Stress Management - do you feel as if your life is out of your control? Are you so busy simply surviving that you've no time to enjoy your life?  If so, you could be suffering from stress.

Stress may be caused by major upheaval or trauma; it can also creep up on us over time due to constant pressure.

Stress can manifest itself in many ways, including:

  • Constant tiredness
  • Muscle pain
  • Digestive problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Skin rashes
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Depression

Being under stress can also cloud your judgement, making it difficult to see a way out.  This is where as a Stress Management Consultant I can help you.  The support and understanding of friends and family often helps, but sometimes professional support is needed from someone who is outside the situation and can view it without judgement.

I can help you take back control of your life by identifying the cause of your stress and providing coping strategies to deal with them.  The next step is to discover any changes you'd like to make to improve your life and give you encouragement to move forward.  In this way, stress can become a catalyst for positive change.

Stress is said to arise from our perception and emotional reactions to situations and events.  This explains why we all react differently, depending on our own life experiences, expectations and emotional state.  When we're feeling strong, happy and positive, we're more able to cope with difficult situations.  When we feel drained, low in energy and lacking in self-belief, challenges can become overwhelming and life becomes a constant struggle.

The Importance of Relaxation

Most people are aware of the 'fight or flight' response caused by stressful situations.  A cocktails of chemicals is released into the bloodstream to prepare the body for action.  This is a valuable reaction is we're faced with physical danger, and once we've taken action and the threatening situation has passed, the body will naturally return to a state of balance.

However, in the modern world not all causes of stress are sudden and physical.  There are many forms of constant pressure in our everyday lives which build up, leaving us in a constant state of tension.  After a while we can become so used to being stressed we think it's a normal condition, until we bcome ill, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Learning to relax fully is one of the first steps to take when learning how to deal with stress.  This can seem difficult, especially if you're under time pressures - if it seems there are not enough hours in the day already to get things done, how can you find time to relax?  You owe it to yourself to make the time - even ten to twenty minutes a day can have a positive impact on your health.  Deep relaxation gives your body a chance to repair and restore itself and helps you think more clearly. With practice you can carry the feelings of relaxation with your throughout the day, making it easier to cope with stressful situations.  The main benefits of relaxation are:

  • Better physical health
  • Increased energy levels
  • Improved concentration
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Greater emotional balance
  • Better problem-solving abilities

How your body reacts to stress

The effects of stress on the body are complex, but understanding a little of how it reacts can help you understand it - after all, knowledge is power!  The best way to describe the effects of stress is by looking at the autonomic nervous system, which manages our actions over which we have no control, such as heart rate, disgestion and respiration.  The autonomic nervous system consists of two parts:  the sympathetic nervous system which prepares the body for action, and the parasympathetic nervous system which allows for repair and restoration.  Under normal conditions these two systems work together to keep a state of balance.

During times of stress the sympathetic nervous system:

  • Releases adrenaline and noradrenalin which increases heart rate and raises blood pressure
  • Increases breathing rate
  • Diverts blood away from the digestive system
  • Diverts blood away from the skin
  • Tenses the muscles to prepare for action
  • Releases cortisol which reduces the efficiency of the immune system
  • Releases fats and sugars into the bloodstream

If periods of stress are prolonged or not counteracted with periods of rest and recuperation, tension and stress hormones can build up in the body which can eventually lead to illness.

  • The parasympathetic nervous system restores balance by:
  • Reducing heart rate and lowering blood pressure
  • Slowing down the breathing rate
  • Increasing saliva and blood supply to the digestive system
  • Encouraging muscular relaxation
  • Restoring hormonal balance

The parasympathetic nervous system can be stimulated by relaxation, which makes it an important part of stress management.

How to relax

Just as we all react differently to stress, we all find different ways to relax.  It's important to find something you enjoy, which relaxes both body and mind.  Unfortunately collapsing with exhaustion in front of the television with a bottle of wine can't be considered an effective relaxation technique!

Treating yourself to a relaxing massage treatment or other complementary therapy can be helpful, especially if the therapist has good listening skills.  You may prefer to take up a sport or creative hobby, take a long leisurely bath, go for a walk, meditate, or simply sit quietly and listen to relaxing music.  It's all about finding out what works best for you.

You may wish to listen to a guided visualisation or guide to relaxation techniques.  I wrote and recorded 'An Introduction to Basic Relaxation Techniques' especially for this purpose, which is available as an mp3 download from the Relaxation mp3 Downloads page.

However you choose to relax try to fit in a period of relaxation every day.  The amount of time you invest in yourself will help you on the way to greater health and happiness.