sTre$s! part 2

This is a mini-series on stress – how our amazing bodies can rise to meet a challenge and how we can manage stress so that we don’t die from it!

As I mentioned in Part 1, our stress response consists of 3 phases: the alarm, the activating system and recovery. I recently read The Hidden Link between Adrenaline and Stress by Dr. Archibald Hart (Thomas Nelson 1995). He describes the amazing ways we are hard-wired to mobilize to meet a challenge. Every system of the body does its part. However, if we live in a constant state of stress, we will suffer the physical consequences (also described briefly in my first article). I’ll share with you some of the most important insights I gleaned from the book.

“To protect yourself against dying of or suffering ill effects from stress, you must learn how to switch off your production of adrenaline when it is no longer needed, and stop using it for non-emergency life situations (like driving on the freeway)!” (Hart, p. 28)

“Nothing worthwhile can be accomplished without some arousal of the stress response system. It is a biological law that we must work, and even fight, to accomplish a worthwhile goal. Challenge and fulfillment are important to health and well being. The lack of it causes us to atrophy in body and mind. But –  and this point is crucial to my whole argument – challenge and stress must be accompanied by, and work in harmony with, relaxation and rest.” (Hart, p. 42)

“We cannot avoid all arousal, all the time, nor should we even try…What should we do in times like these? It is crucial to plan adequate time for recovery. Sooner or later the crisis will be over, and that is when you must make time for adequate recuperation of your adrenaline system. It is simply a matter of responsible self-management.” (Hart, p. 136)

“The primary and most successful method of adrenaline reduction is conscious physical relaxation. When you relax the body, the mind can’t keep itself in a state of emergency. A relaxed body begins to relax the mind.” (Hart, p. 134)

So, let’s get personal. Here’s what I am doing with the information I read.

  1. I’m getting more sleep! Dr. Hart has a whole chapter on the importance of sleep. One of my new (school) year resolutions is to be in bed by 10:30 pm. This regularity helps me tremendously in the morning. I am a lot less grouchy! Most people I know, especially parents, could use more sleep.
  2. I’m noticing when my stress level is elevated and deciding whether I need the extra adrenaline or not. This consciousness is amazing. I never would have thought that noticing and deciding could be so powerful. I’ve found I really can turn off the adrenaline if I decide I don’t need it. If I need energy to face a challenge, yes I’ll take the adrenaline. If I need more creativity, I’ll do better without the influx of adrenaline.
  3. I’m making time for recovery, unapologetically. I will not pack the schedule too full and perpetuate the chicken-with-her-head-cut-off mode of operation. It’s just not enjoyable.
  4. I’m planning physical relaxation into my schedule. I know, I know, I’m always talking about massage (wink). For me and for many of my clients, massage helps us remember we’re human. What Dr. Hart described on page 134 rings true (see above). And, massage is one way to help flush out the chemical toxins in our bodies produced by the adrenaline response.
  5. I’m appreciating the body. I’m happy to celebrate that my body is designed to rise to incredible challenges and I’m confident it will amaze me when I need it to.

Stay tuned for the third part of this series where Dr. Angel Duncan will teach you a relaxation exercise you can use to increase your physical well being and decrease your stress. I’m also trying to line up an interview with a sleep consultant for you.

Inspired by anything? Want to share a resolution you have? Please use the comments below!

P.S. Somehow I published a draft of part 1 instead of my final version. Wander back to re-read part 1. You’ll see some of the information re-worked.


2 thoughts on “sTre$s! part 2

  1. Karla says:

    Dear Susan,

    Thank you for this cogent reminder about how stress takes its toll on us. I often remark to myself how stress makes me older faster and certainly there is empirical evidence to this truth: my ever abundant grey hair. For example, this year I dressed up as Bride of Frankinstein and no wig was needed!! Madeline Khan would have been impressed for sure.

    Frankly this informative series could be broken down into daily alerts to my email in-box. I indeed need that much reminding. A fact I am not proud of.

    Lack of sleep? Resulting grouchiness? Headless chicken? Oh Susan, that ain’t the half of it.

    In my yoga practice I am encouraged to ‘just notice’ as my kaleidascope moods and emotions pass through me. Just notice, watch and wait. I agree that noticing and deciding is a powerful antidote to thwart the insidious effects stress has on our bodies. Now, if I could just remember this more often, especially off the mat. Actually, my cat Walter has been a lovely guide in this area
    = ^..^=

    A little excerpt of a poem by Rumi to start your week:

    The Guest House

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, depression, a meaness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.

    Jelaluddin Rumi

    Thanks for this column, Susan.


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