Everybody feels the effects of stress from time to time, and the human brain is really good at helping us get through those times. But, the very real dangers of long-term stress are maybe more common than you think, and many what would be called ‘physical’ symptoms can be caused, or at least made worse, by stress.
A little stress every now and then is not something to be concerned about. Ongoing, chronic stress, however, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems, including:
- Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and stroke
- Obesity and other eating disorders
- Menstrual problems
- Sexual dysfunction, such as erectile dysfunction (impotence) and premature ejaculation in men and loss of sexual desire in both men and women
- Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, eczema and permanent hair loss
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as heartburn, indigestion, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Our early ancestors faced very real hazards on a daily basis resulting in the development of stress responses to enable our survival against predators and aggressors. We are hard-wired to respond to perceived threats by secreting the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
In reality, we rarely face life-threatening situations, but we still have the in-built automatic response which activates when our minds perceive we are in danger, regardless of whether the threat is ‘real’.
I often see clients who are exhibiting the stress response as a result of a heavy workload, fast-paced lifestyle, financial pressures or relationship issues.
We’re really not that far removed from cavemen, and even though a company restructure, divorce or exams are not life-threatening, they are the kind of situations that will cause clients to become stressed.
When we’re under threat, we secrete adrenaline and cortisol, which have a profound effect on our bodies. Adrenaline increases our heart rate and raises our blood pressure. Cortisol increases sugar levels in our blood, it also suppresses the functioning of internal systems, such as our immune response, digestion and reproductive system. Our moods are also affected, impacting on motivation and generating fear.
Prolonged stress can even effect our short-term memory. In a recent study, researchers from the University of Iowa found a link between high levels of cortisol and the gradual loss of synapses in the part of the brain that processes short-term memory. Synapses are connections that process, store, and recall information. Repeated and long-term exposure to cortisol can cause them to shrink and disappear, potentially contributing to mental decline and memory loss as we age.
My clients report a wide range of stress-related conditions, including anxiety, digestive problems, high blood pressure, sleep problems, weight gain, concentration problems and decision-making impairment.
I can help clients lower their stress levels by helping them to relax, giving their mind and body respite from the hormonal onslaught. Then, by using solution focused therapy techniques, I help them to respond to their situation in a more constructive way.
If you’d like to explore hypnotherapy as a useful way of helping to deal with the stress in your life, feel free to contact me for a no-obligation initial consultation.