Stress Responses And The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Updated: Jul 11

I got a message from a mother in my community asking for support.


Here’s what she wrote….

“Hi thanks for talking to me about this. I can see how ‘stress’ can look quite different actually at different situations.


Stress at home can be triggered by things like my young children just being over hyper - sometimes the bath time is too crazy and splashy; I’m trying to get them out the door for school and the toddler is pulling my lunch for work out of my bag; sometimes we make a rough plan for the day (e.g timings of activities) so I can fit in a run and things start slipping so it’s looking unlikely that i can go.


All are just examples of things that trigger my stress at home. I get a really tight feeling at my heart centre and can clench my fists. I would react by shouting or maybe snapping a bitchy comment at my husband.


I’ve been trying meditation but it’s not always easy to do one in the moment and like you said you can bring the skills in to help you manage but I wondered if there is something different I can try?


My therapist said a lot that I shouldn’t focus on changing who I am too much but I don’t like the fiery response that I have to stressful situations.


I hope that’s enough info for you to imagine the scenario. So grateful for your help Xxx”



My reply:

Hello mama! I hear that you are really struggling with your reactions to stressful situations with your boys. I hear that you are feeling triggered by their behaviour. I hear you understand that your reactions to these situations could be different and that you really want to try to respond instead. First of all I’d like to celebrate that you recognise that you have the ability within yourself to be able to make a change! Your children are very lucky to have a mother who is wanting the best for herself and therefore her children.

I would really like to explore what might be going on for you when you are in these situations in which you are being triggered. I would like to invite you to witness what thoughts are running through your head. When the children are splashing and crazy, could it be that you are feeling that your time isn’t being considered and respected? That possibly their vivacious activity you take it personally? That maybe you feel that they are not behaving in the way that you would like? That possibly you feel under pressure in some way that your children behave in a way that reflects the parent you want to be seen as?


Regarding the toddler pulling the lunchbox out and missing going for a run, do you feel that your time isn’t respected? Do you feel that you aren’t appreciated? That maybe you make time for everyone else and they aren’t making the time for you? Could it be that you don’t feel valued? That you long to be seen and recognised for your worth? But possibly you struggle maybe to ask for it? At the heart of this, the overall feeling could be that you aren’t feeling loved?


These are just some ideas from your message of what could be happening. Next time you find yourself in this situation take a moment to listen to what you are telling yourself. Observe. Understanding what thoughts are running through your head will enable you to understand what the story is that you hold for yourself, how you see your place in the world, how you think people see you and how you want to be seen. Understanding this pattern gives you the power to make changes and create new stories.


Snapping at people can also be because you are not setting boundaries where you need to. Maybe you worry that setting boundaries means that others will think you are being selfish? Not setting boundaries is possibly uncomfortable because you have created for yourself this identity of ‘rescuer’ however it’s an identity which you don’t feel comfortable with and possibly reject?


Regarding the therapist… I can’t speak for everyone, but when I reacted in ways similar to you, it sent me in more of a spiral. Negative thoughts about myself and how I felt I was being treated and viewed by others. Which activated my nervous system, which made me tense and jittery, which then had me snapping or shouting, which then I would feel guilty and shame about. Then I would be telling myself I’m not good enough, my children deserve better, then begins the thoughts again. A spiral downwards. For me it was about stopping that spiral. So noticing the thoughts as they arrive. Listen to them. Observe them. But! Know your thoughts are not you.


Observing the thoughts as they arise allows us to interject them and then prevent the nervous system from being activated. The primal brain and nervous system require love, safety and belonging to know that the body will survive. Feelings outside of this are considered a threat to our survival and can trigger a nervous system response. Our brains don’t know the difference between real danger and perceived danger. So if your thoughts are activating a sense of danger, in this instance, possibly to you not feeling loved, then your nervous system responds to that with fight or flight, which is where the physical reactions are coming from.


Hoping that this resonates for you and gives you a place to start from as you explore what is coming up and what story you are subconsciously creating for yourself.

Sending much love to you xxx


Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at hello@carlacrivaro.com.

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