Lesson 3: Episodic Stress


Gain basic understanding Episodic Stress


  • Read the following material
  • Activity


What is Episodic Stress?
Episodic stress occurs when someone takes on too many tasks, becomes overwhelmed by all the demands with an inability to meet those demands. They seem to have many different disastrous situations, live in chaos and disorganization.  Things like being late for meetings, work, or appointments happen because the car broke down or they forgot to get gas.  They misplace things because they are preoccupied with trying to fix an episodic event that occurred prior to the next one.  It seems like they live under Murphy’s Law; “What can go wrong, will go wrong.”

Like acute stress our bodily organs become stressed and overworked, soon we develop heart disease, high blood pressure, compromised immune systems, and possibly suffer a stroke.

Some common reactions while under episodic stress are having a short temper, very irritable, feeling anxious, and tense.  We are always in a hurry we appear abrupt and hostile towards people.  Relationships become strained and soon our loved ones are feeling stressed and irritated, we initiate a negative atmosphere at home, work, and other social settings.  There is nervous energy and for some of us if we don’t have chaos in our lives we don’t know how to function without it.

Type ‘A’ personalities like to take on a lot of activities and most of these personalities are able to be well organized and able to meet the demands.  For others the family suffers from a lack of balanced meals, family time, and self to recuperate and reconnect.

Recognizing Affects on Family

When we live a chaotic and time consuming life we tend to use short cuts and we begin to lose the traditional values of our tribal beliefs, traditions, and lifestyles that include our family and community.

One of the things we lose is the time we spend with our families at the dinner table or the time we spend in the kitchen together talking while the food is being prepared, laughing and joking so the food will taste and make us feel good.  We start to eat fast foods and buy more frozen and prepared foods.

We decrease the amount of time we spend doing family activities by replacing that time with video games, internet service, and cable to occupy their time, “electronic baby sitters.”

We miss school events like plays, concerts, or sports and so our children become disinterested.  We don’t have time to take them to the park and they aren’t allowed to go alone because we fear someone will harm them.

When this lifestyle becomes a routine our children can suffer the consequences of gaining weight from an improper diet, feeling fatigued from the high sugared foods, irritable from gaining weight and an inability to express their emotions.

Michael Watkins - Grand Ronde member and Health Director of the Grand Ronde Tribal Health Clinic

Michael shares his personal story: “About two years ago, I was able to attend a tribal head start graduation where a nephew of mine was graduating and one thing that really stuck out to me as a tribal health director was how many children in our head start program were obese and were on the road already to developing diabetes and other health chronic conditions in their life.”

Michael goes on to say:

“We had as an example one of the children in our head start class we see here in the clinic. Our clinical director sees that young man, and at the age of six years old, he had weighed 160 pounds and he was severely obese and was on his way to developing diabetes in the next year or two.”

The children may have become obese for other reasons but if we are experiencing episodic stress it also affects our children and so recognizing it, working out a plan to get organized and finding support to help us will also help our children.

If we need to find support programs we can talk with our tribal health representative to find tribally sponsored activities, not all tribes can afford a lot of activities or support but they may have some type of community programs.  It all depends on your tribe or the city you reside in.

Michael shares some solutions:

“We were able to purchase the young man a tricycle that he was able to do on his own time at home along with his parents, and incorporate the parents into the whole master plan. Through the aquatics program at Dallas, Oregon, which is about a half hour away from the tribe here, and we were able to enroll the child into swimming classes along with the mother, and try and incorporate the mother into transitioning the role of fitness over to the family.”

“Often the tribe does what is called Family Night out, fitness activities, and several have been family swim nights at the local aquatics center where we have anywhere from 150 to 200 tribal members who go down for a night of activities at the swimming pool.”

These are just a few examples of the type of support we can inquire of to help our children.

How do we address episodic stress?



  • You will need paper and pencil
  • Make a list of all your responsibilities
  • Separate the responsibilities into categories

For example:

o      Family:  Children, husband/wife, pets

o      Nutrition: Grocery list of nutritious foods versus fast foods/packaged foods

o      Work:  Meetings, deadlines, travel, week ends

o      Social:  Parties, girls/guys night out, Family night

o      School:  Homework, Children’s homework, term papers, projects

o      Exercise:  Gym, swimming, yoga, meditation

o      Self Care:  Doctors appointments, dental, eye care, regular check ups

o      Sleep:  Hours

o      Other

  • Now estimate how much time you spend within each category:

One hour a day, a couple of hours a month, once a year, never

  • If you had to reduce some things what would you reduce?

Example:  Time on extra projects, volunteer hours, parties, etc.

  • Do you use a daily planner or monthly calendar?

If not, using a daily planner helps to organize your daily, weekly and monthly schedule to reduce over committing and to plan time for family, exercise, sleep, and self care.

  • Using a dry erase board helps with family planning, everyone can write their own commitments for the family to see and plan appropriately.
  • Taking an aromatic bath once or twice a week after a good work out or long walk with the family helps alleviate muscle tension.
  • Drinking plenty of water helps with headaches and eating fruits and vegetables helps with increased energy and positive outlooks.
  • Getting plenty of rest and having a healthy sexual relationship with your spouse or partner helps with alleviating stress and improves mood.
  • Reducing over consumption of caffeine products and junk food will help with mood swings, fatigue, and depressive moods.

Taking the time to work out schedules for yourself and family will help reduce the chaotic lifestyle and bring some balance back into your life.  Provide healthy relationships, healthy minds, ability to prepare healthy meals and physical fitness to help alleviate stress.


Stress Management  Effects of Stress;

Healthy Place: The Different Kinds of Stress; Lyle H. Miller, PhD., and Alma Dell Smith, PhD., 2/2007

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