If you don’t know how to deal with stress, here’s what you need to know.
Identical twins Dr Emily Nagoski and Dr Amelia Nagoski have provided a simple way out for us to deal with all the stress in our lives in their new book, Burnout: The secret to solving the stress cycle.
Emily and Amelia – who have a PhD in Health Behaviour and a Doctorate in Musical Arts – write that we don’t get rid of the stress because we never complete its cycle.
The sisters believe that completing the ‘stress cycle’ is the way forward to achieve greater mental clarity.
If you’re wondering what a stress cycle is, you may think of it as the moment your body learns that you have faced the danger which threatened you and you’re now all safe.
In other words, it’s the completion of your full circle of stress.
Let’s simplify things by taking a primitive example. Back in the days of our ancestors, it was very easy for them to complete their stress cycle in a short time.
For instance, upon seeing a threat – such as a wild animal – they would run off to safety or maybe hunt it down.
After having got rid of the danger, they would celebrate as their source of stress gets removed, marking an end to their stress cycle.
But things are not the same now. For instance, if someone harasses you at your workplace or poses some other kind of threat, you wouldn’t be able to respond on your own.
Despite all your wishes of slapping the rude folk and ending the problem for good, you would have to raise the matter with HR as the rules and social norms dictate.
Although your cortisol and adrenaline have spiked up and your body has entered the fight or flight mode, you’re still forced to act the way the society expects you to.
So you never complete your stress cycle.
And if the stressful instances, may they be of any sort, happen frequently, the Nagoskis say that your stress response will lead to chronic activation, increasing risk of heart disease as well as digestive problems.
Therefore, you ought to complete your stress cycle, if you want to enjoy a healthy life.
To help you do that, here is an extract from the book whereby the sisters suggest seven ways to complete your stress cycle.
1. De-stress with affection
‘When friendly chitchat with colleagues doesn’t cut it, when you’re too stressed out for laughter, deeper connection with a loving presence is called for. Most often, this comes from some loving and beloved person who likes, respects, and trusts you, whom you like, respect, and trust,’ write the Nagoskis.
‘It doesn’t have to be physical affection, though physical affection is great; a warm hug, in a safe and trusting context, can do as much to help your body feel like it has escaped a threat as jogging a couple of miles, and it’s a heck of a lot less sweaty.
‘One example of affection is the ‘six-second kiss’ advice from relationship researcher John Gottman. Every day, he suggests, kiss your partner for six seconds.
‘That’s one six-second kiss, mind you, not six one-second kisses… six seconds is too long to kiss someone you resent or dislike, and it’s far too long to kiss someone with whom you feel unsafe.’
2. De-stress with crying
‘Anyone who says ‘crying doesn’t solve anything’ doesn’t know the difference between dealing with the stress and dealing with the situation that causes the stress,’ the sisters say.
‘Have you had the experience of just barely making it inside before you slam the door behind you and burst into tears for ten minutes?
‘Then you wipe your nose, sigh a big sigh, and feel relieved from the weight of whatever made you cry? You may not have changed the situation that caused the stress, but you completed the cycle.’
3. De-stress with creative expression
‘Engaging in creative activities today leads to more energy, excitement, and enthusiasm tomorrow,’ the sisters write.
‘Why? How? Like sports, the arts—including painting, sculpture, music, theatre, and storytelling in all forms—create a context that tolerates, even encourages, big emotions.’
4. De-stress with physical activity
The Nagoskis write that exercise is ‘your first line of attack in the battle against burnout.’
5. De-stress with breathing
‘Deep, slow breaths down-regulate the stress response—especially when the exhalation is long and slow and goes all the way to the end of the breath, so that your belly contracts,’ say the Nagoskis.
‘A simple, practical exercise is to breathe in to a slow count of five, hold that breath for five, then exhale for a slow count of ten, and pause for another count of five. Do that three times—just one minute and fifteen seconds of breathing— and see how you feel.’
6. De-stress with your crew
‘Casual but friendly social interaction is the first external sign that the world is a safe place,’ write the Nagoskis.
‘Just go buy a cup of coffee and say ‘nice day’ to the barista. Compliment [your colleagues] earrings. Reassure your brain that the world is a safe, sane place, and not all people suck.’
7. De-stress with laughter
The sisters note: ‘Laughing together—and even just reminiscing about the times we’ve laughed together—increases relationship satisfaction.
‘We don’t mean social or ‘posed’ laughter, we mean belly laughs—deep, impolite, helpless laughter.’
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