Stress Response and Self-Care

Something upsetting has just happened in your life. A friend or family member asks “Are you okay?” and you respond, “I’m fine.” Does that sound familiar? Today’s post is about

our stress response and how we are doing a disservice to ourselves on a daily basis when it comes to stress.

We need to relax, relate, and release. Yes, I went there, for those of you who understand that reference. This article by Elizabeth Scott, MS discusses the special stress women face because of the many roles we play each day.

Here are some proven stress relievers that will work quickly if you are triggered. These methods can help get you centered and at peace, also by Elizabeth Scott, MS

When you feel stressed, your body experiences a collection of changes known as your stress response, or your fight-or-flight response. Your stress response is the collection of physiological changes that occur when you face a perceived threat, that is when you face situations where you feel the demands outweigh your resources to successfully cope. These situations are known as stressors.

This stress response triggers many involuntary changes in your body, which give you an extra burst of energy so that you can fight or run away from perceived threats. This was a helpful response for us in earlier times when most of the stresses we faced were physical. This burst of physical energy was needed to keep us alive in many cases. Nowadays, though, more and more of our threats are psychological — job stress, interpersonal conflict, etc. — and this response to stress, which can actually make us think less clearly, isn't always necessary or even helpful.

Chronic Stress - When you face stressors often and find that you have little control in these situations, you are at risk of experiencing chronic stress which can affect your health in many negative ways.

Having your stress response activated long-term and not getting your body back to a state of relaxation can tax your system, leaving you overstimulated and depleted at the same time. Studies on health and stress have shown that stress can be a causal or contributing factor to virtually all major illnesses because chronic stress can lower immunity.

So, what do I do when I’m stressed? If I’m at work and not able to go for a walk, I say my calming mantra. There has been many a day I have wanted to punch somebody in the throat (usually a prosecutor), so with my eyes narrowed, and my fists clenched I would have to march down the hall from one courtroom to the next muttering under my breath since I couldn't go for a walk to clear my head. I came up with a soothing mantra to calm me down, so I could continue handling my business. It's how I got my stress and frustration under control. Don't laugh, it worked.

If I’m at home, I’ll tell you the truth, if it's my husband who has tap danced on my last nerve my go to crutch - sweets (ice cream, brownies, cookies etc.) I can’t help it. But if I’m really stressed maybe I resort to a touch of some retail therapy. A bubble bath or shower with some aromatherapy if I can get some time away from my family responsibilities, or escaping into a book are also on my list. Meditation is another one of my stress relievers, I try very hard to practice it daily. “Vegging out” in front of the TV is another thing I do to relieve stress. I talk about the situation with my friends and my husband (if he isn't the cause) think the issue through, and do my best to let it go.

There are different types of stress management techniques. Some are quick fixes, and some are long term resolutions. What you need depends on the situation, you likely need a mix of different approaches: breathing exercises and listening to music are quick fixes to relieve stress. Meditation and exercise build resistance to stress, maintaining boundaries between you and difficult situations and people in your life are ways to cut down on stressful situations entirely.

Women can be prone to dealing with stress in less than healthy ways like my unhealthy eating by turning to sweets. Drinking too much or smoking are additional unhealthy habits. Therefore, it’s important to examine the roots of stress and examine the way you cope and deal with it. Make sure you are processing your stress and listening to your inner wisdom.