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The Stress Cycle and How to Complete It

By Jillian Pinks, VirtuALZ Registered Nurse


Taking care of your loved one, family, and everything in between can become very stressful and overwhelming. There may be times you want to scream at the top of your lungs or hide in a closet. These are normal feelings when you are overwhelmed and stressed. Our bodies must find a way of processing the “stress cycle.” There are many ways to help relieve that stress, but first, we must understand the stress cycle, as it is more than a feeling or a single-time occurrence. It is a process.

The stress cycle starts with an external event, such as caring for a loved one, that removes us from our resting or ground state or normal everyday life. It ends with a feeling of security, with the realization that we made it through a stressful event or time, have come out safe, and are again back to our resting or ground state.


Stress Cycle:

Resting Ground State - Normal everyday life

Tension and Strain Phase - An event that causes or brings heightened stress, fear, or anxiety

Response Phase - How we respond to the stress

Relief Phase -The feeling of elation or security knowing that the tension or strain has passed


Not completing the stress cycle with the proper coping mechanisms can set our body up for additional stress, potentially leading to a breakdown. It can also mean that we are still experiencing that stress and haven’t allowed ourselves to process and recover fully. This can lead to increased sensitivity to any additional stressors we may encounter during this time.

Take a minute to recall the last time you had a stressful event and put the cycle into play. It may help you to understand the process better. The following are some ways to help complete the stress cycle.

If you have one hour:

  1. Exercise (participate in a class with friends, dance, go for a run)

  2. Schedule one hour to do whatever you want, and do not feel guilty

  3. Call someone who cares for you and talk

  4. Get creative (painting, sculpting, woodworking)

  5. Take a nap

  6. Give yourself grace

If you have 5 minutes:

  1. Do some deep breathing exercises

  2. Guided meditation (free apps online)

  3. Compliment someone-this makes you feel better as well as the other person

  4. Give or receive a hug

  5. Journal-write down anything on your mind, good, bad, or reminders

  6. Take a brisk walk outside, and get some fresh air and sunshine


Note: The VirtuALZ blog (FYI) is strictly a news and information website about Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias and life over 60. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The VirtuALZ Blog (FYI) is intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.

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