We are two ambitious designers with a strong drive and passion to make The CoCo a valuable and conscious platform. All of our passions come together in our ‘little baby’: design and branding, writing about sustainability/conscious choices and connecting with like-minded entrepreneurs. And of course building towards a more conscious future, together with you.

Besides making the most of our business(es), we want to keep up with our social life, practice our hobbies, work-out, travel and also keep up with our daily chores (the house isn’t gonna clean itself ;)). And in addition, we have to deal with deadlines, we’re often overstimulated by too much screen time, we have 10 books on the shelf we ‘must read’ and we have a list in our phones with other goals we want to achieve some day. Does this feel recognisable? You probably find yourself in quite a similar situation.

Personal story

Being ambitious is of course a huge strength (we cheer you on!) but at the same time it can also have a downside. When you’re highly driven and motivated, there’s also a risk of losing yourself, if you don’t listen closely to your body. This can eventually lead to a lot of built-up stress. Today we share Lianne’s personal story and some tips on how to deal with this stress better.

“Over the last few months I have experienced that I’ve been asking too much of my body. If you know me a little bit, you know that I’m a very active person but also find it hard to listen to my body. I don’t really notice when my body is tired and when it’s time to rest. I love getting up early, doing sports, being outdoors and working. I love my social life and fun on the weekends. Besides all this I live on a boat that needs some maintenance once in a while. For a couple of months I’ve been dealing with inflamed underarms, so I really had to take a step back. Long days working behind the computer were no longer possible. Lifting weights was also out of the question. From the moment I was struggling with this injury, I heard many stories from other people around me who were also struggling with some kind of inflammation or stress. I learned that sometimes this overload is physical, other times mental.

Thankfully, I am (almost) pain free now. I still have to be careful sometimes and notice that I experience more pain when I feel stress. I still have to be careful with long days behind the computer or physical work, but I’m grateful I can do my daily activities again. In order to heal from this pain, I took more rest, created more balance in my life, did yoga classes, went to relaxing saunas afterwards, and paid attention to my inner journey and unconscious feelings. In addition I read a lot about Dr. Sarno’s work. Dr. Sarno developed a theory called TMS (Tension myositis syndrome, also known as tension myoneural syndrome or mindbody syndrome).
According to Sarno, TMS is a condition in which unconscious emotional issues initiate a process that causes physical pain and other symptoms. His theory suggests that the unconscious mind uses the autonomic nervous system to decrease blood flow to muscles, nerves or tendons, resulting in oxygen deprivation (temporary micro-ischemia) and metabolite accumulation, experienced as pain in the affected tissues. Source. Reading his work really got me thinking about my own situation.

Next to all those things mentioned above, I’ve also been working on dealing with ‘chronic stress’ and integrating more ‘acute stress’ into my life. More about this later. Through this personal story I would like to inspire others with my action plan that has helped me in my recovery recently.”

Chronic stress vs. Acute stress

But first, back to our way of living in the big cities in the 21st century. Besides a good career and many hobbies, we have a busy social life, we’re over-stimulated by hours and hours of screen time and we’re running from one place to another.

Over the years we have developed all kinds of strategies to live as comfortably as possible. In the past, humans experienced acute stress during prolonged hunger, cold or confrontations with wild animals. Nowadays we don’t have to adapt to our environment like we used to, we can control everything ourselves. When we feel cold we turn on the heater, when we feel hot we switch on the air conditioning and when we’re hungry we reach for the fridge. For appointments we quickly take the car or electric bike. Our evolution towards comfort and to live as efficiently as possible makes us less resistant and makes us weaker, in a way. We sit a lot, experience high performance pressure and work from deadline to deadline. We are constantly ‘on’, and many of us find it difficult to truly relax. This chronic stress is one of the biggest killers for your health – and manifests in poor sleep, tiredness, energy dips, problems focusing, bad digestion, restlessness in your body and physical pain symptoms.

So is all stress bad for you? Nope, it’s not. We can distinguish 2 types of stress: chronic stress and acute stress. We need to get rid of chronic stress, but it could be beneficial to integrate more acute stress in our lives. By integrating more acute stress into your life, you can reduce chronic stress. By challenging your body from time to time with short-term healthy acute stress triggers (like having an ice cold shower), your body can experience deep relaxation and other health benefits again and you can better deal with any form of stress in your life.

Below I share my personal approach and journey of how I learned to relieve stress in my body and mind by triggering my body more consciously. It varies from acute stress stimulus to relaxation exercises. Read along with me.

1. Wim Hof Method

The Wim Hof Method is based on three powerful pillars: breathing, cold therapy and commitment. In this blog I will discuss Wim Hof’s breathing technique and cold therapy.

Breathing technique

As Wim Hof describes on his website: “The amount of oxygen that we inhale through our breathing, influences the amount of energy that is released into our body cells. On a molecular level, this progresses via various chemical and physiological processes. Breathing is the easiest and most instrumental part of the autonomic nervous system to control and navigate. In fact, the way you breathe strongly affects the chemical and physiological activities in your body.”
I practise this breathing technique on a frequent basis, mostly 1 or 2 times a day: in the morning (right after waking up) and sometimes at night before going to bed.

My morning routine consists of:
– Breathing techniques
– Listening to my affirmations and/or writing in my Grow Journal (often while enjoying a cup of coffee)
– Next, I go outside to do some exercise. This can be a short walk, running, cycling or going to the gym.

This morning routine ensures that I start the day with intentional me-time. I get up extra early for this. Why run around all day and only have a moment for yourself in the evening (if there is still time left)? Of course this is personal and does not work for everyone (especially if you’re an evening person), but I love these quiet mornings. It gives me a positive and relaxed kick-start of the day. It gives me energy.

When I have a bad night of sleep or when I notice that I feel tired, I adjust my morning routine accordingly. I’ll set my alarm later than usual or sometimes no alarm at all. A good night’s sleep and waking up well rested is also very important.
In the evening I often repeat the breathing technique. It makes me feel relaxed & calm. After these exercises, optionally followed by a small sleep meditation, I am all ready for a deep sleep:).

The benefits of these breathing exercises? Better physical and mental health:
– You’ll have more energy
– You reduce your stress levels
– Your immune response will be strengthened that swiftly deals with pathogens.
– You’ll get more focus and better sleep

Cold therapy

Since I live on a boat – and can easily jump into the cold water – I’m a big fan of cold therapy. Frequent exposure to cold is associated with a number of health benefits:
– Speeds up metabolism
– Reduces inflammation, swelling and muscle pain
– Better quality of sleep
– Increased focus & concentration
– Improved immune response

And do you really need to jump into an ice bath or cold natural water every day? Certainly not! As Wim Hof himself always says: “A cold shower a day keeps the doctor away”. So starting the day with a cold shower also works. Build up the cold slowly, start with a few seconds and focus on controlling your breathing. Feeling comfortable? Build it up to 2 minutes of cold shower. I know having a cold shower doesn’t sound very appealing, but trust me, you’ll get addicted to the great feeling afterwards!

2. Intermittent fasting

By taking your body out of its comfort zone from time to time, it becomes stronger afterwards. These days we are used to consuming small portions of food throughout the day. When you have many eating moments in a day, your body needs that energy to digest your food. Do you want to start shifting this energy to other processes in the body? Intermittent fasting may be a solution for you.

Periodic fasting is a term you hear more frequently nowadays. The best known type is the 16:8 schedule: eating in an 8-hour time window. This means that you don’t eat for 16 hours straight. Often breakfast is skipped/shifted which means you eat 2 or 3 meals between 12:00-20:00.

Others prefer a heavy breakfast at 8am and eat their last meal at 4pm, this is a very personal choice. There are many other different IF schedules (such as 24 hour fasting or the 5:2 diet), but the 18:6 schedule is very easy to integrate into your lifestyle. You can also choose the 18:6 schedule only during the week and enjoy a good breakfast on the weekend.

Intermittent fasting has all kinds of positive effects on your insulin sensitivity, hormones and immune system. You train your physical and mental stress tolerance. Which ensures you can mobilize the right energy in all situations, giving you much more control over your health.

What are the main health benefits of intermittent fasting?
– A boost of the growth hormone production. This results in faster muscle recovery and greater endurance.
– A more stabilized blood sugar and insulin level.
– Better concentration.
– Reduction of inflammation and oxidative stress. Because the body rests for a longer period during fasting, it can make itself more resilient to oxidative stress.
– It improves the immune system.
– It’s good for the heart and blood vessels. It helps lower your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure and lower your resting heart rate.

Can anyone start intermittent fasting? No, it is not suitable if you are under 18 or pregnant. It is also not recommended if you are a little bit older, ill or underweight. I would like to add that I’m sharing my experience with IF. I’m not a specialist with a medical background and therefore I would like to say that you should always ask a specialist for help.

3. Warm up

In addition to cold therapy, seeking warmth is also a nice way to deal with stress. The sauna can help you improve your overall health. It is also again a form of ‘acute stress’.

What are the health benefits of this heat?
– It improves your resistance. A weekly visit to the sauna also protects you better from a cold.
– Remove waste products from the body.
– It will improve your skin.
– It stimulates and stabilizes blood circulation.
– It improves your immune system.
– It provides relaxation and improves your sleep.

4. Just relax

Scheduling enough relaxation moments and ‘empty time’ is more effective for your overall health than many think.
– Start and end your day without phones or screens. Rather take time to read a good book, do some writing or listen to some music.
– Get enough sleep.
– Take time for relaxing exercises, such as meditation or yoga.
– Go into nature.
– Make sure you have enough connection with your family, friends or neighbors.
– Choose a healthy lifestyle.
– Do the things you like. Follow your passion.
– Establish routine: maintain a regular day and night rhythm.
– Practise mindfulness and live in the present.
– Schedule ‘empty time’ in your agenda, like one half-day in the week. Explore how you want to fill this time, do something you really want. Whether that is doing nothing, picking up that good book; it’s up to you!

5. It’s all in the mind – mind-body connection

Before you start with the method of Dr. Sarno (or any other mind-body connection methods) you first need to rule out any physical cause of the pain. No physical cause has been found? Research the mind-body connection!
Chronic stress, unprocessed trauma and unconscious anger can actually cause you to develop physical symptoms. But this also means that by rethinking, working on yourself and positive thinking you can get rid of many symptoms. Go explore what works for you. For me writing in a journal also helped a lot. More info can be found on Brein Medicijn or in the book of Saskia de Bruin. Or have a look at the work of Dr. Sarno,.

And let’s be clear, you don’t have to do all acute stress stimulus or relaxation exercises to benefit from it. Explore what appeals to you, and take small steps.