As published in Yoga Magazine
February 2011

Befriending Stress

3 Steps to Revolutionize your Responses to Stress

— by Jonathan Pofsky, MFT, CMT

The barometer for our stress is always the ANS, which is divided into two parts: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Sympathetic (SNS) is known as the fight-or-flight response and is thought to evolve from our need to escape large predators. The heart beats faster, pupils dilate, blood is drawn away from the stomach and extremities, and stimulating hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released. Extreme activation of the SNS creates the conditions for many harmful symptoms of stress like hypertension, anxiety and ulcers. Parasympathetic (PNS) is known as the rest and digest response and brings the body back to its restful state by reducing the release of stress hormones and heart rate, and redirecting blood to stomach and extremities. The PNS is the reason we feel calmer after intense exercise or after eating.

There are two categories of stress triggers that stimulate various stress responses: external and internal. External stress triggers are specific events, circumstances, or relationships in your life that cause an activation of stress responses in the nervous system. This could include work life, social life, family life, illness/physical conditions, and the myriad tasks and responsibilities we take on or are required of us. Internal stress triggers are specific thoughts and feelings that mimic the same stress responses in the nervous system. Both triggers can carry the same weight in its impact on the ANS. Therefore, a real or imagined event can impact the nervous system the very same way. Thinking about traffic and imagining being in traffic can easily replicate the bodily symptoms of actually being in traffic. Understanding what is triggering our stress is critical in shifting our dysfunctional and unsatisfying responses to stress. Making a list of external and internal stress triggers is an extremely practical and helpful action step towards this cause.

Now that you have a basic understanding of how stress works, you are ready for three steps that will transform how you respond to stress in your life. Like anything new, it may take time to grow comfortable with this mind/body approach. So take a deep breath NOW, and stay open to exploring these three steps that will help you uncover the peace and ease already within you.

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Published Articles

Befriending Stress
    - Yoga Magazine

Keeping Calm
    - Yoga Magazine

Favorite Books Lists

A list of some favorite books related to helping with stress and anxiety.

Books on Stress & Anxiety
Books on Depression
Books on Stress & Mindfulness

Jonathan’s Book

These words are my truth, the result of a commitment to deep listening and trust in life below the surface of things.

Helpful Links

Links to resources for help with stress and anxiety.