Unpacking Stress


Unpacking Stress

Written by: Stephanie M. Jackson, M.Ed. M.A. of H.O.P.E. Eternally, LLC

What triggers your stress?

What is stress anyway?

Circumstances and situations




Empathy and

Suppressing your









“Stress is the physiological demand placed on the body when one must adapt, cope or adjust” (Nevid & Rathus, 2003).  Stress has various side effects such as, but not limited to: change in behavior, sleeplessness, migraines, tightness of muscles, irritation, depressive symptoms, diabetes, substance abuse, hypertension, and anxiety. When (chronic) stress is present in the body for extended periods of time it often puts stress on the internal organs, causing lasting health conditions.  Do you know what triggers stress in your life?

This month is National Stress Awareness Month.  So, this month we’re asking you to be more mindful (paying attention on purpose, without judgment) of when stress appears in your body.  Acute stress (the most common form of short-term stressors of daily life) can cause a person (of any age) to respond in one or more of the following ways: flight, fight, freeze or fawn. Flight causes your body to flee from stress or the dangerous situation.  Fight will force your body to stay and take action for you to survive a perceived threat.  Freeze prevents you from taking action against a perceived threat.  Fawn is a new term (to me) that means your body will respond by trying to please someone to prevent a conflict. 

Unfortunately, sometimes stress and conflict are inevitable and unavoidable because it is the reality that you live based on who you are and how you show up in the world. According to the American Psychological Association (2012), there are different types of stress including perceived discrimination, environmental stress, neighborhood stressors, acculturative stress, socioeconomic, daily and family stress.  An example of perceived racism could be the most recent expulsion of two BIPOC Tennessee State Representatives by the Tennessee House of Representatives.  Representatives Justin Jones, Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson were all up for expulsion for participating in a gun control protest on the House floor in light of the recent gun violence in their state.  However, the only one not expelled was Gloria Johnson.  When speaking to her expelled colleague she stated, “Other than me being a white lady, I don’t know what else”.  The stresses of the role in which they serve is enough to manage without having additional stress of perceived discrimination.  

Given that we know stress will come, knowing how to manage stress can improve our mental and physical health while minimizing its effects.  Try this….The next time you notice your body sending you messages to respond in “flight, fight, freeze or fawn” mode,  just bring your mind to focus only on what you CAN control, breathe and be still before moving forward.  THINK: how big is the problem before me and what are my options.  Also, consider this: in light of how the world and people (including ourselves) have changed as a result of COVID, we must fill ourselves up on a daily basis to be able to manage, overcome and flow with what each day brings us.  Below, you can find resources to help you along this journey (adventure, if you will) of unpacking your stress.  

If you are in need of additional support beyond the scope of this blog, please reach out to us at www.mmhplou.com  to connect with a therapist.  We are here for you.


What Does Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn Mean? 

Fact Sheet: Health Disparities and Stress

What happens next after the Tennessee House ousted 2 Democrats

Strategies/Resources to Unpack Your Stress

  • Music
  • Write/Read/Perform Poetry (April is also national poetry month)
  • Exercise
  • Yoga
  • Therapy 
  • Local Support Groups
  • Hobbies
  • Nature
  • Reading
  • Doing things that you enjoy
  • Laugh 
  • Journal
  • Flotation Therapy


The P.O.W.E.R. of 5: Reclaiming Your Power After COVID, Racial Injustice and Beyond

Brothers on the Mend : Understanding and Healing Anger for African-American Men and Women 

Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind, Body, and Spirit

Coloring & Activity Mental Health Book Series by artist, Brandon Hill


The Dope Black Therapist 

Black Mental Health Podcast 

Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations- A New Earth: Breaking Free (Episode 6)

Population Healthy Season 3: Race, Inequity and Closing the Health Gap- Black Families and Mental Health


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Notice To Readers

Articles are not a substitute for professional advice or therapy. Seek advice from a physician or mental health provider. Don’t disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional counseling because of something you have read here.

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