Why is managing stress so important? This is because prolonged periods of stress can lead to depression and damage to our bodies.
When the mind-body connection is in negative mode this state has the potential to drive us down a downward spiral.
Why prolonged stress is harmful to the body
There is a nervous system in our bodies called the Autonomic Nervous System (sometimes called the Visceral Nervous system). The autonomic nervous system is a control system that acts largely unconsciously and regulates our bodily functions without us realising it, such as our heart rate, digestion, breathing, the way our pupils respond and the control of our bladders by telling us it is time to spend a penny etc.
It comprises two parts:
- parasympathetic – prepares the body for ‘rest and repose and recovery’
- sympathetic – prepares the body for stressful or emergency situations – the ‘fight-or-flight’ response.
The Sympathetic Nervous System is a natural, protective mechanism that aided survival in our ancestors with the ‘fight-or-flight’ response that prepares the body for immediate action to protect itself from harm.
In a healthy individual the parasympathetic and the sympathetic parts of our nervous system are in balance. During stress the sympathetic nervous system is active and action is taken. Once stress has passed the parasympathetic nervous system takes over and calms the body down and allows equilibrium to return. For people suffering from stress the sympathetic nervous system response is predominantly active and remains so, resulting in damage to health.
The modern causes of stress and our responses to them do not compare to those faced by our ancestors. We are rarely faced with physical threat. Most our stress occurs at a psychological level. But as our minds perceive psychological stress as being a threat to the body, the fight/flight response is activated. However, we do not use this preparedness of the body for immediate physical action and this can, eventually, result in damage to both our physical and mental health.
Modern causes of stress include concerns related to our:
When the sympathetic nervous system responds to stress we experience:
- increase in heart rate and blood pressure driving blood to areas of the body that need it during activity
- slowing down of digestion so that our blood is diverted to the brain and muscles
- increase in respiration so more oxygen is delivered to the muscles
- increase perspiration to cool the body
- increase in muscle tone to prepare for action
- increase in blood clotting to prepare for injury
- increase in levels of adrenaline, noradrenaline that increase heart rate and cortisol that prepares the body for physical activity.
If stress is not managed appropriately the consequences can lead to health problems.
SHORT TERM EFFECTS OF STRESS
- Physical Psychological
- headaches panic attacks
- gastrointestinal problems anxiety
- aches and pains aggression
- trembling depression
sweating poor concentration
- insomnia feeling helpless
- elevated blood pressure lack of confidence
- compromised immune system withdrawal from social activities
LONG TERM EFFECTS OF STRESS
- Physical Psychological
- stomach ulcers (due to high cortisol levels) hypertension
- increased risk of infection chronic depression
- heart attack and stroke psychological breakdown
The body is not designed to withstand prolonged periods of stress. The chemicals that are released into our bodies (such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol) put a strain on our heart, stomach and other vital organs. That is why it is so important that we manage stress to avoid long-term harmful effects such as heart attacks, stomach ulcers, possible strokes, and a weakened immune system that can make us prone to all sorts of nasty things. If we get rid of stress it frees us from headaches, aches and pains and we feel so much better in our minds and we can cope with life.
Hypnotherapy is very effective in helping us reduce stress and anxiety through relaxation of the body and mind. It helps us relieve the burden on the mind and body together so we go up the upward spiral to feeling good about life again.
Strategies for managing stress and anxiety
Strategies for managing stress come in two basic forms, changing our:
- perception of the threat from negative to positive
- emotional experience from fear to excitement.
In both cases, we are utilising stress as a motivator to affect the things we can control and to turn anxiety into positive action. In other words, channelling the nervous energy of stress into positive action.
The first is based on accepting the things associated with the causes of stress we cannot change and dealing positively with those things we can do something about so we feel more in control.
This includes of course, not being constrained in our efforts by self-limiting beliefs.
Stress is often associated with negative thoughts around the causes of our anxiety. When stressed we tend to dwell on these negative thoughts too much. We can find it very hard to let go of them and we can even obsess over them. In some strange way, this can act as a comfort blanket and gives us a justification for feeling bad but it fails to move us on.
The second strategy of changing our emotional experience from fear to excitement is since excitement causes the same bodily reactions as stress and anxiety. These include: sweaty palms, dry mouth, breathing faster and a racing heart pumping blood to our muscles and brains to sharpen our senses and prepare for flight or fight.
To make this strategy work it is necessary to adopt a confident posture and to tell yourself you are excited about this situation. You are tricking your brain into believing a different reality. This works because your brain does not distinguish real from imaginary and it will respond to the suggested emotion of excitement. So, to begin with you ‘fake it until you make it!’
Even when we manage to put negative thoughts to the back of our minds temporarily so to speak, they tend to re-emerge when we are faced with similar experiences, images, or associations. These triggers can bring back all the negative thoughts in a flash.
During hypnotherapy, I can equip you with techniques to help over-ride negative thoughts and stop them in their tracks before they get out of hand – and to replace them with positive ones. These are very easy and powerful for you to use anytime you may need them. They are based on neuro linguistic programming (NLP) techniques to help reframe negative thoughts. They include:
- stopping negative thoughts or Images in their tracks using a stop sign
- reducing negative images by turning them down in our minds
- taming the critical inner voice, by making fun of it and making it seem trivial and irrelevant.
Call me on 07957 205345 or email me HERE for your first consultation