On a recent episode of Feel Better, Live More, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee interviewed the authors of Burnout, the Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle. On the pod, they explain what the stress cycle is, how to complete the stress cycle, and the power of running…or a 20 second hug. 

“[Stress is] a physiological cycle that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and you can complete the stress response cycle even without fixing the problem—without getting rid of the stressor…you don’t have to win the game before you get to feel good.”

Why do we have a stress response?

On the pod, the authors explain that our stress response is designed to help us with short term stressors—like being chased by a lion. So when we encounter “the lion” our bodies flood with adrenaline, cortisol, our heart rate goes up, our digestion slows down, our immune system slows down, so we can “run like crazy away from the lion.” 

How to complete the stress cycle?

On the pod, Doctors Emily and Amelia Nagoski explained that while we often try to end the stress cycle by completing the stressful activity itself (I.e. completing your work, laundry, errands), the best thing we can (still) do is…run. 

“These days we are, alas, almost never chased by lions. Instead our stressors are things like traffic, or our jerky bosses, or family, kids, the pile of laundry…and when you’re stressed out by the administrivia of 21st century life, what do you do? You run. Physical activity is what communicates to your body most efficiently that you have escaped that stressor and that your body is now a safe place to be.”

Other ways to complete the stress cycle?

Sleep, affection, crying, laughing…or a 20 second hug. 

On the 20 second hug:

“We are partially a hive species and we need other people.”

Giving someone a 20 second hug works because, “you connect physically with someone that you love and trust and in 20 seconds your heart rate lowers, your blood pressure goes down, and you return to feeling like you are safe.”