The Physiology Behind Our Reactions

Now that we’ve covered our Biological Connections – let’s move on to why starting small is important. Stress is more than just a fleeting emotion – it’s a deep-seated response embedded in our biology that is designed to protect us. However, understanding its roots allows us to change how it impacts us. Let’s explore how it works and some high-level stress management techniques to help – in the next part of our Welcoming Wisdom series.

The Fight, Flight, or Freeze Response

Back when our ancestors had to evade wild beasts, our fight, flight, freeze response was our lifesaver. In modern times, this same response is over-activated by pressing challenges and deadlines, uncomfortable conversations, or worrisome thoughts. This response isn’t solely negative. In short bursts, it can sharpen our focus and reaction time, helping us during critical moments.

Chemical Responses

When we’re stressed, our body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. While they are helpful in the short term – if these hormone levels remain high for too long – they can lead to health issues that may include chronic diseases, digestive problems, and sleep disturbances. Physical activities like walking or even deep breathing exercises can help lower cortisol levels – especially when we’re caught in our automatic responses.

Body and Mind

The body and mind connection are intricate – constantly influencing each other. A racing heart or tensed muscles might lead to feelings of panic. While consistent feelings or states of mind – like anxiety – can manifest in physical symptoms. Recognizing that these two are intertwined helps us better address our stressors. Meditation and mindfulness can have profound effects on both the mind and body – promoting relaxation and creating resilient habits against stress.

Controlling the Cascade

Recognizing the early signs – generally known as “triggers” – of stress in the body can prevent a small spark from becoming a wildfire. Did you know? The opposite is just as important. We’re starting to have language around “glimmers” which – in simple terms – are moments to identify when things go right. Whether it’s deep breathing, a short break, or even a soothing cup of tea – these little actions have big impacts. Building a daily relaxation routine – like journaling, listening to calming music, or even just focusing on your breath for a minimum of ten inhales/exhales – can help regulate your stress responses.

Words of Wisdom

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right” – Henry Ford

Change – even when we want to make it – is a stressful experience. Starting small and knowing ourselves is important. We are literally hardwired for stress – and in the right amounts – it can be extremely beneficial. When it overloads – it’s important to catch it early. Like all neuroplasticity – how we react and what we give our power to over time – whether that is to our glimmers, stressors, or triggers – will determine whether you think you can or think you can’t manage your stress – and either way you’ll be right.**

Wisdom Workout

Spend a week noting moments when you feel connected, energized, and light. Also note moments when you feel depleted, heavy, and stressed. Is it a particular scenario, a physical symptom, or a specific thought that alerts you? By tuning into your own unique glimmers and triggers – you’re a step closer to creating your own personalized strategies to the external and internal reactions to shape the life you want to lead.

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**Note | Our blog is designed for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult a healthcare professional before starting a new health regimen. The FDA hasn't evaluated our content, and it's not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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