David Peak Counsellor & Psychotherapist
in Central Manchester and Rochdale

Stress

Where there’s life there’s stress!

You experience it in all aspects of your life. Each time you cross the road, sit in a draft or jump for joy, your body’s stress mechanism swings into action and uses your nerves and hormones to help you adapt to the demands of the ever changing world in which you live. It performs the unnoticed but crucial function of keeping you stable in the face of the day-to-day demands different events put on your body and on your mind.

Some stress is therefore an essential part of healthy daily life. It works like this… a demands occurs, stress rises to enable you to meet it, the demand is dealt with and stress sinks back to its normal resting level.

When exceptional demands are made on you, stress, rising to a very high level, prepares your body for strong and vigorous action. Your lower brain functions take control, disconnecting the higher, cortical level used for memory and rational thought. Your heart rate and your blood pressure increase as does blood volume, by diverting it to your big muscles essential for survival, and away from non-essential organs such as skin, digestion and reproductive functions; hormones are released to repair tissue damage and numb pain, and the level of sugars in your blood increases to supply the energy to fight or to run away. Your breathing becomes rapid and shallow to increase the supply of oxygen to support the energy burst.

As long as this emergency is short lived, and life returns to normal afterwards, these elevated stress levels do no damage. But, if you experience high levels of demand for prolonged periods of time (weeks, months or years), your stress remains very high all this time, and it now becomes distress, resulting in chronic high levels of nervous activity and elevated levels of stress hormones in your blood which in the long run causes damage both to your body and to your mind.

Some of the symptoms of prolonged stress are:
· Anxiety
· Anger, irritability
· Aches and pains
· Depression
· Difficulty concentrating
· Fatigue
· Feeling overwhelmed and out of control
· Feeling moody and/or tearful
· Fibromyalgia
· Heart disease
· High blood pressure
· Headaches
· Impotence in men
· Infertility
· Lack of confidence
· Low self-esteem
· Neuropathic pain
· Panic disorder
· Poor memory, forget important things
· Sleep disturbance, insomnia
· Upset stomach, indigestion, diarrhea
· Ulcers
· Weakened immune system

*Medically unexplained physical symptoms such as chronic pain, fibromyalgia, IBS, chronic fatigue, phantom limb pain, are often correlated to high levels of stress, which also heightens the intensity of pain caused by existing injury.

These symptoms make your life miserable, jeopardising your physical health, and often leading to dangerous coping behaviour such as smoking, drinking, drug use, extreme sports, risk taking, self-harm, sexual promiscuity, and overeating, to name but a few. Prolonged excessive levels of stress not only affect your life, but the lives of all those around you, including your family, your friends, and your colleagues at work.

So if you find yourself with some or any of these symptoms, what can you do to help yourself?

Well, as distress is caused when continuing excessive demands are being made on you, you can try to reduce those demands, or you can increase the resources you have to cope with them. Alternatively, you can try to create a sense of peace and tranquillity by introducing mindfulness into your interaction with the world; or you can provide time in your daily routine for meditation; or you can timetable regular relaxation practice. Diet is also important as is exercise, but as helpful as these techniques are, they are no substitute for removing the stressor from your life, and often you will find you cannot do that on your own. You may need professional help to achieve it.

Book an appointment with me now to see how I can help you to successfully change your life and make it a much more peaceful and satisfying experience.


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