This post contains affiliates links to show you how to let go of stress for good.
Learning how to let go of stress has never been more important than now! Stress and anxiety are at an all-time high.
Turn on any news station and you’ll see that today’s chronic stressful events have taken a toll on society as a whole. On an individual level, people of all ages are suffering and trying their best to cope with this dismal situation.
In years past, you may have had to deal with a stressful situation from time to time. Fortunately, your body and mind had a chance to recover before being hit again. These days, people are subjected to stressful situations and content on a continual basis.
They’re always accessible by cell phones. Stressful news is streaming 24/7, 365 days a year, giving you no break from it. Financial burdens are up, and that’s not all. There’s a whole host of stress factors bombarding you day after day, week after week, month after month.
So what can you do about it? Sadly, many try to cope with it by turning to harmful addictions or even contemplate suicide. A better way would be to understand how stress cycles work. That way you can regain control and start living a healthier, happier life.
Stress Cycle Phase 1- You’re Blindsided By a Stressful Event
To begin, let’s look at the moment when you first get hit by a stressful event or trigger. Sometimes, this is unavoidable and there’s nothing you can do about it. You didn’t see it coming and had no prior notice it was heading your way.
But for much of the stress we encounter, it’s of our own doing. We surround ourselves with toxic people. We stay in a job or career we abhor. Then, we complain about it and get irate every time something happens that we don’t agree with. But that’s not all.
We stay tuned in to the news or logged on to social media, allowing ourselves to be riled up on a continual basis. Maybe we neglect our health and have to deal with the physical toll it takes on us.
You might be the kind of person who constantly spends outside of your income or budget. Then you suffer the consequences from the financial stress that follows. All of these are avoidable and within our control.
So how do you let go of stress? Where do you start?
First, take it upon yourself to analyze your top stress factors. See where your stress is coming from and ask yourself if there’s anything you can do about it. Could you set boundaries with someone toxic?
Maybe quit spending so much time watching the news. Perhaps limit your time reading social media! Work on eliminating or minimizing stress factors within your control. That’s the first step to break the stress cycle.
Next, make a stress management plan for those unavoidable moments you can’t control. For example, maybe you suddenly become a caretaker for an elderly parent. Or, perhaps, the company you work for goes under and you’re left unemployed. These aren’t situations you caused or could avoid.
But you can have a plan to handle things when stress like this strikes. Having a systematic response to stress when it shows up is vital to preventing the damaging health effects it has on your body and mind.
Stress Cycle Phase 2 – A Kneejerk Reaction Ensues
Part of the problem with stress is our reaction to it. Most people never even take responsibility for how they handle the stress they encounter. Instead, they approach it from a victim standpoint.
They often complain about the things that are happening to them, building it up into a raw and emotional tale of woe, which it is, to be factual. But your outlook and handling of the situation is what really matters.
There have been millions of people who have overcome hardships each year, and they do it with a can-do, positive mindset. They acknowledge the stressful situation, but forge ahead with purpose and power as opposed to panic and suffering.
Is this you?
What is your typical reaction to a stressful moment? Do you start shaking or crying? Do you pour yourself a stiff drink or walk outside to smoke a cigarette? Or maybe you notice you tend to snap at others, and regret it later – adding even more stress to your day?
Some people post a rant on social media about whatever stress they’re enduring, so that everyone else can witness it in real time. They usually receive engagement that further affirms their position about the wrongdoing.
You might be someone who grabs a pint of ice cream and devours it while wrapped up in a blanket on the couch crying. Stress hits everyone differently. Some become paralyzed by it, others go into attack mode – and some cope strategically.
You have the power to control your reaction to anything. Even if you can’t control the stressful situation itself, you are in control once it hits. First, make a decision about what you want to see happen with your reactions.
Go from panic to power
Once you know what outcome you want for your reactions, you can devise a plan to make sure that happens whenever stress arises in your life. You’ll need to have a strategy for your first reactions.
For example, you might want to take 5-10 minutes to go off by yourself and practice deep breathing. This will help instantly calm you down and allow you to think more clearly.
Next, you might want to jot down some things on paper. Write down the facts about what is happening. You might rate it on a scale of not that bad to disastrous and life changing.
Then give yourself some time to reflect on it – on what you should do about it. Think or write down every option you have for reacting. Feel free to write things you know aren’t good for you, like devouring a pint of ice cream.
When you see the smart options side by side with the kneejerk poor choices, it makes it easier to see what your path should be. Only after you’ve done these steps should you allow yourself to have a calm, sincere reaction.
Stress Cycle Phase 3 – Your Body Rallies to Minimize Internal Damage
There’s a benefit to stress in some cases, which is why your body is equipped to deal with it from time to time. What it’s not meant to handle is repetitive stress that won’t let up and give you time to heal.
Encountering stress releases a surge of cortisol and adrenaline into your body. This is wonderful if you meet a wild animal and need the awareness and speed or strength to survive.
It’s not so good if this flood of hormones is constantly filling your system because you hate your job, the traffic is bad, and your relationship is on the rocks. When your nervous system is faced with chronic stress, it tries to protect your body internally.
Think About this…
Think about how you feel under immense stress. You feel tense because your muscles tighten up. Your heart races and your breath does, too. If you have the ability to check, you’d probably see that your blood pressure had shot up.
It’s not harmful for you to experience this periodically. Your body knows how to handle it. But if you never let it rest – if it’s always on high alert, then it will suffer and be unable to recover.
What you want to do – if you realize your body is physically engaged in responding o a stressful event – is immediately work on reversing it and returning to a relaxed state. You can do this in a variety of ways.
Aside from deep breathing and meditation, you can do something called progressive muscle relaxation. This is when you purposefully tense up and then relax your muscles. You pair this with consistent deep breathing, and soon, your body will calm down and you’ll regain the clarity you need to think through and address the situation.
Stress Cycle Phase 4 – Your Overall Health Suffers
If you don’t put an end to the stress response and just let it run wild, you’ll end up having to deal with long-term health issues that stem from chronic stress. These can be mild or severe, and can wreak havoc on your life if left unchecked.
Chronic stress isn’t just miserable to live with. It has real health repercussions. The first thing that happens is your immune system suffers. Little by little, it’s weakened to the point that you become vulnerable to every cold and other illness that comes your way.
If you notice you’re always coming down with something, you might check to see if stress could be the root cause. Another thing that happens when someone is under long-term stress is they begin to see their blood pressure soar.
During a stressful event, your heart starts beating rapidly and your blood vessels narrow. If you’re not careful, you’ll be setting yourself up for a major health problem like a heart attack or stroke.
Stomach Troubles & Hair Issues
Some people develop stomach ulcers or acid reflux due to the amount of stress they live with on a regular basis. This makes life painful and miserable, and with a little attention to the root of your stress, it could help.
Digestive issues start to become a problem for those who allow themselves to be mired in stress all of the time. You might have an upset stomach or have trouble going to the bathroom.
Some people – both men and women – start to see their hair fall out from heavy amounts of stress. This isn’t a situation where you’re pulling it out, although that’s one reaction to stress some people have.
This is where you take a shower and see clumps of hair falling out into the drain – all because your body is flooded with cortisol day after day and it can’t rest, relax and repair itself to support you at all times.
Stress and Diabetes
One health problem that has a dangerous cycle like stress does is diabetes. Diabetics often feel stressed because of their disease. And yet stress worsens diabetes. If your blood sugar numbers are not in the normal range, you may need a lifestyle overhaul to eliminate stress.
Sometimes it’s not anything life shattering in terms of health issues – but something that chips away at your quality of life. Daily headaches can occur – sometimes evolving into more serious migraines.
You have to look at all of your health issues and ask yourself if it’s just a coincidence or if the health issue is being brought on by the sheer volume of stress you’re dealing with, and then alter your life to protect your health.
Stress Cycle Phase 5 – Vulnerability to Stress Soars
This last part of the stress cycle. Here your body is physically suffering and your mind and emotions are working overtime to deal with things. By this point, you’re leaving yourself wide open to yet another attack.
Think of it in the simplest of terms. Let’s say you started your day off stressed because you overslept and got caught in traffic, missing an important meeting at work. All day long, you were hit with demands from your boss, and by the time you left, you were exhausted and just wanted to go home.
But when you got home, you encountered an unhappy spouse, crying children and a big mess to clean up. You’re already worn down, so instead of being able to face this new bout of stress sensibly, your reaction is worse – you lash out and may end up in tears.
That’s how the stress cycle works, even if it’s on a longer timeline. Every day that you have to survive a stressful episode – where you don’t get to enjoy your day, laugh and smile – is another brick in the wall of overwhelm.
Eventually, and It may be the same day or a week from now, you’ll be hit with another incident and you’ll handle it a little worse than you would have before. It’s almost torturous how we allow stress to run (and RUIN!!) our lives.
It’s Time to Break The Cycle
You don’t have to be at the mercy of stress in your life. So many women tend to throw up their hands and shrug it off, as if they’re doomed to experience stress at this level. There are many women who say that’s just not so – and you can be one of the ones living their best life, less affected by the stress you encounter.
All it takes is a good understanding about the cycle of stress and a drive and determination to not let it rule you anymore. If you’re ready to take back control and face stress head on to prevent it from wreaking havoc in your world, you can make a plan to do that.
Start by pinpointing and eliminating or reducing the stress you have in your life. Analyze how it’s affected your physical and mental well-being. Then strategize about how you’ll respond to stress in the future.
Engage regularly in stress-relieving measures. Don’t only use them when you’re already stressed. If you integrate them into your life consistently, it can stave off stress and the damage it does, before you ever have to worry about it.