Your brain is always on the lookout for trouble. It’s a tireless protector; stress is its sidekick, an inseparable part of the brain’s response system. Picture this: a trigger in your surroundings—an imminent car crash or an unexpected burst of “Happy Birthday!”—and your brain leaps into action, flooding your system with cortisol. Your heart races, your senses sharpen, and you’re primed for anything.

But what happens when the danger passes or the candles are blown out? The cortisol recedes like the tide, and balance is restored. It’s a beautiful ebb and flow, except when the stress signals don’t stop. Like a siren that won’t quiet, constant stress, with actual physical and emotional consequences, can drag you down.

What if you had the power to pause on this relentless stress, disconnect, and find your breath again? You can! You just need to figure out your unique needs to disconnect from the source of stress and decompress.

Turning Off the Stress Faucet

Shutting down the flow of cortisol is like turning off a tap that’s flooding your system. To recover from stress, we must disconnect from what’s causing our psychological stress. This is pivotal because even when the stressor is no longer present, our stress reactions keep pumping cortisol into our bodies. It’s a relentless cycle that can keep us awake, restless, and perpetually on edge.

The Vicious Cycle of Stress and Sleep

Consider the nights when sleep eludes you as you ponder the day’s worries. This is cortisol at play, disrupting your rest and amplifying your stress, creating a cycle that’s hard to break. But break it we must, for our health and well-being.

Customizing Stress Management

Addressing psychological stress isn’t a one-size-fits-all. While many stress management programs advocate for quiet, contemplative activities like yoga or meditation, these don’t work for everyone. In fact, for some, trying to sit quietly and focus on breathing can increase stress, as it leaves too much room for stressful thoughts to invade.

Iguanas and Border Collies: A Stress Recovery Story

On a vacation in Mexico, a simple observation became a profound insight into stress recovery. My husband, Clay, I, and a group of friends found ourselves at a resort catering to scuba enthusiasts. While the others lounged by the pool like iguanas, basking in the stillness, Clay, much like a border collie, needed to be on the move.

After a while, one friend commented, “You are always on the go. When are you going to relax?” They didn’t realize that Clay was relaxing, just in his own way. He jokingly replied over dinner, “I’m like a border collie: if I don’t have something to do, I start chewing on things.” This was both humorous and true. It is an apt metaphor for how Clay unwinds. While quiet and stillness can be meditative for some, for others like Clay, staying active is a necessary diversion from stress.

Finding Your Stress Recovery Personality

Are you an iguana or a border collie when it comes to stress relief? Understanding which one you are can be vital in managing your stress effectively.

  • For the Iguanas: Embrace activities that allow you to stop and soak in the calm. It could be reading a book, practicing gentle yoga, or enjoying a quiet coffee on your porch. Quiet, contemplative activities are the key.
  • For the Border Collies: Seek activities that engage your mind and body. This could be as immersive as my dad’s woodworking, where his focus on crafting something beautiful freed his mind from stress. Highly occupying activities are the ticket, whether they are physically engaging, mentally occupying, or both.

Take the Stress Recovery Personality Quiz! and get resources to reduce your Baseline Stress Level.

Embracing Your Unique Stress Recovery Needs

We often fall somewhere between the iguana and border collie spectrum, needing different things at different times. The trick is to permit yourself to indulge in activities that resonate with your stress recovery personality.

Our high-speed world constantly challenges our ability to maintain balance. Still, we can create peace amid the chaos by identifying and embracing our unique stress recovery personalities. Whether you need the quiet contemplation of an iguana or the active engagement of a border collie, finding your path to relaxation is worth taking. Remember, stress management is deeply personal, and there’s no wrong way to unwind. Find your mix, and allow yourself the time and space to disconnect and recover. Your mind, body, and soul will be all the better for it.


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