Stress is fundamentally a physical response, when the body thinks it is under attack, by releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals, such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, to prepare the body for physical action.
This causes a number of reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions, such as digestion.
We’ve all heard of fight or flight, when faced with life-threatening situations, our bodies are equipped to do both, the chemicals released allow us to face those once prehistoric animals.
However, in modern life, we have less life-threatening situations to contend with, yet our bodies still have a tendency to go into stress mode at inappropriate times, which can be detrimental to our mental and physical health if it continues.
Stress can come at a time of great change in your life, huge upheavals or events such as divorce, a new job, a new baby. It’s not always sad moments either, it can be that you enjoy taking on new challenges that make you happy or even preparing for a big celebration.
Stress can present itself gradually, so you are unaware of it creeping into your life. It can affect you in so many ways, emotionally, physically and mentally. It can alter your behaviour patterns too.
It’s important to understand why you are feeling stressed and what has caused it, does it stem from: work; family; personal or social life?
By facing these questions, as soon as you can, you are able to start looking at ways to find answers.
It’s not always going to mean that you can change the situation, but you can hopefully look at ways that help you deal with what is happening, so you able to better manage it.
Stress can affect you emotionally, you may feel
- lack self-esteem
It can effect you, so that mentally, you may feel
- have trouble concentrating
- are easily distracted
- muddled minded
Behaviourally, you may find you
- get cross with people
- avoid people or situations
- take to other distractions like alcohol, smoking, food
Physically stress can result in
- sleep problems
- eating too little or too much
- niggling aches and pains
- feeling dizzy
- digestive complaints
Cognitive Behavioural Techniques (CBT) talking through your problems to help you change the way you think and behave. CBT helps you get out of a trapped pattern of behaviour focussing on the problems in the present that are causing you stress.
You’re GP may prescribe medication to help reduce or alleviate stress or if you are having problems sleeping.
Mindfulness is a mental training technique allowing you to look at what is going on in the present moment by being aware of thoughts, feelings and mood. It helps you reconnect with your body, leading to a more positive mental outlook, that breaks the cycle of stressful thoughts. So you can see things as they are, and not as you wish them to be. So you become better at spotting the build up of stress and the consequences of it. You learn that thoughts are just thoughts.
There are many courses available and a great deal of evidence to support the positive effects that mindfulness brings.
Some people choose to join an eight-week Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. A group-based class where you can get the benefit of guidance and support from an experienced mindfulness teacher.
Stress Management Courses
Deep breathing techniques allows the body and mind to take in the correct levels of oxygen needed to maintain a healthy, balanced system.
The benefits of breathing correctly help create an energetic surge, purifies the blood and causes a relaxed state of being.
Exercise Research shows that physical activity boosts mood, self-esteem, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing the risk of developing depression and many other serious health problems.
Even just a daily 20 minute walk can have beneficial effects.
Healthy Eating Eating a healthy, balanced diet, preferably low in sugar, caffeine and refined and processed foods will be a step towards levelling out your energy levels and stop you developing the troughs and spikes that so many unhealthy, convenience foods cause, acerbating the affects of stress further.
Choosing the right foods to help with managing your stress will help calm, nurture, energise, nourish and restore. Allowing your body to remain balanced, healthy and efficient.
Nutrition LINK – Estuary Clinic – other
Self Help via books or online courses