Understanding stress

Michael McGuinness.

Michael McGuinness.

Modern life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and demands. For many people, stress is so commonplace that it has become a way of life. If you frequently find yourself feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to take action to bring your nervous system back into balance. You can protect yourself by learning how to recognise the signs and symptoms of stress and taking steps to reduce its harmful effects.

When you perceive a threat, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline. These hormones rouse the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus – preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.

The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life – giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.

The stress response also helps you rise to meet challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you are attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam when you'd rather be watching TV.

But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.

Effects of chronic stress: The body does not distinguish between physical and psychological threats. When you are stressed over a busy schedule, an argument with a friend, a traffic jam, or a mountain of bills, your body reacts just as strongly as if you were facing a life-or-death situation. If you have a lot of responsibilities and worries, your emergency stress response may be “on” most of the time. The more your body’s stress system is activated, the easier it is to trip and the harder it is to shut off. Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the ageing process. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

Managing stress is all about taking charge: taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. Stress management involves changing the stressful situation when you can, changing your reaction when you cannot, taking care of yourself, and making time for rest and relaxation.

For an appointment contact Michael McGuinness at Mayo Hypnosis Clinic, telephone 094 906 0226 or 086 161 2301 or log onto www.mayohypnosis.ie

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