Triggered; a stress response

Dearest readers,

After a few experiences this week I thought I would share something really cheerful (not): stress. I am sure it is something we all experience either constantly or in swaths. It is something that even the most experienced person at dealing with it will get (even if they do know how to manage it) and seems to be part of human nature. Don't get me wrong, we need stress to make us perform at our best, to push us out of our comfort zone; without stress we would not be human, it is part of our human condition.  However what we do know about stress is that we only know our experience. We know things that 'trigger' us (causes of stress, either direct or indirect) but as this is not the same for everyone, we can never truly walk in someone else's shoes.. and it annoys me when people just think that I am being a drama queen about this.

Here I will give a brief snapshot of stress for me, as a means of communicating (as I royally am unable to do this when stressed), what kind of things may stress me out and how to recover from such an episode. I guess I firstly start by saying there is stress and there is stress.... the stress that I get from leaving an assignment last minute is very different from the distressed response I may give to an unexplained illogical 'moving of the barriers'. I place them both under there title 'stress' here as they both cause a release of chemicals into my blood stream. The main difference is the duration, intensity and coping strategies. The slow build up of stress from not doing an assignment and procrastinating it  is undermining and ongoing (and in this case, self induced!). For me it comes in peaks and troughs, I am not constantly on high alert. The distressed response includes for example from finding out assignment marks are online, or a sudden change in an important situation that I cannot see the end of, or even being unable to escape a situation that is causing stress. This causes an extreme and sudden reaction; I can feel the adrenaline firing through me and I feel completely destabilised.

I feel physically shaky, my brain feels as if it has been shaken around in a colander and my ability to communicate is out of the window - you can forget having a rational conversation with me. I can also be nauseous, disorientated, confused, lost and on edge. Sometimes if I feel I may be the route cause I have to use a lot of self-restraint not to settle the score with myself. My thinking also goes completely out of the window too: I get an overriding worst case scenario feeling. I can't do this, I need to get out, everything will fail, etc. I can't tell what is logical or panic driven any more in these situations. Pain and heat perception also goes even more off the chart than normal.

I guess in these situations I have had to really teach myself to back off and give myself space. My body needs time to recalibrate, a bit like a computer needs time to reboot after the blue screen of death. There is little point in me engaging in anything that requires a large amount of brain power. Distraction and communicating, via written words or text or something if my words are very jumbled, also can help explaining the root and the trigger. I will often use very simple sentences too. For me it is important to know exactly the root cause of this bodily reaction, so I can work out how to avoid said trigger or who to prepare myself for it the next time around. Sometimes there is nothing I can do, which I find really frustrating. Other things are unexpected and unique but you can gain general techniques from other times.

My body also needs time to physically recover. I often feel as if I have just been on a very unpleasant rollercoaster and I need to take stock after getting off. I often continue to feel sick and shaky for a good few hours afterwards, even if my brain has kicked into gear and I can think and communicate in a logical manner again. There is the residual feeling, in a way like when you are nearly better from a virus but not quite. I frequently feel annoyed and frustrated as it feels as if there is a lag between my brain and my body.

Using distractions is something I have got better at as I have got older. This blog is one of them (!) as are watching documentaries and youtube shorts, reading up on local history and spending time with our rabbits (the cat is not always so obliging). These allow my body the time to recalibrate without focusing on it, but rather escaping into a place where this disorientation does not exist. It does disrupt any plans I may have had, especially if it was a to do list of things I need to do for my degree (and as a notoriously slow reader and worker and raving perfectionist, I need that time!) but my health is more important. It is something I have come to realise over time is there is little point plowing through this and expecting results, as I will many times end up worse off. I owe myself this.



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