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What is Maladaptive Stress?

What is Maladaptive Stress?

The term maladaptive is the opposite of adaptive and the dictionary term is “not adjusting adequately or appropriately to the environment or situation.”

Whereas adaptive is described as “having an ability to change to suit changing conditions”.

Maladaptive stress comes from using coping methods that at first seem to work very well, for example avoiding something that causes you high levels of stress, anxiety or even an uncomfortable feeling.  Whilst you may no longer experience those uncomfortable feelings you will have to work hard to avoid the experience or anything similar to that first experience and enters maladaptive stress.

The stress of having to manage your life in a way that avoids any possible chance that you are going to feel that high level of stress or anxiety can be exhausting, overwhelming and a sense of sadness of missing out on living your life the way you truly want and deserve to.

What if you were able to adapt to the situation or experience and using coping methods for the high stress or anxiety?

Like a chameleon changing to suit the environment, it would allow you to step out of avoidance and into acceptance.  Acceptance of your ability to cope with any situation as you have the strategies and coping skills you need.

In a way maladaptive stress is something we swap for that initial stress and anxiety isn’t it?  It feels easier because it is of our choosing, we choose to do it in this way, to not do certain things due to previous experiences.

What if those choices means you have put yourself into your own self-imposed jail?  It is essentially living in a big castle with lots of different rooms, all decorated differently, but you have chosen to live only in the smallest room in the castle, as you know that room, every part of it, no part of that room can ever surprise you.

Whilst that room feels safe to you, it takes a lot of work and energy to stay inside that room and to not allow in any outside forces that would threaten or change that room and the comfort you feel within there.

So the question is do you want to continue to cope with your maladaptive stress and stay within the confines of your self-imposed jail or are you ready to step out and learn some new adaptive coping skills that will allow you to explore all there is for you to experience within your life?

If you are ready to step out I encourage you to give the following exercise a try:

Easy vs Reset Buttons

Easy buttons are the things you do that make you feel instantly better or a fake better but doesn’t last and can actually end up making you feel worse.

Reset buttons are the things you can do that will actually have a deeper affect on you and truly bring you a bigger and longer lasting feeling of peace and happiness.

I’ll share my easy and reset buttons and then I encourage you to write out your list.

Source: Glennon Doyle – Untamed

Now it is over to you, think about and write out your buttons and keep them in a place where you can refer to them in the times where you are likely to turn to the easy buttons.


When you are feeling ready to embark on your healing journey, I can help you!

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