Managing Your Stress Response Starts With Taking a Pause

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Naturally, your stress response kicks in when you're faced with a stressful situation. When activated, cortisol and adrenaline will automatically be released into your body to prepare you to deal with any impending danger.

Regardless of how real the danger is, your flight, fight, freeze, or fawn responses will kick in, leaving you incapable—for a time—of acting rationally in response to the event that has triggered you.

Your stress response is habitual

What this means is that for the best chance of managing stress well, you need to accept that your stress response is habitual. In other words, your default response to stressful situations is, in part, outside of your control.

This is why what you do within the first moments of experiencing stress is so important to managing stress effectively. So, assuming you're aware that your stress response has been activated, the best thing to do is pause.

Pause to acknowledge stress

Simply pausing for long enough to identify your feelings about the event that's triggered you is important. Depending on the situation, you could be experiencing a variety of emotions, including panic, distress, and outrage.

Giving yourself time to acknowledge that your stress response has been activated will give you space to identify your feelings. And more importantly, pausing when stressed will help you determine what you need to minimise the perceived sense of danger.

For example, when you find yourself in a heated conversation, creating space between you and the other person might look like asking to put the conversation on hold. After a break you might identify feelings of irritation at not being heard or understood.

Having identified what you're feeling, you could request that they agree to allow you to speak without interruption before continuing the conversation.

With that, and assuming they agree, you can choose to re-engage the conversation with less of the irritation connected to thinking you're not being listened to and misunderstood.

Stress management takes practice

Again, how you respond to stress is habitual. Your responses have been developed and ingrained over several years, so to think you can change them overnight is unrealistic.

But you can learn more about how stress works. And when you do, you can start to take control of stress, so it has less impact on your wellbeing and day-to-day interactions.

Understanding how stress impacts you and how to manage it better will also give you more confidence to face stressful situations.

And in this case, pausing for long enough to gauge what you feel and clarify what you need to help alleviate your stress is a helpful strategy for managing stress effectively.

The reality is that, like any other discipline or skill, stress management takes practice. So it helps to approach your ability to manage stress with the long term in mind.