Updated: Oct 1
What is Chronic Stress?
Stress is a survival mechanism that affects each and every one of us at times. When we feel under attack our bodies are flooded with hormones including cortisol and adrenaline that make us more alert and ready for action. We experience this as fear or anxiety. Stress is a normal reaction to certain events and can actually be very helpful. It triggers that fight or flight response that humans have relied on for thousands of years. We may not have to flee from wild animals on a daily basis, but even in today’s world this stress response can help us think quickly and remove ourselves from genuinely life-threatening situations. In some cases, short-term stress can even help us to focus on things like exams, work presentations and speeches.
Stress is useful when it is a short-lived state. Originally, we would get that rush of adrenaline to help us fight, freeze or flee until we felt safe once again and then those feelings would quickly subside and we would go back to our normal state, known as homeostasis. It is a great design meant to keep us alive and the system worked well.
However, our daily lives have changed beyond recognition but our bodies haven’t had time to adapt. Our poor nervous systems are not good at distinguishing daily stressors from life-threatening events. If stress lasts over a matter of days, weeks or longer it can seriously impact your psychological and physical well-being and many of us live our lives in a state of chronic stress without even realising it.
Are You Suffering From Stress?
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, it could be due to prolonged stress and may be a warning that you need to take action.
Unexplained aches and pains
Chest pain or a rapid heart beat
Diarrhea or constipation
Change in appetite
Loss of sex drive
Frequent colds or flu
Insomnia or oversleeping
Increase in nervous habits
Smoking or drinking more than usual
What Causes Stress?
Stress can be caused by external factors, such as a divorce, a new job, a bereavement, a house move and many other life changes. It can also be caused by internal factors, such as illness, constant worry or the thoughts that go through our minds on a daily basis. We all cope with stressful situations or events differently and things that one person might find exciting or a welcome challenge, may completely stress the next person out to such an extent that they become physically or mentally ill. Stress is more likely to have a particularly negative impact if it is prolonged. Perhaps you have money worries that you can’t see an end to or a particularly stressful job that doesn’t let up. Whatever the initial cause, it is important that you recognise the signs and symptoms of stress and to learn how to manage it.
How Can I Become More Resilient to Stress?
One thing is for sure and that is that we cannot avoid stressful situations. However, we can manage the way we respond to a stressor and take time out to relax and look after our bodies and minds on a daily basis. The more we practise relaxation, the more resilient we can become to the effects of stress.
Processed foods, saturated fats and refined sugars can all worsen your mood and negatively affect the way your body responds to stress. Be sure to eat a diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables and get all the vitamins and nutrients you need to help your body and mind cope with the stresses and strains of our busy lives.
Try and make time everyday for some exercise. Our bodies were designed to use those stress hormones in a physical way, either fighting off our enemies or running until we reached safety. Today, we don’t tend to do that so much! However, our bodies don’t know this and they hold all that pent up energy inside, just waiting for us to spend it. Some physical exercise can really help with lowering those stress hormones. You don’t have to run or fight, maybe a bicycle ride or an hour at the gym suits you better. Dance, Zumba, take the dog for a brisk walk. It doesn’t matter what your chosen activity is as long as you get the heart rate up and just move around. If you get stressed during the day at work, go for a brisk walk around the block during your lunch hour. You will be amazed at how much better you feel and how much clearer your head will feel by the time you get back to the office. The fresh air and change of scenery will also help to put everything back into perspective.
Feeling tired can cloud your judgement, make you feel more irritable and less able to cope with everyday stress. It can also have a very negative impact on your health, leading to fatigue, weight gain, decreased immunity and an increased chance of getting colds and flu. Stress can lead to insomnia, creating a downward spiral, so it is important to sleep well and tackle any symptoms of insomnia.
Setting aside time for relaxation each day can be extremely helpful in lowering those stress hormones. Deep relaxation through hypnosis can also help you to learn to relax your body and mind and teach you the difference in your body’s states so that you can easily identify the signs of stress and do something about it before it starts to create physical or mental illness. As we spend so much time feeling stressed, it often becomes a normal part of our day to day lives. However, this is not a healthy way to live each day and we need to recognise that.
Hypnotherapy Can Help
If you would like to learn to manage your chronic stress, please book an initial consultation and assessment session to find out how my 6-week hypnotherapy programme can help. After our initial consultation, if you decide to go ahead, I will write you a personalised treatment plan and use a combination of hypnotherapy and other techniques to help you manage your thoughts, emotions and behaviours. I can teach you techniques and self-hypnosis exercises that you will use for the rest of your life so that stress never becomes a problem again.