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Stress response

After any kind of major stressful or traumatic event, our mind begins to implement several different responses, all of which can be generally grouped under the umbrella term of “acute stress response”. This most often occurs in any kind of situation which heavily weighs on our sense of security and safety.


An acute stress response is not guided by reason, logic, or conscious thought; it is a subconscious, involuntary reaction, based primarily on the work of the endocrine system. These responses initially came about as ways of defending ourselves in situations of extreme danger, in which our very survival is threatened; hence, this leads to potentially erratic and unpredictable behavior. Everyone has a different kind of stress response: some people begin acting out, incessantly bringing attention to themselves and the issue at hand; others assume a position of total dominance and control, getting frustrated when their surrounding doesn’t submit to some sort of specific plan, even if the plan is purely symbolic. Others completely close themselves off, choosing instead to retreat into their own being.


Keep in mind that it’s also possible to feel a sense of moral uplift and excitement in the first few days or hours of the traumatic event. This, just like other acute stress responses, should not be seen as insane or crazy - this is the body’s reaction to dopamine and adrenaline, which are released in huge volumes as a stress response. However, the most common reaction is one of anger and intense rage; in this state, one begins to search for an enemy, for someone who can explain and be guilty for the unease and weight we are feeling inside ourselves in moments of extreme stress.


Others become overwhelmed with anxiety and panic, becoming unable to get their mind off the issue at hand. Those of us who are subject to such reactions often very quickly “burn out” - although such an intense reaction can have a very sharp peak, the brain becomes overwhelmed very quickly, and after 2-3 weeks puts on the brakes, leading us to feel exhausted and drained.


This applies not only to an anxious kind of acute stress response, but to all of the above mentioned ones. The key days in this cycle are often the fifth, twelfth, and twenty first days; research has shown that stress levels peak specifically on these days. An acute stress response may occasionally lead to relapses of chronic illnesses - in such moments, it is important to be gentle with oneself, as well as take extra care to not overwork ourselves, giving us the opportunity to work and relax without internal pressure.

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