WHAT IS STRESS?
There are five levels of stress that people experience in life: -
· Hypostress occurs when you are bored and unchallenged and become unmotivated in all areas of your life.
· Eurostress is short term stress that gives you the motivation to complete a task. This is a positive stress that increases performance.
· Acute stress causes tension and physical effects.
· Episodic acute stress is more damaging than acute stress and causes more serious physical effects.
· Chronic stress is a serious state that is continuous and can lead to serious illness, including cancer.
· Traumatic stress is caused by a massive acute stress which is often cumulative.
Stress manifests itself in three ways: -
· There will be a trigger to your stress that is identifiable. For instance, fear of the dentist, fear of public speaking or fear of socialising.
· There will be no trigger as the symptoms are evident all the time. With this type of stress, you are likely to suffer from low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.
· Phobic responses, IBS, panic syndrome, insomnia and depression. In this group of conditions there will be deeper issues involved.
Everyone experiences significant stress at some time in their lives. In daily life, people are busy with work and family life and have little time to relax and unwind. On top of this, people have to deal with the stress of many life changes that occur over a lifetime, including relationship breakdown, death, financial worries, work difficulties and illness. For instance, leaving a relationship and not knowing what the future holds; or a diagnosis of cancer and the fear of death or the fear that it will come back.
Stress is a natural reaction to fear and change and in small doses, stress can help to keep you motivated, focused and alert. In this sense, it is a good thing. However, when you feel under too much pressure, stress stops being helpful and starts causing damage to mood, health and relationships.
When you are under too much stress and feeling overwhelmed the subconscious interprets this as a threat. Automatically, the nervous system responds by releasing stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol which prepares your body for action. Your body undergoes physical changes, the heart rate increases and the senses become sharper and focused. Your body is preparing to either fight or flee from the perceived danger.
This reaction is your subconscious mind protecting you and in dangerous situations it can help to save your life. However, your subconscious is unable to distinguish between emotional and physical threats. For instance, if you are experiencing relationship difficulties or a difficult work situation, your body automatically reacts with the same fight-flight response as to a dangerous physical situation.
WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Anxiety is an effect of stress and is closely linked to fear, change, worry and apprehension. Anxiety is stress that continues after the stressful situation has gone. Your subconscious mind stores information about a previous event or series of events that caused you fear. When faced with other situations that produce similar feelings and fears, your subconscious automatically activates the survival mode. Anxiety is an instinctual response to aid survival in the same way as the stress response. However, as with the stress reaction the fight-flight reaction may not be appropriate for the situation.
For many people, anxiety interferes with normal life and excessive anxiety is often associated with other psychiatric conditions. The physical symptoms of anxiety caused by the fight-flight response include diarrhea, dry mouth, increased heartbeat, insomnia, anger/irritability, inability to concentrate, fear of being crazy and feeling out of control of your actions.
Long term anxiety can lead to you avoiding situations that caused this initial feeling and the likelihood is that you will avoid more and more situations over time.
Long term anxiety can result in the development of anxiety disorders. If you have been experiencing extreme levels of anxiety for at least one month it is important that you seek professional support. The most common anxiety disorders are: -
Generalised Anxiety Disorder
Chronic anxiety or worry even when there is very little or nothing to provoke it. You tend to worry most days and worry about a lot of different things, such as work, family, health, finances and even minor chores. These worries are so intense and persistent that they interfere with daily living.
The symptoms include restlessness, fatigue, concentration difficulties, irritability, muscle tension, difficulties controlling worry and sleep problems.
Obsessional Compulsive Disorder
Ongoing and unwanted thoughts and fears that cause anxiety and lead to repetitive behaviours or rituals, in an effort to relieve the anxiety. For instance, a fear of germs can lead to constant washing of hands and clothes.
Recurrent and unexpected panic attacks, characterised by intense fear. The physical signs include palpitations, accelerated heartbeat, sweating, trembling and shortness of breath. Psychological symptoms include intense feelings of impending doom; feeling out of control during the attack; worry about when the next attack will take place; and fear or avoidance of places/situations where panic attacks have occurred before.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
This occurs following a traumatic event that threatened your life/safety or the life/safety of others around you and caused intense feelings of fear, helplessness and horror. The symptoms include difficulties relaxing; upsetting dreams or flashbacks; and the avoidance of anything related to the event.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Characterised by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in daily social situations. It can be limited to only one social situation or in its severe form to almost any. Symptoms include feeling anxious about being with other people and having difficulty talking to them; feeling very self-conscious in front of other people and worries about feeling humiliated, embarrassed or rejected; afraid people will judge you; worrying for days or weeks before an event where other people will be; staying away from places where there will be other people; having a hard time making friends and keeping friends; blushing, sweating or trembling around other people; feeling nauseous or sick to your stomach when other people are around.
SELF-HELP TIPS TO REDUCE ANXIETY SYMPTOMS
· Recognise you’re experiencing anxiety. Be aware of the symptoms. By accepting that you are feeling anxious your body’s natural relaxation response is more likely to activate.
· Controlled breathing involves focusing on and slowing down our breathing patterns. Many people find this simple exercise very relaxing. It can be particularly helpful for those who feel dizzy or light headed when they feel worried or stressed. This sometimes happens because people's breathing changes and gets quicker when they feel distressed. This can be an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience. It can make people even more on edge, and a vicious cycle can occur.
· Learning controlled breathing exercises can help you to manage these feelings more effectively. It can also help to give your mind and body a chance to calm down. Remember, you can use this exercise to help you relax at any time. You could even use it to help you get off to sleep. However, it is particularly useful if you ever feel light-headed, dizzy or faint.
· It is important to make time to relax and do activities that are enjoyable. This can help to reduce your anxiety levels by calming the body and mind. It can also help you to sleep. Without taking the time to unwind, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed.
Relaxation can involve doing something that you enjoy, or just being by yourself. Good examples might be reading a book or having a bath. Exercise is also particularly effective at helping us to relax. What you do does not really matter. Try to choose something that you will look forward to and that gives you a break. Doing an activity that you enjoy will also give you less time to spend worrying. Here is a list of activities that might help you to relax: -
Do some exercise (e.g. swim, cycle)
Read a book
Watch your favourite TV show
Go to the cinema
Do something creative (e.g. draw, paint)
Visit a friend or family member
Have a bath
· Focus on right now. When people are anxious, they are usually obsessing about something that might occur in the future. Even if something serious is happening, focusing on the present moment will improve your ability to manage the situation.
· Positive self-talk. Treat yourself with compassion and understanding. Give yourself reassurance.
· Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts.
· Accept you cannot control everything.
· Learn what is triggering your anxiety. Keep a journal and identify patterns.
· Ensure you are getting enough sleep. When stressed your body needs more sleep and rest.
· Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Alcohol and caffeine aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks. Try drinking water instead.
· Talk to someone, family or friends. Seek professional support.
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The three main methods that people generally use to treat their anxiety and stress symptoms are: -
GP’s usually offer medications to patients that attend with anxiety and stress symptoms as the first line of treatment.
Short term counselling tends to focus on the symptoms of anxiety and stress rather than the original source of the distress. Again, this is just like putting a plaster over the wound, allowing it to re-open at a later date and becoming a more complex problem.
Ignoring the anxiety
Some people ignore the problem, hoping that it will resolve on its own. Maybe they view talking about their problems as a sign of weakness and hold the emotions inwards. Over time, without intervention, the anxiety/stress reactions will become more and more troublesome, even causing relationship breakdowns and self-medicating behaviours. Because the relationship difficulties and self-medication are clearly displayed, they become the focus of attention by medical professionals and the source of the anxiety will be left unresolved.
What makes Hypnotherapy so effective in treating anxiety and stress?
A professional Hypnotherapist addresses the underlying emotions that feed the anxiety. Feelings are located in the body and not the mind so no amount of talking will release or resolve them fully. The painful feelings that most people experience is fear and shame.
The subconscious mind stores information about everything that has ever happened to you; your emotions that you have experienced and your patterns of behaviour. The subconscious mind can be accessed easily through Hypnotherapy. Age regression is a technique used in a trance state by a professional Hypnotherapist to bring you back to one of the first times you felt similar emotions
The Hypnotherapist addresses the subconscious mind and asks it to being to the awareness of the client the missing pieces of the puzzle of their anxiety. When a client regresses to a similar situation it is quite often in their childhood. Hypnotherapy is effective in treating anxiety and stress reactions because we can go back to the person’s past and identify the sources of dysfunctional patterns and anxiety.
Not only does Hypnotherapy treat the mind and body, it also focuses on the emotions behind the symptoms. By going down to the source of the anxiety we are digging out the roots!