What is stress ?
To answer this, we first need to step back in time to meet our primitive ancestors, the cavemen. In those long forgotten days, our ancestors would as a matter of daily live find themselves walking along on the open plains of the African savanna and would have the potential to bump into a hungry pride of lions. In order to survive they would’ve needed a rapid response system, that bypassed the controlled conscious mind and allowed them to either stand and fight with their weapons, or run as fast as they could. This system we know today as the fight, flight or freeze response. As soon as they were aware of the lion, a signal would be sent to a part of their brain called the Amygdala, which acts as the warning siren when we are under attack or threatened. With the help of the Hypothalamus, which regulates all the chemical responses in our body and mind, we would release two hormones these are the stress chemical messengers of cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine). These hormones give our body the lightening fast response it needs to take immediate life saving action.
In modern times however the ‘Lions on the planes of Africa’ has become a traffic jam, or a critical meeting at work, or a parent suffering with a life changing illness, or arguments with partners. The accumulation of a multitude of stressors, if prolonged, can have a major impact on the quality of our lives. It can if left unchecked these start to affect our health, which can manifest itself in numerous ways. It could start as a tension headache, or stomach problem at first, the effects of the hormones in the blood can restrict the blood flow forcing our blood vessels to constrict, restricting the oxygen flow to our heart or brain. This in turn, over time, can increase our risk of developing heart problems or even stroke.
The main hormone that triggers many of these health problems is cortisol. This is released by the adrenal gland and sits above the kidney. This hormone feeds our anxiety, which in turn causes our adrenal glands to produce more cortisol, so we can end up living in a vicious circle. The net result of long term cortisol production, can be weakened bone or muscle tissue. It also slows down healing, impairs digestion, affects metabolism and weakens our immune function. Listed below are some of the signs to look out for when we experience stress.
Symptoms of Stress on the body are
- Change in sex drive
- Chest pain
- Muscle tension or pain
- Sleep problems
- Stomach upset
Effects of stress on your mood
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability or anger
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Sadness or depression
Effects of stress on your behaviour
- Angry outbursts
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Exercising less often
- Overeating or under eating
- Social withdrawal
- Tobacco use
How can we combat Stress ?
So how can we turn the tide of the impact that stress can have on our bodies and mental health ?
In my clinic we tell our clients about stress, and how it builds up into what we call a ‘Stress Bucket’. When stress builds up, it can sometimes overflow, and this is when we can start feeling out of balance and a sense of losing control of our lives.
One of the best tools we use to empty the stress bucket is Trance. The reason we use Trance is that it simulates REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement). When we go into REM during our sleep we re-run stressful emotional events, and we replay them and change them from being an emotional memory to being a narrative memory (a memory we have control over). This is why when someone upsets us during the day, and we still think about it later on, it’s not until we have slept on the issue, that we awaken in the morning and wonder what all the fuss was about. We have removed the emotional content from the memory. This is natures way of helping us reset and move on with our daily lives. The same is true when we go into trance.
Hypnotherapy facilitates a sense of calm and relaxation and provides the process with which the mind can reduce its cortisol levels allowing us to release our worries, so that when it’s time to go to bed, we can have a more restful night’s sleep and regain the balance and sense of well being we ultimately seek.