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Stress: Why it happens and how to manage it

Have you ever felt like you’re running on autopilot?

You’re always ‘busy’, simply going through the motions, feeling unmotivated to make changes.

Past trauma, challenging work situations, societal pressure and unhappy relationships are just some of the things that produce mental and emotional stress.

And these feelings are stopping you from living your best life.

The good news is, there is a way to navigate these challenges without burning out, and regain control over your life. In fact, you can even use stress to your advantage to lead a happier life!

In this blog, we discuss why stress happens and what tools and strategies you can use to manage it. You will:

  • Understand what happens to your mind and body when you’re stressed

  • Gain a more profound awareness of how you function to optimise your daily routines

  • Be ready to live a happier and more productive life

Let’s get started!

What happens to your body when you’re stressed

Stress is a natural response to dire circumstances in your life.

When you’re in danger, or perceived danger, stress hormones are released to boost energy levels. This is your sympathetic nervous system preparing your body to fight or flee! This was particularly important in caveman times when we were surrounded by danger such as threatening animals and tribes.

These days, the dangers are very different, but our mind and body still react the same way. For example, when you touch a hot stove, you move away quickly - flight.

Once the stressful situation has passed, your body knows how to calm down and maintain balance.

That’s the parasympathetic nervous system restoring your body to a calm and composed state.

This short-term stress protects you from harm, like a burn from the stove

However, when left unregulated, your body suffers.

According to the American Institute of Stress, 77% of people experience stress that affects their physical health, while 73% have stress that impacts their mental health.

To describe the changes in the body when a person undergoes stress, Hans Selye, a medical doctor and researcher, came up with the concept of the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).

Understanding GAS allows you to identify signs of stress.

1. Alarm Reaction Stage

This stage prepares you to either fight or flee from a dangerous situation. Your adrenal glands activate, and a surge of hormones is released. Signs include a sudden increase in heart rate and energy.

2. Resistance Stage

Some stressful situations continue for an extended period which is why your body learns how to adapt to stress. You may think you’re doing well, but your body starts to feel otherwise. You may experience irritability, frustration and poor concentration during this stage.

3. Exhaustion Stage

At this stage, you already feel burnt out, depressed or anxious. You no longer have the strength to fight stress, and you feel like your situation is hopeless.

The reason behind your reactions

Here are several factors that determine the way you react to stressors:

  • Sensory input

Your five main senses are responsible in detecting danger and start a series of reactions. When you feel unsafe, your body produces more energy for you to take action and seek safety.

  • Genetics

Genes have a role in controlling your stress responses, explaining why some people are more sensitive than others.

  • Life experiences and memories

Stored memories help you remember how you reacted the first time you faced a similar situation. Perhaps your relationship broke down and you felt rejected. Now when you perceive any situation where there is potential for rejection, you become stressed.

The behaviours, beliefs, memories and perceptions that build up your identity eventually become part of your unconscious mind.

Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman states that ninety-five percent of thought, emotion and learning occur in the unconscious mind – that is, without awareness.

This explains why changing something about yourself is not that easy.

You find it hard to cope when you're unaware of how your body responds to stress and what your emotions mean.

How to manage stress effectively

Developing better awareness will improve the quality of your life. The first step to managing stress and using it to your advantage is being aware of your environment and current situation. Here are three essential practices we teach our clients to develop better awareness and manage stress effectively.

1. Breathwork

Deep breathing calms and regulates your nervous system.

This powerful technique stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest.

It provides more oxygen to your brain, aiding concentration, alertness and learning.

Here’s one simple technique you can implement today:

  1. Inhale for 4 seconds

  2. Hold your breath for 4 seconds.

  3. Exhale slowly for 4 seconds.

  4. Hold your breath for 4 seconds.

By bringing this simple practice into your day for a few minutes at a time, you will calm your nerves and become more focused. Try it! I guarantee you’ll notice a difference in short space of time.

2. Meditation

Meditation creates a space for self-awareness and reflection, allowing you to train your mind

When you train your mind, you gain more control in your life.

You gain new perspectives on how to approach stressful situations.

You become mindful of how you respond, rather than react.

You think more positively.

If you don’t know where to start, we offer a 15-minute guided meditation for beginners. Get started with it today and you’ll find yourself:

  • Saying yes to new opportunities.

  • Maintaining your focus on important daily activities.

  • Feeling calmer during stressful situations.

You can access it here.

3. Journaling

Journaling forces us to slow down and be mindful, and you learn more about yourself as you write down your thoughts and emotions.

If journaling is new to you and you’re wondering where to begin, start with these three prompts:

Today I did _____, and it made me happy.

Today I did _____, and it made someone else happy.

Today, I am grateful for _____.

In just four minutes a day, you’ll notice that you begin to think more positively and become more motivated to achieve your goals.

If you’re ready to learn more about regulating stress effectively and taking control of yourself, you can book a FREE 45-minute Discovery Call with us! We will help you:

  • Uncover and shift the beliefs that are holding you back from living the life you want.

  • Get unstuck and start living with positive momentum.

  • Find your purpose and take back your power to create a truly fulfilling life.


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