Breaking the Stress Cycle

happiness neuroplasticity stress relief Apr 12, 2024

Birthdays can be funny things. Today marks another year older for me, and let's just say the number is high enough to move into an “active adult community.” Which, by the way, I won't be doing.  (yikes!)

Things shift as we get older. But they don't have to downhill!

I used to be that person who could just power through anything. Now, my body whispers (sometimes shouts!) when I need to listen. It's a different kind of energy. Maybe you’re feeling the same way.

Here's the thing: stress takes a toll. Running a business myself, I’ve felt this firsthand. I've also seen the devastation of stress in so many of my clients, especially in women approaching retirement. Years of pushing ourselves can leave us depleted and fatigued, both physically and mentally.

 

Changing Vicious Cycles

The tricky thing is that stress can be a vicious cycle. We can't improve our health until we manage the stress, but sometimes we feel powerless to change what's causing stress.

Think of it like gardening. There's abiotic stress – things like weather or air pollution, things outside our control. But there's also biotic stress – our internal health, which includes our emotional state, our physical state and state of mind.

Abiotic and biotic factors work together to create our personal ecosystem.

The good news? We can address both! We can learn to attend to our minds and bodies and cultivate more resilience. And, when possible, we can organize our external environment to reduce stress. It's a both/and proposition, not an either/or.

Here's the trap many of us fall into: "I'll get healthy when things settle down." But that rarely happens. Life is all topsy turvy. It's unpredictable. Complaining about that is as useless as complaining about the weather. Today it's raining. Tomorrow the sun is shining.  And it never stays the same.

 

Creating Virtuous Cycles

 

So what can you do? Commit to small, "virtuous cycle" changes. Here are 6 ideas to get you started:

  • Reduce the demands: Can you delegate a task? Ask for help?  Sometimes saying "no" is the kindest thing you can do for yourself. No is a powerful way to reduce demands in relationships, in what you purchase, and in managing your health. Learn how to use your NO wisely. Valuing your noes will help you value your yes’s. 

  • Focus on quality: Prioritize activities and experiences that bring you joy and fulfillment. Less hustle, more heart. Busy-ness is quantity not quality. Look at what you are actually spending your time on. Is that what you value?

  • Invest in what matters: Healthy food, quality sleep, healthy movement – Make these your non-negotiables. I know for me, when I don’t move on a daily basis, I don't feel very good.

  • Find your support system: We don't have to do this alone. Reach out to a friend, family member, a spiritual community or even a coach. 

  • Embrace your strengths: What are you naturally good at? Play to those strengths and delegate or remove what depletes your energy.

  • Be a lifelong learner: Our bodies and needs change. Stay curious and open to new ways to take care of yourself. Don't let stress be your lifestyle. 



Remember, this is a journey, not a destination. Let's start breaking the stress cycle together, one small movement at a time, we can become the change we want to see in the world. Are you game?

If you’re ready to make a move we have some awesome resources below to get you started.

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