Mindset Habit #13: Try an “Opposite Day” With Your Stress

If you think of the stress response, it involves lots of elements, united by a couple of common themes:

Option AFight or flight – your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) over-activation. If you notice that you are feeling too much stress then you are likely “on guard” and going through over-activation of your sympathetic nervous system.

Option BFaint or freeze – your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) over-activation. If you notice that you often feel the need to release tension from stressful encounters you could likely be going through over-activation of your parasympathetic system. [7]

So what does this have to do with feeling better with IBD?

When you perform the habit of “Opposite Day” you allow yourself the opportunity to get back to neutral, relax a little, and regain a healthy composure that will enable you to better manage any potentially stressful event in the future.

How to use “Opposite Day” with Option A (aka derail the fight, flight, freeze stress mechanism)

  • Calm the SNS with belly breathing – breathe slowly, in and out – whenever you feel stressed out. Focus on two things:
    • Make the exhale as long and steady as possible (minimum of 5 seconds)
    • With one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly, feel the hand on your belly move during the inhale

How to use “Opposite Day” with Option B (aka release the energy by completing the stress sequence)

  • Have you ever watched one of those wild animal shows where a lion is chasing a zebra and the zebra escapes the attack? What does the zebra do? It shakes and trembles for a few minutes to release that adrenaline and tension because it just survived a literal life-or-death situation! Then the zebra spontaneously recovers as if nothing happened. A few key points:
    • Humans have the same stress response as the zebra…we just don’t use it as often
    • Instead, we stay stuck in a state of arrested arousal
    • We need to move and discharge the tension filled energy

Use either option to help restore your body’s stress response back to neutral and begin to feel more relaxed and calm.

Try this:

Remember when you practiced the 5 minute meditation? Use that time to assess your current stress levels. Do you need to relax or release tension? Perform the necessary technique from above as often as needed today.

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