10 Ways to Complete The Stress Cycle

I hope this post will validate your practices and remind you to take care of YOU.

From the book, Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Emily and and Amelia Nagoski provide research on the importance of finishing the stress cycle. Your body responds to stress. You may think you’ve got it all under control, and you are the best at “fake it to you make it”, but our bodies are wired to respond neurologically ad physiologically to stressors. This is a good thing if we also remember to give ourselves permission to finish the cycle. I encourage you to read the book for more information and the science behind what I just shared. Here is a podcast with Brene Brown as the interviewer. She spends time with the Nagoski sisters and their research.

Ways To Complete the Cycle

  1. The number one way to complete the cycle is physical activity. “Physical activity is what tells your brain you have successfully survived the threat and now your body is a safe place to live” (p. 15).

2. Breathing

By now with all the apps and research, we know why and how to breathe. Do we practice breathing? The link above is a simple video to help you slow down and concentrate on your breath. “Deep, slow breaths downregulate the stress response–especially when the exhalation is long and slow and goes all the way to the end of the breath, so that your belly contracts” (p. 15).

3. Positive Social Interactions

They encourage us to reassure our brains that the world is a safe and kind place by smiling, saying thank you to the barista, or “Hey! I love your earrings!”. They may not see your smile because of your mask, but when you smile at someone, your eyes will light up. They will know.

4. Laughter

Reminisce, laugh, and watch your favorite comedian. A good belly laugh is good for the soul. Give yourself permission and the space to laugh even if it seems awkward. Humans are funny, and laughing at your imperfections and mishaps may just get your brain back in gear. I love the comedian Jim Gaffigan, and he can be found on Netflix.

5. Affection

This one is hard right now because of the pandemic. If you have a partner that is safe to hug, make it a point to hug for at least 20 seconds. When you relax into the hug all those good hormones are released that produce a sense of belonging and acceptance. John Gottman, a marriage expert, recommends the “six-second kiss”. If you kiss for 6 seconds, you are pretty much responding to someone you feel safe and loved by.

The role of spirituality is important. The affection and closeness from time spent with God can bring a new sense of meaning and remind you that you are loved unconditionally.

6. Crying

Crying is a great release of stress! They encourage you to just have a “big ol’ cry” but concentrate more on how you are physically responding to the cry verses the situation. For example, the tears on your face or the rising of your chest. A great place to do this is on your yoga mat. Combine physical activity, deep breathing, and at the end of your practice lay on the mat and let it go–sob if you must! It’s good for you. By the way, the shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept.” If he thought it was okay to weep, I guess we can be okay with it, too. And, He wept, not “got a little teary-eyed”.

7. Creative Expression

“Creative expression today leads to more energy, excitement, and enthusiasm tomorrow” (p. 18). It doesn’t matter what you do or how gifted you are in creating. The point is to tap into the creative side of your brain. Paint, color, re-do a room in your house, cook, create a card for someone and send the letter, try a new recipe, write, sing, dance, write a poem, go to the dollar store or local craft shop and get a craft kit for the season, sign up for a virtual paint night, collect things from nature and study them, or trace them on paper, etc. I could write a million ways to create! Did you know that writing or journaling is a great healer?

“Writing serves to heighten our own awareness of life…to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection.” Anais Nin

Journal, doodle, write notes to yourself.

Why am I writing about this content this morning? I want to socially connect with you and to engage in creative expression. I want to remind myself to take care of myself. I’m practicing.

8. Reappraisal or Ruminate?

The Science of Happiness Podcast is one of my favorites. They recently had a podcast on how not to hold a grudge. “Consistent with other studies, people only ruminated over something that angered them felt worse off than people who only reappraise the situation.”

I think during this pandemic we are practicing this on a daily basis. People are different. You are different. Our lens of the world due to real and ambiguous loss has the potential to be in a constant state of ruminating. Even if you’ve started there, you can change your direction by deliberately reappraising the situation. See the situation from a different perspective than yours. I know you may think your view is the right one, but sometimes it’s not about being right, but more about a sense of peace and forgiveness. This is also covered in the burnout book! I love those connections!

9. Who will you feed?

Here is a great 2 minute video about an indigenous people story about two wolves. Which wolf will you feed, and how caring for yourself and finishing the stress cycle will feed the compassionate and kind wolf.

10. Pray as you go

This app and website can be combined with deep breathing, prayer, and connection with God. Some enjoy listening while they engage in physical activity!

Here is some comedy relief!

Hot Pocket, Jim Gaffigan

Carol Burnett and Robin Williams, The Funeral

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