When I was 20, I lived in France for a year, a requirement of my Degree course. It was one of the toughest years of my life and I was an emotional mess, never far from a box of tissues! One of my friends over there was emotionally fine, but caught one bug after another, and that was the first time I realised that stress will always have an out!
Now, as a hypnotherapist, I see all kinds of symptoms. Some clients will tell me that they don’t feel stressed; yet they can’t sleep, or have migraines, or have developed a need to re-check that the front door is locked 5 times when they leave the house.
So, what is stress? It’s the body’s way of responding to any kind of danger or threat. When working properly, it helps you to stay strong, focused and alert. It keeps you safe by giving you extra strength to defend yourself or energy to run away from a threat.
However, when you can’t run away from constant pressure at work, or fight a demanding boss, you can develop chronic stress, and this can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body; it can supress your immune system, upset your digestion and reproductive systems and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
A study by the Mental Health Foundation found that, in the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. To stop getting to that stage, you really need to recognise signs of stress in yourself, so you can take action:
Signs of Stress
- Irritability or Anger
- Aches and Pains
- Frequent colds or minor illnesses
- Headaches or migraines
- Poor sleep
- Eating more or less
- Using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax
- Re-checking things
- Nail biting
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Worrying about the future or dwelling on the past
- Seeing only the negative
Here are some suggestions to help you eliminate, or cope better, with stress:
- Find out what’s causing you stress and change it if possible (e.g. if it’ your job can you get a new job?)
- Ask for help – can you talk to your boss about your workload or ask your partner for more help round the house for example
- Find healthy coping mechanisms – rather than relaxing with a glass of wine meet a friend for an exercise class or have a bubble bath
- Eat well, to support your immune system and guard against illness
- Spend time with positive people who you can have fun with – laughter really is the best medicine!
- Practice some kind of mindfulness or meditation – focusing on the here and now will stop you worrying about the future or dwelling on the past
- Reduce your exposure to social media and bad news stories – they increase the level of stress hormones in your body
- Change your thought patterns – instead of talking about how rubbish your day has been talk about what’s been good.
And remember – you can’t pour from an empty cup. You need to look after yourself if you want to look after others.