After the Webinar: Tools to Manage the Stress Response. Q&A with Wendy Hummell

Webinar presenter Wendy Hummell answered a number of your questions after her webinar, Tools to Manage the Stress Response. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question: We’ve always heard fight, flight, or freeze. What about tonic immobility? 

Wendy Hummell: Yes, tonic immobility would go under the category of freeze. That’s when there’s a percentage of the population, and I can’t remember what it is. It’s not very big, but that is our go-to stress response or muscle walk up and we were incapable of movement so that is part of the freeze response.


Audience Question: Wendy, can you talk a bit more about how our mindset or frame of mind impacts or can minimize our stress levels? And maybe talk us through an example, if you don’t mind? 

Wendy Hummell: Yeah, so, going back to Kelly McGonigal, I’ll tell you that this is something that I spent a really long time in. First of all, once I realized it for myself, I taught it to my kids.

What might be the example I share, but, again, just to kind of recap, the stress mindset is the way that you view your stress. So, if you think your stress as good, your body is going to respond differently than if you think of it as bad, and it’s more stressful. Do you think about, “Oh, gosh, you know, I have all these things happening, and that’s not a good thing?” It’s going to impact you differently. And another thing, another resource, there’s another really good Ted Talk, I can’t remember the gentleman’s name. It is and I will find it. He’s a Navy Seal and it’s about challenge versus stress. And so, I have a now 17-year-old daughter, who’s pretty competitive and plays soccer. And years ago, she would make one mistake during the game, and it would throw her completely off. And so, both my husband and I taught her, “Hey, you know, it’s just one mistake, move forward, look at this as more of a challenge on you made a mistake, move on, and go forward. Instead of dwelling on the past. You can’t change what already happened, but think about what you have, what goals, what do you want to do that’s ahead of you?” And so, just really, you know, it’s such a, it’s one of those things that are very difficult to do, and it takes a lot of practice. But just looking at a certain thing that you have to accomplish. For her it was, you know, during that game, in particular, is that looking at it as a challenge, and not as a negative thing? Kind of looking forward, being able to succeed. And I think you can really translate that to really any goal or anything that you want to accomplish in your life, whether it be a work goal or a personal goal. So, that’s what that means, It’s just your ability to look at things through a little bit of a different lens.


Audience Question: Is it the retired Navy SEAL Rich Diviney and his book Attributes? Is that what you’re talking about, Wendy? 

Wendy Hummell: I don’t know. I completely forget the gentleman’s name. I saw it five years ago. But the challenge versus the threat is what stick. That’s a good one, it’s a little bit of a longer one, but I promise, I’ll find out.


Audience Question: How does this vagus nerve interact with therapies like EMDR and brain spotting?

Wendy Hummell: OK, so, here’s what I will tell you. First of all, I am not a mental health professional. I’m not trained in EMDR and brain spotting. But I can tell you that from what I’ve heard and having conversations with mental health professionals, specifically, those that are EMDR trained, and I don’t know anybody who we talked about brain spotting, I don’t know much about that. There is a little bit of crossover in the fact that these are body-based practices. A lot of time we concentrate from the head down when in fact as I said, you know, 80% of the messages originate in the body and then they go up the brain. And so, I know that some of those things may encompass incorporating the body and movement and not just, talk therapy and things from the neck up. Again, I’m not a mental health professional, but I do know there’s a little bit of crossover from some of the conversations that I have with specialists in those areas.


Audience Question:  On the opposite side of the common stress reactions, are there any studies or theories that frivolity or making light of potential threats in our society, like, “It won’t happen to me,” or “The world’s much safer now,” might constitute an unhealthy interruption of a reasonable feeling of stress?

Wendy Hummell: OK, so I’m not quite sure I understand it, but I think I’m going to try to answer it. I apologize but there’s this concept that I learned in studying positive psychology called realistic optimism. And so, you’re not discounting that bad things happen. I think it would be unrealistic to think that we all know that bad things happen. We don’t ask for bad things. But being realistic and choosing to focus on the things that are good, right?

Being grateful for certain things, we know that there’s a lot of research, that tells us the benefit of practicing gratitude or hunting the good. So, you’re not discounting and wearing rose-colored glasses or the road is all unicorns and rainbows. You know, other things happen, but you’re choosing to focus on things that are going well. I mean, work was geared towards negativity as human beings. It is what kept us alive and safe since the beginning of man. We have to work a little bit harder, look at the things that are going well.

So, you’re not trying to, to discount the things that can happen. It’s shooting to focus a little bit more on the good.


Audience Question:  You talked about extreme cold. Does extreme heat work in the same way as extreme cold? 

Wendy Hummell: Yes and no. And I don’t know as much about extreme heat exposure as I do about the cold, but I will tell you they are both ways to ——— stress the system. And the reason why, I think you hear more about cold is it’s a lot more accessible. Exposing yourself to high temperatures is more dangerous, and so that’s something that I think is just more accessible. It doesn’t work exactly the same way, but there are both ways to positively stress the system.

Host: When we’re talking about extreme heat, that’s, like, going to a sauna, right? Or is that what we’re talking about?

Wendy Hummell: I think it classifies as above 100.4 degrees.



Audience Question: In a male-dominated industry, females being stressed come across as weak or taking things personally. How do you get help, or would you recommend better explaining, being stressed to people above you, or in charge of you who are men? So, in other words, how do we deal with that stress? And, again, because we’re women were perceived differently when we are stressed. 

Wendy Hummell: I could probably spend the whole future webinar answering that question. Good idea. Here’s what I think I’ll say. Yeah, we all respond a little bit differently to stress. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to other females that are in this line of work that don’t feel like they can get emotional or cry in front of their male co-workers, especially their supervisors because it’s viewed as weak. But they feel comfortable maybe doing that with another woman. I think what it entails is just more, just kind of more of what we’re talking about, just an understanding that crying, for instance, is 100% a natural physiological reaction to stress. I think I even had it on one of my slides on burnout by the Nagoski sisters. So, there is a reason why we cry. It’s a release of built-up stress. That’s one of the ways that we process stress and kind of process the nervous system. Because if we don’t and we hold it in, that’s one of the ways that comes out. I think just an understanding of why certain people respond, the way that they do, can be really, really helpful and beneficial.


Audience Question: What advice would you have for people who have severe anxiety and depression? How would you recommend or advise them to help some limit their stress? 

Wendy Hummell: I feel like that’s a two-part question. So, first, I’ll go with this. Anyone who feels like they’re, they’ve got an issue to the point where they can’t self-manage with anxiety or depression. I always recommend picking a qualified mental health professional. In fact, that’s one of the tools that I listed, that we didn’t get a chance to go into. We see this a lot. You know, that’s one of the reasons why I, I started out with that research, that I did because it’s very common. In fact, the role that I’ve got in my current position as Health and Wellness Manager at the Sheriff’s Office, that’s actually one of the most common things that people talk about and sustained someone talking to someone who’s a mental health professional. There are other ways as we’ve learned today that you can help to manage that stress response or that anxiety or depression. My entryway into all of this tonight? I probably should have said this in the very beginning; I am an experienced yoga instructor. I’m trained in trauma-informed yoga, and body-based practices which have been extremely helpful for me personally, and a lot of other people that come to my class, so that, that’s kind of where a lot of my background comes from. But I may start, with a good mental health professional, and then kind of go from there, and maybe even experiment with some of the things that we’ve talked about today.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Tools to Manage the Stress Response.


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