What is stress?

We all experience pressure from time to time in our lives.  Whether its an upcoming exam, a big project or personal review at work, planning a wedding or another big event, money problems or a difficult relationship.  Pressure can however turn into stress when it continues for a long period of time or when we simply feel unable to cope with it.  Stress is generally though of as the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure.  When you really feel stressed, particularly for a prolonged period of time it can get in the way of dealing effectively with these issues and can even affect every aspect of your life.

Stress is often caused by pre-existing factors (different for all of us) known as stressors.  These might be internal or external.    Internal stressors are the types of stress that include those unwanted feelings you experience which cause unease, including uncertainties (such as changing jobs), dramatic changes (a sudden serious illness or job-loss), apprehensions (such as moving house) and unrealistic expectations (such as taking an exam and expecting it to be easy).  External stressors are those that occur outside of you and around you and include traumas (such as a serious car accident), your everyday hassles (money worries or a difficult relationship at home) and general life experiences (such as looking for a new home or an on-going difficult work project).

The one thing for certain about stress is that no single one of us experiences stress in the same way.  It isn’t the same for any of us. We all react to it differently. What is highly stressful to you will be of little concern to someone else. Something intolerable to you may be stimulating to another and some people can handle stress better than others.

Stress is normal. We have all suffered from stress and it isn’t limited to any particular age group, gender, socio-economic or cultural background but you can reduce its overriding effects by first recognising there’s an issue and then developing the skills to cope with it effectively.

How might stress affect me?

Stress can affect how you feel, think, behave and how your body works.  In fact, common signs of stress include sleep-related problems, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating, or excessive sweating.  It can also lead to maladaptive or avoidant-type behaviours such as smoking or excessive drinking .  You might also feel anxious, have a low mood, you might feel more irritable than normal or as though you are lacking in confidence or self-esteem.  You might worry constantly or ruminate negatively.  You might even find that you lose your temper more easily.  You might also experience headaches, muscle tension or pain in your body and, if you suffer with stress for a prolonged period of time you might even begin to feel depressed.

Stress causes a surge of hormones in your body.  Once the pressure or threat has passed, your stress hormone levels will usually return to normal. However, if you’re constantly under stress, these hormones will remain in your body, which can lead to the symptoms of stress.

Managing stress in daily life

Stress is not an illness itself, but it can cause serious illness if it is allowed to continue and isn’t addressed.  It’s important to recognise the symptoms of stress early on.  Recognising the signs and symptoms of stress is a good start to helping you to figure out ways of coping.  This can save you from adopting unhealthy coping methods, such as excessive drinking or smoking.

In general, there is relatively little you can do to prevent stress, we all experience it from time to time, unfortunately it’s part of life.  However there are many things you can do to manage stress more effectively to better cope with it.   Learning relaxation techniques, practising mindfulness or meditation techniques, learning self-hypnosis and a number of other techniques all of which I can teach you during the course of your treatment.

Contact me for a free 20 minute face-to-face meeting or an initial consultation.

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