Stress can occur when there is a change in our lives that can leave us feeling overwhelmed and overloaded e.g. changes in our health, finances, workload, exams etc.
Stress can occur at any age of stage in our lives.
A certain amount of stress can be viewed as something which motivates us. Some people might even describe themselves as “thriving on stress” which can make it even harder for them to notice when the balance tips and stress starts to become debilitating.
Our primitive ancestors needed to be ready to face life threatening circumstances on a day-to-day basis e.g. an attack from a predator. They truly needed to engage their abilities of flight or fight (often referred to as the stress response) in order to survive.
In modern life luckily these abilities are generally required much less often, but when we are stressed our brains can become confused into thinking that we are in mortal danger and will revert back to these primitive behaviors.
When stressed our nervous system can trigger a release of chemicals called catecholamine’s which include hormones like adrenalin which affects many different systems in our bodies causing an increase in some functions and a decrease in others:-
Heart rate and blood pressure,
Digestion of sugars,
Blood supply to muscles (particularly to the arms and the legs)
Blood clotting ability
Digestion (except sugar) causing in increase of weight despite healthy eating
Sensitivity to pain
Blood supply to the brain and skin
Immune system (causing you to be more susceptible to picking up bugs)
As the brain believes we are in danger it will direct all of its attention and reserves energies to the parts of the body it believes are most needed to survival (legs to be able to run from threat.)
This can be sustained for a limited amount of time with no long term ill effects. If the stress subsides the brain no longer feels under threat and will revert back to controlling the body in the normal way. If the stress is prolonged the long term effects can be very damaging and our bodies in numerous ways:-
Heart disease, infections, ulcers, headaches, sleeping difficulties, problems with weight control, energy levels decrease stiff muscles etc.
It can also feel like it affects our personalities making us:
Depressed, anxious, irritable, aggressive, lonely, phobias can increase, we can experience panic attacks, paranoia etc.
If stress continues long enough the sufferer can begin to see it as “normal” and they no longer acknowledge the impact. In extreme cases this can result in worsening health, heart attacks, violence, and mental/physical collapse.
If you are unsure if you are suffering from stress many tests are available online
E.g. hse.gov.uk-stress tests
Counselling/hypnotherapy can help you to explore the origins of stress and to deal with underlying and current issues. You can be taught different methods to help you to deal with your stress and give you confidence to identify and deal with any future stress which may arise.