You are driving on the Washington DC beltway, and somebody cuts you off abruptly. You slam on the brakes as hard as you can. A near miss. A moment later you get a surge of almost electric energy, followed, often, by feeling weak at the knees.
Stress is a natural physiological reaction to perceived danger. The body reacts immediately with physical changes, and a cascade of hormones causes increase in heart rate and a surge of energy. The stress response occurs in the face of things that matter to us: our health, our safety, our loved ones, our livelihood, our passion, our causes.
What do we do with the energy we get from stress?
I’m exploring a personal new intervention with clients, called spiraling UP. In physics, because I am a science geek, a spiral is a plane curve on a graph. It winds around a point, while moving ever farther from that point￼. Spirals are functional in nature, and used by humans for architecture, design, and machinery.￼￼ When we talk about spiraling, in therapy terms, it generally has negative connotations. A downward spiral. However, spirals move in both directions- laws of physics.
It’s not the stress that hurts you, it’s how you react to it. Yes, stress, is harmful for the body over long periods of time. What if you cannot avoid it, especially in the short term? How can it be used effectively ? We can take a burst of stress related energy and put it to good use. Overall, stress is a curvilinear relationship: A mild or moderate amount of stress can be motivating; whereas unremitting stress can be debilitating.