Nervous SystemStress

Controlling Stress So It Doesn’t Control You

Balancing Internal & External Stress

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

Even if we don’t feel stressed, can stress still affect how our body works on the inside?


We often have a disconnect between how stressed we feel mentally and how much internal stress is occuring unknowingly inside our bodies. 

Sometimes this is from “masking” our own emotions, a learned behavior that pushes down or hides emotions, or being disconnected from what our body feels at any given time.

This is how burnout might creep up on us since we can mentally ‘push through’ stress, but the impact it’s having on our internal and physical state is not as balanced as it may seem on the outside. 

Or we might be very in tune with how much stress our body is taking on, but lack the tools to manage that stress in an effective way. 

When internal or external stressors continue to accumulate, it burdens the body with yet another task—dealing with the byproducts of our stress response.

These byproducts are the things we eventually see and feel: 

  • Sluggishness 
  • Bloating
  • Poor digestion
  • Adult acne
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • and more

It’s important to understand how both internal and external stressors make you feel so you can regulate your response to stress better, and put a stop perpetuating symptoms of chronic illness and burnout. 

The good news is that you can take back control of how you respond to stress!

Small and consistent actions get you back to a better baseline for stress management.

Using nervous system regulation techniques from the Your Daily App—like somatics, journaling, EFT tapping, and guided meditations—can be an amazing place to get started on balancing your response to stress. 

Understanding External Stress VS Internal Stress

External Stress

External stress is just that, external to our body. These are generally classified as environmental, pollutants, events, and people. 

It’s made up of two parts—the stressors themselves, and how we respond to them. 

Stressors might look like:

✔️ deadlines at work
✔️ financial struggles
✔️ physical injury
✔️ traffic jams
✔️ conflict with others, etc.

These are typically outside of our control so we have to manage how we respond to these situations when they arise. 

External stress results in many changes within the body, but shows up in the form of:

👉 Irritability
👉 Lack of focus
👉 Avoidance
👉 Anger
👉 Changes in sleeping patterns
👉 Engaging with more negative coping mechanisms
👉 Fidgeting
👉 Forgetfulness
👉 Dissociation
👉 Withdrawal from social situations
..and more!  

Internal Stress

Internal stress also has the two components—the stressors themselves and how we respond—however, they look a bit different. 

Internal stressors arise from thoughts, feelings, beliefs, emotions or physical sensations in an person. 

It might be things like:

✔️ Self-doubt
✔️ Negative self-talk
✔️ Worrying about the future
✔️ or feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities 

In contrast to external stress, we don’t have as much control over how our body internally responds to stress. 

Your Body’s Automatic Responses

When the body perceives stress, it triggers an autonomic nervous system response that can include increased heart rate, muscle tension, shallow breathing, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and heightened levels of stress hormones like cortisol. 

Now, don’t let that discourage you, because although our body triggers an automatic response, we CAN make quite an influence on that response with repetition. 

While both internal and external stressors can trigger similar physiological and psychological responses, understanding the source of stress can be crucial in developing effective coping strategies and resilience. 

Internal stress management techniques may focus on 

👉 Changing thought patterns
👉 Practicing mindfulness
👉 Seeking support for emotional well-being

while strategies for dealing with external stressors may involve 

👉Setting boundaries
👉Seeking practical solutions

At the heart of both internal and external stress, is the opportunity to use nervous system regulation to achieve a better balance in stress management. 

How Does Nervous System Regulation Combat Stress? 

Whether you feel stressed—it is having an impact on your body. 

Specifically, your nervous system is what helps you regulate your response to stress. 

When the body is faced with stress it goes into “fight or flight” mode (aka fight/flight/fawn/freeze). So chronic stress is when we stay in this elevated state for prolonged periods, and it convinces our body that this is our new normal. 

When living in a dysregulated nervous system, we need to actively be working with our body to show/tell it that it’s safe. 

That’s why incorporating things like somatic exercises, journal prompts, meditations, and binaural beats can be great tools to show your body that it’s safe. 

Doing small actions consistently will achieve you substantial results with the magic ingredient of time! 

That’s why the Your Daily app has been so helpful for tracking my progress and helping me better regulate from stress consistently! 

Many of our daily decisions are subconsciously backed by the wants/needs of our nervous system. 

There’s no doubt that stress impacts our food and lifestyle choices on a daily basis too. Two people could experience the same stressor, but the way they respond to it may look very different. 

When we feel stressed it might lead to overeating in an attempt to self-soothe or the complete opposite of not having an appetite at all.

Stress impacts our willingness, discipline, willpower, mental health, gut health, energy levels, motivation, and so much more!!! 

To take this a step further, nervous system dysregulation is a root factor in how we respond to all events in life! 

Understanding the internal and external stress responses will help you create a better balance by incorporating techniques to help you regulate, when you notice yourself over-reactive to stressors. 

My Top Tips for Stress Resilience

Through years of working with chronically ill and burnt-out individuals, I’ve noticed some key factors that help people better regulate their stress. 

Specifically I’m reminded of a client who was waking up with no energy, complete loss of sex drive, binge eating to self-soothe and crying in the car after school drop off. 

These are some of the classic signs of burnout.

We worked on 3 key pieces of the puzzle so she could get back to feeling like herself, and integrate stress management skills so she didn’t end up feeling like this again:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Mindset and 
  3. Habits

1. Nutrition

Nutrition addresses physical imbalances in the nervous system, hormones and gut health. We can impact these systems or depletions with nutrient intake and have a major influence on physical stress to the body. 

2. Mindset

Mindset work allows us to address self-limiting beliefs and negative self talk, which are huge contributors to the internal stress we talked about earlier. 

3. Habits

Habits are the framework for being consistent in your mindset and nutrition that impact your long term stress resilience. 

Having a coach (and/or using the Your Daily App!) can help you integrate these aspects with a structured plan and accountability in staying consistent. 

So, if you’re feeling burnt-out, overwhelmed or straight up exhausted—you may need to create a better balance in your internal or external stress response. 

The Your Daily app is an amazing tool with ample resources to get you started (and keep you on track) with your nervous system regulation journey. 

You can also come chat with me (Hi, I’m April!) over on Instagram @align.withapril for more nutrition, mindset and habit tips for your wellness journey! 

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