What is Stress?
Stress is not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing. We were created with this as a means of protection if we are in danger. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and shifts to ‘fight, flight or freeze’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. This prepares the body for physical action & causes a number of reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion.
The release of these hormones gives us a rush of energy to prepare us to ‘fight’ what is attacking us or ‘flight’ by running away from the danger. The heart pounding, fast breathing sensation is the adrenaline; as well as a surge of energy, it enables us to focus our attention, so we can quickly respond to the situation.
The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimised. This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’ which can hinder our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health. The results of having elevated cortisol levels can be an increase in sugar and blood pressure levels, and a decrease in libido.
When your body goes into a state of stress, we may feel agitated and aggressive towards others; this can be due to our bodies’ natural reaction being “fight”. This can be a helpful reaction to fight off actual assailants, but in unnecessary situations, it can negatively affect relationships and ruin reputations.
Some of us avoid our stressors by removing ourselves from the situation instead of confronting it. This can be a sign of the “flight” survival instinct; a function that can save our lives if we find ourselves in a dangerous situation. However, in everyday life, this natural instinct can lead to a stressful situation escalating, and ultimately increasing our stress levels by not facing it.
There is a third mode that stress can cause; freeze. The stress can cause ‘dysregulation’. The energy mobilised by the perceived threat gets “locked” into the nervous system and we ‘freeze’. Holding our breath and shallow breathing are both forms of freeze.
Stress is a
condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands have exceeded
their personal and social resources. It is different for everyone so it’s important
not to judge yourself harshly or compare yourself to others.
If the symptoms of stress are not identified & steps taken to alleviate the symptoms then stress can lead to:
- Mental and Emotional Breakdown
- Taking one’s own life
- Health issues including heart disease, strokes, alopecia, IBS, miscarriage, muscle & joint pain, diabetes, reduced immune system.
People experience stress in different ways. - Stress targets the weakest part of our physiology or character;
If YOU are prone to headaches or eczema, this will flare up. If YOU have low levels of patience or tolerance for others, this will be the first area to present under times of stress. Stress isn’t avoidable but it is manageable. A key action in order to minimise risk is to identify stress-related problems as early as possible, so that action can be taken before serious stress-related illness occurs.
Here are some of the signs & symptoms of a stress:
- Memory Problems
- Poor Judgement
- Inability to Concentrate
- ‘Brain Fog’
- Starting many tasks but achieving little
- Self doubt
- Fatalistic Thinking
- Feeling Overwhelmed
- Chest Pain
- Rapid Heartbeat
- Aches & Pains
- Frequent colds
- Skin complaints
- High blood pressure
- Increased Intake in Alcohol, Cigarettes and Caffeine to Relax
- Isolating Yourself from Others
- Sleeping too Little or too Much
- Loss of sense of humour
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It is a feeling of fear and apprehension about what’s to come. But if your feelings of anxiety are extreme, last for longer than six months, and are interfering with your life, you may have an anxiety disorder.
Who gets anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional disorder and can affect anyone at any age. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may also be depressed. Some people with anxiety disorders also abuse alcohol or other drugs in an effort to feel better. This may provide temporary relief, but can ultimately make the condition worse. It may be necessary to treat an alcohol or drug problem before the anxiety can be addressed.
What does anxiety feel like?
Anxiety feels differently in different individuals. You might feel like you’re standing in the middle of a crumbling building with nothing but an umbrella to protect you. Or you might feel like you’re holding onto a merry-go-round going 65 mph and can’t do anything to slow it down. You might feel butterflies in your stomach, or your heart might be racing. You may experience nightmares, panic, or painful thoughts or memories that you can’t control. You may have a general feeling of fear and worry, or you may fear a specific place or event.
Symptoms of general anxiety include:
- increased heart rate
- rapid breathing
- trouble concentrating
- difficulty falling asleep
What is the difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder?
Anxiety is a feeling of fear you have when you must do something stressful. It’s normal to feel anxious about moving to a new place, starting a new job, or taking a test. Normal anxiety is unpleasant, but it may motivate you to work harder and to do a better job. Normal anxiety is a feeling that comes and goes, but does not interfere with your everyday life.
In the case of an anxiety disorder, the feeling of fear may be with you all the time. It is intense and sometimes debilitating. This type of anxiety may cause you to stop doing things you enjoy. In extreme cases, it may prevent you from entering an elevator, crossing the street, or even leaving your home. If left untreated, the anxiety will keep getting worse.
What are the types of anxiety disorders?
There are many different disorders in which anxiety is a key feature, including:
- panic disorder: bouts of intense fear or terror that develop quickly and unexpectedly
- phobia: excessive fear of a specific object, situation, or activity
- social anxiety disorder: extreme fear of being judged by others in social situations
- obsessive-compulsive disorder: recurring irrational thoughts that lead you to perform specific, repeated behaviours
- separation anxiety disorder: fear of being away from home or loved ones
- hypochondriasis: anxiety about your health
- post-traumatic stress disorder: anxiety following a traumatic event
What causes anxiety?
An anxiety condition isn't developed or caused by a single factor but a combination of things. A number of other factors play a role, including personality factors, difficult life experiences and physical health.
Chronic or acute physical illness can also contribute to anxiety conditions or impact on the treatment of either the anxiety or the physical illness itself.