The true costs of stress – to you!

Leona Dawson Stress

Chronic stress impacts your health. The evidence is incontrovertible. It affects your memory, your digestion, your blood sugar, your digestion, how fast  you age, your adrenal health, your sex drive, and even your skin!

As the list research studies cited in the infographic show, there is now conclusive proof that emotional links to stress and then disease truly exist. With further studies being conducted by institutions like the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine (part of Harvard Medical School), you can expect to see an increasing focus on mental health as a solution to physical ailments. But there are situations that are more stressful than others. It has been found that:

Uncertainty, lack of control and lack of information are considered the most stressful psychological contributors to stress. The more chronic your exposure or reactions to stressful contexts, real or perceived, the higher your levels of cortisol in the body and the more difficult it becomes to relax overall. Over time your body lowers your benchmark or set-point for stress activation. This is called kindling. The longer you stay stressed it takes less and less to activate and maintain your stress response.

The words real or perceived are crucial because it illustrates the connection between mind and body. In this way strategies like particular breathing strategies, meditation, yoga, and walking being in nature can help your body calm down. Counselling, hypnotherapy and NLP can help your mind perceive situations and stress differently. After all uncertainty in life is certain. We cannot control everything and so being able to ascertain what is in our control, and what is not while learning to tolerate ambiguity and the unknown can dramatically reduce chronic stress.  If this is the case how can we reduce stress?

This is where I have found hypnotherapy and NLP most helpful in my counselling practice. Clients often come to me having tried to ‘think their way out of their patterns of stress” by challenging negative thoughts and giving themselves a hard time when the thoughts keep returning. Or they have taken up ‘relaxing’ with the same intense focus they do everything else. Meditation, yoga or their morning walk become ‘shoulds’. Or they go searching for the ‘why’ of it all. I’ve done this myself.  They are distressed by their stress and the symptoms stress generates such as digestion issues, insomnia, anxiety, tinnitus, headaches and migraines, sore backs, necks and shoulders, grinding their teeth and anger issues. They fear they their chronic stress caused their cancer or  their auto-immune disease. The thing is that chronic stress does affect our health and its not a simple causative link. But if you think that stress may be making your health issue worse you may be right at a one level – it may be contributing to &/or exacerbating your symptoms. If you think stress is making you more moody, more cranky or just plain tired you are probably right. So not only do we need to learn to relax (down-regulate our nervous system) we also need to change the underlying beliefs, thoughts and patterns of behaviour that hold the stress response in place. Unfortunately we cannot make the world as we would like it…so we need to create a way of responding to it that is better for us, helps us not hinders us.

Hypnotherapy gives our whole body-mind a few moments to relax by not only teaching you how to relax in a way that suits your personality – you get for a period of time to put down all your efforting. You can learn ways to relax even if you have the most analytical mind. There are relaxation techniques that fit every type of person.

Its not that a hypnotherapist changes your mind. Its that hypnotherapists utilise how you think and your inner metaphors to widen your perspectives. What’s an inner metaphor – remember Forrest Gump? The box of chocolates. That was his metaphor for life. Now how he lived, how he related to other people, how he perceived challenges were all run through that frame of reference, that metaphor.  What’s your metaphor? Hypnotherapy can help you learn to live with uncertainty, tolerate ambiguous situations and accept what you can and cannot control while also building upon your strengths. Hypnotherapists have a wide range of tools and techniques that can utilise your unconscious mind and your conscious mind together to bring reduce the impact of stress including pain and physical symptoms. It can help you make contact with, trust and USE your own natural inner resources.

We can change our patterns of thinking and reacting by:

  • responding to the world more effectively by understanding our strengths and values
  • differentiating what to listen to and what to ignore (both our inner voices and those of people around us)
  • widening our perspectives so that we have more options in any given situation
  • letting go of patterns that keep us stressed (perfectionism, worrying, anticipatory fears, over-reliance on rules, excessive rumination)

Finally, we need to understand that there is a period of adjustment as we lower our stress levels.  It can be an unsettling time as the body adjusts and re-regulates. Once you do start to downgrade stress you might feel quite sad and depleted. This is normal. Let it run its course without seeking out stressors to reactivate (otherwise you might find yourself on a stress treadmill).
The original 17 Reasons To Avoid Stress infographic can be found at http://adrenalfatiguesolution.com/17-reasons-avoid-stress/

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