April is National Stress Awareness Month

By April 2, 2024May 2nd, 2024Stress Awareness Month

This April, we invite you to celebrate National Stress Awareness Month along with us here at Villa Kali Ma. Join us as we explore how and why to stay out of the stress zone.

Why is Stress Awareness so important?

a-woman-in-the-fields-smilingStress is toxic to the body, mind, and heart. It is also bad for relationships, childrearing, and society at large, making us all less empathic, connected, and aware. Stress has many, many negative impacts on human life and is epidemically widespread.

It is a sign of our unwell culture that being stressed out is practically regarded to be a virtue. It’s as though the more busy and unavailable we are – the less time and presence of mind we have – the more we signal to the world how hardworking, responsible, and civic-minded we must be.

We may be effective, dedicated people. It’s also true that those who operate in a state of constant stress are agitated, scattered, disconnected from our empathy and creativity, and tunnel-visioned.

We may be excellent at executing, delivering, and getting things done on schedule. We may hold everything together under great pressure. We may deserve to be saluted, sure, for our hard work and sacrifice!

But while we grind our bodies and souls down in the name of supposed productivity and efficiency, maybe we should take a moment to consider what neuroscience tells us about the biology of stress.

In reality, stressed people are drastically less able to access intelligence, compassion, social awareness, and creativity. People who are in a relaxed, comfortable state, who are regulated in their nervous systems, have access to a greater pool of insight, intelligence, and innovation.

“Stressed” is actually a form of being triggered. Stress is a state of nervous system arousal, or fight-flight-freeze, just like what happens during scary, soul-damaging events.

The connection between daily life stress and traumatic stress, through the use of the word stress, is important. Regular stress, though fluid and episodic, has the same freezing, agitating, and anxiety-inducing effects that, if solidified, turn into one of the most serious mental health epidemics we face as a species.

So join us, friends, in our exploration of dissolving stress!

Three Types of Stress

Stress comes in different degrees, but it always affects the mind, body, and soul negatively to some extent.

There are three categories of stress used to think about levels of stress: Acute Stress, Episodic Acute Stress, and Chronic Stress.

Acute Stress

Acute Stress describes the one-time stress spike that we are all familiar with. If we almost get in a car accident, or almost miss our connecting flight, we might have a stand-alone experience of acute stress.

During acute stress, we suddenly are filled with unpleasant-feeling energization – our hearts pound, our breathing shallows, and quickens, we sweat, and our muscles tense up in preparation for sudden physical action that may be necessary to prevent something bad from happening.

When Acute Stress is over, it’s over. But in order for it to be over, we need a time of restoration and recovery, usually only possible once the danger to which our nervous system was responding with fight-flight-freeze has truly and completely passed.

If we never manage to return to full, total safety – and reset our nervous system, musculature, lungs, heart, and brain chemistry – then we may carry a residue of that stress forward into the future. That lingering feeling of danger is a form of trauma.

Episodic Acute Stress

Episodic Acute Stress starts to develop when we frequently or regularly go into Acute Stress in such a way that it becomes our default state. We may form a habit of responding with stress if we are in a work environment that seems to require it of us, or when faced with challenges that are overwhelming to us.

Very often people start to use substances or numbing behaviors to try to manage the symptoms of Episodic Acute Stress. As Episodic Acute Stress, a habit of being stressed all the time progresses, it may turn into an anxiety disorder.

Chronic Stress

Chronic Stress is the long-term state of stress that is maintained by many in our ill world. It is connected to nervous system exhaustion, stomach disorders, and heart disease, among other illnesses galore.

Chronic Stress results from the accumulation of many smaller stress episodes, over time. Chronic stress rigidifies us into stuck patterns of thinking, feeling, and relating to others that are disconnected and unhappy, and which make us sick in our bodies and souls.

How Can We Manage Stress?

1. Change Your Stress Mindset

The trouble with stress begins with the fact that we believe stress keeps us safe or makes us productive.

When we’re running across the airport trying to get our flight, we think we won’t feel ok again until we catch that flight. As if our life depends on it!

This is also true when we’re trying to get our work done in time for a deadline or speeding across town to pick our child up from school as though we need to be in emergency mode in order for the world to run.

The truth is, no matter what challenges are in front of us, it’s better for those challenges themselves if we return to feelings of peace, goodness, and safety right now in our own bodies through the conscious choice to relax and de-escalate our nervous systems. This is almost always true (true life-or-death emergencies being the exception).

If we want to not be stressed, we will find ways not to be. This choice, to value the state of regulation, comes from the recognition that our child may be mad if we’re late to pick them up, but what our child really needs is our loving, connected humanity and empathic, creative attention.

Bosses will always want us to do more, and faster, but what will actually help them with their jobs, whether they know it or not, is for us to be in a condition where we can perform from the top of our intelligence.

And so, so many things are simply not within our personal control. In these cases, stress does not do a single thing to make that existential fact different. Finally, some outcomes, while achievable through stress, aren’t worth the health damage.

We have to be in charge of ourselves, make our own decisions, and live with the results. Begin with deciding for yourself what energetic mode of living you want to be in, most of the time, and do your best to be in that state, somehow, in some way. It doesn’t have to be black or white – no stress ever – but it can be a radical goal (stress zone more than 25% of your life? Yeah! Go for it!)

2. Practice Stress Awareness

A big part of stress management is pausing to take stock, tuning into our observer awareness of what state we are in at the moment.

The easy part of stress awareness is this: stress feels bad and regulation feels good.
The key question to explore is – how do we feel in our bodies?

Regulation feels wonderful. It doesn’t mean you’re asleep on the massage table, nor are you amped up.

It does mean you can feel your muscles, your weight, your delicious body-ness. It means your breath is soft and full, and you have the presence of spirit to notice the people around you and their vibes. You softly take in the visuals, sounds, and vibrations of the world. Thoughts are easy and clear. Regulation often shows up like a little smile at the corners of your mouth, a flicker of happiness in your heart, just because.

Compare this with the stress state. What state are you in right now? What state do you want to be in? Can you imagine making that your daily priority?

3. Use Tools to Change States

Once we start to notice when we’re stressed or regulated, and how much nicer and fuller our lives feel when we’re regulated, we will naturally start shifting ourselves from stress to regulation, more of the time.

There are many, many tools for practicing shifting gears!

Below are five state-shifting tools we at Villa Kali Ma always recommend:

Five State-Shifting Tools

Lean on Mother Nature

Go outside, even if it’s bad weather. Being outdoors is a nervous system regulator. Just a few minutes of sunshine, fresh air, the sound of rain, and even sensing the sleet or the shiver of snow, help the body retune. Nature reminds the body who it is (and the mind will follow the body).


The easiest nervous system hack in the world is to lengthen the out-breath so that it is double the duration of the in-breath. For example, breathe in for a count of four, and breathe out for a count of 8. If you do this ratio of in to out breath for 12 breaths total, your body will trigger the nervous system regulation process. Then you just have to get out of the way of it.

There are many, many other variations of breathwork that will help! Here is a short post on three kinds of helpful breathing.

Walk it Out

Walking provides bilateral stimulation to the nervous system, which is regulating. It is also regulating to move the body in any repetitive, rhythmic way (which walking does naturally). A brief walk of even only 10 minutes will reset your nervous system and create greater feelings of safety, ease, and pleasant sensations in the body. Longer walks are even more regulating!

Make the Body Comfortable

Regulation feels like happiness at the body level. Get in the habit of seeing if there is anything you can do to make the body feel better (though of course, we don’t mean through substances or destructive behavior).

What the body needs might surprise you – it isn’t always to relax more in a couch potato way. The body often wants to stretch, move, mix up the energy, and change the scenery. She might want to get outside, touch something from the real world, or interact with someone face to face. Ask your body what would make her feel good, and listen.

Use Your Imagination

Close your eyes and visualize being in a place that feels great. Maybe you’ve been there in real life, or maybe it’s a place you make up for yourself. Follow the creative power of your imagination to go inward into a picture of safety, pleasantness, and joy. Sitting on a sparkly silver beach under the stars by a crackling bonfire? Walking in a pine-scented forest full of snow? Yes! Whatever feels good.

Villa Kali Ma Can Help You With Your Stress

a-woman-walking-in-the-forestHere are 3 reasons why we at Villa Kali Ma think stress awareness matters:

  1. Stress is extremely unhealthy for the physical body, and is linked to many serious diseases and causes of death (such as heart disease). But joyful, connected, heart-based, wakeful living is perfectly healthy!
  2. Stress is a major trigger for trauma, mental health imbalances, and addiction relapse. Self-love, becoming who you’re really here to be, and walking positive paths of living are protectors of all that’s unfathomably good and precious in you!
  3. Stress is psychological pollution that affects all of us. Recovery is a gift to all! We are each some spark of the spreading light of waking up that is gradually rising in humanity. Waking up to how wonderful life actually is, in its true, organic expression!

We all have the right and the capacity to remember what we once knew by nature – how to live right. We can help you figure it out, friend.

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