If you would prefer ton listen to audio version please click opposite
Stress and anxiety are terms often used interchangeably, but they are two different issues; stress is a response to a change of some sort in your environment whereas anxiety can strike suddenly, without warning and with no obvious change to trigger it off.
Stress is our emotional and physical response to pressure; when feel there are too many demands, and too few resources to cope. That pressure can arise from external factors including life events, illness (ourselves or someone close to us) living conditions, work, home and family, study, lack of some necessity, or the demands we place on ourselves. Even those events which we see as enjoyable can be stressful, such as holidays, moving home, starting a better job, pregnancy, parenthood, Christmas etc.
Thoughts which are common when feeling stressed:
This is too much – I can’t cope
It’s unfair – Someone should be helping me
I haven’t got enough time – I’ll never finish
I must get this done
The term ‘Stress’ in relation to people (as opposed to the physics term which relates to the amount of strain or weight an object can bear before a collapse) was first used by Dr Walter Cannon in the 1920’s as a theory of how animals react to a threat. He used it to describe the results of disruption to what he called ‘homeostasis’. This is the balanced, near-perfect level of functioning that all life-forms try to achieve and maintain.
In humans, homeostasis could be considered to be a sense of physical, emotional and psychological well-being. The process of achieving homeostasis via behavioural and physical adaption is referred to as ‘allostasis’. For example:
If we become too hot, we may change our behaviour by wearing different clothing or moving to a cooler environment. At the same time, in order to help us cool down, hormones in our body produce sweat and change the functioning of certain internal processes to conserve water.
Therefore, we have to bear in mind that any change we experience, even something as simple as being too hot, can disrupt our homeostasis, both emotionally and physically, and the process of re-instating homeostasis can be just as stressful as the disruption itself. Even if the disruption is something that we desire, like moving into our dream home or starting our ideal job, we still experience stress in the process, due to the physical, emotional and psychological disruption to our homeostasis.
Click here to see the biology of stress.
There are different types of stress:
Eustress: A certain level of stress can be beneficial; when it provides motivation and stimulation, we can experience positive feelings when we successfully meet a challenge. This short term ‘positive’ stress or pressure is defined by our attitude and beliefs about the control, desirability, location and timing of the stressor e.g. Organising a charity ball may be one person’s idea of an exciting challenge but may be another person’s idea of hell – depending on your thinking about it.
Hypostress: This occurs when someone is bored or lacks stimulation; it can result in feelings of a lack of enthusiasm or engagement with life and in some cases can lead to withdrawal from family, friends, hobbies etc. It can also result in symptoms such as restlessness, an inability to concentrate and the tendency to overreact when stimulation does occur e.g. becoming overly talkative in a social situation.
Acute Stress: This occurs when we have short-term periods of negative stress; when the demands put on us seem greater than the resources that we have to deal with them. We experience it when things are temporarily difficult, such as struggling to keep on top of all of the things that we have to do or rushing to meet a deadline. Acute stress is short term but can cause physical and emotional symptoms.
Episodic Acute Stress: This occurs when we are subject to repeated short-term stressors. The episodes of stress can either be:
Connected: Such as having a family member who is independent most of the time but who periodically and unpredictably requires high levels of care.
Unrelated: Either a series of unlucky coincidences (the car breaks down and the cat needs an expensive operation at the vets just as you lose your job and break your leg) or a general inability to organise the demands that life places on us.
Chronic Stress: This refers to long-term periods of stress which can leave the sufferer feeling depressed, dispirited and depressed. It often comes from external conditions such as poverty, poor housing, feeling trapped in a bad relationship, living in a war zone etc. but can also be based in childhood traumas which have been internalised to beliefs such as ‘I am never good enough’ ‘I am never safe’.
The effects of stress can be debilitating, if you would like undertake some hypnotherapy to help you to make the changes that you want to make, so that you can live the life that you want to live, please contact me.