Stacey Alexandre operates Two Roads Therapeutics in Saskatoon and is a mental health and behaviour consultant. He works with athletes and teams on athletic mental performance, corporate wellness and mental health, and individual and family counselling. In this podcast episode, Stacey walks host Alison Friesen through a stress mapping session that he would work through with his clients.
Sessions with Stacey would include the following steps:
- Understanding what stress is. Stress is a response to stimuli’s in your environment both real and perceived. Stress is important for several reasons including helping us perform and warning us of dangerous situation. Stressors can be good or bad. How we respond to stress is impacted by the number of experiences we have had, how our parents responded to stress, biology or genetics, how people around us are responding, the number of stressors we are dealing with and faulty perceptions of who we are.
- Identifying when we are feeling stressed. The body sends us cues through physical symptoms like increased heart rate, irritability, sweaty palms, upset stomach and headaches. We need to pay attention to these cues and navigate our response, so our stress doesn’t turn into a mental health issue.
- Education on how the human stress response works. Our stress response activates our prefrontal cortex. Negative thoughts limit the blood flow to the brain and prevents us from thinking as well. If we don’t cope with the negative stress response, stress hormones are released which results in a physical response that inhibits performance.
- Learning how to re-channel our stress response from negative to positive through the oxygen loop and the cognitive loop. When we have a negative stress response, we begin to shallow breath, so teaching people to practice proper deep breathing is key. When we focus on breathing it helps break then negative thought pattern. (This is the oxygen loop). Once this thought pattern is broken then we need to refocus our thoughts. Focusing on being present in the moment (mindfulness) will help activate the positive portion of the prefrontal cortex and the blood vessels open and memory comes back (cognitive loop). So, for example an athlete can focus and think about their role and trust their training and practice.
- At this point, Stacey would work through an example of walking through stress responses in the client’s life practicing the oxygen loop and the cognitive loop.
- Practicing breathing and cognitive switching is key. The prefrontal cortex is like a muscle that needs to be strengthened. Stacey will incorporate this practice into a client’s day to day routines, so it becomes automatic.
- Finally, maintenance activity is discussed to help lower negative stress responses. This activity can include exercise, proper sleep, nutrition, external supports, hobbies or pets.
Stacey can be reached though his website tworoadstherapeutics.ca or through social media on twitter, LinkedIn through a search for Two Roads Therapeutics