Stress today, gone tomorrow
A recent article in a national newspaper reported that stress costs the UK 10 billion pounds a year. This includes stress related time off work as well as all the psychological and mental health problems associated with a stressful lifestyle.
It is now conceded that at the root of many serious illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes etc., is stress. But what is stress? Stress is that feeling you have when it seems like you are under too much pressure. Of course it is subjective. Some people seem to thrive on a degree of stress whilst others have a very low threshold. But the consequences of living with stress for prolonged periods are fatal.
The brain and stress
Stress can easily become a habit. Primitive man experienced stress when confronting an enemy or a wild animal. His body would prepare him for fight, flight or freeze. Today our stressors could be anything from a difficult boss, a naughty child, to traffic jams. And once turned on, our stress response can be difficult to turn off easily. And this is when we damage our health and quality of life.
So stress can become a habit. It is a bit like when we learn a new skill; for example driving. How we concentrate and pay attention to the manual manoeuvres. But once we learn how to drive it becomes second nature. It has entered our subconscious mind we don’t have to concentrate so hard; we can chat, listen to the radio, and remain aware of the traffic all at the same time.
It is only relatively recently that scientists began to speak about the brain being highly malleable and changeable. Previously it was thought that the brain did not generate new cells or neurons. So every time we repeatedly react in a stressful way, we automatically create a pathway in our brain. In time, just the mere sight of our boss, automatically triggers tension.
Mary went to see a hypnotherapist regarding her panic attacks and general state of worry. She had had a difficult childhood, her father, an alcoholic was unpredictable and violent at times. As a consequence, she was afraid of people in authority - notably her boss. Mary and her hypnotist worked on changing her subconscious reactions through guided imagery, breathing and hypnosis until she was gradually able to respond differently to stress in her life. She became far more aware of the cues that preceded her panic and was able to stop them getting out of hand. Today we have all got accustomed to leading stressful lives. It is important to find a way to deal with it and enhance our well-being.
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