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5 Steps to Move through Resistance

By Jodi Cohen

Silhouetted hands forming a heart shape against a vibrant sunset sky.

I’ve been doing a lot of at home streaming yoga in quarantine.  The isolation in practice has allowed me to objectively observe the parts of the practice, like pigeon pose, that I resist and avoid without the peer pressure of others in the room.

I thought this was my own dirty little secret, but apparently it is more common than I realized. So common, in fact, that one of my favorite yoga instructors noted this kind of resistance to what is currently happening in the world actually amplifies your own struggles

Like me, you may feel angry about the current situation.  Or, you may focus on the things you can’t do – leave the house, hug or even visit your loved ones, control other people’s actions. This anger can lock you into a place of resistance.

You may feel yourself fighting against what is happening, which locks you into the “fight or flight” state of your nervous system which then feeds more anxiety and fear.

The more you hold onto this resistance, the more you amplify your own suffering!

Think about it.  Resistance requires energy!  Resistance makes you want to fight which locks you into the Sympathetic “fight or flight” state where all of your energy and resources are allocated toward the fight.  And routed away from basic, non-emergency functions, like digestion, detoxification and immunity.

That said, old habits die hard.  It is hard to shift out of patterns of resistance, especially when you can’t envision what you are shifting toward.  This is the reason you may get stuck in old patterns, like resistance. You fall into the sympathetic “fight or flight” state where your ability to rationally observe and select from a variety of options gets muted, because too many options can be distracting when survival is at risk.

Having spent the  last 19 months since Max died practicing how to shift myself out of resistance, I would like to share the strategy that I have found continually works for me, in the hopes that it might be helpful for you as well.

5 Steps to Move through Resistance

Step 1.  Pause

Stressful experiences or interactions can be very triggering.  It can feel like you are being attacked and your first instinct may be to fight back, to respond out of anger or out of fear. I have learned the hard way that it is best not to respond when you are triggered, but instead to press the pause button, to walk away, to write a response that you intentionally do not send, but keep as a draft to revisit when you are in a calmer space.  Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl notes:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Essential oils can be used as a pause button, especially when inhaled.  Anything that engages your senses helps to shift your focus away from your feelings and into your body.  Try smelling an oil or changing your scenery. Move into a different room or go outside. Take a walk or focus intentionally on your breathing.

Breathing has long been identified as a powerful self-regulating tool. Focusing on your breath helps you shift out of your head and your anger, which can give you the time and space to begin to calm your system so you can think more clearly.  Lately, I have been coupling our Circulation blend with breathing exercises.  I find it very calming and centering and find it really helps me relax into my breath.

Some of my other favorite essential oils to support a pause include Lavender™, Peppermint™, Rose™, Calm™ and Uplift™.

Step 2.  Calm your nervous system

Your survival “fight or flight” response limits rational thought.  In order to survive, you need to act fast and make very quick decisions.  The ability to pause, ponder and look at a problem from a variety of different perspectives is therefore not accessible to you when you are stuck in the sympathetic “fight or flight” state.  You therefore need to switch gears into the parasympathetic state in order to unlock your ability to access your ability to think rationally and calm your system.

When you are able to calm down and drop into the parasympathetic state, you can access better problem solving skills and think more clearly. Apply the Parasympathetic® blend behind your earlobe on your mastoid bone to help calm your nervous system.

Step 3.  Release your anger and resistance

It is really hard to release your anger and your resistance, because it requires you to actually move through it and experience those unpleasant feelings in order to let them go.  I’m not going to lie – It’s really, really hard and painful and uncomfortable to lean into these intense emotions. There are times when it can feel so intense that you will almost do anything you can to avoid it.  You might numb yourself with food, or alcohol, or exercise or other distractions like work or social media. I am right there with you. But I also recognize that what we resist, persists. Meaning that the only way out is through. Also when we resist and suppress feelings like anger, they get turned inward and present as symptoms like depression, sadness or a lack of energy. When we suppress fear, it can present as anxiety.

So how do you release anger and resistance in a way that feels manageable?

Glad you asked.  I have more experience than I would wish on anyone in moving through feelings of anger, fear and grief.  And I have good news to share.

Tools like essential oils, yoga, tapping, color and Epsom salt baths have made it infinitely easier to move through these intense emotions.  They somehow help to reduce the intensity of the emotions like anger, fear and grief and make them more manageable for me to move though.

Essential Oils can be used to help us shift our energy.  Releasing emotions can sometimes feel like drinking from a fire hose.  They can pour out of us with such intensity that it can feel like you might drown in the magnitude of intense feelings.  Essential oils can calm the intensity of the flow, almost allowing us to chunk the release so that it feels more manageable.  Some of my favorite essential oils to navigate resistance and the related emotions include:

Rose™  – Applying Rose™ over my heart was the fastest way to calm an emotional tidal wave.  It immediately helped me feel better and more calm. Research by Noble prize-winning noble laureat Linda Buck shows that rose essential oil can counteract your brain’s response to fear. Her research found that smelling rose essential oil in the presence of predator odors (or other fear stimulus) can suppress your brain’s stress responses and hormonal signals.

Lung Support™ – According to Chinese medicine, feelings of grief and loss are stored in your lungs where they can obstruct ability of your lungs to accept and relinquish, impeding their function of “taking in” and “letting go” of oxygen and feelings. Grief that remains unresolved can become chronic and create disharmony in the lungs, weakening the lung’s function of circulating oxygen around the body. Lung Support™ can help us release these feelings of loss and support our ability to transport oxygen from the atmosphere into the capillaries so they can oxygenate blood – and eliminate carbon dioxide from the bloodstream into the atmosphere. Apply 2- 3 drops over the lungs, allowing yourself to deeply exhale any grief as you apply the blend. Read More about Essential Oils for Grief HERE.

Liver Support™  – Anger that we don’t process and release can get stored in your liver, according to Chinese medicine.  I believe anger can be the most intense and the most damaging of all the repressed emotions, because of its intensity.  The more we try to suppress it, the more it rears its ugly head in ways that can undermine our health, our growth and our personal relationships. Liver Support™ helps support the release of anger, including frequent irritation, impatience, resentment or frustration, being critical of yourself or others, control issues, an inability to express your feelings, feelings of not feeling heard, not feeling loved, not being recognized or appreciated. 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. You can also apply it over the liver or around the ankles as this is often an area where we hold resistance to moving forward in life. Start at the back of the ankle and apply under the ankle bone around to the front and back under the other ankle bone, all while allowing yourself to release challenging emotions.

I detail how to use  Kidney Support™ to release fear, Small Intestine Support™ to support healthy boundaries and of Large Intestine Support™ to release control in my 5 tools for navigating uncertainty post.

Read More about Releasing Negative Emotions with Essential Oils HERE.

Yoga – Yoga is one of the easiest ways to help you move through and release negative emotions.  Certain poses open specific organs, like your heart or your liver, to allow energy to gently flow and release.

My incredibly heart centered yoga instructor, Jenniferlyn Chiemingo of joyloveyoga.com, has very graciously allowed me to share her heart opening flow that inspired this post and helped me move through resistance HERE.

If you are feeling any kind of anger or resistance during this time of uncertainty, I highly encourage you to take an hour and move through this flow.  If emotions or tears well up, just allow yourself to cry, scream, laugh or yawn and move out that energy. I often employ a technique known as Lion’s Breath – sticking out my tongue out as far as possible and imaging the anger releasing with my breath. (If this flow feels supportive, I would like to invite you to express your gratitude by helping support JL with a $10 donation via Venmo @jenniferlyn-chiemingo or PayPal [email protected]  as these streaming classes are her primary source of income during this difficult time).

Tapping – Gently tapping on specific areas of your body can also gently move energy.  You can more about specific tapping points (with a printable chart) or watch this video with my friend Amy Stark to learn more about tapping to help release resistance.

Epsom Salt Baths – Like sea water, Epsom salt baths contain minerals that can pass through our skin and help us release both physical and emotional toxins, including intense emotions like anger, fear and grief.

Water is incredibly nurturing and supportive and can serve as a carrier to help us gently release intense emotions and replenish nutrients.  This is one reason it is important to drink a lot of water as you detoxify or release emotional baggage or resistance. Essential oils can help amplify the healing experience.  Read More about specific recipes for healing Epsom salt baths How to Use Essential Oils in Healing Baths

Color is another easy way to help activate or release emotions.  You can wear certain color clothing, consume food in different colors or use crayons or markers to access and release certain emotions  My friend Deanna Minich does an excellent job explaining how colors influence emotion. For example, the color red is associated with anger, so choosing to wear red or color with a red marker can help you gently diffuse and release that emotion.

Step 4.  Change your perspective 

The more you can step outside of self and objectively observe situation, the easier it is to get clear on what would be most helpful for you at the moment.  It often helps to ask for help from a trusted friend or colleague.

My trusted confident Naomi Panzer, founder The Write Fit which combines yoga and journaling to inspire girls to love themselves says it best.  “Try to pull back a bit like a camera panning out at the end of the movie. Get a little distance from it. And know that this is a process. It’s a road and there will be easy paths and tough hills but its all part of the road and you are going to hold tight and push and adapt and question when you need to.”

As much as I wish I could claim to always have clarity and perspective, it remains an ongoing challenge for me.  And when a situation feels to overwhelming or triggering, I am so grateful to have friends like Naomi to call on for compassion, validation and advice.  You are not in this alone! You have a whole community to support you in the Vibrant Blue Oils Discussion Group.

When you are able to shift your perspective, you are often able to recognize options that we could not previously see. Here’s why:  when we hyper focus on making things happen the way we want them to, we lose sight of other possibilities that may be even better options for us.

Step 5. Take a moment of gratitude

Nothing shifts your energy as quickly as gratitude.  When you are focused on gratitude, appreciating all the positive things your life, you shift your focus away from whatever is upsetting you.  It is the best mental pivot I have found. And the practice of starting you day with a gratitude practice and ending your day by sharing what you are grateful for helps you maintain a positive mental, physical and emotional state.

It’s not surprising that research finds that people who practice gratitude on a regular basis experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, and express more compassion and kindness to others.

An NIH study correlated a focus on gratitude with increased blood flow to the hypothalamus and a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol.

Gratitude, or thankful appreciation, helps us pivot out of resistance and free up our energy to focus on positive things in our life.

Heart™ helps amplify feelings of love and gratitude, helping to increase the amount of love in your life. Every moment of our life we have the opportunity to see the glass as half empty or half full. How we envision each moment helps paint a picture of our actual experience, so why not choose to be happy, to think of and move toward things that bring us joy.   Essential oils are a wonderful tool for cementing in that positive frequency.  Apply 2-3 drops of Heart™ directly over the heart (left side of chest). During times of intense stress and fatigue, 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.

Read More about Essential Oils for Gratitude HERE.


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About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.