As a therapist I see every day individuals who are amazing people but are struggling with Anxiety or Stress.
We are all subject to external stress whether that’s having too much to do, financial pressures, difficult relationships at work or at home, children that need our love, attention and support or older parents that need practical help and emotional support or living with a chronic illness.
The list can be endless of the demands made on us, so how do we cope!
Most people cope remarkably well given the extent of the demands made of them. However, on some occasions whether through tiredness, physical illness or overload the cracks can begin to show. Many individuals are embarrassed to admit that they are struggling to cope and often express the view that they must have some kind of character flaw or are weak, as they are finding life stressful and difficult. These people are immensely strong individuals but often have such huge demands and expectations of themselves; along the way they have forgot to look after their own needs, both physically and emotionally. This neglect begins to accumulate and slowly or sometimes rapidly the cracks begin to show.
During the course of our lives we face huge challenges that are often outside of our control, whether that’s the loss of a loved one, the end of a close relationship or maybe we are finding our new job overwhelming, whatever the circumstances we all need to learn to take time to nurture ourselves.
In our society we are often taught to achieve and work hard so we can get on in life. The flip side of working hard is that we can forget along the way to care and love ourselves, ignoring our body’s and minds clues that all is not well.
So how do we know we are stressed or anxious!
The physical, emotional and mental signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety are varied, individual and extensive.
For some people experiencing stress they may have difficulty falling asleep, for others they may find their concentration and memory is reduced, alternatively, there maybe more physical symptoms such as neck or back pain, migraines, bowel or digestive problems, repeated colds, low energy or low mood, nausea sensations, tight muscles or aches and pains, loss of sexual desire, ringing in the ears. Now many of these physical and mental symptoms can be caused by other factors but stress will make the condition worse.
For individuals who are anxious they may experience regularly or infrequently palpitations, sensation of choking, shaking, excessive sweating, feeling short of breath, chest pain or tightness, dry mouth, panic, extensive fear and uneasiness.
The first step to reducing stress and anxiety is for the individual to acknowledge that there is a problem and to start to make steps to make time for themselves and seek help if they are in need of support.
See Anxiety Uk at www.anxietyuk.org.uk, www.mind.org.uk or www.mentalhealth.org.uk, www.nhs.uk/conditions/mentalhealth, www.samaritans.org.
The well respected Doctor Rangan Chatterjee explains in his book ‘The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep your way to a longer, Healthier life’ that we need to pay attention to our basic human needs for sleep, eating healthy foods, appropriate exercise and taking the time to relax.
Dr Chatterjee emphasises the need each and every day to take 15 minute ‘me time’ to relax without using a smartphone, laptop, t.v. which enables the mind to become calmer and clearer.
The impact of stress and anxiety is huge both for the individual, their family, on services and even globally.
A common factor for many people who are experiencing Stress and Anxiety is that they have a overzealous critical voice (I often refer to this voice as the ‘poison parrot’). This critical voice is the dialogue that the individual has with themselves which is very judgemental and harsh. Sometimes we need reminding that actually the way we communicate with ourselves is so important to our mental and emotional well-being.
To feel positive and well we need to practice the skill of accepting ourselves in a caring and loving way. Unfortunately, for many people they have either forgotten how to approve or like themselves or they have learned to be hard on themselves. My role as a therapist is to teach the individual how to be kind and supportive to themselves.
Further definition ofwhat is Stress?
The word stress is usually used to describe the feelings that people experience when the demands made on them are greater than their ability to cope. At such times individuals can often feel overloaded, under tremendous pressure and very tense (physically or mentally) or emotional. Stress affects everyone, young and old and is a completely normal reaction that all human beings will experience from time to time when faced with situations that they feel under pressure.
Stress can be looked at in terms of external and internal stressors. External stressors are sources of stress that we aware of around us, these include traumas, life events or simply having too much to do. Internal stressors are the habit of overthinking, unrealistic expectations, uncertainties, low self esteem and apprehensions.
DIY self diagnosis
If you can answer YES to 5 or more of these symptoms then you may be experiencing stress.
Obesity & Over-eating
Increased or excessive drinking of alcohol
Loss of appetite
If you smoke-you’ll smoke more
Increased coffee consumption
Excessive and continuing irritability with other people
You can’t make decisions
Unable to concentrate
Increased and suppressesd anger
Not be able to cope with life, feeling out of control
Jump from one job to another without finishing things
Excessive emotion & crying at small irritations
Lack of interest in anything other than work
Permanently tired even after sleep
Decreased sex drive/libido
Stress can cause nail biting, pulling out hair or picking at the skin
What is it?
Anxiety can be experienced in lots of different ways.
Some commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders are:
Generalised Anxiety disorder (GAD)- this means having regular or uncontrollable worries about many different things in your everyday life. With GAD it is common to constantly overthink a situation and over analyse what others have said or done or worry excessively about what might happen in the future.
Social Anxiety Disorder-means you experience extreme fear or anxiety by social situations such as the workplace gatherings, parties, presentations public speaking to a group. Any situation where you have to talk to another person or group.
Phobias– a phobia is an extreme fear or anxiety triggered by a particular situation (such as flying or having a medical procedure) or a particular object (such as spiders).
Obsessive compulsive disorder-this form of anxiety involves having repetitive thoughts, behaviours or rituals.
Post Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Health Anxiety– this involves obsessing and compulsions relating to illness, including researching symptoms about