4 Winning Ways to Respond to Stress

September 11 '18 PM.jpg

Stress is real. AND there are things you can do about it.

Ever notice that stress can sneak up on you? Maybe your life is busy. Maybe your mind is busy. Maybe both. And everything you take in through your senses you take into your body. Everything you see, taste, touch, smell, hear - and sense. Everything. And it adds up quickly.

Your body (and that includes your brain) is literally hardwired for survival. And because of that, it reacts in predictable ways to maintain the natural state of balance, the acceptable state of equilibrium. Technically, this is called homeostasis.

When your survival mechanism (that’s your body) recognizes emotional intensity (that’s your sensory input), your system creates specific chemicals to help you survive. Even though your physiology doesn't always know the source of the problem, it knows there's a space that needs filling.

So if you feel empty, you might eat or spend or gossip, for example. If you feel keyed up and anxious, you might easily get into an argument with your partner or friend, or drink more caffeine drinks, or drive fast, for example.

In this way, unfortunately, drama creates more drama. But you have a choice.

If you become more familiar with your natural physiological reactions - the subtleties of you - you can become better at evening them out with healthier alternatives. And that will bring greater ease into your life. And less drama. Less stress.

The most basic ways to become more balanced, less dramatically reactive, and to respond better to true stress cues, may seem obvious at first, but they work best.


1:  Get clear on your body’s signals. When you're sleep deprived, you may feel hungry and want to fill the empty. When your body is in survival mode you may turn to food or drink or shopping or some other choice to soothe yourself. Your body is in stress and you’re having an outpouring of cortisol and insulin. If you know you've had enough healthful food to eat, (eating every 3-5 hours ensures this) and you know you don’t need yet another pair of shoes, and you really should stop at 2 glasses of wine, learn to override the emotion signals and address the true source of the problem. Then your choices will be direct and clear: take a nap, rest with your legs up, meditate. These choices restore the synapses in the brain. They don’t cause more dramatic impulses. More stress.


2:  Every day you need to move your body. That goes a long way in maintaining your balance. Just move it. Don’t call it exercise. Just put on the music and draw the blinds, or open the door and start walking. Whatever. If you feel apathetic, add more variety to your body movements and eating choices. Because you don't always have identifiable emotional reactions to events in your life, it's even more important to notice your physiological responses. I’ve noticed they're the real clues. Energy tends to get held in and bound up from the accumulation of daily emotional stresses. Then, in one moment, it explodes in an often misplaced emotional outburst. A better choice is to shake your limbs, go for a power walk — whatever works to release the built-up tension. Then move into a more consistent maintenance of getting clear on, and honouring, your body's signals, before you explode.


3: Change the rhythm of your breathing. When you're in the throes of an emotionally dramatic situation, adrenalin is released, your heart rate speeds up, your muscles tense, and your breathing becomes rapid and shallow. So the quickest, easiest, on-the-spot way to chill out is to change the rhythm of your breath. Start with the exhale - as fully and deeply as you can - and a fuller inhale will follow. Do this a few times, anywhere, anytime. The other nervous system responses will automatically follow your lead.


4: Snuggle. Did you know that the opposite of the flight-or-fight hormone adrenalin is oxytocin?  Neither did it. I know it by its other name, the love-cuddle hormone. It’s released when you snuggle babies, lovers, animal companions. Even when you get a massage. When you’re under the influence of oxytocin, you become more relaxed, calm, and connected to your centre.


The 4 winning ways to respond to stress:

Get clear on your body’s signals and act honestly on them.

Move your body every day.

Change the rhythm of your breath.

Release the love-cuddle hormone.