Stress occurs when there is a mismatch between how you view the demands on you and what you believe you have available to you in terms of resources and abilities to meet those demands.
What is Stress?
Stress is the body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. Physiological changes occur in the body when you experience a sense of danger and whether the danger is real or imagined, the body’s natural defences kick in and we experience an automatic arousal process, or stress response known as the ‘fight/flight’ reaction.
This reaction is part of being human, it is innate, totally natural and part of our evolutionary makeup. As cavemen and women we needed to defend ourselves from wild beasts and so in threatening situations our brains release stress chemicals (cortisol and adrenaline) which triggers the fight/flight reaction giving us a burst of energy, driving blood to our muscles so we could run from danger.
In todays world we experience the same innate response to situations we find demanding whether that be in our work, home or social life. Stress can be helpful when you need to raise your game and meet new challenges, such as a job interview or meeting an important deadline, but when the stress response is triggered too often it stops being helpful and can really reduce the quality of your life, productivity and mood.
Everyday life stressors can include financial difficulties, divorce, lack of work/life balance, bereavement and moving house. For many, workplace stress can arise from job uncertainty, poor job performance feedback or a lack of authority to make decisions.
For either type of stress, the resulting symptoms might include:
- Increased irritability
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Inability of concentrate
- Heightened sensitivity to criticism
- Signs of tension, such as nail-biting
- Difficulty getting to sleep and early morning waking
- Drinking and smoking more
- Loss of concentration
How can stress counselling help?
Modifying or changing the ideas and beliefs that largely create our emotional and behavioural reactions to stress, is a vital key to stress management. Psychotherapy helps you to understand your stress and its underlying causes by examining your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and how they contribute to your stress. Through increased self-awareness and understanding you can create effective personal coping strategies and techniques which will enable you to manage your stress and your reaction to stress both now and in the longer term.