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Understanding stress for resilience

When we understand, we can bring love and healing into our lives.

Stress is a good example of how understanding something or someone changes our experience. We all struggle with stress – it can scramble your brain, cause illness and disease and create havoc with your life.

A few years ago I stressed until I became ill (glandular fever) and had the most horrible skin eruptions to go with it. My body was screaming at me to stop what I was doing and slow down, change the record in my head (my infinity to do list). So I am going to  share with you some of the things I have learnt about my stress and how to manage it. I daresay there will be another blog on stress soon as it is so pervasive.

Understanding something takes the power out of it – it allows us to gain some control, and the process of learning is always satisfying on some level, especially learning about ourselves.

Managing stress through understanding it is a significant step towards feeling as ease, being physically well and coping with whatever comes our way.

Honestly, stress is normal, and is there for a reason – to protect and keep you safe.

Dictionary Definitions of Stress
  • Special importance given to something so that you pay more attention.
  • Pressure put on something that can make it change its shape or break.
  • A worried or nervous feeling that stops you relaxing, caused, for example by pressure at work or financial or personal problems.

Of course it is the third definition we are concerned with here, but …. the other two definitions are interesting and relevant aren’t they?

  • Stress is a prompt – it give us sharper focus
  • Stress is a signal to do something

The trick is to avoid the unhealthy and unhelpful stress that occurs due to prolonged periods of pressure without time to recover

  • Prolonged periods of stress without recovery leads to damaging and dangerous patterns of thought and behaviour

What happens in our brains?

The physical changes that prepare your body to respond quickly and appropriately to stress is called the fight or flight response – driven by the limbic system (unconscious).

  • The limbic system at the top of the brain-stem deals with emotions relating to survival e.g. anger, fear, pleasure
  • The amygdala is what has been referred to as our reptilian brain – survival is its main concern!

The reptilian brain is hardwired for survival – it reacts quickly in order to get us out of danger. Unfortunately we can have the same stress response to a minor event – such as a parking ticket  – as we do to a life threatening event.  Our reptilian brain is getting the wrong message from our thinking brain if we catastrophise the minor events, if we get tings out of perspective.

What happens in our bodies?

  • Adrenalin – instantly released into blood – increases heart rate/blood flow, redistributes blood
  • Cortisol (released more slowly) – stops unnecessary functions in order to preserve body

Cortisol and Adrenalin fired inappropriately or when they stay in the body lead to bad health

  • For example – IBS: stress causes blood to be directed away from non-necessary activities – such as digestion
  • Immune system repressed
  • Action of digestive system is repressed
  • Muscle tension
  • Increased blood flow to muscles, Pupils dilate, Increased sweating,Faster breathing

This is all good if we want to survive … and these physical responses help us to deal with genuinely stressful events

BUT – once the stressful even it over we must then recover – get rid of the stressful response, relax and allow our bodies to get back to normal balance.

However you unwind – sitting in a tree coffee and cake


Prolonged stress impairs our physical, emotional and mental states

  • Fatigue and tiredness  – caused by a crash after adrenalin and a need to nap
  • Sleep – waking up still tired, unable to sleep or waking up in the night
  • Mood change
  • Change in appetite
  • Overthinking – over analysing and repetitive thinking
  • Foggy thinking – not able to think straight
  • Difficulty concentrating (becoming distracted) or learning
  • Poor memory – forgetting things
  • Frequently feeling overwhelmed – too much to a handle or do
  • Struggling to make decisions or make unusually bad decisions
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Nausea and/or lack of appetite
  • Light headed – dizziness – perhaps rapid breathing leading to panic attacks
  • Lack of patience impact on relationships – irritability – over reacting
  • Headaches – migraines tension in the neck (jaws etc)

 Sound familiar?

Stress keeps you stuck through creating strong pessimistic patterns  in your brain. These will impair your ability to learn. Working with a coach can help you break stress cycles and learn new healthy ways of being.

Techniques to help you deal with stress – to become more resilient and robust

Resilience is the ability to withstand, adapt to and recover from difficult situations

1. Reduce the overwhelm – get specific

Overwhelm is when you look at everything – there is no focus. It’s all too much!

  • Ask … What specifically is the problem? – do not generalise, the more specific the better.

Use questions to get specific …

  • What specifically do you need to do?
  • What is the first thing you need to do?
  • What is most urgent and important? Get on with it now/asap
  • What can easily wait till tomorrow or next week?

Overwhelm is a very sticky state – you are stuck!  Do something – anything! Do what you can!

Many of us live in overwhelm. Save the world/fix it mentality. Wanting to do everything – NOW!

2. Learning to say NO!

You can’t please all the people all the time!

3. Move your body 

  • Move your shoulders – relax your shoulders
  • Stretch, Shake, DANCE!
  •  Exercise – Anything that you enjoy and makes your heart beat and uses muscles

4. Breathe

  • Breathe deeply and consciously
  • Breathe using your diaphragm – fill your tummy like a balloon – let the breath out slowly.
  • Count 4 for in-breath – count 4 for out-breath
  • Gounding breath  – count 4 for in-breath and 8 for out-breath

 5. Get outdoors

A wealth of research shows that nature impacts our well being positively – not having any connection to nature has a negative impact on our wellbeing.

  • Go for a short walk
  • Look at a tree, a flower, birds
  • Gardening
  • Visit a park, walk on a beach
  • Anything……

5. Say it out loud!

  • Talk about your stress – this helps you get things into perspective
  • Share with a friend – just pick up the phone
  • Say it to yourself in the mirror

6 Do something nice to change your state

  • Listen to music
  • watch a funny film or TV programme
  • Look at nice photos
  • Get a massage – anything on the list here – a walk, dance, sing, go to bed…..

7. Mindfulness

  • Notice something you can see and touch – now
  • Things I can hear
  • Things I can smell
  • Notice your breathing

8. Body Scan

Close your eyes and scan our body with full awareness

9. Posture – body position

  • Maintain an upright spine. Stretch.
  • Notice how you feel

10. Good sleep

Tips for getting a good nights sleep

  • Turn off ALL blue light (phone, ipad, laptop, PC, TV) 2 hours before you want to sleep
  • Write a journal and prepare for the next day
  • Maintain regular bed and wake-up times
  • Breathing deeply (4 in-breath x 7 hold x 10 out-breath)
  • Read something inspirational
  • Reading fiction (Sussex Uni research)
  • Nice smells – Lavender
  • Herbal teas – no caffeine
  • Eye cushion
  • Hot bath
  • Other?

Coaching can help 

I work with the unconscious as well as the conscious mind, using NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) techniques and some hypnosis. I work with you to identify, clarify and dissolve unhelpful patterns and reactions – those negative thoughts, emotions and behaviors that  keep you stuck in stress and stop you from realizing your potential for living a life of ease and joy, and realizing your dreams and goals. What have you got to lose but your stress?.