Certified yoga instructor and bodywork specialist Tierra Denae offers insight on ways to heal the effects of the allostatic load.
By Tierra Denae, Photos by Stoney Bunting
I remember the stress I felt in 2014 when I had to work a demanding job (that I hated) for the state of Texas, while also taking care of my grandfather in his final stages of life. The mounting load was something I never really could explain to anyone in detail or let myself fully care about. I just dealt with it. I mean, for me and from what others knew of me, I should have been strong enough to handle it all, get enough rest and take care of myself. What I didn’t know was this moment in time would be the biggest shift in my healing journey.
Shortly after my grandfather passed, I dove headfirst into becoming a yoga instructor, wanting to become the change I desperately sought. The first time I heard the term “allostatic load” was in the doula certification class I took in 2017. The term comes from Bruce McEwen and Eliot Stellar. Coined in 1993, this term refers to the “wear and tear on the body” from the “physiological consequences of chronic exposure to fluctuating or heightened neural or neuroendocrine response, which results from repeated or prolonged chronic stress.” I had no choice but to acknowledge that this was real, then sit deeply in this term and shift into compassion for all of the women who sat with me.
For a while this term seemed abysmal. I thought for a while that we (Black women) would never be able to escape the maze of societal pressures, familial obligations and responsibilities. It took a while for me to realize that there isn’t an escape from life. No matter how many vacations you take, days off, hikes alone on the trail or mani-pedis you get, the allostatic load always shows up in one way or the other.
What, then, can we do to find harmony?
Create space to understand your load.
It’s easy to say, “I’m stressed out.” But how often do we sit with the actual stresses in life to fully understand them? Deeper understanding always presents new ideas and perhaps ways of sifting through what can seem mucky, unstable or desolate. When you create a space to simply identify what and where the stress is, you can begin to plan harmony or outright stress elimination.
Create something you can go to consistently and ritualize it.
Be your own healer! Discover what moves you. Does anyone have hobbies anymore? In a hustler’s economy it can be difficult to do things that don’t bring financial rewards. Tap into something new, or maybe dive into what once was. Yoga, painting, dance and writing are wonderful ways to start on a healing path. When you find what clicks for you, set up time and space and stick to it. From this place you’re creating a ritual for yourself and your life. No one can take this away from you because your healing belongs to you.
Give more than you take.
An abundant, healing life is one that allows you to receive from giving. This doesn’t mean give everything away, but rather find spaces to give more to yourself than you would normally take. For instance, if you tend to always be first to do something out of panic or feeling unsupported, give yourself more space than you would normally take. Be second or even third. Give yourself more time than you would normally take to do something. Urgency is never as urgent as we internally make it to be.
While these ideas may seem easier said than done, it’s best that we say them over and over again so that they stick. When we practice them over and over until it becomes a ritual in our lives, it feels like less of a routine. The healing and care that we look for as Black women are inside of us. Sometimes we need a nudge, or even a big push, to tap into them.