4 Things I Just Learnt About Getting Out Of The Stress Cycle

Just this weekend I ran into my bedroom, closed the door and started doing star jumps and running on the spot. I’m sure it was last week or the week before that I was in the bathroom, door closed, light off, sobbing to myself. And then on Thursday night I was running around playing duck, duck goose, and trying to remember silly sounds and actions laughing and smiling until my cheeks hurt.

What about you?

Can you remember the last time you felt that intense feeling of stress and tension build up and you just didn’t know what to do with it? Maybe you lashed out and ‘fought’ back in the situation, or wanted to run away and hide. Maybe you were in a team meeting and had to literally bite your tongue or blink back tears to ‘keep your cool’.

Turns out these are all perfectly natural responses. Albeit not always perfectly desired ones.

Stress is a natural response in our system, to keep us safe and sound (from lions and tigers and bears, oh my!). The brain is firing off signals to freeze, run or hide. And these days the signals are getting triggered by things like our boss saying annoying things, missing a deadline, or your boyfriend forgetting to take out the rubbish at the end of a long hard day at work.

And while at times those moments feel so insignificant you’re even more annoyed at yourself for getting so hyped up about it, the response you’re having is natural.

I went to a talk last week by sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski. They’ve just written a book all about stress and burn out. A topic close to my heart and likely yours too. I loved how they simplified the stress response and in particular how they kept referring to it as a cycle that we get trapped in.

For years you’ve likely stopped yourself from releasing that stress in some way or another. Back in ‘the day’ we had a natural way to release – once we were safe from that animal chasing us, we got to breathe, relax, get comfort from a friend. However these days those triggers (animals chasing us) just keep coming and we’re not taking that moment to release.

When you read all those articles that are telling you to exercise more to release stress, or to seek help and talk to a friend, there’s a bigger reason for it. All the advice is about exiting the cycle. When you exercise, laugh, hug, talk to a friend (connect), or cry your heart out, you’re allowing the stress to release and you get out the cycle.

So, now that you know why you’d do any of those things in the first place, it makes it way easier to actually do them, right?

Here’s 4 other super cool things I learnt from their talk:

  1. Hugs – you must hug for 20 seconds before your body will soften and relax (i.e. know it’s not in stress mode anymore). Try it, you can literally feel your body soften.
  2. Crying – yep we all know a good cry feels great a little while after, but specifically when you are having that release focus on the feeling in your body (not the crazy thoughts that are replaying things in your mind). This tells your body that the physical sensation of emotion is okay and therefore okay to release the stress.
  3. Journaling – yea, yea, another one you always hear about. The reason for it is because of the process of pouring out, that’s what matters most. It’s a form of self expression (there are other ways to do this too) that allows you to release, and once again get out of that stress cycle.
  4. Not Enoughness – when you’re feeling that inner critic chirp in that you’re “not enough” (we all hear that voice at times!), what it does is actually mask a deeper level or loneliness. So, when you hear that voice, your go-to is to connect. Find anyway to connect in that moment. As opposed to brushing it aside, hoping it will go away. Treat the deeper root cause of the thoughts in the first place. Connect connect connect. (Or go for that 20 second hug, sooooo good!).

We’ve all been there before – where we’re so stuck in the stress loop it can feel impossible to get out. Share this post with a friend today, it could be just what they need to hear to short-circuit their stress cycle right now.