The mind and body can experience stress day to day as demands are made upon it. It is healthy and normal to be dealing with a certain amount of stress as this alerts us and motivates us to make decisions, and take action. If we are dealing with high amounts of stress over long periods of time then we can sometimes start to suffer with our stress and maybe experience physical ailments.
STRESSFUL SITUATION OR OUR RESPONSE TO IT?
It is not always what is happening that is the problem but how we respond to it, or how we think or react that can increases our stress response. Certain ways of thinking and acting are really unhelpful and increase the difficulties we are having; so it is useful to try and think and respond in self supportive ways.
FIGHT AND FLIGHT RESPONSE
Stress can often be linked with fear, anger or threat…. eg I might loose my job or my partner might leave me. In stressful situations, the body automatically alerts the survival response in the fight and flight system which enables us to physically fight or run away from the threat. This was necessary in the days of hunting animals, and also now if we are dealing with a physical threat eg a burning building – we need to be able to run away (flight). However, much of the threats/fear/stress we might be dealing with on a regular basis is often more psychological or emotional and we are not actually at any risk of dying but the body does not differentiate between a real survival threat and a perceived one.
When we are experiencing the fight and flight response in stress we are producing chemicals preparing the body for action which often do not get used. The body goes up a gear in preparation, and without the action it can get stuck in this less relaxed position. What also happens is that the body needs to reserve energy by shutting down less important functions like the immune, and digestion etc. The side effect of this is that we can experience aches and pains, tiredness, headaches, stomach upsets, colds, and more serious illnesses.
INCREASING STRESS WITH WAYS OF COPING?
Also under stress we may reach out to coping mechanisms which may be unhealthy or unhelpful eg over eating, alcohol, smoking, drugs, excessive exercise, caffeine, sugar, and fatty foods, all of which might feel helpful in the short term but are adding stress to the body in the long term and becomes a negative cycle of stress.
WORKING WITH STRESS IN COUNSELLING
– looking at unhelpful thinking and behaviours
– working through suppressed or difficult emotions
– looking at choices, decisions and responsibilities
– develop healthy coping strategies