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stress
 
According to a recent Health and Safety Executive report, 6.5 million sick days are being taken each year in the United Kingdom due to stress and stress related illnesses.  This is a potential cost of 370 million a year to British Industry with an eventual cost to the tax payer of up to 10.2 billion.

So what exactly is stress and how does it affect us?

Well, stress is caused by any unusual event taking place in our lives.   This doesn't have to be a bad or nasty event, many people become very stressed just before a holiday or family get together.

Stress has been a factor in our lives since the beginning of time when the caveman's ability to 'fight or flight' could mean the difference between life or death.  Nowadays, threats like this do not often arise but our bodies still react in the same way.

Stress normally starts off with a perception in our minds - this is normally a perception of some previous or upcoming event.  If left unchallenged, stress can result in a whole range of physical and mental health problems such as:

  • Headaches,
  • High Blood Pressure,
  • Upset Stomach - sometimes leading to Stomach Ulcers and Irritable Bowel Syndrome,
  • Frigidity or Impotence,
  • Stroke,
  • Heart Disease.

A small amount of stress is not thought to be a bad thing - we all have an in-built coping process which should be activated from time to time but they are not designed to run continuously and this where stress related symptoms will start to appear.

What happens to our bodies when we become stressed?

When we become stressed, large amounts of energy are produced and our bodies start to prepare for a possible 'fight or flight' situation by slowing down our digestion and increasing the flow of blood to our organs.  High levels of the hormones adrenalin and noradrenaline are produced to help the body balance itself ready for a 'fight or flight' action.

Our bodies create adrenaline to prepare us for action.  It raises our blood sugar levels to build up our energy reserves, increases our heart rate and blood pressure, dilates our pupils to improve our vision and makes us sweat more than usual.

Noradrenaline is used to counteract the effects of adrenaline.  It relaxes us by slowing down our heart rate, reducing our blood pressure and so on.

What are some of the warning signs that indicate that we are becoming stressed?

Most people when they become stressed begin to notice small changes in their sense of well-being.  In many cases an interruption of the normal sleep pattern will occur which causes the person to become more irritable and argumentative - often compounding the situation even more.

A lapse in concentration is also a good indication that a person is becoming more stressed than normal.  After a while some of the physical symptoms listed above will start to become apparent.

How can we combat the effects of stress?

As we said earlier a little stress can actually do more good than harm but only as long as it doesn't continue or escalate for too long.  It is very important that we do not allow stress to take control of our lives and our ability to cope with situations that present themselves to us.

One of the most important things we can do is to recognise when stress is likely to affect us - one simple way of doing this is to complete a Stress Test Form similar to the one here.

When we notice the onset of stress we can quickly counteract its effects by ensuring that we manage to sleep and rest properly.  We must maintain a healthy diet while at the same time reducing our intake of stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine.  Exercise is also a good way of burning off any excess energy that our body may have produced too.

Hypnosis is an ideal way or curing stressful situations, and many people practice self-hypnosis solely to help them relax.

Trance Maker says: "As hypnotherapists we are often asked to treat people who are suffering from acute stress related symptoms, and part of the treatment process will involve teaching our clients how to relax and hypnotise themselves.  Normally clients will feel a noticeable improvement in their well-being after the first session. "

How can we avoid stress in the first place?

Initially stress starts off in our minds and is often caused by our fears and anxieties.  Many of us will automatically think that everything is going to go wrong whereas in many cases most things will turn our how we wanted them too.

One of the best ways to fight stress is to burn off any excess adrenaline by increasing our exercise.  Not only will this help us sleep but it will also release endorphins into our blood stream.