We all experience stress sometimes but what exactly is stress and when does it become a problem?
Here is a very brief guide.
What is stress?
Put very simply, stress is our body's way of responding when it perceives any kind of threat or demand. We usually think of stress as a negative thing but it can be triggered by both good and bad situations – think of that rush you get when you’re about to ride on a roller-coaster.
When we feel stressed by something, our bodies react by releasing certain chemicals into the bloodstream. The purpose of these chemicals is to make us more alert and to increase our strength and energy in order for us to deal with any threat.
Is stress always bad for you?
No. Pretty much all of us need a little stress from time to time, life would actually be a boring without it. It’s a natural part of our body’s defence mechanism and can help us through difficult situations. Think of the nerves you get before an exam which make you feel more alert and better able to concentrate. Or if you’re trying to cross a busy road that kick of chemicals can help you move faster and get yourself out of any danger.
So when is stress a bad thing?
Stress can start to be a problem when we face constant demands and our bodies never get a chance to relax.
Many of us live our lives at a hectic pace. We often put a lot of pressure on ourselves and may take on too many responsibilities then find it impossible to manage them all. This can cause us to frequently feel stressed and anxious as we put demand after demand upon ourselves. This kind of stress is known as episodic acute stress and can cause persistent muscle tension, headaches or migraines, irritability, negativity, over-reaction to situations and can even lead to serious health conditions.
Then there’s chronic stress. This can often be caused by deep-rooted problems in our lives such as ill health, problems at work, an unhappy home life, relationship problems or financial worries. People who are experiencing this are not always aware that they are suffering the effects of chronic stress as the causes are so ingrained into their lives.
Unlike acute stress, there is no excitement or thrill to chronic stress. Some typical symptoms include sleep problems, chronic anxiety, headaches, stomach disorders, depression, low immune system, brain fog and social withdrawal.
Over time it can have a terrible effect on health and well-being.
What can we do about it?
There’s not that much we can do to avoid finding ourselves in stressful situations but what we can do is change the way we react to them. Imagine being stuck in a traffic jam when you’re already running late. A stress response would be to feel your heart start pounding as you get more and more irritated by the situation. You might start raging and shouting at whoever happens to be in earshot or lose it completely and end up in floods of tears!
Or you could train yourself to take a more relaxed and calmer approach; to accept the situation for what it is, realise you can’t change anything and therefore remain cool and calm – much better for your general well - being (and probably your passengers too…).
It can be difficult to change your outlook and to learn how to lead a calmer life but there’s so much you can do to help yourself. I passionately believe that the therapies I offer can be of great benefit in helping with this but there are all kinds of methods and approaches out there, including other complementary therapies, exercise, yoga and many more. Once you find what works for you it can have a dramatic effect on your life and your well-being as you free yourself from stress and anxiety. More calm, less stress.
In no way is this information designed to take the place of medical advice. If you feel your well-being is being adversely affected by stress, anxiety or depression you should always seek the advice of your GP.