Episode 69: This Will Change The Way You Manage Stress with Ky Russell

I love it when mindfulness meets science! I this episode, Ky Autumn Russell, a teacher of stress management and health at the San Jose State University, joins us for a fascinating conversation about holistic stress management. She’s all about embodied movement and is also a pilates & yoga instructor so I thought we were going to talk about the various stress reduction techniques. Instead, Ky shares knowledge about stress management that will change the way you manage stress. For one, “stress management” isn’t about eliminate all stress from your life. In fact, some stress is good. Another big revelation I got from this conversation is how we can utilize knowledge of the stress cycle (the innate response that’s wired within us and runs on autopilot) to help with stress management. Ky gives us a pretty awesome scientific breakdown of the cycle (appealing to my nerdy side)

but in short, we go through different phases in the stress cycle. If we’re able to identify which part we are in then we can reach into our toolbelt of stress reduction techniques (ex. meditation, yoga, breathing, exercise…) and choose the one that will be the most effective for that particular part of the cycle. OK one more tidbit to share - the problem isn’t that we’re stressed, the REAL problem is that we’re chronically stressed. It’s very normal for our bodies to endure stressful events (ex. a friend pops up from behind a bush to scare us). But the problem arises when we’re not given a chance to recover from it (return to homeostasis). It’s like friends keep popping out of the bush to scare you before you can even catch your breath. There’s always something. Unfortunately that’s the way that most of us live today and the chronic stress is what’s taking a toll on us. This is also where Ky’s work on mindful embodied movement comes in. I feel like I can write out the whole episode in this post but I’ll hold back and let you enjoy the episode! This topic is perfect timing as we’re just days away from the major hustle and bustle of the holidays. Plug in those earbuds and prepare to change the way that you deal with your stress!


Ky has created a gift for you! Go to www.kyautumn.com/curious for a myofascial release video to help you release muscle tension.

Key Nuggets:

  • Yoga was the only movement that allowed Ky to access deeper emotions when she was going through a tough time. That’s when she knew that there was something to embodied movement.

  • Plateaus in fitness are connected to the chronic stress that we experienced.

  • Key info that we need to know about stress:

    • Many people assume stress reduction means that we will eliminate stress from our lives but that’s not that case.  What we are trying to become aware of is our own stress reaction

    • Our brains don’t know the difference between the real events that trigger the flight or flight response versus events that come from thought that trigger the flight or fight response

    • A successful approach to stress management can be mindful stress management

      • Rather relying on one or two techniques, have a whole toolbelt ready

      • Learn about stress reaction and then identify it in ourselves so that when we’re in those moments we can apply the technique that’s best suited

      • Different techniques are better depending on which stage you’re in, in the stress response cycle

  • Hold an intention to understand the reaction that’s occurring in our body under stress.  No label of good or bad

  • The brain gets caught in emotion especially when you try to avoid emotions

  • Intrinsic characteristics of stress management: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual

    • These 4 components feed into each other

  • The Stress Response Cycle:

    •  “Stressor” = any stimulus (good or bad) that elicits the stress response.  Can include getting married, becoming a parent, new job that you’re excited to have…Usually any kind of change is a stressor.

    • Ky give a much better explanation in the podcast but the summary of it is:

      • A stressor occurs, causing the body to process if the stressor is a threat (happens in a split second)

      • Flight or fight response initiates

      • If everything is okay body resets.

      • If not, hormones are released.

      • if the “threat” continues, a higher dosage of hormones like cortisol is released.

  • The body thrives on peaking in stress and then rebounds into homeostasis

    • The problem with our world today is that we’re shaped to not be able to return to homeostasis

    •  You have less ability to return to homeostasis if you are not fully processed in one event

  • What do we do with all this information? Ky’s recommendation for an approach to stress management:

    • Utilize self awareness and practice. Visualize a stressful event to explore (choose one that will keep you safe while you explore)

      • Notice physical sensations as the stress response arises. What do you feel – sweaty hands? Warm face?

      • Once you what’s going on physically, then you can approach with a curious mind and catch onto what’s happening. ie “wait a min, I know what’s happening…I’m in a stress response”

    • Use Gratitude to help with the feel good hormones to release

    • Work on perception:

      • People with resilience look at situations as challenge rather than stress or a threat which helps greatly in helping you mitigate the stress response

    • Relaxation breathing like Nadi shodhana

    • Pre planning can also help mitigate ex. Time management and budgeting – intervention strategy

  • A hatha yoga class actually brings you through the cycle: Sympathetic at peak of flow and then parasympathetic to aid in recovery time in savanasana

One of Your Biggest Lessons So Far:

Focusing on the lessons is the most important things.

What is one nugget of wisdom that you would share with fellow seekers who are on this journey of growth and transformation?

Enjoy the journey and we’ll all get to the finish line eventually.  What counts is how we got there.


If you have any questions for Ky or want to learn more, connect with her through:

Website:  www.kyautumn.com

FREEBIE: Myofascial release to relieve muscle tension  www.kyautumn.com/curious

Ky’s new podcast, The Grateful Body is out! It’s about wellness, stress, yoga, pilates and social justice and health equity