Stressed But In Control Concept

Stressed, But In Control: How To Manage All 3 Stages of Stress Cycle

Discover how to take control of stress by mastering the critical stages of the stress cycle.

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That moment when you think you’ve lost your phone.

When your boss or teacher wants something done in an impossible time frame, then blames you when it inevitably fails.

The sensation of waiting for something to happen in a horror movie.

Stress is something we’re all familiar with.

At one point or another, we’ve all been under duress or in a situation we would much rather not be in.

Mitigating stress and how it affects you is some of the best information to have.

However, you don’t need to study online FNP programs to learn how to manage and regulate your stress levels.

Managing stress can be either very simple or very complicated depending on the source of your frustration, however, a very useful tool in combating stress in your life is knowing the “Stress Cycle.”


What is the Stress Cycle?


While everyone knows about stress, not everyone knows about the stress cycle.

Let us imagine for a moment that you are in a stressful situation.

Maybe you have a conflict with someone at work, and your boss has just assigned the two of you an extensive project that will require you to work closely and regularly together.

Imagine your initial thoughts at the announcement of the project.

Maybe the person you’re in conflict with delights in paying backhanded compliments or continuously takes a passive-aggressive tone.

Maybe they’re just outrightly hostile?

Many people can relate to this situation, and a prolonged source of stress like this can trigger the stress cycle.

The stress cycle is your body’s inbuilt response to stressors, i.e., your problematic colleague from earlier.

It is triggered in three stages, each of which can be more easily controlled if you understand how it works and how to counteract it.


Stage 1: Alarm


Alarm is the first stage of the stress cycle and consists of everything you might think it does.

When we encounter a stressor, such as an attack or an unexpected deadline, our brain shoots off the signal that something is wrong, more specifically, that we’re in danger.

The stress cycle is an undeveloped vestige from our time as cavemen, where threats were more often than not tangible and life-threatening.

Although our society developed, our central nervous system has not.

This means that when stressed, we undergo the same fight, flight or freeze response as our Neolithic ancestors did when confronted with a saber-toothed tiger.

This stage can be addressed through any of the following:


1a – Move

Exercise is one of the most well-known stress deterrents, and at this stage, your body is being flooded with adrenaline, giving you the shakes and a ton of nervous energy.

Expending that energy through physical exercise can be incredibly helpful, and help us regulate our nervousness.


1b – Breathe

Breathing exercises have been used for regulating emotions, not the least of which is stress, for centuries.

There are many ways in which a person can self-regulate their stress and emotional volatility through the breath.


1c – Confide

Contrary to some popularly held beliefs, ignoring a problem does not make it go away.

One of the best things a person can do to manage their stress levels is to confide in someone they trust and talk it out.

Everyone needs a safe, reliable space to work out their internal struggles, and the sense of connection does wonders for an overwhelmed mind.


Stage 2: Resistance


The resistance phase is often quite a difficult one to process.

When the nervous system is over the initial adrenal pump of the Alarm phase, our body begins to mellow out.

It stops producing the excess adrenaline, and we no longer feel like we’re under immediate threat.

However, our bodies keep us on edge just to make sure.

This can result in poor concentration, irritability, and frustration.


2a – Laugh

Laughing is tremendously useful for letting out pent-up emotional energy.

Watch something funny, or practice laughing on purpose.

Aside from release, laughing also releases chemicals that positively influence mood and regulate stress.


2b – Cry

Although we typically associate crying with sadness, crying is just a physical reaction to an overwhelming feeling.

When we cry, we release similar chemicals to laughing.

Crying is the body’s natural stress regulation mechanism and one of the most effective methods of managing the stress cycle.


2c – Occupy Yourself

Hobbies are a source of dopamine, the brain’s natural reward system.

Engaging in hobbies not only diverts your mind from the source of your stress but actively produces Dopamine, mitigating negative feelings.


Stage 3: Exhaustion


The final stage of the stress cycle is exhaustion.

This stage can be a little problematic because if not addressed, the cycle can continue on and on.

When this happens, elongated periods of stress can increase the likelihood of several extremely threatening conditions, therefore it is important to recognize when you are exhausted and take steps to address it.


3a – Sleep

The best solution for exhaustion is to simply rest.

This can be relaxation or even doing a hobby, but the best most effective form of rest is to sleep.

If your sleep cycles have been disrupted, it’s important to get to bed early and to take the opportunity on weekends and free days to get as much good sleep as possible.

Sleeping replenishes energy levels and rejuvenates the mind, making sure that you can take care of things with a full tank.


3b – Mindfulness


There are endless tips for managing stress, and though this list is in-depth, it certainly isn’t exhaustive.

However, the best thing you can do for your stress levels is to remain aware.

Keep an eye on yourself emotionally, make sure that you’re not facing any undue pressure or burden, and if you are, make sure to face it constructively before you burn out or hurt yourself.

Stress is something we’re all familiar with.

Don’t be afraid to talk to loved ones, or seek medical help.




Stress, while universally experienced, does not have to dominate or derail our lives.

The mechanisms of the stress cycle illustrate that our bodies and minds are equipped with innate processes meant to manage and eventually alleviate stress.

The strategies discussed are accessible and can be integrated into daily life, requiring no special training or background.

Above all, it is crucial to maintain a compassionate awareness of one’s mental and emotional state.

Regular self-check-ins and seeking support when needed are not just beneficial, they are necessary for our overall well-being.

As we continue to face various challenges, let’s approach our stress with knowledge, tools, and the assurance that we are not alone in our experiences.

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