Manage A Season of Change With A Stretch to Stress Map [Fireside Prompt]

The Stretch-Stress Map is useful if you’re in a season of change (by accident or design), and you want to stay focused, motivated, and connected to what matters most.

When facing change, it can be helpful to determine where we are on the stretch-stress continuum. This allows us to move forward rather than get stuck or derailed. The key is to find the right balance—between pushing ourselves enough to experience a healthy sense of progress but not so much that we become overwhelmed and disconnected from our sense of purpose.

Even if we know exactly where we want to go, progress rarely happens along a neat, straight line. It’s rhythmic, cyclical, and seasonal. It also happens in fits and starts and can feel jaunty and clunky. One moment, it feels like everything is flowing beautifully, but the next moment, we come to a grinding halt, and it feels impossible to see the wood for the trees.

This soundscape and exercise is inspired by Deb Dana’s “Stretch-Stress Continuum”, which raises awareness of our constant movement between different autonomic states (ventral regulation, sympathetic flight/fight, and dorsal shutdown). At any given moment, we are somewhere along the pathway between stretch (feeling connected, energised, and motivated, able to enjoy and savour the journey we are on) and stress (feeling overwhelmed, disconnected, and panicked by the whole thing).

Peering Over The Edge

When we discussed the Stretch-Stress Continuum in our Anchored Book Club, we discussed the mid-point (“The Edge”) as being like a cliff.

It’s not as simple as turning around and wandering back to safety and connection when you step over this point into a state of stress. Turning and looking at the cliff can make the whole thing more overwhelming because you have a vertical rock face to try scaling. But stepping back and getting the bigger picture makes identifying pathways back up to the top possible. Pathways that might be a little overgrown and difficult to spot at first can be trodden down and bedded in so they are more easily and quickly found in the future.

I imagined Rhossilli Bay in South Wales embodying the Stretch-Stress Continuum. The beach there is vast, the cliff tops are picturesque, and Worm’s Head, which gets cut off for a significant part of the day due to the tide, represents the different aspects of the continuum.

This exercise helps us identify anchors, habits, and cues to use when making change happen. They help us return to safety when we slide into stress and survival states.

Play with it in a way that makes sense and fits for you. It’s a playful exploration to raise awareness. There are no right or wrong ways to do it.

The Stretch-Stress Continuum: Walking The Line

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