What is stress?
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which rouse the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus.
This is known as the “fight or flight” stress response and is your body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, stress helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life—giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.
Stress can also help you rise to meet challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV.
But beyond your comfort zone, stress stops being helpful and can start causing major damage to your mind and body.
Effects of stress overload
The body’s autonomic nervous system often does a poor job of distinguishing between daily stressors and life-threatening events. If you’re stressed over an argument with a friend, a traffic jam on your commute to work, or a mountain of bills, for example, your body can still react as if you’re facing a life-or-death situation.
When you repeatedly experience the fight or flight stress response in your daily life, it can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, speed up the ageing process and leave you vulnerable to a host of mental and emotional problems.
Many health problems are caused or exacerbated by stress, including:
- Pain of any kind
- Heart disease
- Digestive problems like IBS
- Sleep problems
- Weight Problems (emotional eating)
- Auto Immune Diseases
- Skin conditions such as Eczema
Signs and symptoms of stress overload
Below are some of the common warning signs and symptoms of chronic stress. The more signs and symptoms you notice in yourself, the closer you may be to stress overload.
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor judgement
- Seeing only the negative
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Constant worrying
- Moodiness, irritability or short temper
- Agitation, inability to relax
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Depression or general unhappiness
- Sense of loneliness and isolation
- Aches and pains
- Digestive upsets
- Eating more or less
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Isolating yourself from others
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
- Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
How can I help?
The first step after you contact me (either by phone or email) will be a brief telephone conversation with me. This is so you can raise any questions or concerns and share a little about your situation. Each and every telephone call is conducted in strict confidence. If you feel uncomfortable with a telephone conversation, please express this on an email and we can organise your initial free consultation in person.
Following this, you can choose whether to book in sessions with me and we can discuss how and when these will happen. The initial consultation is designed to give you freedom of choice and to ensure you are comfortable talking and working with me
Your first session will give you the chance to talk freely in a calm, quiet and completely confidential environment to explore your situation and how it impacts you day to day. I look to understand what you hope to achieve from therapy and from this we can explore some techniques and ideas to help you to achieve improved health and wellbeing, so you are armed with a unique set of tools that you can use to continue to feel well. Most importantly I work at a pace and frequency that feels right for you with regular check ins to see how you are progressing.
More information on my approach can be found here.