Are you a Type A person who is always on the move, always busy, alert, hardwired to check a hundred things off your to do list every day and almost incapable of chilling out? Or are you more in the camp of prioritizing slowness and relaxation into your days, preferring to let most things go unchecked off your to do list if it means staying calm? Or do you (like me) fall somewhere in between?
If you’ve gotten to know your body and its fascial patterns and textures, then maybe you’ll instantly become intrigued or laugh out loud when I tell you that all of the above personality traits are probably written all over your fascia.
How personality affects fascia:
If you are someone who thrives off of high pressure situations and is always “high strung,” then I can pretty much guarantee your fascial system reflects this.
Every client I’ve worked with who has this personality type has similar fascia: it’s STRINGY! “Wiry” people tend to have VERY wiry fascia. Not only is it stringy and wiry, but it usually feels dehydrated and unwilling to chill out. It is NOT supple and rarely feels soft even after years of working with me, and (in my opinion and experience working with clients like this over long periods of time) these people are typically far more prone to injuries involving tendon or ligament tearing/rupture and stretch reflex injuries like “pulled” hamstrings or strained forearm extensors (to name just two examples). This is because the fascial system is BRITTLE instead of hydrated and elastic.
In addition, any serious pain that does occur due to fascial or muscle imbalances appears to be far more difficult to permanently reverse than in someone who has a different personality (and thus body) type, because the fascia never reaches an ideal state of suppleness.
The clients I have who fit this description often work with me weekly for years (possibly for life), because we need to constantly keep that fascial system as healthy as possible when all it wants to do is recoil into its dehydrated stringy state.
The OPPOSITE of this personality type is someone who certainly gets stressed from time to time, but has learned not to embody stress as a way of life. They let go of big and small stresses easily and move on. They tend not to obsess about every little thing that isn’t perfect in their life AND BODY. Often, these clients come in for just 1-3 sessions and don’t need to come back again (if they keep up with their homework) unless they become injured or start a new sport or do something out of their norm.
This is because, just like their emotional or mental state reflects their personality, their fascia lets go and relaxes quickly, and is capable of staying that way for a lot longer than someone with a Type A personality.
And of course, there are the rest of us (I’d include myself in this category) who fall somewhere in between.
There is one thing that is the driving force behind these personality traits, and it also happens to be the thing that has the biggest impact on the health of our fascia.
The #1 factor that affects fascia AND personality: STRESS
Shocker! Isn’t that the #1 factor that affects everything? Yes, and for good reason. I’m pretty sure we have all read at least a few dozen articles about the health dangers of too much stress.
This topic is so massive, in terms of the domino effect that stress has on EVERY part of who we are (from our mental/emotional states down to the micro chemical/hormonal level) and I won’t be going into great detail today (nor am I by any means a stress or stress relief expert).
What I do want to emphasize is how this can become a feedback loop that can have either disastrous or powerfully positive consequences for our ability to heal from injury, and how it can actually create a “personality type” that is subsequently written into our fascial system.
Consider for a moment how you typically respond to stress. Does it overwhelm your nervous system, give you panic attacks or debilitating anxiety, or do you know how to manage your stress levels to stay relatively calm most days? Do you harness stress as a motivator to get stuff done, or do you push it aside and ignore whatever needs your attention until it’s a massive problem you can’t ignore anymore?
Very likely these exact scenarios play out in your fascial system and are further exemplified in how injuries show up for you, how fast or slow you heal from them and whether or not the stress (physical and mental) of pain becomes something you draw strength and courage from, or something that spirals you out into fear based stories about never being able to run or throw your kids in the air again.
If you stress out over pain, guess what? Not only will it be more difficult to get rid of that pain, but the more likely it is you’re creating more of the same tension that led to it in the first place. This is why people who freak out over injuries and obsess over them tend to take a lot longer to see the kinds of results that other people get who do not obsess over or stress out about them.
The (citizen) science behind these claims:
I call myself a citizen science because I’m not in a lab getting paid to test and retest theories and prove or disprove them with mounds of data. I’ve made mental records of everything I’ve learned during the last 8 years of doing work that never existed quite like it before, and with Mobility Mastery I’m beginning to finally show the world what I’ve been seeing that has me so fascinated by fascia. I plan to do a lot more “show and tell” with actual client stories recorded on camera, and I’d love to do a series on this particular topic! For now, I have my own experiences, theories and client stories to back them up.
Consider that science tells us that every nerve ending is coated in a piece of fascia. EVERY NERVE ENDING!
This has enormous implications for us because of the feedback loop between the nervous system and fascia, and the fascia and nervous system. Changes in the nervous system will inherently affect the fascia, while changes in the fascial system could also change or even RE-WIRE the nervous system. (I say “could” because the nervous system HAS to allow the changes or they won’t stick, but we can absolutely use the fascial system to access parts of the nervous system that we can’t typically access with our minds alone).
I believe the work I’m doing is so powerful precisely because it requires the nervous system to participate through intense sensation (me stepping on them, sometimes with my full body weight) accompanied by active movement and my clients choosing to engage all systems in the process rather than disengage (essentially they are “fighting” old stressors locked in their tissues and winning their freedom back, thus creating NEW neural pathways, new stories, new fascial patterns and perhaps, new nervous system habits).
All the self-help techniques on this site have the potential to do the same, just not quite as fast or as powerfully as if I were stepping on you.
Every thought we think, every emotion we feel, every happy event in our lives along with every trauma is processed by the nervous system, which runs through the entire body.
I have come to believe that the story of our lives is quite literally inscribed in/on the fascia due to this relationship.
Your body tells the story of your life, and someone who can “read” it could tell you all about not only your current and past injuries, sports you played as a kid and current lifestyle habits, but they could also tell you a lot about who you are and how you show up in life.
I get a lot of silly satisfaction from asking clients if they played soccer when they were young, if they’re super stressed out right now, if they ever sprained an ankle or whether they run with a certain gait; most of the time I’m right, and it’s not because I’m psychic, it’s because their fascia told me these things!
It’s not a big leap to make the claim then that stress (all kinds), which happens via the nervous system and is such a major player in our modern lives, can lay claim to being the #1 factor that affects both our personalities and our fascial system.
Not only will how we manage stress on a regular basis shape our personalities (and lives) but it will likely affect how injury prone we are, how quickly or slowly we heal and how often (or not) we need to take care of our fascia for it to stay healthy.
Needless to say, the better you are at chilling out the better your fascia will be at chilling out.
I’m not going to tell you HOW to manage your stress. I’ll leave that up to you.
My personality and fascia type and how I de-stress:
In case you’re wondering, my personality type (somewhere between Type A and totally chill) makes me prone to feeling stressed out if I’m overwhelmed with big to do lists and very few empty spaces in my schedule for alone time. I rarely let stress push me over the edge, but I do let it push me close (I am someone who can harness stress to get things done, up to a certain point).
I’m really good at taking time to relax when I absolutely need it, but not so good at taking time on a regular basis (ie, BEFORE I need it urgently). However, my willingness to do whatever it takes so I can let something go knows no bounds. And…sometimes, the stories I’ve created about my body or life (that get hardwired in my nervous system) make me prone to experiencing the same “injury” or pain over and over. I’m learning how to rewrite those stories.
All of this shows up in my fascia like this: there are lots of supple spaces in my fascial system, and then there are certain areas that are prone to big knotted up balls of fascia (particularly my calves, quads and brachialis). Given my preferred method of releasing fascia (being stepped on via my own technique by one of my students), all of these areas will chill out in a matter of a few minutes. And unless something major is stressing my body or mind, once released it stays relatively relaxed for weeks or months. If I go through something extremely stressful either physically or mentally, then one or more of those key areas will tighten right back up into crunchy balls (especially my calves!)
Here’s an interesting theory pertaining to calves: adrenaline (which can be released even in small doses if we’re stressed into a fight or flight response) rushes to our legs to make us ready to run away from danger. If we don’t run or fight (if we let stress immobilize us) then all that adrenaline has nowhere to go and gets stored in our legs, probably mostly in our quads and calves. I think this is one reason my calves tighten up, because my nervous system habit when seriously stressed is to freeze (while making a plan of how to de-stress).
Some of the ways I de-stress:
It would be best if, every time we notice ourselves going into fight or flight mode, we shook our entire body out like a deer that was just scared for its life! Animals tend to shake fear out of their bodies, and we humans haven’t learned that art quite as well.
This is something I’ve embraced as an everyday stress release tool and it works WONDERS. I may look weird doing it, but who cares? I often shake my entire body, or just my arms, or just my legs, or breathe deeply and on the exhale make a loud noise (this is one of my favorites). The funnier that noise is, the better because I get to laugh at myself, which also releases tension and stress.
Of course I love the scenery, the beauty, the challenge and camaraderie etc, but after a serious mountain climb that exhausts me completely, I have a calm mind for about 2 WHOLE DAYS! And that’s kind of a miracle for me.
I’d love to hear from you! Do you notice a correlation between your personality type, how you handle stress and the state of your fascia? Are you fascinated by this theory or think it’s a bunch of hooey? And all that aside, what’s your preferred way to de-stress? I’d like to add more options to my list.