The Stress Cycle

April 4, 2023

Do you notice yourself holding tension in your shoulders? Is there a permanent knot in your stomach? Does your throat feel tight or are your jaws permanently clenched? Do you experience brain fog and lack the mental clarity and focus that you need to complete tasks efficiently?  These are all subtle signs that you are in the ‘stress zone’. This is a state of hyper activation in the body known as fight or flight, which occurs  as a response to a perceived ‘threat’.

In the past, our perceived ‘threat’ might have been an animal approaching us while we are out hunting. Upon returning back home to safety and being connected again with family, the stress cycle would be complete. Stress cycles were frequent, and the reaction to them was very physical in nature. But the stress cycle was always completed, bringing the body back into its resting state, resolving any experienced stress.

With today’s lifestyle, the stress response in our body is the same, but our stressors are very different. The threat could be a deadline that is due, childcare challenges, commutes, financial pressures – and the list goes on. Essentially we are living in a stress response, constantly in this activated state of fight or flight.

We never truly give ourselves time to close the stress cycle in our nervous system and therefore we live with cortisol & adrenaline running through our system all the time. Living in a survival response of stress, anxiety and overwhelm has become the norm! 

Our body then very quickly begins to let us know that we are out of balance through physical ailments, and, if left unchecked, burnout and breakdown. When we are in this flight and fight mode response, it can feel disorientating to slow down and we can become addicted to the busyness of being productive.

So how do we regulate our nervous system and close the stress cycle?

BREATH, TOUCH, SOUND & MOVEMENT REGULATE THE NERVOUS SYSTEM.

We can ‘train’ our system to close the stress cycle, constantly coming back to a state of feeling more regulated again.

We can do this by ‘toning’ our vagus nerve. Our Vagus Nerve supports our ability to come out of the fight or flight response and to be in the calmer space of  ‘rest and digest’.

So how do we tone our Vagus Nerve?

1.Slowing the breath down with deep belly breaths, making the exhale a bit longer than the inhale. For example, breathe in for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 6.

2.Place one hand on your breast bone and the other hand on the lower belly as you slow the breath down. The contact of the hands with the body can have a soothing effect on a stressed system. Connect with the contact of your feet on the floor to feel more grounded and settled. 

Set your alarm to do this on regular intervals throughout your day.

3. Movement: moving your body in any way!

-may be a few stretches in the morning or regularly throughout the day

-yoga /pilates/ high intensity workouts/ low intensity workouts

-dance, walking, running, the gym!

Any form of movement that leaves you feeling energised and uplifted rather than exhausted and depleted.

4.Cold water exposure has also been shown to tone our vagal nerve.

5.Spend time outside in nature if that’s possible for you, and feel your feet on the ground or sit on the earth; resting your nervous system and opening your senses to the life force of nature around you. The healing and connecting powers of being in nature make it a powerful,restorative force, even if only for a few minutes each day.

Know that when you are doing these practices, you are actually rewiring and retraining how  your nervous system responds to stress and the demands of modern day life. 

Our Time Is Precious

Our time is precious. But can we give ourselves permission to take care of our nervous system health? Taking time throughout our day and week to regulate our nervous system can have a significant positive impact not only on our physical health, but our mental and emotional wellbeing.

Toning the vagus nerve helps us to develop a more healthy stress response, improving emotional regulation and becoming more resilient as we are more able to cope with stressful situations. 

Slowly and gently, we can rewire our Nervous system into a more calm state so that stress, anxiety and overwhelm are no longer the norm. As we learn to complete the cycle of stress, could our ‘new’ normal be in capacity for greater connection, feeling more compassionate, in a state of flow, feeling relaxed, calm and productive? 

Imagine the potent agent for change that this could be for all!

the stress cycle

At all my workshops and retreats we practice many skills to help us regulate our nervous system; simple but effective ways to calm stress and anxiety on a regular basis. 

Click on the link below to find out more about upcoming events at Lucile Cassidy Retreats.

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