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The Stress Cycle

Stress, unfortunately, is something that we have to deal with in life. Family, work, health, money – stress triggers are all around us. The goal would be to eliminate stress altogether, but in the current world we live in, that’s not realistic. 

Stress is the physical or mental response to an external cause. Your response could be positive, such as putting all your focus into finishing a project, or negative, such as losing sleep because you can’t stop thinking about that project. It can look like:

  • Excessive worry
  • Uneasiness
  • Tension
  • Headaches or body pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Loss of sleep

Sisters, Emily and Ameila Nagoski wrote the book, Burnout: The Secret To Unlocking The Stress Cycle. In this book, they discuss stopping the endless cycle of stress by completing the stress cycle. Like I said before, there are stress triggers all around us, so it’s more common that we jump from trigger to trigger instead of completing the cycle. These incomplete cycles are not healthy for our body and mind. The different ways this book recommends to complete this cycle are: 

  • Physical Activity

Get that heart rate going. Working out, taking a nice walk, dancing it out or any other way that works for you to get your body moving. Then stop and let your body release the physical and chemical stress that was happening to you.

  • Breathing

Work on those nice slow breaths in, and slow breaths out. Doing this regulates your nervous system. You need to signal to your body that you are safe so you can begin shifting into relaxation.

  • Positive Social Interaction

The natural inclination to connect with somebody tells your body you are safe. Even if you’re not actually home, your body can get that feeling because you’re with someone who is your home. This can be any positive social interaction, like sharing a funny story with your neighbor, complimenting your barista’s earrings, or meeting up with a friend for lunch.

  • Laughter

This has to be that slightly embarrassing, uncontrolled, belly hurting laughter. The one that takes over your body. Or even reminiscing with someone about a time you laughed in that way. This will push your mind and body towards that last stage of your cycle.

  • Hug

A 20 second hug can change your hormones, lower your blood pressure and heart rate, and improve your mood. This is also called: hugging until relaxed. Truly hugging someone gives you that sense of safety to allow your body to relax. 

  • A big old cry

When you cry, you’re allowing the emotion to go and leave your body. It’s no longer trapped inside of you and pulling you back into that stress cycle. When you start to cry, pay attention to the crying. When you focus on just that, you’re too distracted to feed yourself more thoughts about what caused the stress.

  • Creative expression

You can take out your rage through creating something. Singing, knitting, and writing are just a few examples. You put that rage into something safe that’s outside of yourself to release it from your body.


Burnout: How To Complete The Stress Cycle

National Institute of Health

World Health Organization