What's the Secret to Managing Stress Well?

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    There's something everybody should know, but unfortunately, it seems like a well-kept secret!

    After we experience stress, we need to recover to avoid long-lasting negative effects.

    Rachel Yehuda, PhD, is a pioneer in the field of trauma and epigenetics. She said, "Being able to calm down after a stressor - to be able to say something like 'that's over', 'I'm still here', and 'I'm alive' is a very important part of how you're going to do with long term stress recovery". Simply put, our brain needs to know that the stress is in the past and we are now in the present and okay. 

    The universal response to stress is fight, flight, or freeze.

    Different life experiences, memories, and nervous system sensitivities can influence an individual's response. One of the main hormones involved is adrenaline, which acts like an accelerator to fight or flee. The other hormone is cortisol, which acts like a brake to suppress the inflammation that occurs. 

    Chronic stress is having one or more stressors that don't go away.

    I believe this kind of stress is so widespread, that we tend not to recognize it. Excessive work demands, caring for aging parents, financial struggles or conflict in relationships are a few examples of common chronic stressors. Layered on top of these are overarching stressors that affect everyone, such as international conflict, the pandemic, economic instability, and political divide. The reality is that chronic stress frequently has multiple layers, and some of these are out of our control. 

    Stress often increases so gradually, or goes on so long, that it can feel like our natural state.

    Adrenaline and cortisol stay turned on, which is like having one foot on the brake and the other on the accelerator at the same time. If the accelerator gets stuck on too long, the brake kicks in. When the brake is on for too long, too much cortisol is secreted, (as if the brakes overheat) and it can harm the brain. The brain compensates by turning off the accelerator. This is the cause of adrenal fatigue.Stress can affect physical and mental health at any point in this process.Regardless of its cause, we need to recover from stress to reset our system so that our accelerator and brake can operate normally. So how do we do this? It's actually not very complicated or difficult. I think the hardest part is committing to do it, which means breaking away from our usual ways of dealing with stress. 

    Tending to our nervous system can restore and balance our brain and bodily systems after a stress response.

    Our body has an amazing built-in capactiy to heal itself. Downregulating the nervous system to a rest and digest state promotes healthy adaptation to stress. When we do this recovery process in between bouts of stress, we can reduce the likelihood that stress will harm our health or physical or mental health. This is true of both acute and chronic stress. 

    Reset your nervous system with presence and awareness.

    My upcoming program, Befriend Your Nervous System, will explore movement, breathing and mindfulness practices that help modulate the effects of stress. In a small, supportive, online community, you'll learn about your nervous system and how to recognize when it needs tending to. You'll gain a variety of techniques you can use in the moment and on an ongoing basis, to restore and rebalance yourself, improve focus, and reduce emotional reactivity.

    I invite you to consider an important question: If your thinking, mood, energy, and symptoms got better, what could your life be like? When we tend to the needs of our nervous system, we benefit in so many ways, and so does everyone around us! 

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