Alison Deutsch Coaching Reimagine Midlife. Take the Next Step.
When you attend a talk on the subject of stress, or -- in this case -- read a summary article about it, the last thing you want to hear is that we’re living in uncertain times, how chronic stress can be damaging to your health, or all the things you should be doing to reduce that stress. That commentary would likely stress you out even more.
As a practitioner certified in applied positive psychology, I take a different approach.
I teach the neurobiology of stress because it empowers you to break free from the vicious cycle of chronic stress and, over time, become less likely to get triggered in the first place.
I’ve found that when clients understand the science of stress, they don’t have to rely on sheer willpower to find major blocks of time to squeeze in more activities; instead they see that even minor shifts, in how they do everyday activities, can bring about significant change.
To begin, there’s an important distinction to be made - not all stress is created equal. Stress is a natural, biological response evolutionarily hardwired in our bodies to help us to rise to the challenge and respond to a threat. It’s the fight-or-flight reaction automatically triggered by our brain that releases adrenaline and cortisol into our bloodstream making us stronger, more focused, and extra motivated, thereby increasing our chances of survival.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is the emotional reaction we have when we feel threatened. In a way, it's stress gone awry, because anxiety ensues when we continually ruminate about the past or frequently worry about the future, long after the actual stressor is gone. Since our brains can’t distinguish between a real physical threat and a perceived emotional one, they both result in the same fight-or-flight response. When we’re anxious all the time, our bodies get stuck in chronic stress, and this constant flooding of cortisol is what leads to negative health outcomes. Worse yet, the more anxiety we feel, the more likely we are to get triggered into stress – a vicious, negative cycle.
Most stress-reduction strategies, such as exercise, yoga, and mediation, work by activating, stimulating, or toning our autonomic nervous system to help us override our default fight-or-flight response. In other words, they are actions we can take to manually switch on the rest-and-restore branch of our nervous system and give our bodies the opportunity to recover.
Sign up to receive SPARKS
My Newsletter for Women Navigating Midlife
Your subscription to our list has been confirmed.
Alison Deutsch Coaching
Interventions fall into three major categories:
With an understanding of how stress works in our body and why stress-reducing strategies work - you can start to notice the infinite possibilities available to introduce islands of sanity throughout your day. Here are some examples of small changes to existing activities that have been proven to lower anxiety.
Practice deep breathing throughout the day – sitting at the computer, stopped at a traffic light, or even while on the throne are great times to pause, and mindfully relax. Taking three, deep, slow breaths that originate from the belly -- with your exhale being twice as long as your inhale, -- signals your brain that you are safe -- and toggles your nervous system into rest-and-restore mode.
Turn your shower or car ride into a mental gym by humming, singing, or chanting which stimulates, and ultimately tones the vagus nerve that’s connected to your vocal chords.
Stop multi-tasking by focusing your attention on what you are doing – be it preparing dinner, doing the laundry, or writing a report – and then refocus your attention gently whenever you notice your mind beginning to stray. While formal meditation - between 3-5 minutes a day - is best, there are numerous opportunities to practice informal mindfulness throughout your day.
Stress is a fact of life; none of us is immune. While you can’t always change our outer world, there are many things you can do to gain more inner peace. With knowledge of the neurobiology of stress, you have the opportunity to craft your days so as to incorporate these small shifts and break free of the vicious cycle of chronic stress – without adding one more item to your already overflowing plate.
Stress isn’t the problem, it’s lack of recovery.
Click here to download a tool kit for more ideas.
Based on her unique life experiences, and certifications in the science of positive psychology and the art of life coaching, Alison offers practical wisdom that helps women navigate midlife transitions with clarity and confidence. www.alisondeutsch.com