You probably already know that it’s scientifically proven that chronic stress is damaging to your health, but did you know it can even endanger your life?

So, what is stress? There are different types of stress but let’s begin with chronic stress because this type of stress pushes stress hormones upwards, in particular the body’s main stress hormone, cortisol which can result in serious damage to your health. It can lead to heart attacks, cancer, migraines, high blood pressure, as well as sleep problems, weight gain, and lower back pain. Ongoing stress can also exacerbate existing health conditions such as a flare up in psoriasis and arthritis. To manage chronic stress, you might succumb to maladaptive coping habits by turning to overeating and alcohol abuse.

There are many mentions these days of the phrase, ‘stress-free’ but is it something we should be aiming for? The truth is no. There is no such thing as a stress- free life!

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In fact, the Father of stress, Hans Selye said “to be totally without stress is to be dead.”

Seek instead to create a healthy balanced life.

As you can see it’s a misconception that being stress free should be the goal, so aim instead to have a healthy amount of the right sort of stress and learn ways to minimise bad stress and build resilience.


What is stress?

There are different types of stress and it might surprise you that not all stress is bad. Firstly, there’s good stress, otherwise known as eustress, which is stress of an acute nature. This type motivates you towards a positive outcome. Examples of this include planning a wedding, going on holiday, giving a speech, or learning a new hobby or sport.

Bad stress is also called distress and we’ve all experienced our fair share of this, haven’t we? There are the major stressors we can encounter such as getting divorced, money issues, and serious diagnoses and medical procedures. But what of seemingly minor everyday hassles such as sleeping in past your alarm, needing to take time off work unexpectedly because a child is sick, feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, or simply running late for an appointment. Minor hassles when there are many of them, and go on for an extended period of time, add up and place a heavy toll on your health and well-being.

Just the right amount of stress is important to. We all have a different stress threshold. Whatever your lower and upper limit is, too little stress and you’ll find yourself bored and unmotivated, too much stress and your stress hormones rise and impact your health. Interestingly, research has shown that an elderly person living alone and feeling bored suffers more stress than a manager who looks after a large team.


What are stress symptoms?

Symptoms of bad stress are irritability, anxiousness, and feeling depressed, talking faster, fuzzy thinking, poor concentration, memory issues, muscle tension which leads to tight shoulders and upper back, and lower back soreness.

Aside from the physical symptoms and risk of disease from chronic stress, there are other ways that chronic stress affects the quality of your life. You’ll have less energy, lowered self-esteem, lack of interest in sex, decreased productivity, less satisfaction in your work and relationships, and less likelihood of truly reaching your potential to be your best self.

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How to deal with stress?

Is your mind too busy? Practice being mindful and just allow yourself to BE in the moment connecting with what you’re doing, and who you’re with. It takes practice so be patient with yourself. When you notice you’re not present, bring yourself back to what’s going on in your environment, and what you are experiencing. Becoming mindful takes you out of thinking about the past as well as too much future thinking and instead you’ll feel more relaxed, less stressed and enjoy just BEING.

When we’re feeling stressed out, we switch to shallow breathing which activates the Sympathetic Nervous System so by practicing Diaphragmatic Breathing (slow belly breathing) it activates its opposite, the Parasympathetic Nervous System and you’ll feel more relaxed and less stressed.

Do you find you’re taking on more than is practical because you can’t say no? You can be direct and firm without being rude or offensive. Learning to say no by prioritising your health, is one way to reduce pressure and therefore stress in your life.

Have you tried meditation? There are many different types of meditation, some are part of spiritual practices and others secular. You might need to try several to find one that feels right for you. Some people prefer guided meditations, others prefer meditation where you focus on your breath, an object or repeating a mantra. 


And then there’s EFT Tapping!

The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) has been shown to lower cortisol levels in the body. Remember that cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone. If you’re wondering if EFT is evidence based, it most certainly is! One study by researcher Dr Dawson Church found that EFT lowered cortisol significantly more than other interventions tested.

EFT is a fantastic stress reduction technique in and of itself. It is also highly effective to use for the people and events that trigger you from the past. For instance, let’s say you might have had a controlling and critical boyfriend 10 years ago, called Tim. You’ve just started a new job and your boss might have the same mannerisms or tone of voice or attitude that unconsciously remind you of Tim. The new boss is irritating you but consciously you have no idea why…. this is where EFT comes in. Through detective work we can work together to uncover the earlier trigger and release it. The result being your boss no longer irritates you. Sound intriguing?

So in summary, remember not all stress is bad and ‘stress free’ is not the ideal to be striving for. Strive for a balanced life and if you find overwhelming stress is spiralling out of control, book in for some EFT sessions so that your body is less reactive to the stressors you come up against in your life or register for a Stress Less Cope Well™ workshops.