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Recognizing Your Stress Response

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

See a bear, run from it . That is the original purpose of our bodies stress response, to jump into a state of hyper focus and adrenaline in a moment of life or death.

The nervous system releases the stress hormone cortisol which increases our heart rate, contracts muscles in preparation of fight or flight, increased blood pressure, and senses become sharper for mental alertness. It also suppresses the immune and digestive systems, as those are not required when squaring off said bear.

Unfortunately, the bodies internal stress response cannot differentiate between running from a bear and feeling overwhelmed with workload. The internal response of increased cortisol, heightened mental alertness and suppressed systems are the same regardless of the perceived threat. This puts a strain on the adrenal glands as they work overtime to produce stress hormones, tension on the heart with increased blood pressure and decreased digestive and immune functions.

Ever notice that after working on a big project or during exam time, the body crashes right after leaving you feeling exhausted and run down. While in overdrive from stress, the body is not efficiently fighting off whatever bugs you come into contact with so there is a higher likelihood of you getting taken out by whatever virus is circulating. This chronic state of stress or anxiety causes an internal cascade of responses that is detrimental to our overall well-being, opening the door for inflammation.

If you are someone who can tend to feel overwhelmed, anxious or like you are spinning out, the first step is to start and create awareness in pausing to connect with your body.

Awareness Discovery Process

This is about learning to recognize how stress shows up in your body, what it physically feels like and how you emotionally react. We each have different triggers and our own way of internalizing the stress response including physical strain or tension and emotional processing.

Symptoms of Stress

  • Rapid breathing

  • Quick heart beat

  • Exhaustion and always tired

  • Upset stomach and digestive discomforts

  • Tightness in the body - jaw, neck, shoulders, stomach, back, hips

  • Headaches or migraines

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

  • Racing thoughts

Get curious about how stress feels in your body by taking a moment when you feel overwhelmed or anxious to take note of the physical sensations. Breathing calms the nervous system and can create an awareness to be able to let go of tension.

Breathe. Place one hand on the belly and the other on your heart, close the eyes. Take a deep and slow inhale. Then match with a steady exhale. Take a minimum of 10 slow and steady deep breathes. Continue as needed.

Hitting pause to connect with our bodies creates an awareness of what we might not notice rushing through the day. By being aware of how we hold stress, we can take action of how to best support ourselves. It might be a run to clear the head, writing down a to do list for racing thoughts, or taking a bath to unplug.

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