Stress: Is it bad for your health?
Stress is a feeling of overwhelm that generally has a clear cause or trigger. Life throws you a curveball that you didn’t expect, or you have to make a difficult decision and the resulting sense of tension and worry is known as stress.
Stress can seem irrational. You can become so blinkered by your emotions that you feel you cannot see clearly any more. Your thoughts may have become exaggerated and negative where you ruminate on the issue you feel powerless to change. However, stress is rational in the sense that you can clearly identify where these feelings are coming from, adding to your feelings of frustration.
Stress is not all bad though and can sometimes actually be a positive thing. It can motivate and drive you to achieve your goals or spur you on to get stuff done. Too much stress, however, can lead to health risks, potentially creating physical, mental and emotional problems.
There are many things in our modern world that can negatively impact our wellbeing; stress being a key contributor. In our “keep calm and carry on” culture, it may be very difficult to admit to others, or even ourselves how we are feeling, let alone seek professional help. We may fear stigma or judgement or may be unaware that what we are experiencing is actually stress or anxiety. In a bid to “carry on”, we may develop unhealthy coping strategies, such as drinking too much or comfort eating, or we may internalise our worries, keeping a tight lid on them until we are no longer able to cope.
So, what might cause your stress and anxiety?
There can be many reasons for feeling stressed, maybe the pressure of work or perhaps family, relationships or financial issues. It could be one big thing, or a build-up of small things that leave you feeling overwhelmed, which only makes it harder to identify exactly what’s affecting you. Oftentimes, the impact can be felt in other areas of your life too. You may find, for example, that relationship issues are causing you to be less focussed at work; or difficulties at work are affecting your behaviour in relationships.
What does stress feel like?
You might notice physical signs, such as tiredness, headaches, nausea or difficulty sleeping. You may feel frequently tearful, fearful, or confused, finding even the simplest of decisions difficult to make. You may become withdrawn, or unusually snappy.
As individuals, we’re all unique, so too is the way we experience stress and anxiety. A situation that troubles you, may not trouble someone else at all.
The important thing is your reaction to your stress and how you manage it. As Jon Kabat-Zin said, “you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf”. Whilst it is normal to experience stress and anxiety from time to time and is to be expected as part of life, it is important to recognise when stress and anxiety are having a negative impact on you and to ask others for help or seek the support you need.
Can counselling help?
Counselling can help you to safely explore and identify the underlying causes of your stress and anxiety in a supportive confidential environment. It can help you to gain a deeper understanding and awareness of your triggers and to develop healthy coping strategies to better manage your life.
Life can throw many surprises at us, both good and bad and some beyond our control. Counselling therapy can offer you a safe, caring environment in which to explore and increase your self-awareness. With clarity, you will be better able to consciously choose how to respond to your individual circumstances.
I believe that each of us has the strength not just to survive, but to truly thrive. So if you feel you are experiencing the negative effects of stress, please do seek support.
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