Hello. As many of us know, stress can affect our mood, our physical health and the way we think. In this post I’m taking a look at some of the symptoms that you may be experiencing well as what exactly stress is.
Are you stressed?
Stress can affect our mood, our physical health and the way we think.
Here’s a list of some of the most commonly experienced symptoms of stress. Take a look and note any that you may have. This can help you to recognise your levels of stress and understand the impact it may be having on you.
Emotional Symptoms: Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody. Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control. Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind. Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed. Avoiding others.
Physical Symptoms: Low energy. Headaches. Upset stomach, including diarrhoea, constipation, and nausea. Aches, pains, and tense muscles. Chest pain and rapid heartbeat. Insomnia. Frequent colds and infections. Loss of sexual desire and/or ability. Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet. Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing. Clenched jaw and grinding teeth.
Cognitive Symptoms: Constant worrying. Racing thoughts. Forgetfulness and disorganization. Inability to focus. Poor judgment. Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side.
So what is stress?
It’s not a bad thing for us to experience stress – it’s our body’s natural defence mechanism and it kicks in to keep us safe.
You may have heard of the fight or flight response or the fight, flight or freeze response? This natural response is very primitive and dates back hundreds of thousands of years to when our brains were developing and the most important thing humans had to do was to survive.
Fight or flight?
We developed this response so that when our safety was threatened, for example, we were under attack or faced threat from a wild animal, our brain triggered this response to help us to survive. As soon as we feel threatened hormones are released which prepare our body to stand and fight, or to run as fast as we can or, in some cases, freeze.
The main hormones the body releases are adrenaline and cortisol and these prime our body’s functions for action so that when we are under pressure we can perform better – we find strength we didn’t know we had, we can run faster than we ever thought we could. We’ve all read stories about people who perform unbelievable acts during times of life threatening peril.
So what’s gone wrong?
The problem is that although our lifestyles have changed drastically since those early days – the part of our brain that triggers the fight or flight response hasn’t evolved with us.
It can’t differentiate between a life or death situation or something non-life threatening and will trigger the fight or flight response to any situation is perceives as a threat eg. a difficult work meeting, illness, a problematic relationship.
Our bodies become flooded with these hormones but in today’s society we can’t burn them off through running away or fighting – as much as we may be tempted! And so these hormones linger and cause the symptoms of stress that many of us are familiar with.
What’s the difference between acute and chronic stress?
The fight or flight response can still be really useful eg. a short burst of adrenaline can help us with an exam or a dreaded presentation. This is acute stress – short, sharp, helpful bursts.
Stress becomes a problem when it’s on-going and the fight or flight response is triggered several times a day – either by long, drawn out situations that have no quick resolution, our hectic 24/7 lives or our thinking patterns.
This is chronic stress and it’s this type of stress that is so bad for us as it causes so much wear and tear on our bodies and on our minds.
Hypnotherapy can help
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