How we react to stress says a lot about us.
- Do we buckle down, dig our heels in, stare the challenge in the face, and plunge right in? Pressure makes diamonds, they say.
- Do we avoid it by running away into a fantasy world, busying ourselves with other things like working, eating, drinking, shopping … anything else but deal with it? If you can’t see the stressor, maybe it can’t see you.
- Do we panic and freeze up, becoming paralyzed with emotion and thought? Prey, when faced with a predator, may freeze in terror before (sometimes) making a successful getaway.
“Fight or flight” (and sometimes add in there “freeze,” “fawn,” “fuck” depending on who is explaining it) is a way to sum up the stress response – the natural, automatic physical and cognitive responses we have to stressors. We all react differently to stress. Our reactions depend on our personalities, our ingrained habits, and the specifics of the stressor (what is the stress? how serious is it? what area of our life is it in? what day is it? who else is involved? are we already overloaded? are we well-rested?). We might react in all of these ways – and others! – to the same stressor at different times.
Common Stress-Related Responses
Here’s a brief list of some common stress-related responses (see a full list with additional information here):
- Physical Responses
- Muscle Aches
- Increased Heart Rate / Pounding Heart / Chest Pain
- Weight Gain / Weight Loss
- Constipation / Diarrhea / Stomach Cramps / Nausea
- Muscle Twitching / Leg Cramps
- Low Energy / Weakness
- Headache / Neck Pain
- Dry Mouth
- Chills / Sweating / Hot Flashes
- Emotional and Thought Responses
- Restlessness / Agitation
- Worthlessness / Guilt / Anger
- Depression / Hopelessness
- Sensitivity / Numbness
- Mood Swings
- Decreased Concentration / Racing Thoughts
- Preoccupation / Intense Thinking
- Lack of Motivation
- Rigidity / Intolerance
- Behavioral Responses
- Avoidance / Withdrawal
- Increased Smoking / Increased Alcohol Use
- Poor Appearance / Poor Hygiene
- Increased Spending
- Decreased Eating / Increased Eating
- Nail Biting / Skin Picking
- Sexual Problems
- Fidgeting / Foot Tapping / Rapid Walking
- Aggressive Speaking / Arguing
- Increased Sleeping / Decreased Sleeping
- Seeking Reassurance
- Teeth Clenching
It’s good to know yourself, and my go-to reaction for stress is “flight,” or escape. When I’m really stressed out, my mind can find lots of other places to go (sometimes darker and more stressful, and other times fantastical and surreal) whether on its own or with the help of a good book, good music, or a good movie (maybe it has something to do with being a Pisces).
We’ve been feeling stressed over here! We’re working on broadening our reach by booking as many out-of-town shows as we can this summer for our band. We’re also working on writing new material with the intention of being ready to record in late fall/early winter. On top of these music-specific stressors, our other creative projects are in full-swing, too, and that’s exciting and stressful. We’d been feeling somewhat frozen – too much to do, too much to think about.
In an effort to relax and de-stress, we decided to purposefully escape from our stressors and go off the grid for a while. We took an intentional creative break and headed to Allegheny National Forest for some peaceful, calming, and rejuvenating time in wilderness. We soaked up the beautiful sights, got lots of sunshine and fresh air, listened to lots of birdsong, and connected with nature.
Now that we’re back, we’re feeling refreshed and ready to buckle down and face our stressors head on. It’s interesting how our responses to stress can change.
Tell us: How do you typically react to stressors? What’s your go-to response? What do you do to relieve your stress? Let us know in the comments or contact us to let us know!
We shared our Big List of Musician Stressors recently, and our Big List of Musician Stress Relievers is on its way. Follow Of Music and Mind to make sure you don’t miss this list!
Resources and Additional Reading:
What Is Your Stress Response Style? (Forbes)
Understanding the Stress Response (Harvard Health Publishing)
The Stress Response and How it Can Affect You (Center for Integrated Healthcare)