Why You A.R.E. S.O. Capable of Overcoming Stress: SWIHA Student Blog Series

Posted by Lyric Swedenhjelm on 8/10/23 4:00 PM


Take a moment to recall the last time you felt stress in your life. Did it take you a while to remember the last experience, or was it too easy to quickly identify when stress has been present?

It's safe to say that stress is universal- stress is likely to arise at some time in our human experience, maybe even frequently. In fact, the Recovery Village states "

Understanding the process of stress in the body helps us increase awareness of when stress may affect us, and what happens biologically when it does. This awareness encourages a mindful relationship with stress, thus allowing us to be proactive in handling it. Our senses send signals to the brain, where the amygdala- the "fight or flight" part of the brain- processes these signals and decides whether or not we are in danger. The amygdala then sends signals to the hypothalamus, or "command center", which engages the autonomic nervous system. When this happens and our stress response ignites, our sympathetic nervous system releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and increases our heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. All of this happens in a fraction of a second, so we may not be aware of stress before our brain is already engaged.

This is the body’s response to something called a stressor. Psychologically speaking, a stressor is a situation that causes tension or strain. When our brains sense this stressor is present it triggers the biological stress response as well as the emotional response of feeling stressed. How would it feel if we reframed our relationship to this response? These signs and symptoms are simply the body’s way of telling us that we are on high alert- it is trying to keep us safe. Instead of avoiding the emotion of stress, what would it be like to create space here to understand what our body is protecting us from, and then be proactive at working through it? If we can change our relationship with stress, we may find that stress is a way to help us through an obstacle by signaling to us that some work needs to be done.

Once we can reframe our relationship with stress, I believe we can use it to empower us to overcome our obstacles. I offer an acronym that represents a pathway to work through stress. Just remember, you

A- Acknowledge + Accept

The first thing to do when working through stress is to acknowledge that you are stressed in the first place and accept that this emotion is present. When we are mindful of the body’s stress responses by noticing the physical symptoms such as increased heart rate or breathing, we give ourselves the space to acknowledge and accept that a stressor is present. Acknowledging our emotions around stress is a way to validate them, and once we can validate our emotions, this allows them to flow through us much more easily.

Accepting our stress creates an honest look at our reality so we can confront it head-on with courage and GRIT. An important aspect of this acceptance may include accepting the factors of our stress that are beyond our control. A lot of our stress comes from things that may be out of our hands, and this loss of control triggers deeper emotions. By accepting and acknowledging the aspects of our lives that are not within our control, we can focus our energy on the things that we can.

R- Root + Reflect

Once we create space within us by accepting and acknowledging the presence of our stress, we can ground ourselves in this space by asking ourselves questions like, “

Through reflection, we allow ourselves to engage with our past or present moments and realize why this situation is identified as a stressor in the first place. Then, we can recall the resilience we had to survive stress in the past. This curious questioning brings awareness, which may illuminate the problem in a way that feels more manageable. Understanding our stressors and the ways in which they affect us brings us a sense of control. This type of engagement is a form of mindfulness, which allows us to engage with our stress as a non-judgemental observer. A great way to engage in this type of reflection may include journaling, or talk therapy.

E- Encourage + Empower

Once we accept our stress, reflect on why it is present, and recall our resilience, we can encourage ourselves to navigate it. Encouraging ourselves to manage our stress empowers us to use it to our advantage by learning from it, and growing through it. When we choose to respond to stress differently we grow new neural pathways which, over time, will encourage a different embodiment of stress and allow us to manage it more easily or even prevent deep effects in the future.

S- Sigh + Self Care

An important way of empowering ourselves to manage our stress is calling on our skills to cope with the presence of stress in healthy ways. Stress can go deep within us. When we are experiencing this emotion heavily, it takes a toll on our minds, bodies, and souls. It is essential to be gentle with ourselves in these moments. A deep, cleansing sigh can engage the parasympathetic nervous system, encouraging our brains to slow the stress response. Connecting to the breath connects us to the present moment. In many cases, you may find that in this present moment, you are safe and the stressor isn’t immediately affecting you.

Self-care is also essential in stressful points of our lives. Giving ourselves the love and attention we need by doing calming activities we enjoy, eating nourishing meals, drinking water, getting adequate sleep, and moving are all ways that we can continue to care for our bodies and minds so that we are prepared to manage the stress at hand, or even prevent it.

O- Overcome

Engaging in this stress management pathway will help us to deal with the inevitable occurrence of stress. With continued efforts, being mindful of the presence of stress and how to develop healthy coping mechanisms allows us to change our relationship with it and ultimately use it to our advantage to grow.

In the end, stress is a prevalent issue within society and a common occurrence throughout most of our lives. Without proper management, stress can turn into a chronic issue that leaves lasting effects on our mind-body-soul connection and overall well-being. By understanding how the stress response affects our biology, navigating healthy awareness around how to deal with stress, and reframing our relationship with stress, we know that we A.R.E. S. O. capable of using it to our advantage and growing through this universal experience.

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Topics: Great Graduate, Mindfulness, Self-care, mind body spirit, Stress, Holistic wellness, Holistic health, Stress Management, integrative healing arts practitioner, SWIHA Students

About the Author Lyric Swedenhjelm

Lyric Swedenhjlem is a SWIHA student, enrolled in the Online Integrative Healing Arts Practitioner diploma program. Lyric is working on creating an inclusive community, empowering humans to deepen the mind-body-spirit connection, establish goals and a balanced wellness mindset, as well as, live a life of fulfillment!

Lyric Swedenhjelm

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