Stress Awareness Day: What is stress, and can counselling help?

Author: NCS

Stress is a huge problem in modern society. More and more of us are afflicted with chronic stress, and it’s making us miserable. If you’re suffering from stress it’s very important that you find ways to de-stress and relax. Stress isn’t just a nasty feeling. It can also have serious long-term effects on your health and wellbeing. Many people find that counselling is a very effective way to battle back against stress, so do consider seeing an accredited counsellor if stress is making your life unbearable.

WHAT IS STRESS?

We all know on some level what stress is. It’s a physical and emotional response to a pressured situation. Way back in our evolutionary past, stress was our body’s way of preparing us to fight or run our way out of danger. When we feel threatened, our bodies kick into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Our heartbeats and breathing elevate in order to get more oxygenated blood to our muscles. Hormones like cortisol and adrenalin are released, to make us take the danger seriously and to give us the energy boost we’ll need to escape the threat. This is all very useful when faced with the kinds of dangers we’d have had to deal with hundreds of thousands of years ago – but it’s not so well suited to modern life.

Stress isn’t always a bad thing. It can help us to get things done. After all, if we were completely blasé and carefree about everything we’d never be motivated enough to work hard, beat deadlines, navigate our relationships and so on. A little bit of stress every now and again can be a great driver. The thing is, stress is not designed to last for longer than a couple of hours at most. However, in this day and age, many of us are living with chronic and perpetual stress. The fight or flight reaction was never meant to go on for very long, and this kind of prolonged stress can result in problems for both body and mind.

HOW IS STRESS BAD FOR YOU?

The stress reaction is not designed to last long-term. It’s meant to give short bursts of energy to help us out of temporarily sticky situations. Prolonged stress can put a lot of strain on both your body and your mind. For example, many people experience sleep and appetite disturbances due to their stress. As far as your body is aware, you should be fighting for your life or running away – not eating a healthy meal or settling into bed. This kind of disruption of your physical rhythms will in the long term have an impact on your health, as sleep and nourishment are both key to overall wellbeing.

Other physical effects of chronic stress can include:

• Headaches

• Muscle pains

• Chest pains

• Extreme fatigue

• Weight gain

• Weight loss

• Loss of libido

• Nausea

• Stomach upsets

In the long term, stress can also weaken your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to illness.

All of this naturally has an impact upon our mental and emotional health. Mental and emotional effects of stress may include:

• Depression

• Anxiety

• Impulsive behaviour

• Unhealthy coping strategies (substance abuse, for example)

• A short temper

• Difficulty in thinking straight

• Personality changes

• Irritability

However normalised it may be becoming in the modern world, stress is not healthy. It will slowly erode your health and wellbeing, and can have serious long-term consequences. If you’re feeling the burden of stress, it’s important to act as quickly as you can to nip it in the bud.

CAN COUNSELLING HELP WITH STRESS?

Stress management is a very individual thing, and stress management techniques will differ from person to person. Of course, getting rid of the thing that’s stressing you out is a big help in dealing with stress – but that is not possible for many people. We can’t all switch from a stressful job to our dream career at the drop of a hat, for example. At least, not without incurring different kinds of stress (trying to pay rent without a steady income, for example).

What’s more, for some people, chronic stress may be due to an underlying mental health issue like anxiety or depression. This means that, until these people get help with their mental health, the stress is likely to recur whatever the situation they find themselves in.

So, can counselling help with stress? The answer is ‘Yes, if you find the right counsellor’. A good, accredited counsellor with whom you feel comfortable can help you to work out the source of your stress. Through talking and perhaps other therapeutic techniques (depending on what works best for you), a counsellor will enable you to learn about your stressors, your triggers, and the ways in which you respond to stressful situations. It’s surprising how much of our stress flies under the radar – often we don’t realise that something is stressful for us until we are very stressed, and it can be difficult to work our way back through the steps which brought us to this stressful point without an outside perspective. This is where counsellors excel.

If you develop a good rapport with a counsellor, you’d be amazed at the things you’ll learn about yourself. And the process can be so gentle that you often won’t realise you’re making progress until you’re quite a long way down the line. Counselling can open you up to yourself, in a calm and non-judgemental manner. If you’re suffering from stress, an accredited counsellor can work with you to find out what, exactly, is the source of your stress. They can then suggest techniques for you to manage or even defeat that stress, and support you through your efforts to do so.

Stress is a far more serious problem than many people understand. Don’t be ashamed to seek counselling for stress. For more advice on finding the right counsellor for you, check out the rest of our website. We wish you all the best.


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