Stress ? What stress? If this is your response then there is no need to read on. April is Stress Awareness month, an opportunity to take time to reflect on the impact of stress on our lives. In this blog you will learn what stress is, its impact, how we can manage it more effectively and how hypnotherapy can help.
What is stress ?
Stress can be defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.” Whether or not circumstances are adverse or demanding will vary from person to person. It is how the individual perceives a situation that defines whether it is stressful or not for them. A simpler definition, that perhaps reinforces this point is that stress is “a feeling of being under abnormal pressure”.
Is all stress bad ?
Stress can be a powerful force for good, bringing healthy, happy excitement into you life. This type of stress is known as good stress or eustress. Typically, it is short-lived and brings joy and interest to everyday life. Examples of eustress include riding on a rollercoaster, watching a scary film, competing in a fun physical challenge or going on a date. When you experience eustress your motivation or excitement levels are elevated. Eustress helps you to reach our goals, push yourself beyond your comfort zones and to keep developing, learning and striving.
In contrast, bad or chronic stress, leaves your body in a constant state of hyperarousal. In this state your body is constantly prepared in fight or flight mode. This is detrimental to both your physical and mental wellbeing. Ongoing pressure at work or prolonged pressure from family, relationships or financial concerns can result in this type of stress.
How does stress affect us ?
On an emotional level, you may find that you are less tolerant or resilient when things go wrong. This may impact upon relationships. It can be harder to shake off the low mood that you woke up with that morning and you may find yourself feeling more emotional overall. Additionally, you may find that you are less interested in spending time with others. This can result in feelings of isolation that can subsequently lead to feelings of depression.
Physiologically, when you are experiencing stress you may find that your muscles tighten, causing pain and discomfort.
Changes in eating habits or digestive problems may also arise.
You may also be aware of a lack of clarity in your thinking and difficulty in focusing on just one task at a time.
Sleep can also be affected. You may have problems with “switching off” to go to sleep at night or find that you awake in the middle of the night or early morning with a racing mind that prohibits you from returning to sleep.
The long term effects of prolonged chronic stress can include heart attack, stroke or burnout.
How can you manage your stress ?
Abdominal breathing lowers your stress levels by allowing for a full oxygen exchange to take place, which activates your body’s natural calming response. The effects are almost instantaneous.
Meditation enables you to bring yourself back to the present moment. When you are fully focused on the present moment there is no room for rumination about the past or engaging in negative predictions and “What ifs” about the future. There is only now.
Spend time in nature.
Being in nature very effectively reduces anxiety and brings calm to a previously stressed or anxious mind. In addition, you will find that after spending time outdoors you will enjoy a better night’s sleep too.
Writing a gratitude diary daily is a powerful way to focus on the positive aspects of your day. Being grateful aids sleep, enhances mood, increases energy levels and can reduce the presence of the stress hormone, cortisol, by up to 23%.
Eat more fruit and vegetables.
The minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants in fruit and vegetables lower your stress levels and also increase your sense of wellbeing.
When you prioritise your sleep you are not only boosting your emotional resilience for the following day but are also providing your brain with an opportunity to fully process everything that has happened in the previous 24 hours. This processing helps you to maintain a clear and objective perspective on events and impacts positively upon your stress levels.
Connect with others.
Talking, laughing or simply being with other people will significantly raise your mood and help you to relax too. Sometimes just talking things through with someone else can make it easier for you to find the solution to a difficulty.
Exercise helps to relieve stress and boosts your endorphin levels too. Exercise provides an opportunity for your mind to clear as you deliberately move your focus elsewhere. When you do return, after your exercise time you will feel refreshed, more creative and more objective.
It is important to look after your own needs. This includes spending time engaging in activities you enjoy and spending time with people who are important to you. By embedding self-care practices into your routine everyday you will find they will be easier to maintain on days when you are feeling stressed. These are the days when you need self-care most, but can find it more difficult to make the time if the habit is not already established.
Avoid Unhealthy Coping Strategies.
Emotional eating, emotional drinking (alcohol or coffee) or smoking are short term solutions that will cause more difficulties in the longer term. Rather than trying to dull the stress in these ways, it is important to take positive action to identify your stress, change what you can, and then use some of the above strategies to help you manage whatever is left.
Is stress dominating your life? Sometimes situations that we cannot change are stressful. Through hypnotherapy you can discover practical ways that you can control and change your responses to these situations. You will develop new, positive, effective strategies that you can use time and time again. You will learn how to take back control by choosing how, when, and if you respond.
Why not contact me today and stop stress dominating your life now ?