General Adaptation Syndrome

  1. Emergency Response (Alarm)
    • Fight-or-Flight OR Tend-and-Befriend
  2. Prolonged Stress Response (Resistance)
    Adaptation to the new normal

    • Panic & Anxiety
    • Shock
  3. Exhaustion


The Emergency Response can only be maintained for a limited period; eventually continuous activation defeats its beneficial purpose and becomes more damaging than the stressor to which it is responding. The length from prolonged stress to exhaustion may vary with individuals. Within the context of what I have seen with MLC and Standing, it typically takes a person 6 weeks to 3 months after Bomb Drop to recover some resiliency. Notice I said some resiliency; recovery is a gradual process. Those who do not begin to recover in 3 to 6 months reach emotional and physical exhaustion as the over-stressed body depletes its resources. Exhaustion may be marked by prolonged panic, anxiety, difficulty with detaching and a greater tendency toward the victim mind-set. Though recovery is gradual, most people recover. If after several months you continue to have problems recovering, consider seeing a doctor and a therapist—something you should do soon after Bomb Drop in the Stress Response phase.
Some of you may read about Exhaustion and fear that since it has been 9 months (or more) you are one of those failures who has failed to detach. This is why I wanted to stress that you notice some resiliency. You are not going to be fully recovered in 6 months, or a year, maybe not in two years. Other than those with an at-home MLCer, a person who reaches an extreme level of emotional exhaustion has made no baby-steps—not even baby-steps that they reversed a day later. Recovery starts with the smallest of sparks and that mere speck of a spark may be the only bounce you show for a long time. Hold onto that spark. Exhaustion is both physical and emotional and your body may experience the physical consequences—see your doctor, please. But in the context of resilience I am most concerned with those who yield to emotional exhaustion; they are typically more susceptible to learned helplessness and they give up. But they don’t give up wanting their marriage; they feel more distraught and may be more likely to act with desperation.
No one and no situation is hopeless. I am not trying to discourage those of you who are feeling this way. But I want you to know that you need more help than simply reading information and receiving some fluffy advice about this not being your fault and needing to focus on your Self. You may have been either emotionally or physically conditioned to susceptibility to stress by having periods of stress and trauma at other times in your life—childhood stress and trauma create the most susceptibility. You may have learned poor coping skills, but it is more important that you realize it may not be anything to do with your moods, behaviour or choices. The physiologic stress response becomes more sensitive with activation. What that means is if you have experienced a lot of stress and trauma at other times in your life, your body will have a stronger stress response and may maintain the response longer than someone whose life has had less trauma.
See your doctor. Talk to a therapist. Join a support group. And for all of those, keep communicating.

Series NavigationStress Response III


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