The Importance of Completing the Stress Cycle

The Importance of Completing the Stress Cycle

The body’s short-term and long-term reaction to stress is described as general adaptation syndrome. General adaptation syndrome (GAS) is a three-phase reaction to stress which you can see in detail here with diagrams but in brief is as follows: 

  • Alarm: This is the "fight-or-flight" response. Physically this means your heart rate increases, your adrenal gland releases cortisol (a stress hormone), and you receive a boost of adrenaline, which increases energy getting you ready to respond to the stressor.
  • Resistance: If the stressful situation comes to an end during this phase, then your body will then return to normal and your hormone levels, heart rate, and blood pressure reach a pre-stress state. But, if the stressor remains or you haven’t been able to deal effectively with the stress, your body stays in a state of alert, and stress hormones continue to be produced.
  • Exhaustion: You can only fight or flee for so long before it begins to wear down your capacity to resist and deal with stress. Your body has depleted its energy resources by continually trying but failing to recover.

It is impossible to avoid stress in life and as discussed before not all stress is bad. Short-term stress can help you focus and perform. The problem arises when you get stuck in a stress cycle and your body hasn't been able to return to its normal pre stressed state. 

Sometimes even though the stressful event has passed, your mind and body are still on high alert. You need to give your mind and body a clear signal so they know the threat has passed and they can relax and recover otherwise you can get stuck in the resistance. This is referred to as completing the stress cycle and it is crucial for your well-being. It involves finding healthy ways to return your body to a relaxed state. 

Reaching for comfort food, alcohol, or mindlessly scrolling social media might seem tempting after a stressful event, but these strategies don't actually address the underlying stress and its impact. In fact, they can even worsen the stress response. The good news? There are simple and effective ways to complete the cycle and bounce back stronger.

Activities to Help Your Body Complete the Stress Cycle

Here are some simple free or low cost activities you can do to help you complete the stress cycle and recover after experiencing life stress:

Mind-Body Techniques

Completing the stress cycle mind body activities
  • Deep Breathing - Slow, controlled breaths activate the relaxation response, counteracting the fight-or-flight response. You can find some detailed breathing exercises here - Breathing exercises for relaxation.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation - Tensing and relaxing different muscle groups helps release tension and promotes calmness. If you are not sure how to do this, you can follow this guided exercise here - Relax: Squeeze & Release.
  • Mindfulness Meditation - Focusing on the present moment helps quiet the mind and reduce stress hormones. You can find a list of 7 free short relaxing meditations here.
  • Yoga - Combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to promote relaxation and stress relief. This doesn't mean you have to do a full 1 hour yoga class, even a short yoga session can help signal to your body that it can relax. You can find 7 short free online yoga classes to help you relax here.

Physical Activity

completing the stress cycle with physical activity

Hitting the gym, going for a run/walk or hopping on the bike might seem counterintuitive when you're stressed, but exercise actually works wonders for managing stress hormones. While you experience a brief rise in cortisol initially from the exercise, this is followed by a significant drop in both cortisol and adrenaline, leaving you feeling calmer overall.

On top of that, exercise is a natural mood booster. It triggers the release of endorphins, which create a sense of euphoria often referred to as "runner's high." Endorphins also have anti-inflammatory properties, further combating the negative effects of chronic stress. 

Relaxation Techniques

Warm bath to help complete the stress cycle

These relaxation techniques can help you complete the stress cycle effectively, signalling to your body it is okay to relax and help prevent the negative effects of chronic stress:

  • Get enough sleep - Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Sleep allows your body to repair and recharge.
  • Spend time in nature - Nature has a calming effect. While in an ideal world this would look like a walk in the bush, swim in the river or hanging out on the beach, it can be simpler than that. Walking barefoot on the grass in your backyard, taking a walk in a nearby park or simply gaze at trees.
  • Warm bath or shower - Warm water acts as a natural muscle relaxant. It increases blood flow to your muscles, easing tension and stiffness built up from stress. This can be particularly helpful for those who experience tension headaches or muscle aches due to stress.
  • Use a lavender heat pack - Apply a heat pack filled with dried lavender to tight muscles or your lower abdomen for targeted relaxation. Stress can lead to tight muscles as our bodies hold onto tension, creating a physical manifestation of emotional strain. The scent of lavender has calming properties that can further enhance the relaxation experience. You can check out the Adapt Relax Lupin and Lavender pack here.
  • Supplement with L-theanine - L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that has been shown to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. It is also a key ingredient in Adapt Drinks Relax, so sipping on some after a stressful event can help let your body know it is time to calm down.

Healthy Habits

Nourishing food to help the body recover from stress

Through incorporating these healthy habits, you can build resilience and support your body's ability to naturally complete the stress cycle, leaving you feeling calmer and more prepared to handle life's next challenges:

  • Eat a balanced diet - Nourish your body with nutritious foods that provide energy and support your well-being. You can find a list of some of the best foods and drinks to fight stress here - How to fight stress with food and drink.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol - These substances can worsen anxiety and interfere with sleep.  Adapt Drinks Relax is a great alternative for alcohol in the evening when you are wanting to take the edge off a stressful day.
  • Connect with loved ones - Social support is crucial for stress management. Spend time with friends and family who make you feel good.
  • Incorporate adaptogens - Adaptogens are a group of herbs and plants that have been shown to help your body adapt to stress. You can read more about how adaptogens work here and there are two adaptogens in Adapt Drinks Relax making it an easy and tasty way to get a dose of them!

Remember, the key is to find what works best for you. Experiment with different activities and create a stress-reduction routine that completes the stress cycle and and helps your body recover from stress.

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Sparkling Adaptogenic Drinks

Adapt Drinks Relax is the perfect drink to help you wind down at the end of the day. Containing adaptogenic herbs and amino acids that have been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation, Adapt Drinks Relax is a nightly ritual you can enjoy that is rewarding, delicious and good for you.

So go ahead and pour yourself a glass. You deserve it.