Why is it so hard to think your way out of stress?
Stress is a complex and multi-faceted phenomenon that can be difficult to manage through cognitive means alone. While it is possible to use cognitive strategies to reduce stress, such as reframing negative thoughts or practising relaxation techniques, these approaches may not always be effective in every situation.
Stress is not just a cognitive experience
One reason why it can be challenging to think your way out of stress is that stress is not just a cognitive experience, but also a physiological one.
When we are under stress, our bodies release a cascade of hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can trigger a range of physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, muscle tension, and rapid breathing. These physiological changes can make it difficult to think clearly and rationally, and may even interfere with our ability to access higher-level cognitive functions such as planning, problem-solving, and decision-making.
Think about this like your primal body being chased by a lion or a tiger, as a protective mechanism your rational brain quietens and your survival brain comes to life. This is why you find it very difficult to make decisions or to rationalise when you feel stressed.
Stress is triggered by external factors
Another reason why it can be hard to think your way out of stress is that stress is often triggered by external factors that are beyond our control. For example, job loss, relationship problems, or financial difficulties can all be sources of stress that cannot be easily addressed through cognitive strategies alone.
While many external stressors are out of our control, our reaction to these stressors is not. Breathwork can be a powerful tool to relax your body, turn down the perception of stress and ultimately give you control in a situation where you feel you had none.
In these situations, it may be more helpful to focus on building resilience and developing coping skills that can help us manage the emotional and physiological aspects of stress. This might involve practising mindfulness Breathwork, engaging in regular exercise, connecting with others, or engaging in other self-care activities that promote relaxation and light you up.
By building our resilience and developing effective coping strategies, we can learn to manage stress more effectively and improve our overall quality of life.
Physiological factors impact stress resilience
Physiological factors such as diet can impact stress resilience because they influence the functioning of our body's stress response systems. The stress response is a complex process that involves the activation of various physiological systems, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system. These systems release hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that prepare the body for "fight or flight" responses to stressors.
A healthy diet that provides the body with the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals can help to support the proper functioning of these stress response systems. For example, diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fruits, and vegetables have been associated with lower levels of stress hormones and improved mood. It's the small things that you do often that can create the best results. Simply including a handful of colourful veggies with each meal can go a long way.
On the other hand, a diet high in processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats can lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, which can impair the functioning of the stress response systems. Inflammation and oxidative stress have been linked to a range of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In addition to diet, other physiological factors such as exercise, sleep, and social support & connection can also impact stress resilience by supporting the proper functioning of the body's stress response systems.
By taking care of our physical health and providing our bodies with the resources they need to function optimally, we can increase our resilience to stress and improve our overall well-being.
If you would like a hand managing your stress or building a personal holistic plan to manage your stress resilience using natural techniques book in to have a chat - I'd love to talk with you about what's going on with you.