Three R's of Stress Resilience: Recognize, Respond & RepeatStress-reducing tips, practices and commitments
Know when you are stressed and what stress is doing with your mind, emotions and body.
Stress is commonly defined as physical, mental and/or emotional tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. When temporary, moderate and motivating, stress can help us perform well, focus and build resiliency. When chronic and beyond our current coping strategies, stress impacts our entire system, eventually creating mental, emotional and physical problems. Stress is often associated with a low sense of control.
Typical signs of chronic stress include:
- Scattered mental state: forgetfulness, distractedness, low concentration
- Feelings of fear, anxiety and fragility: crying (releases cortisol), decreased hopefulness and optimism
- Elevated forms of anger: irritation, impatience, harshness, resentment
- Aversion and numbing: avoiding others, overly tired, excessive media, abuse of food/alcohol/drugs
Questions to ask yourself:
What do I typically do under stress? (If you’re not sure, ask someone who knows you well.)
What are my cues of too much or chronic stress? Thoughts? Emotional cues? Physical signs?
Build resiliency through awareness and skillful action
Be intentional and feel empowered to take specific, consistent actions.
- Use the guided 5-min Stress Resilience Practice to measurably reduce your stress response.
- Relax proactively throughout your day to increase self-awareness and unravel stress from the body and mind.
- You have a 90-minute nervous system. Take a real break about every 90-minutes for 5 – 10 min.
- Exercise to release stress hormones and increase endorphins, immunity, energy, and mental capacity.
- Staying hydrated reduces the body’s stress response and increases concentration, memory and energy.
- Practice gratitude to decrease stress and increase optimism, hope and solution-mindedness.
- Reduce media/news stressors: Set time limits, close extra browsers and log out of social media accounts.
What 1 to 3 consistent new or renewed stress-reducing habit will you carry forward?
Increase resilience and well-being by carrying out your commitment(s) over time
Research-backed keys for success:
- Pair your stress-reducing action with another pre-existing activity. IE: Before I turn on my computer to work, I take 3 square breaths.
- Set up reminders and visible or audible cues for you to take your stress resilience actions.
- Reward yourself for following through to create more neurological attraction toward the action.
- Make the action as enjoyable and attracting as possible, or pair with another activity that feels pleasant. IE: Listen to your favorite podcast during your workday walking break.
- Gain accountability and personal support for your goals.
- Check in with your accountability-support partner(s) on a scheduled, consistent basis.
Have a daily morning focus-building practice such as 3 Square Breaths and one consistent morning activity (like teeth brushing) with full presence and embodiment. (Learn embodiment with Centered Embodiment for Presence.)
Have a daily morning set-up when you look in calendar at your day ahead and own your time, well-being and presence by declining or reducing where possible and blocking out focused work time and self-care breaks.
Commit to kindness toward yourself and others.
What strategies will you apply to stay on track with you stress resilience habits?
Who or what can help you to stay accountable to your stress-reducing commitment(s)?
Applied relaxation techniques decrease the effects of stress on your mind and body, with many possible benefits such as:
- Decreased heart rate and blood pressure
- Improved digestion and sleep quality
- Maintaining normal blood sugar levels
- Reduced stress hormone activity
- Reduced chronic pain, impatience and frustration
Autogenic relaxation technique: Imagine or recall a peaceful setting, or perhaps listen to something peaceful like ocean waves, and focus on long, slow, relaxing breathing as you relax your whole body, part-by-part. Make your exhales longer than your inhales to enhance relaxation. The more often and consistently you apply a relaxation technique, the more proficient you become at relaxing in the face of a stressful situation. (Note: If you’ve experienced trauma, please work with a trauma specialist to determine appropriate practices.)
90-Minute Nervous System:
Ultradian brain cycles alternate between periods of high-frequency brain activity lasting about 90 minutes and lower-frequency brain activity lasting about 20-minutes. For the higher-frequency activity to continue rendering the higher-level thinking, creating and communicating that we want, we need to allow the brain to down-shift for about 10 minutes every 90 to 120 minutes by taking a mental break: walk, hydrate, laugh, play, create, powernap, meditate, eat mindfully … get out of your head and into your body and heart. When we do not heed the body’s signals for this break (the yawning and distractedness) and try to push on through, we trigger our stress response and steal energy and focus from the rest of our day. That 10-minute break gives back multifold in creativity, mental sharpness and mood.
- Reduces tension, worry, anxiety, and mild depression
- Reduces the body’s stress response
- Increases sleep quality and restoration
- Improves mood states in a cumulative manner over time
- Remodels the brain’s structure to become more receptive to joy and social connection
- Improves physical well-being, immunity, cardiovascular health, and digestive wellness.
- In some studies, exercise outscores pharmaceuticals for mild to moderate depression and anxiety.
- Improves cognitive function, mood and sleep quality
- Delivers nutrition to cells and is energizing
- About 75% of the brain mass is water, which is essential for proper neuronal function. Dehydration decreases concentration and memory and is linked to negative mood changes, anxiety, fatigue, and increased body pain. Low H20 results in low blood volume, which stresses the brain and heart.
- Men, aim for 4 liters per day. Women, aim for 3 liters per day.
This response is designed to protect yourself in emergency situations by preparing you to react quickly. Your body releases “stress hormones” that increase heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to “fight or flight.” The stress response causes the liver to produce extra blood sugar to boost energy, which is important for emergencies, but very detrimental when chronic, increasing diabetes risk. The stress response is meant to arise for emergencies and then subside, however commonly people are experiencing a sustained stress response, as they perceive many daily life experiences as emergencies, threats and distressing.
Some of the detriments of chronic stress response:
- Decreased cognitive function
- Weakened immune system
- Disrupted sleep and insomnia
- High blood sugar
- Cardiovascular problems
- Gastrointestinal disorders and pain
- Low sex drive and fertility issues
- Musculoskeletal tension and pain
- Psychological: Increases positive emotions and thoughts and fosters adaptive, resilient coping mechanisms.
- Physical: Strengthens immune system and cardiac function, reduces inflammation and feelings of pain and improves sleep.
- Social: Enhances empathy, trust, forgiveness, collaboration, and interpersonal communications.
- Neurological: Decreases stress response and factors of anxiety and depression.
Consistent gratitude strengthens neural pathways that enable feelings and attitudes of joy, contentment and resilience. In other words, gratitude engineers our brains toward happiness.