How to deal with stress (because you’re likely doing it wrong)
We ALL experience a level of stress most days. We experience stress when we are faced with a stressor. What is stress? What’s a stressor? Am I dealing with stress effectively??
Let’s break it down:
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat (AKA stressor). When we sense danger (real or imagined – the mind doesn’t discriminate) —our body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic response known as “fight-or-flight.” This stress response is the body’s way of protecting you.
When our body’s fight-or-flight response is activated, all kinds of internal processes happen – from increased heart rate, pupils dilate, muscle tension to temporarily haltering digestion, growth hormone production and even tissue repair. Basically, our body tries to prioritise energy use, so anything that isn’t needed for immediate survival is placed on the backburner.
We also know that continued stress can have negative impacts on your long-term health. When our fight-or-flight response is activated for long periods of time, our energy resources become depleted, making us more prone to various illnesses.
A common outcome of constant stress = burnout.
What does the research tell us?
Some research suggests that the “recovery period” between a stress response and our body’s going back to normal functioning (AKA a term that psychologists call homeostasis) is approx. 20 – 60 minutes after the threat disappears.
For example, if you have been really stressed out over a looming deadline, and finally handed that report in (yay!) – unfortunately, just because that stressor isn’t there anymore, it doesn’t mean that you have actually dealt with stress. AKA your body still *holds* that stress.
“The good news is that stress isn’t the problem, the problem is that the strategies that deal with stressors have almost no relationship to the strategies that deal with the psychological reactions our bodies have to those stressors. To be well is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure or excitement, back to safer and calm and out again. Stress is not bad for you. Being stuck is bad for you.” – quote via Burnout Burnout Burnout: The secret to unlocking the stress cycle
So how do you deal with stress you ask?
Stress can be thought of as a cycle. A cycle that you have to complete – The stress cycle.
Here are some evidence-based ways that move you through the stress cycle and back to a state of calm:
- Exercising – <30 min
- Deep breathing – try box breathing
- Laughter – deep belly laughs
- Positive interactions – pick your fav people to spend time with
- Cry – let it all out
- Creative expression – think drawing, pottery, singing, dancing etc
- Hug – the embrace should last until your breathing matches each other
Resources to check out
- Burnout Burnout Burnout: The secret to unlocking the stress cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
- Alternatively, you can listen to their episode on Unlocking Us with Brene Brown here
Our Indigo practitioners can also help break down the stress cycle further and work with your relationship with stress. They are able to tailor interventions to you and your needs. If you feel like things are getting a bit much then meet and would like to gain stress management techniques unique for you, match with an Indigo practitioner today to start your mental health journey with us.
This post was written by @laurabeddoe Provisional psychologist and Indigo’s freelance content creator. If you have any requests or suggestions for blog content, you can get in touch with her here.