Counselling for Stress in London: Learning to manage stressful situations
Moderate levels of stress can motivate us and help us to perform well in our lives, however when you start to become overwhelmed, by work or home life, and when you feel you cannot see an end to all you need to do then this is a sign that you are suffering chronic or acute stress. Counselling helps you to recognise and then manage the stress triggers and find ways to reduce them or even develop a positive response to them.
How Stress becomes part of our lives
As a busy, working parent I am familiar with stress and how it can explode from us as anger or be pushed down, making us ill or depressed. Many of my clients are not familiar with how stress effects them daily but can get caught in patterns of feeling overly responsible and trapped or shutting down and feeling hopeless. We can lose the joy in ourselves and life when we feel pressured and stressed.
What is stress and what causes stress?
Many of us experience stress on a day to day basis. It can be felt from the moment we wake up and start listing the catalogue of things we may need to do, to getting ourselves and/or kids ready, the commute to work or school run. From relationships, work, money, children and social contact, stress may enter into our daily experience and we then create how we interact and feel which will shape how we see the world around us.
Where does stress come from?
Stress evolved in the form of a fight or flight response, which we have carried with us as developing human beings through evolution. In the past this response was a reaction to real physical threats on one’s life. The fight or flight response causes the physical aspects of stress, which appear when adrenaline and cortisol are released into the bloodstream. These hormones cause increased blood flow, clotting, and elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
Someone with high stress levels may experience these physical aspects several times throughout the day. Consistently high levels of stress can cause people to develop conditions such as hypertension, stroke, diabetes, chronic pain, and heart attacks.
Sometimes we can bring our experience of the world as a stressful place form our past. For example if we grew up with parents who were angry, stressed, depressed or had substance abuse issues, our experience as children managing very difficult situations will shape how we live out our lives as adults. We may see the world as threatening, we may live in a heightened state of awareness seeing looming danger in everything.
While we may experience stress as something ‘out there’ that is imposed on us, how we respond to ourselves, how we view the world may also create symptoms of stress for us on a daily basis. For example, if we find social interaction difficult, it may be stressful for us to speak to people at work.
I will work with you to identify what may cause the stress in your life and stressful situations and how you can begin to notice them and make changes which will allow you a happier and more satisfying way of living.
What are the symptoms of stress?
Stress can have physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. Stress affects people on different levels, for example we may only notice we have tight shoulders or a tight chest, or we may lose our temper regularly or find ourselves crying more. If you recognise one of more of the following symptoms you may need help in identifying how and why stress is present in your life and how you can change that through therapy.
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Stomach aches
- Body pain
- Acne or breakouts
- Digestive issues
- Tight muscles
- Ongoing illness
- Panic attacks
- Loss of sexual desire and low libido
- Loss of concentration
Mental symptoms of stress include:
- Crying and feeling sad
- Suicidal ideation
- Food and eating issues
- Addictions and/or compulsions
- Substance abuse
- Breakdown of relationships & life quality
- Frozen and unable to work
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
If you are worried about how any of these symptoms are affecting you, it is okay to reach out for help. Talking with a trusted therapist and possibly your GP can be the first step towards good mental health and a different way of living your life.
When these complaints occur as a result of stress, they may clear up when the stressful situation is resolved. But they can also become serious if present long-term.
I work with clients who have stress by providing a confidential, understanding and safe place to discuss what may be worrying you on a day to day basis. You may be having physical, mental or emotional symptoms which can present in a number of ways. Sometimes it can be detaching and cutting off from yourself and others, it may be you are finding an over reliance on drinking, smoking or taking drugs. You may walk around feeling as though you could explode at any moment, and this may come out with friends, partners or at work.
What causes stress?
Stress is not always caused by a negative event. Some positive life experiences can be just as stress-inducing as negative ones.
Some common stressors in life, many of which appear on the stress inventory, include:
- Losing a job or starting a new job
- Getting divorced or going through a breakup
- Getting married
- Being discriminated against
- Experiencing a change in financial status
- Following the news or politics
- Having a child
- Beginning or ending school
- Experiencing a loss
- Being diagnosed with a serious illness
- Starting a new relationship
- Loneliness and isolation
For many people, these events are normal parts of life. Not everyone experiences a divorce, marriage, or having a child. But many will experience discrimination, lose a job, go through a breakup, or experience another major or minor event.
For most people, stress is a part of life that is not going anywhere. But it may be easier to manage in smaller amounts, especially when other factors help mitigate it. A marriage, for example, is generally considered to be a happy event. Though it can be stressful to plan and prepare for the ceremony, the excitement experienced by the couple may help reduce the physical and mental effects of their stress.
Unhealthy ways of coping with stress
People may also develop methods for coping with stress. A coping mechanism is a response that develops over time and we often bring with us from a young age to help someone deal with an overwhelming external force, like stress. Some coping mechanisms work as healthy tools for managing stress. Many others are unhealthy and can magnify the negative effects of stress instead of reducing them.
A few examples of potentially harmful coping mechanisms for stress include:
- Drinking alcohol to excess
- Emotional eating
- Illicit drug use
- Sexual encounters
- Excessive use of Pornography
Often we are missing connecting with ourselves and may use any of the above mechanisms as a way of disconnecting with the painful feelings and experiences that surround stress. If we feel unloved, dismissed, unsatisfied but unclear as to why, we want to numb the critical thinking and feelings. However, after we have drunk too much or had another unsatisfying relationship we can feel worse than before and blame ourselves.
Therapy can help people identify an unhealthy coping mechanism for stress and develop a healthy one to use instead. If a person uses an unhealthy coping mechanism for dealing with long-term stress, they can end up with a secondary mental health issue.
Counselling for managing stress and coping with stressful situations
We will work together to identify your experience and feelings, looking at trigger points. We will then work together to allow you to express what this is like for you and use practical tools to help you to reduce stress in your life and begin to lead a more balanced and satisfying life.
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3. Scott, E. (2018, January 31). Unhealthy responses to stress and common bad habits. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/unhealthy-responses-to-stress-bad-habits-to-avoid-3145260
4. Stress: America’s #1 health problem. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.stress.org/americas-1-health-problem