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How to Hack Your Stress Response and Overcome Adversity

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Are you feeling overwhelmed and stressed?

It’s natural to feel anxious when life throws a curveball at you. It doesn’t have to last forever—there are things you can do to help yourself become more resilient, manage your stress response, and find ways to thrive in the face of adversity.

This post will help you build effective strategies for effectively managing stress and supporting the health of your nervous system.

Ready to overcome some adversity? Keep reading!

What is a Stress Response?

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any demand or threat. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the fight-or-flight response.

This response is triggered by a complex network of nerves and hormones that activate the entire nervous system, flooding the body with stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. When activated, this fight-or-flight response causes several physiological changes in the mind and body: increased heart rate; dilating blood vessels; heightened senses; suppressing digestion and ongoing emotional processing; muscular tension/release; releasing sugar for energy, and other changes.

All these physical effects give us maximum explosive power when we need to either attack an enemy or flee from danger.

The hypothalamus gland plays the leading role in triggering this reaction by initiating a message that travels through the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) straight to our adrenal glands located on top of each kidney, sending signals to release hormones known collectively as catecholamines which start our fight-or-flight reaction. Catecholamine levels produced during this time can be up to 1000 times higher than normal!

The hippocampus also connects with SNS neurons but sends inhibitory signals rather than activating them — meaning it regulates activity, keeping our stress responses regulated so we don’t become overwhelmed with fear all day long!

The physical effects of activating this response can take anywhere from 2 seconds up to 30 minutes before subsiding, often leaving you feeling exhausted after they pass. It’s important to recognize when you’ve been triggered because, if left unchecked, it can wreak havoc on your overall well-being leading to issues such as anxiety disorders and depression.

Learning to recognize and respond effectively during those moments will help you better manage your mental and physical health over time, enabling you to live a more fulfilling life free from excessive stress and worry.

How to Hack Your Stress Response

Managing stress can be challenging, but the key to finding resilience lies in knowing how to hack your stress response. Learning how to cope with stressors in a way that works for you is crucial, and it’s something that you can train yourself to do.

While some stress is unavoidable, it’s important to recognize when it becomes overwhelming and to take steps to mitigate it. By taking an active role in managing your stress, you’ll find that you’re better equipped to handle whatever comes your way.

#1 Track Your Response

Stress is a normal part of life, but it’s important not to let it take over. Learning to track your stress response can help you manage it better.

The first step is to identify your triggers. What situations or thoughts tend to make you feel stressed? Once you know your triggers, keep a journal to track your stress levels throughout the day.

You could also use a mood-tracking app or wearable fitness tracker to make it easier. Pay attention to physical symptoms, such as tension in your shoulders or a rapid heartbeat, and note them in your journal.

#2 Support Your Body

Our bodies go through so much stress every day that it’s important we take some time to support it. And there are many activities we can do to help ourselves.

For example, have you ever considered taking an ice bath? It might seem intimidating, but immersing yourself in cold water has many benefits, including reducing inflammation and increasing circulation. Even just a few minutes can help improve your mood and reduce stress. And if the thought of taking a dip in cold water puts you off, don’t worry, there are other options.

Exercise is a great way to prepare your mind and body to deal with stress. Not only does it help release endorphins, but it also strengthens your muscles and improves overall health.

The next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed, or ideally, as a preventative measure, take some time for yourself and engage in activities that support your body and nervous system.

#3 Support Your Mind

Stress can be a challenging experience for anyone. But did you know there are ways to help your mind cope with stress, build resilience, and ultimately feel more in control of your emotions?

One approach is setting boundaries, which enables you to prioritize self-care and avoid overwhelming situations. Setting boundaries can have a learning curve, so although it won’t always be easy, don’t give up on them! They are crucial for your health.

Another increasingly popular technique is neurofeedback, which uses electronic monitoring of brain waves to provide real-time feedback on how your mind is functioning. Hypnosis and meditation are also highly effective methods that can help you achieve greater mental clarity and emotional balance.

By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can support your mind in coping with stress and become more resilient to life’s ups and downs.

Tips and Tricks to Support Your Nervous System

Taking care of your nervous system is crucial for your overall well-being and mental health. Sometimes, we can get caught up in the stresses of daily life and forget to give our nerves the care and support they need.

I have some tips and tricks to help you on the way, so don’t worry!

Radical acceptance, surrender, confidence, and self-compassion are all powerful tools to support our nervous system. Radical acceptance means acknowledging and accepting our thoughts and feelings, even if they are difficult or uncomfortable.

Surrendering means letting go of the need to control everything and trusting in the process.

Confidence means having faith in yourself and your abilities, while self-compassion means being kind and gentle with yourself.

By incorporating these practices into our daily lives, we can support our nervous system and cultivate a sense of peace and calm.

Final Thoughts on Hacking Your Stress Response

Each person’s body and circumstances are unique, and so are their triggers and coping mechanisms. Experimenting with different techniques is the only way to find what works best for you.

Remember, it’s not about eliminating stress from your life – that’s impossible – but rather finding healthy ways to manage it.

Whether it’s through meditation, exercise, or talking to a therapist, there is no shame in seeking help. So, take some time to reflect on what you’ve learned and try out some new strategies.

As you navigate life’s ups and downs, know that you can control how you respond to stress.


About the Author: Molli Lou Hollows is a certified Hypnotherapist and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) practitioner with a passion for helping people reach their full potential.

Photo by RF._.studio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-woman-in-gray-spaghetti-strap-top-and-gray-pants-running-beside-concrete-wall-3621183/

July is BIPOC Mental Health Month

Observed each July and formerly recognized as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, BIPOC Mental Health Month highlights the unique mental health challenges and needs of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC). Please join us in recognizing the struggles of BIPOC and bringing awareness to the need for adequate, accessible, culturally relevant mental health treatment, care, and services.

www.rtor.org and its sponsor Laurel House are committed to the advancement of racial equity and social justice and to making mental health services available to all.

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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