How to master your stress in
5 simple steps

heather thatcher stress management expert

by Heather Thatcher

This article takes 7 minutes to read

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If 2020 taught us anything, it definitely showed us how we currently manage our stress.

No shaming here! 

The truth is this was likely one of the most stressful years many of us have lived through.

But it doesn’t matter what year it is, the global issues, systemic issues, or what’s happening in our personal lives – stress is a fact of life.

Every year, more and more pressure gets put on us to:

  • be more, 
  • do more, 
  • achieve more, 
  • make more money, 
  • be healthier, 
  • be there for everyone important in our lives, 
  • donate to charity, 
  • volunteer, 
  • travel – see the world!

With the rising expectations that we put on ourselves, that our parents have put on us, and that society puts on us – learning how to manage our stress and release it from our body is more important now than it’s ever been before.

The World Health Organization declared that stress was the most significant epidemic of the 21st century.

The American Institute of Stress reports that stress is the leading cause of death. This may seem a bit strange, because when you look at the CDC statistics, they report that the leading causes of death in the US are heart disease and cancer.

Quick little side note: I’m Canadian, but the US is excellent at identifying great statistics, which is why I use a lot of US stats.

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True – the CDC doesn’t directly say that the leading cause of death in the US is stress.

However, having worked in the Intensive Care Units for many years as a critical care RN, I can tell you that these two diseases have incredibly strong links to stress.

In fact, this is exactly why I took my practice out of the ICU and turned to the stress prevention space because I knew that I wanted to make an impact on people’s health and wanted to keep them out of the ICU.

When we’re stressed, our body is ramping up to support us and make us more successful.

This means that we need more oxygen and nutrients to the “get away from a bear” systems, and that means our blood vessels shrink to help the blood move around faster. This means that our heart has to work harder, which is what it was designed to do in stressful situations.

But here’s the thing…

Our body wasn’t designed for modern day stress. Our heart was meant to beat faster and work harder to get us away from that bear and then turn off.

But like we’ve been talking about for a while, here, that’s not how our modern day stressors work. Worries about money, work, family dynamics, health, and our nasty Inner Critic don’t go away. 

So our heart is working so much harder and our blood vessels are tinier for much longer than they’re supposed to be.

That’s the first contributing factor to heart disease.

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The second, like we’ve talked about before, is how our body tries to get more energy to maintain this prolonged, stressed out state. 

Cortisol is a helpful hormone that comes to the rescue of our tired, stressed out body to help find enough fuel to keep things going. Cortisol asks our liver to please step up their game and start creating energy on it’s own.

And then cortisol runs up to the brain and says “I need more POWER!!! Make them crave high fat, high carb foods please!!”

All of the processed, high fat, high carb foods help support this high energy demand of chronic stress – but increase the plaques and cholesterol floating around in our bloodstream.

That’s the second contributing factor to heart disease.

The last way that stress impacts our risk of heart disease is when we’ve hit the last stage of chronic stress, which is the stage of exhaustion.

This is where our body can no longer maintain this high energy demand of our constant stress-state, and it crashes.

Burn-out central.

Even getting up to get a drink of water requires a pep-talk and a fair bit of willpower.

Our lives are already significantly more sedentary than they were 50 years ago because technology makes everything so darn convenient!

When you combine that with stage-of-exhaustion level stress, well…it’s very easy to become a couch potato.

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The Mayo Clinic has directly linked this increased couch-potato-factor to an increased risk of heart disease AND cancer.

Here’s another way that chronic stress is linked to cancer

A study done in 2016 looked at the impacts of stress on our DNA.

What they found was that the more stress we experience, the more our DNA was broken down.

On the top of each little DNA strand is a little cap called a telomere (tell-oh-mear). The telomere’s job is to keep that DNA strand wound up tightly and healthy.

But this study confirmed what other studies had already seen, that this DNA cap wears down with chronic stress and can even disappear causing the DNA to morph and become an abnormal cell. 

Abnormal cells like this can grow into cancer cells.

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Learning how to master your stress will not only prevent the negative health effect of stress, but can even reverse some of the damage

Here are the 5 simple steps you need to follow to master your stress to prevent and reverse the stress damage:

Step 1 – Understanding the stress switch and how to turn it off

Step 2 – Learning how to process stressful events effectively

Step 3 – Meditation and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Step 4 – Knowing your triggers and having a plan

Step 5 – Address your stress at the two main sources: #1 our hectic modern day lifestyle, and #2 our relationship with ourselves and others

Now, I know that list may have gone by a little fast, which is why I have created a free 5-days to Stress Relief challenge that covers each of these steps with information and then an action step for you to put it into practice.

Here’s what you can expect:

Day One – Understanding the stress switch and how to turn it off

The stress response is a simple switch – it’s either on or off. 

Our modern day lifestyle would have us keeping that stress switch turned on at all times, pumping out stress chemicals 24/7. 

But the truth is there’s a really simple way we can turn off our stress switch to stop causing the stress damage to our body – and mastering that ability is so easy and I’m going to show you exactly how to do this in the challenge.

Day 2 – Learning how to process stressful events effectively

We’ve been told all of our lives to just keep pushing through, keep soldiering on because there isn’t time to look back.

When something stressful, traumatic, or emotionally triggering happens to us, we’ve been taught to ignore it, move past it, and “let it go.”

But do you actually let it go?

Or do you just push it down, hoping you ‘ll never have to see it or deal with it again?

If that last statement resonated hard, you’re going to LOVE what we talk about on Day Two of the challenge.

Join the free 5 days to Stress Relief challenge!

Day 3 – Meditation and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Meditation and mindfulness are more than just a trend.

They’ve found their way into hospitals, treatments for cancer, surgery, and into modern psychology as well.

On this day of the challenge I’m going to share all the research that supports why you need to start a meditation and a mindfulness practice, and exactly how to do that.

Don’t worry if your brain starts thinking #allthethings the second you close your eyes. I have a specific technique I’m going to share on this day of the challenge to help you calm your busy brain.

Day 4 – Knowing your triggers and having a plan

You have no choice to react to what you don’t see coming.

That’s where knowing our triggers flips the power back to us because we can see the stressful triggers coming and know how we’re going to get out of the stress cycle FAST.

Day 5 – Address your stress at the two main sources: #1 our hectic modern day lifestyle, and #2 our relationship with ourselves and others

Think for a minute right now – what is your number one source of stress?

No matter how many times I ask this question the answers can always be grouped into these two categories.

To wrap up this challenge, I have a masterclass for you that’s going to show you how to take your stress by the horns and truly become a Master of Stress. 

Ready to lower your stress and feel in control of your life in just 5-days?

You can go to heatherthatcher.com/stress to join us.

We get started very soon – see you there.

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