural breath? Do you notice that you feel a little more connected to your body? Do you notice that some of those experiences of overwhelm in your brain or in your body begin to subside? 

What I always like to express about these practices is that it’s just about curiosity. And really exploring different things that specifically support your nervous system that support your ability to come back down from a stressful event. And that’s really what resilience is. Resilience is our capacity to be able to experience a stressful event and meet the demands of that event and then come back down to more of a homeostasis. No, it’s not just about being in a constant, regulated, calm state all the time. We are going to experience stress. There is no question about it. And our bodies are going to respond to the stress. 

So much of it is about being able to move more fluidly between these states and come back to a place where we feel more grounded, we feel more resourced and that we don’t stay in that perpetual stress state all the time. 

Dr. Crystal Frazee

Yeah, a few things about what you said. I love that you use the word homeostasis because if we look at other systems in the body like cardiovascular system or immune system, these systems of our body are sophisticated and they have a drive towards homeostasis. Right. The problem is that we’re these modern creatures that develop these incredibly complicated lives and we use our frontal lobe to do everything and we kind of override our body systems where if we can tap into some of these very simple, very natural ways for stress regulation, then the stress response system can be more homeostatic. 

Shawnee Thornton-Hardy

We can be more resilient. And so, you know, it’s only hard because we’ve made it hard. Nobody wants to hear that. But that’s true. That’s true. Well, we also live in a world that it’s challenging to stay present and grounded and resourced. You know, there’s a lot of stimulation out there in the world. So it’s also that as human beings, we’re not necessarily living in the quote unquote natural environment that gives us that sense of stability and grounding – and so we have to find our own tools to be able to access that. 

22:24 Dr. Crystal Frazee 

And I just want to say to clarify in what I said, there’s nothing wrong with you. We all need to be able to do this. We all need to learn. And as Shawnee’s work is doing, teaching people from a very young age to develop these skills, it’s an injustice that we haven’t, that we didn’t learn it in school or church or in our families or in leadership trainings or from our organizations, you know. And now’s the time. 

If you don’t have this tool bag, now’s the time. Today is better than, you know, never having it at all. So it absolutely will allow you to pursue your goals without losing the energy that you would need. Because when you don’t have the resilience that she’s describing, it’s depleting. When you’re always in this state of survival, it’s exhausting, you know, emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually in all the ways. And so, I mean, it allows you to pursue the things that are fulfilling.

23:29 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

Absolutely. Yeah, I love just the first of all, there’s nothing wrong with you. If this is something that seems so foreign, or if it’s difficult to access your internal experience and notice what you’re experiencing inside your body, or even if you feel like you don’t have a lot of tools to address your high levels of stress, it’s never too late to start. And that’s what I have found to be so wonderful. I didn’t learn these tools when I was younger. I certainly probably I know I could have benefited and it would have made a big difference. But at this stage in my life, I recognize that I can be curious, I can learn these tools that can support me. And just like you said, it takes such a tremendous amount of energy to either suppress our sensations and emotions or to just let them be in this container that’s just blowing out all the time. Both of those experiences take up a tremendous amount of our energy, which then can impact, you know, our adrenals, our organs, our a lot of times why women experience, I believe, a lot of autoimmune conditions, because we are in such perpetual states of stress that our body just goes into this state of overwhelm and collapse, because it’s using so much energy to be in this perpetual state.

24:56 Dr. Crystal Frazee 

I hope the listeners can imagine this scenario because we’ve all been there and take away a few ideas for what you might do the next time. And, you know, the next time, you know, for me, it’s like, I’ll be like, who, who put that in the dishwasher like that? That’s a great, you know, low stress, but stressful moment to practice these things. And if you were just to pick one of the things that you’ve suggested so far, is there one that you would like to highlight before we move on?

25:30 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

Well, I’ll highlight this for me personally, because again, we’re all different. So we may have this, you know, toolbox of tools that we have available to us, and then we just explore what we notice is most helpful for us. A big piece for me is definitely in the self-contact, because again, I can become very disconnected from my body right away. I can go into more of a dissociated experience. 

And so to have some self-contact to, you know, just sort of place my hands on my, give myself some arm squeezes to press into my lap, to push into my feet, as I mentioned, right now, even as I was coming to explore this podcast with you, Crystal, there was some resonating sympathetic charge of nervousness. I call it nerve-cited actually, because I was excited and nervous at the same time. So I actually have this little eye pillow that is very soft and has a little bit of weight to it, and I can actually squeeze it and hold it in my lap. So for me, tactile tools are really supportive. So that’s my go-to, but I use a lot of different tools. I use orienting, I use resourcing, but the anchoring and grounding is what I would say for my system is what is most supportive in coming back to the here and now. And, you know, really noticing ways that I can start to bring that really, really flooded response down. And when I have awareness around that and I practice these, it really does shift my energy and it really does make a huge difference in the way that I respond in that situation. It brings that prefrontal cortex back online after we can ground and we can pause for a moment.

27:27 Dr. Crystal Frazee Right. 

Absolutely. And, you know, orienting is basically telling your brain, I’m in a safe environment. I’m having this internal experience, but based on the information, my eyes and my body are getting from this external world around me and the sensory input, I’m actually safe. And that’s what shifts us from one state to the other.

27:48 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

Yeah. And that’s what we refer to as neuroception, right? This sense of in our environment, do we feel a sense of safety? And if you’ve experienced a lot of trauma or you’ve been in heightened states of stress for a long period of time, our neuroception is impacted. We’re often looking for cues of danger. 

And so what we try to do in shifting that with orienting to our environment to okayness, even it doesn’t even have to be goodness. It can be like, what is okay right now? Oh, I can see that green plant over there. And I noticed the shape of the leaves and I like the color green. Or, oh, there’s something that smells really good in my environment right now that starts to rewire our brain to look for those experiences that are more neutral, or that give us more of a sense of I’m okay right now. And again, it doesn’t even have to be that I’m great or I’m wonderful. It could just be that I’m at peace. Yeah, yeah, it can be I’m okay. 

And for me over the past several years, I’m having had some pretty significant trauma experiences and having the experience of PTSD. That was really important for me to practice those moments of okayness. Those moments of, I’m not in danger right now. Yeah, that’s huge. That’s huge. Yeah. And the more you do it, I mean, now we’re kind of moving from this acute situation into chronic stress, but, you know, the more you do it, the more quickly your body can recognize that you are moving from a place that doesn’t feel safe into a place that does feel safe. Right? Yeah, and I think that that’s so that that brings hope for me and understanding that we have this neuroplasticity and we can develop these new neural pathways. 

And again, it’s just so much about the consistency and to keep coming back to it and it is not about needing to do these hour practices. For me, when I really learned these tools and started to recognize that, oh, I can just do these little practices throughout the day, that rewires our brain to help us recognize that I’m here, I’m here in this moment, I’m okay. And that can really shift the way that you not only experience stress, but how you respond to stress.

30:19 Dr. Crystal Frazee 

Mm hmm. Yeah. So for the listeners in Episode 008, I talked you through how repeated stress exposure changes your brain, it enlarges your amygdala, it thins the frontal lobe, how those things over time, like a lower level stressful event can trigger a larger physiologic response. And that means that over time, if it’s unchecked, that you’re going to have increased baseline stress levels in a larger reaction to future stress. And that’s not going to help us. 

So let’s move into talking about how to manage chronic stress. The way that I want to do that is to take all the practices that we’ve mentioned, encourage you to pick one to experiment with for the next week or two for the listeners and think of it as scaffolding. Like we need to scaffold our nervous systems so that the stress we’re facing right now doesn’t create that scenario that I just described. 

And the truth really is that you, Shawnee, me, listeners, we all have chronic stress. I mean, we really all do living in today’s society, but also for the women listeners because we’re a minority population. And so being intentional about weaving nervous system regulation into your daily routine is so protective for you. It’s just so important. 

Shawnee, what would you say about timeframes? Like for somebody that’s wanting to address chronic stress and they want to develop some routines, they don’t necessarily have the cue that we had in our acute stress situation. That’s where someone said something, we felt flooded, we were responding to the stress. Now we’re shifting and talking about stress is just there every day. We know we need to do something about it. We don’t have huge amounts of time. What is the timeframe that we want to get people to think about they’re devoting to this?

32:16 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

Yeah, well, the question I always ask is what feels attainable to you? Because the last thing we want to do is have all of these expectations of ourselves and then not be able to actually make the space for it. And then we have all of these stories that come up around that, right? Like, I should have done that. Why didn’t I do that? And so we have this perpetual experience of judging ourselves because we haven’t followed through with this high expectation. That really wasn’t attainable. 

So my first question is always what feels attainable? And how can you integrate this into your day that doesn’t feel like it’s taking up a lot of energy or space? It doesn’t feel overwhelming. And I find that sometimes just beginning with sort of scheduled check ins can be helpful. You know, like, okay, I’m going to do this. So when’s the time that you have a little bit of space in the morning to just kind of check in and notice what you’re experiencing internally? And could you explore a grounding practice and anchoring practice, whatever it is, that is something that seems appropriate, because all of we’re all experiencing our nervous system states in a different way. So we’re each going to respond differently to different practices. 

And then I might say, okay, at lunchtime, instead of you working through the entire lunchtime, you know, could you pause and take a few minutes to just notice and check in again, and then maybe explore some type of practice that brings you to the here and now. So later on in the day, at the end of the day, maybe check in and see what are you noticing in your system? What’s your experience? And a lot of it is about noticing how are you feeling in that moment? Do you need more grounding? Do you need more energizing? And kind of exploring exactly how you can show up for yourself in that moment?

And then I might say, okay, I’m going to take a few minutes to just kind of see what you’re sensing that you might need. And you know, that takes time and practice. So a lot of times I might just start with one practice to consistently explore, and just see if they notice any changes or any shifts, even subtle. If they do, then that shows that that is a strategy that’s helping them. So I can just take a few minutes to really start with the same sort of scheduled check in, then we go from there. So really starting slowly and in a way that it feels attainable. 

34:19 Dr. Crystal Frazee

It’s hard for busy people to add, but if you think of this is only taking two to three minutes and sometimes less than that, and so I can pair it with something, you know, I’m sitting in the car to pick my kid up already. What do I do when I’m sitting in the car to pick my kid up or, you know, whatever the example is for you after lunch, whatever, whatever you have, you have transition points in your day. 

I used to have a, I really drink tea all day and then in the afternoon, then I have a glass of water and I would, that glass, every time I would take a drink of it, I would just be present to fully the sensation, the temperature of the water, the feeling of it going down my throat and just everything about the sound of the glass clinking back down. But it was just that glass and it was just one of them and that was just a regular practice that I would have. 

It is so hard to be prescriptive because people discover things that no one else would possibly come up for them, you know, like make up for them. But I would love for you to talk for a second about breathing and how that can be something as a resource for people to use for managing chronic stress.

36:18 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

Yeah, so breathing, I want to say, I have found, can be very supportive for me. That being said, it can be an experience if you bring too much attention to breath for people who are more in that sympathetic state and are more chest breathers that initially bringing attention to changing their breath could be something that could be really difficult. Well, what I like to explore initially is just noticing that I’m breathing. Now, like take my hand on my belly, take my hand on my chest and just remind myself, oh, you’re alive, you know, your breath is moving in, your breath is moving out. There’s no need to fix or change it, but it’s there. 

Awareness of breath and just acknowledgment of breath is what I might start with that would feel less overwhelming for someone. And curiosity, you mentioned, sounds like that’s where you’re at with that too, is just noticing what is happening with the way I’m breathing. Right. What’s happening? Where do I notice my breath is going? And that is also a way that we build that more interoceptive awareness is through bringing awareness to our breath, bringing awareness to where our breath is moving, working with not having judgment around it, but just like you said, curiosity. 

Even feeling the sense of the breath coming into the nostrils and the breath going out of the mouth or out of the nostrils, whatever breath you’re experiencing. So breath can be an anchor breath can be a way that we actually do sense into our bodies when we slow down and we just bring some mindfulness to it. And for me, I find that if I place my hand on my chest and my belly and just kind of notice where my breath is going, that brings my attention to my body. 

So I find it to be really supportive in that way of just noticing and also sensing that, oh, yes, my breath is there. Because often with stress, whether it’s an acute stress or it’s a perpetual stress, there can be this disconnection from our breath. So just that awareness there is helpful. I actually do a lot of like open mouth sighing and just noticing when I’ve got some energy that’s just buzzing inside of me that needs to come forward. And that’s a really helpful breath for me. 

Now, again, it’s going to be very unique and different based on each individual person. But again, it’s a way that we can explore and notice. How does that make me feel like when I just open my mouth and just let a sigh out? I like to use a lot of sound actually with my clients because that can be really helpful. Maybe it’s not necessarily something we can do in a public setting if we’re feeling stressed by just doing, but we could do it. Let’s say you have that experience with your boss and you have all this residual, you know, sort of fight flight energy in your system. And then you go outside and you just sit in your car and you do some like sigh breaths or some verbalization out because that can help us to be able to express all of the stuff we wanted to say that maybe we didn’t feel safe to be able to press to some way. Right. Right. It gives us a little more of a sense of, oh, I can let this out. 

Dr. Crystal Frazee

And for listeners that don’t really know, like, does that mean they need to say something right? 

Shawnee Thornton-Hardy

They could just say, ah, I mean, they can they can. And for me, I’ll just, ah, and I’ll do that actually several times a day. And I find that it really does help me to start to bring some of that anxious energy down. And when I couple it with even pushing my feet into the ground, grounding and exhaling, it really supports me. So I like to explore that with clients, these little experiences of open mouth exhalation. I call it cleansing breath with kids, you know, where it’s just like, I got a lot of this energy happening in here. Let’s see if I can move some of this energy forward. 

I really love hum, humming. I find it to be very regulating for myself. And I find it to be a really popular practice for kids. You know, we know with humming that there’s that vagal nerve vibration that’s happening there that can give us a sense of calm or grounding or whatever it might be. It can also feel energizing sometimes. Sometimes when we feel more stuck humming or what what I refer to children as be breath, that can help to regulate our nervous systems. 

Those are a few of the breath practices. But again, it’s more for me when we are in really perpetual states of stress, too much attention to the breath and judgment of the breath can cause even more of that nervous system dysregulation. So I like to really work with the awareness first. And I loved your suggestion about taking a drink of water and just noticing it’s the same thing where we’re just sensing into how am I feeling the water move through my body so I can feel my body. And that’s the same sense of awareness of our breath. It’s not like my breath is this way. I have to fix it. It’s like, oh, my breath is there. And where is it moving?

41:42 Dr. Crystal Frazee 

Right. Right. And really these examples that we’ve been talking through as a way to better manage chronic stress are really just how can you be more present? And, you know, another one that I love to think about, and this is called different things in different industries, but glimmers and it’s called something else in psychology. But, you know, glimmers is kind of like when we’re in chronic stress, our brain has this survival state and we see danger and threat and negativity. And when we’re working with glimmers, you might, you know, like my daughters are giggling in the other room and I pause what I’m doing and I’m fully taking that in and it only lasts 10 seconds. But I allow all the positive emotion from that experience to come into my body and I welcome it where normally because I’m a high achieving, naturally high baseline stress level person, I would kind of be braced and that wouldn’t really penetrate me. I wouldn’t really let it in unless I really stop and allow it in. 

Right now the Stargazer lilies are blooming in my front yard. And every time I walk by, it’s like the smell is so phenomenal and like to just allow this moment of wow, that’s amazing. You know, it’s like flooding yourself with this positive feeling and allowing yourself to do that. You know, so as we’re talking about stress management and chronic stress, I’m hoping that all the examples that we’re giving feel realistic to the listener.

43:11 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

Yeah, I’d love to just piggyback on even just what you mentioned about hearing your daughters giggle, giving yourself the time to take that in, notice that’s so important. I think we get caught up in this mindset that I just have to notice the the challenging or uncomfortable sensations and then find strategies to make those go away. And the way that we actually build more capacity and more resilience is by being able to move between these experiences of resourcing these experiences of noticing something that feels really good. The experiences of okayness. That’s that’s creating a container of safety, which is so important. 

I love that you brought that up because that has been a huge practice for me in dealing with all of the challenges and all of the feelings that this world is really dangerous and I’m not safe. If we only go to the uncomfortable sensations or the challenging sensations, then we stay stuck in that place. So it’s really important that we have these moments of and what’s referred to as resources and somatic experiencing things that give us a sense of okayness, goodness that remind us of who we are that connect us back to experiences in the body that feel more nourishing. And so I really love that you mentioned that because that’s something that I do on a continual basis, and I really will try to take the time to pause and notice little pieces in my environment that give me even a little little feeling of safety and experience of joy and experience of connection. 

So that’s also very important that we’re taking moments to pause and notice that. So we build more of this ebb and flow of, you know, oh, here’s the sensations that feel nourishing. Oh, there are those sensations that feel uncomfortable, but I can sort of move back and forth between them so I can create a little bit more of a flow in my system. And, and I just finished a wonderful training called neuro effective touch where Aileen who is the facilitator described this as flow and reversal of flow, where, you know, we have this flow this natural flow that is part of our organic system. When the flow gets interrupted is when we have the struggle.

45:51 Dr. Crystal Frazee 

Right. So, yeah, it’s so important to also take those moments of tuning into the sensations in your body that feel more nourishing or that feel more resourcing. So, you know, Shawnee, normally I don’t talk about this I haven’t really brought it up much on the podcast but I think it’s important to insert it here, because a lot of what I want to talk about are the things that aren’t being said that are just invisible and when we talk about the reasons why professional women need to have this ability to pendulate between these two states, it’s important not to leave out like the elephant in the room that there’s a lot of things going on in the world and in our lives. And culturally, that might create more trauma for us than say, a white man. So I don’t know I’ve always felt like as women we should acknowledge that we face CPTSD which is complex post traumatic stress disorder, just from living in a minority body. What do you think about that?

46:55 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

Yeah, well, I think my experience with this is that being a highly sensitive person, being someone who picks up on the emotions of others, being a woman who has been identified as being sensitive. Right. That oftentimes we get this message as women that if we have any kind of emotional expression, whether it’s sadness, whether it’s anxiety, whether it’s anger that somehow we’re overreacting. Right, or that we’re too sensitive. 

Dr. Crystal Frazee

So gaslighting. 

Shawnee Thornton Hardy

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And I’ve really been exploring this a lot a big piece that I’ve been exploring in relationship to the emotional side of it. And I think one of the things that I’ve been exploring in relationship to developmental trauma in relationship to recent traumas and also like you mentioned just being a young girl and then a woman in the world is this element of healthy aggression. And I think that’s one of the things that I’ve been exploring in relationship to developmental trauma in relationship to mental health. Which we all experience. It’s a human emotion. 

But for women, you know, we have received these messages that it’s not okay for you to be angry. And if you act angry, then you’re out of control. You know, you’re crazy, whatever words or language you might have heard, you know, or been might have been expressed to you. And so you’re not fit to lead, not fit to lead, right? Yeah. 

So and also in the yoga world, there’s a lot of messages about like, everything has to be peaceful and everything has to be, you know, love and light, love and light and, and, and no healthy aggression is really important. 

Healthy aggression is the way that we express our boundaries. Healthy aggression is the way that we express our, our no. And so I’ve been exploring that through different modalities. One is I’ve picked up archery. It really gives me a sense of empowerment. And I, and when I can really ground and feel into my body, I’ll notice my breath, I’ll feel into the power in my core. And that’s been really helpful for me. 

And I’ve been doing a lot of practices that are about working with healthy aggression, because we have received these messages for so long, that it’s not okay for us to be angry. And part of us being able to move forward from CPTSD is us being able to feel a sense of self agency and self empowerment. And so I love working with women with healthy aggression. It’s actually a big passion of mine, because I find that it’s been such a powerful practice for me. 

It’s really helped me to validate all of the reasons why I experienced anger, but didn’t feel the safety to be able to express it. Right. And we’re safe now and can express it in lots of different ways and learn that that’s okay in our body. And it is very liberating. 

Absolutely. I have I, you know, I’m in my 40s. And this is the first time I’ve really been able to experience anger in my body, acknowledge it, and find tools to be able to express it. And what I’ve noticed in my relationships with other people is that it has really allowed me to be more assertive, not aggressive, right? So when we’re assertive, it’s a very different thing. It’s allowed me to really be able to express my boundaries with more confidence. And it’s really helped me to really connect to my core self in such a really powerful way. So that’s the practice that I find to be just the most powerful in working against, you know, a cultural or societal construct that, you know, we’ve we’ve learned all of these things. And so it’s sort of like, it’s a deconstruction. It’s a deconstruction in our own body and our own mind, in our own heart, in our own spirit about how we’re supposed to be as women in the world. And it it’s helped me show up in a way that’s so much more empowered in my work and in my relationships with other people.

51:40 Dr. Crystal Frazee 

And what I love that we’ve said is that there’s a way to reclaim those things that you’re talking about by recognizing the cultural influences of bias and stereotypes and all of the things. And also to really recognize the changes that living that lived experience creates in our physiology and that there’s very simple, manageable, practical tools that we can be using throughout the day to help us build that resilience so that we can flourish. This is great. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you so much. 

Shawnee Thornton-Hardy

Thank you, Crystal. I enjoyed it, too. I love it. I’m so passionate about all of this, and I know you were equally passionate about it. So I’m grateful you invited me to come on and share. 

Dr. Crystal Frazee

Absolutely. We gosh, we could go on forever. There’s so many things to this. So for the listeners, just please make sure that you give us some feedback. Let us know what else you want to know about this. And I can always bring Shawnee back on. And I also just want to highlight that the scenario that Shawnee was last talking about really describes the name of the series, stress to strength. You can turn those signs of stress in your body and be curious and have awareness for what they are because it might be a sign of a boundary violation. And then you can manage the stress and then you can cultivate the ability to assert the healthy aggression that she’s talking about so that you experience less of those interactions. 

I would love, Shawnee, for you to take a second and just connect with the listeners about where you want to direct them to find you. Of course, I’m going to have all of your links and all of the all your social channels on your website on the show notes. But go ahead and tell listeners your main place you want them to find you and the details for your book that is coming out very soon.

53:37 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

Yeah. So I laugh at myself because I have three websites. So I’m just going to give you one website that will direct you because I just do such different work. I work with children and I work with adults, actually mainly women. So Shawnee Thornton Hardy dot com. If you know my name, you can find information about me and it’ll link you to all of my different websites and socials, all of those things. 

And I’m really excited. My book is coming out August 21st and the title of the book is Yoga Therapy for Children and Teens with Complex Needs, A somatosensory approach to mental, emotional and physical well-being. And I am truly excited about this book. It has been such a challenge for me to finish this book. So all the tools we’ve talked about in this episode are tools I’ve had to use during the course of writing the book. I received a cancer diagnosis. I had a significant, significant traumatic loss. And so this really is like birthing a baby into the world. That’s how it feels to me. And my birthday is August 29th. So I’m celebrating a birthday, another trip around the world, cancer free. So it’s a big, it’s a big deal. It’s a big thing.

55:02 Dr. Crystal Frazee 

It’s a big deal about coming out into the world. Yeah. And your body of work is beautiful. I mean, I’ve seen it from the beginning and it’s truly a body of work and I appreciate the pioneering you’ve done to put it into the world because we need it. Thank you, Crystal. I appreciate that so much. Absolutely. Is there anything else you want to say before we sign off?

55:22 Shawnee Thornton Hardy 

No, just thank you. And, you know, there’s, there’s hope for anyone that feels like you’re just so overwhelmed all the time and that, you know, you’re never going to feel like yourself again. I want to just say that, you know, there’s, there’s hope and I, I have lived experience of that. So I just want to encourage you to have compassion and curiosity and, you know, we can, we can get through anything. We have more resilience than we truly know. And yeah, just, just a reminder of that.

55:55 Dr. Crystal Frazee Absolutely. 

I couldn’t agree more. And I appreciate you sharing all of your wisdom with us. In fact, it’s so important that I want to do a recap. I’m going to summarize again because I want you to end the show with a crystal clear sense of your next steps. 

First, remember that your nervous system is designed to ebb and flow through states of high energy and activation where you may feel amped up and then being able to shift easily into states of groundedness, clarity, feeling calm and in control. And as I’ve always said, the goal is not to be passive and relaxed all the time. Hell no. We’ve got lives to steer and goals to reach. You need to be able to navigate whatever life throws your way and have the tools to recover to a sense of control no matter what. 

So as you integrate the principles from the series, as Shawnee said, make sure that you make it attainable. Only attempt to do what you think is doable on your most busy or stressful day because what you’re doing is rewiring your brain and body and it’s going to take repetition. Choose any of the practices we’ve discussed to come back to the here and now. 

Remember that if it’s a highly stressful situation, like in the example that I gave, then start with grounding outside of yourself. It’s called orienting. Turn your head with your eyes going with your head. Look with your gaze scanning around and allow your eyes and your attention to land on whatever catches your attention and keep your attention focused there and you can even silently label what it is and describe it to yourself. And use an affirmation, something like saying internally, I am here, I am safe. 

If you need more grounding, then feel your body contact on whatever surface is supporting you, whether that’s the ground or a chair seat or a chair back or an armrest. And to add to that, you can use self touch. You can press your hands into your armrest into the table, press your palms into your thighs or press palms together to discharge some of the energy that’s sparking through you. And Shawnee said she likes to push her feet into the ground. You’re giving that energy a place to go. You can also put your palm on your cheek or cross your arms folded. My favorite way is to interlace my fingers and then slowly slide the fingers of one hand through the fingers of the other hand. And that really anchors me. 

By doing these in acute situations, you are going to be able to feel more grounded. And by practicing this in lower stress situations, you’re going to build up your stress resilience. These tools are available to you in any circumstance. 

To manage chronic stress, which we all have, build intentional rituals into your daily routine that help you come back to the present moment. I had a client that practiced mindfulness of all of her sensory experience every time she washed her hands. And in the show, I shared how I use certain drinking glass at a specific time of day for this practice. 

You can experiment with vocalization, which is just making a sound to see how that feels for your body. It creates a vibration in your throat, a vibration you may feel in your chest. There’s definitely sensation. Making the sound VU has been shown through research to be really effective for this, but you can do any sound. Try humming your favorite song or just making a sound like ha, sighing like Shawnee recommended or the very popular sound Om. 

Make it a habit to notice glimmers, moments of positive feeling states. When we’re in stress, most of the time, our brain is tuning that stuff out because it’s looking for danger. So when those positive moments arise, stay with that. Stay with the moment and with the experience in your body as long as you can, even noticing where you feel something in your body. 

While these may all sound a little esoteric or totally out there, which I hope they don’t, but I understand if they do. I just want to reassure you that Shawnee and I are practitioners that integrate these principles. These are just the basics into everything that we do. It’s helped us both personally. It’s helped our clients and it’s the subject of both of our books. So give it a shot because what you stand to gain is truly priceless. 

I have a resource that you may want to check out. It’s called the Stress and Overwhelm Relief Toolkit. I’ll link it in the show notes. It’s very simple. Get immediate access to a PDF with six things you can do without taking any time out of your schedule with very minimal effort to shift out of time stress and overwhelm. 

And you may also want to get on the wait list for my first book called Revive, the Working Woman’s Unexpected Guide to Recovering from Burnout which lays out a structured plan for you to move from stress to stress resilient using my Somatic Attunement Method. 

Folks, that’s a wrap on today’s third episode in the Stress to Strength series. I really hope you’ll come back to follow the next few weeks as we bring it to the apex of how you can really apply this whole way of listening to your Body Wisdom, to your life, to create your greatest success, sustainability and satisfaction. Until next week.