If you have been around here for a little while, you will know that I talk about closing the stress cycle quite a lot.
It’s one of those things that is so important for our stress levels and for our health in general, and yet nobody is teaching it to us.
One way that we can make a point of closing the stress cycle everyday and to keep our stress levels at a more manageable level is to make a stress reset routine.
Just a small routine or ritual that helps our body to close the stress cycle and to feel like everything is okay.
So before we get into that let’s just do a quick recap of what the stress cycle actually is.
What is the stress cycle?
As a quick recap, the stress cycle is a stress response system that evolved in our bodies thousands of years ago which is triggered by something stressful happening, so while it’s more likely these days to be from waking up late or running late for the school run, years ago it would have been because a saber toothed tiger was about to chase us – but the cycle works in exactly the same way regardless of the stress.
We have the trigger (the stressful thing) which triggers the release of cortisol and all sorts of survival mechanisms to flood our body, then you ‘out run’ the stressful thing and then maybe you jump around or cry to celebrate that you survived it and your body knows you are safe and goes back to normal – it closes the stress cycle.
But in modern life, a stressful thing happens, we deal with it and then just move on to the next stressful thing. We don’t close the stress cycle, because for most of the stressors they are just part of everyday life and we keep on moving – but not closing the stress cycle is putting a huge amount of strain and pressure on our bodies.
If you want to read more about the stress cycle and how it works you can read about it in this blog post here – How to close the stress cycle.
Examples of closing the stress cycle
Here are some ways to close the stress cycle.
- Move your body
- Breathing exercises
- Hug someone
- Get creative
Some are going to make more sense at certain times than others.
Let’s say you are running late dropping your kids off to school, and you finally get them to school, you drop them at the door and get back in your car – it would be a bit weird if on the way back to your car you grabbed some other un-expecting parent for a hug to close your stress cycle or suddenly started doing a few jumping jacks in the school car park – although you do you! – but maybe when you got back into your car you could do a few breathing exercises before rushing on to the next thing you need to do.
Making a stress reset ritual
An easy way to make something in a habit is to make it into a routine or a daily rhythm so that is just becomes a part of your day and your life.
It doesn’t have to be this big, hour long thing, it can be just something small and short that fits into your life and helps you to close the stress cycle and just let your body and mind know that everything is okay.
For example, here is something that I do…
The school morning routine is the most stressful event that happens in our home, Anest has very strong feelings about getting dressed in the morning. I know that during this time my stress levels are sky high to the point where I know I am dissociating slightly, because it is the only way to get through it – then Anest will go on the bus and I can get on with the rest of the day then BUT if I do this, I know that my entire day will be a bit off. I will feel a bit stressed out all day and everything seems a million times harder.
So I make a point of closing the stress cycle, and this is now my daily stress reset routine.
As soon as everyone goes to school, I do a 15 minute reset of our home and then I roll out my mat and do a pilates workout and that is the signal to my body that everything is okay…you are safe now and I can feel my stress levels come down.
Then once my workout is done, it feels like I am starting the day from scratch – stressful morning routine forgotten about.
Movement closes the stress response, Pilates also gives the added benefit of breathwork being a part of it so that makes sure that the cycle is definitely closed, and I also get all the extra feel good hormones and dopamine that working out gives.
If you can, moving your body is a hugely beneficial one to add in to your daily routine because the benefits are just huge.
Reminder: The stress cycle can be closed at any time throughout the day it doesn’t have to happen straight after the stressor.
Another routine that I have to close the stress cycle is, every evening before I go to bed I take a shower and at the end of the shower I do a 2 minute blast of cold water (I built up to 2 minutes I didn’t start there!), and to do this I have to control my breathing to be able to stand there in the cold water and cold water therapy is also a well known stress reducing technique.
It literally takes minutes, but it signals to my body that everything is okay, we are safe, you can relax now – and I can definitely notice a huge difference in the days where I don’t do it compared to how I feel when I do.
So your routine doesn’t need to be long, it can be as short at 2 minutes but doing something daily makes it into a routine so that we know everyday at some point our stress cycle will be closed.
Examples of routines
Not sure where to start with this? Here are some ideas.
- Add 2 minutes of breathwork into your before bed routine
- Do some breathing exercises while in the shower (box breathing for example)
- Watch an episode of a funny series or make a funny video compliation on your phone
- Go for an after dinner walk (it could be to the end of your street if you don’t have time!)
- Do a gentle workout – pilates, yoga, swimming, walking
- Cuddle up on the sofa with your partner every evening
- Cuddle your children
- Every evening give a friend a ring – social interaction helps close the cycle – bonus points if it’s a funny friend!
- Make a point of doing something creative every day – painting, drawing, sewing, crafting, playing an instrument, writing – find a time of day that you can do it everyday and make doing it a routine
- Do a bit of speed cleaning, do a 15 minute reset of your home one the kids are in bed so that your house feels calm (reduce stress) and the actual moving around will close the cycle and create a signal to your mind that the day is over, everything is fine and calm, we are safe.
- Journaling, creativity can close the cycle – getting those thoughts on paper is going to help you feel less stressed. Build a few minutes of journalling into your morning or evening routine.
How to make your routine
Think about your day as a whole, what part of your day is the most stressful? Do you have time to perhaps fit in some movement then? If not, could you do 2 minutes of breathing exercises? Perhaps a quick 5 minute tidy up?
Do you have a time later on in the day that you could set aside to do something that will close your stress cycle? Maybe in the evening after dinner? Maybe as soon as the kids have gone to bed you create a little routine that will help you close the cycle and is spent doing something for you rather than just collapsing on the sofa in a heap and mindlessly scrolling your phone (which depending on what you are looking at, could be adding to your stress levels).
Create a bedtime routine that makes a point of closing your stress cycle.
Look at your day, work out where you have a bit of time, work out how much time you have and make a plan.
I hope this helps and if you are stuck and could do with some help, let me know in the comments and I will help you.