Everyone needs a certain amount of stress to live well. Some stress may help our body to prepare for certain challenges, so it’s probably impossible to live without any stress at all. But too much stress, especially if it’s day in, day out, can cause physical and emotional problems.
To enable our body to respond almost instantly to challenges, many of its control mechanisms happen without us having to think about them. This involuntary control of things, such as how fast our heart beats, is achieved by our autonomic nervous system. This is an essential part of the ‘fight or flight’ response.
As well as triggering responses in muscles, including our heart, our autonomic nervous system sends signals to our hormonal system, triggering the release of chemical messengers such as adrenaline. These are released into our bloodstream and travel all around our body contributing to the ‘fight or flight’ response by, for example, making us more alert, boosting our blood pressure and releasing sugars into our bloodstream. This results in a heightened – or stressed – state that prepares our body for optimum performance in dealing with a situation.
The stresses we face in our everyday lives – such as deadlines at work or money troubles – don’t really trigger a ‘fight or flight’ response. However, they do release the same stress hormones, and this natural reaction can damage our health and reduce our ability to cope. Overall, if we are under long-term stress we are at greater risk of developing disease or dying prematurely.
Everyone reacts to stress differently. However, there are some common symptoms to look out for:
People who are chronically stressed may have; periods of irritability or anger, apathy or depression, constant anxiety, irrational behaviour, mood swings and be oversensitive, loss of appetite, a tendency to comfort eat, an inability to concentrate or make decisions, loss of sex drive, an increased likelihood of smoking, drinking, or taking recreational drugs
There can also be physical effects, which may include the following; excessive tiredness, sleep problems, tearfulness, frequent colds and infections, high blood pressure, skin problems – such as eczema, aches and pains from tense muscles – including neck ache, backache and tension headaches, increased pain from arthritis and other conditions, feeling sick and dizzy, stomach problems – including constipation, diarrhoea or ulcers, for women – missed periods.
In times of extreme stress, people may tremble, hyperventilate (breathe faster and deeper than normal) or even vomit. For people with asthma, stress can trigger an asthma attack.
You can begin to break that cycle of stress, anxiety, panic, fear and being out of control, with hypnotherapy. Your negative emotions, can be replaced with positive life coping ones, and your stress can be reduced.