Sometimes we find ourselves feeling unhappy and distressed and not quite able to explain why this might be. We look around and perceive other people as fine and getting on with their lives yet in comparison we feel stuck, dis-empowered and helpless. We may be feeling anxious, angry, sad, fearful and overwhelmed. Whilst there may be some obvious underlying reasons for this, difficulties with work or personal relationships or health issues, others causes are perhaps are out of consciousness and more deep rooted.
The way that we think affects how we feel which in turn affects how we behave. Our beliefs about a situation will influence our feelings and our response. Our beliefs come from our life experience and what we have internalised from our early childhood relationships. As children we learn ways of coping with stress and anxiety to keep us safe and these develop into our patterns of behaviour. As adults we unconsciously continue to repeat these learnt behaviours which although helpful as a child become inappropriate in adulthood.
Anxiety is rather like an octopus that enfolds us in a suffocating grasp that can be hard to break and includes distressing conditions such as….panic attacks. Anxiety impacts both our physical and mental wellbeing….’ (Blake and Ledger, 2007,).
Anxiety comes when we face either a real or perceived threat and our belief in our ability to deal with it. You may be familiar with the ‘fight or flight’ response, but there is also a ‘freeze’ response. When we consider that we do not have the inner resources to cope, as a consequence we may notice a number of symptoms; shallow breathing, sweaty palms, racing heart, and if we cannot control these symptoms this may develop into a panic attack. At times we can prevent this escalation by trying to ground ourselves in the present, by focusing on our senses, either something that we can see, touch, taste, smell or hear. Once we are a little calmer we are able to think more rationally and consider what small step we can take to help us move through our difficulty and feel less helpless.
Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them. If we experience a number of stressors all at the same time we may feel overwhelmed paralyzed, fearful and stuck. Stress isn’t always caused by a negative event, nor is it a medical diagnosis but to overcome it you need to be aware of the things that have caused it. ‘Stress’ is a catch-all term for the overriding feelings you experience when life gets on top of you and you don’t think you can handle everything thrown at you.
You may feel stressed at the end of the month when there’s not enough money left, when you have issues with colleagues or bosses, before you get married, move house or have a baby. Everyone has suffered from stress at one time or another and it’s a completely normal reaction to feelings of pressure. For some, the adrenaline released during periods of stress can act as an energiser, giving them increased motivation to get out of the slump they find themselves in but for others, it can feel like a downward spiral from which there is no return. Anxiety and stress can be debilitating and profoundly affect our psychological health and ability to manage our difficulties
Stress and your health
Stress isn’t a medical diagnosis in the same way that depression is. Although the human body is conditioned to recognise, experience and react to stress (both positively and negatively), if your levels of stress continue untreated, they can turn into ‘distress’ which does have physical symptoms including high blood pressure, chest pains, migraines and upset stomachs. In addition, stress can become more harmful if you turn to cigarettes, alcohol or drugs in a vain attempt to self-administer relief.
Often people are afraid of the futures, particularly when they are facing change – perhaps through a job loss, bereavement, relationship breakdown, loss of health. The fear of change and the lack of control over what’s happening during the transition can create uncomfortable, negative and often debilitating feelings. As an Integral therapist I combine a number of theories to best suit each client. When suffering from anxiety or stress it can be helpful to start in the present, with how you are actually feeling now. During our sessions, we will capture your thinking patterns so that you can see how your way of thinking affects how you are feeling and impacts on how you then respond to a situation. I will guide you through relaxation techniques that can help you to develop a more helpful, balanced response to situations and create a sense of calmness. It is interesting to note that the nervous systems will not allow you to operate in two states at once ie you cannot be stressed or suffer from anxiety when you are in a relaxed state. Gaining insight into your thinking processes, mastering control over your bodily sensations and gaining an awareness into your behavioural patterns can help you to focus on moving forward with positivity, and regain a fresh outlook on life. The skills you’ll learn will be lifelong tools for you to apply at times in the future when you feel anxious or stuck and be more able to divert stress when you feel it coming.
A combination of Applied Relaxation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is considered by the British Medical Journal to be one of the most effective therapies to alleviate anxiety. Hypnotherapy is also proven to be effective, when combined with the above. Whilst I am a qualified hypnotherapist I am able to apply the principles without applying hypnosis to create an effective, pragmatic and relevant approach to the treatment of anxiety.