Stressed? Anxious? Let me help.
Anxiety and stress in small amounts can be what drives us on.
They stop us being bored, let us focus: become stimulated, decisive, creative and effective.
Stress and anxiety left untreated.
Beyond a certain point – that’s different for all of us – you go over a peak and harmful stress and anxiety kick in. You feel exhausted, on edge, burn out and in the most extreme cases it can kill you with high blood pressure and heart attacks.
Stress and anxiety - what's the difference?
Stress: This is your body’s reaction to a trigger and is generally a short-term experience. Stress can be positive or negative. When stress kicks in and helps you pull off that deadline you thought was a lost cause, it’s positive. When stress results in loss of sleep, poor concentration, and impaired ability to do the things you normally do, it’s negative. Stress is a response to a threat in any given situation.
Anxiety: On the other hand, anxiety is an on-going mental health disorder that can be triggered by stress. Anxiety doesn’t fade once the threat has gone. Anxiety hangs around for the long haul, and affects all parts of your life. You might have heard the phrase, ‘General Anxiety Disorder’.
Some examples include difficult relationships, unemployment, poverty, loneliness, exposure to violence and conflict.
And a more recent problem. Modern technology. The constant 24-hour connectivity and the problems this brings – the need to reply, the feeling you’re missing out and the idea that everyone’s having more fun than you.
Stress and anxiety - what do they have in common?
Stress and anxiety affect your mind and body in similar ways, making it difficult to spot the differences between them.
From the outside looking in, it can be difficult to spot the differences between stress and anxiety. Both cause:
- sleepless nights
- excessive worry
- lack of focus
- feeling overwhelmed
- you can’t calm your mind
And similar physical symptoms:
- rapid heart rate
- muscle tension
- Back and/or neck pain
- Feeling light-headed, faint, or dizzy
- Sweaty palms or feet
- Difficulty swallowing
- Frequent illness
- Gut problems
- Low sex drive
Your first step. Check in with yourself.
If you are experiencing any of the following, you’re probably feeling stressed or anxious.
1. The coffee has stopped working
Whatever you try you’re tired. More coffee, less coffee. Going to bed earlier, not using screens before bed, supplements. You are still tired.
2. Sleep patterns
Typically your usual eight hours is more like six as you are waking up very early, or can’t fall asleep fast. Sleep problems stress and anxiety come hand-in-hand so often it can sometimes be a chicken or egg situation – hard to tell what came first.
3. You're snappy
Your nice girl/guy image is getting tarnished of late because of a few ’episodes’. Perhaps you snapped at a colleague, got caught rolling your eyes at a manager, alienated a friend, or had a go at your partner.
4. Your social life does a 180
Depending on your base line — what you are like socially when you are feeling balanced — this can look like suddenly going out every night, or suddenly turning down social offers to stay at home doing nothing.
5. Work, work, work
It started as a bit of overtime. But now you are saying no to social events in favour of work. You saying yes to every extra contract that comes your way. And oddly feel a sense of safety each time you tell someone, “No, I can’t, I’m busy working.” You also try not to notice the moment you stop working and feel uncomfortable in your own skin.
6. You're overeating
Snacking is out of control. And you are not able to do portion sizes anymore. It’s not a few slices, it’s the whole pizza. You go out to eat and come home and eat again. Or buy food for the week, get home and eat it all in a day.
7. You're watching more Netflix
What started out as a half hour when you got home is now 3am. You’ve started watching stuff you don’t even like. But you can’t seem to stop. You might even have sneakily been watching at work.
8. There's a lot more of something else going on
Casual sex can be a sign as well to escape your emotions. Deep down you know you are trying to avoid feeling something. Other signs that stress and anxiety are getting on top of you can also look like:
- over spending
- hours of online shopping
- drinking too much
- drug use
- all night video game sessions
9. You think 'why bother?'
If you’re known for being tidy, suddenly you go out of the house in the same clothes two days in a row, or don’t do your hair, or shave. Or you hand in a work assignment without checking it over like you usually do.
10. You take risks you usually don't take
This is hard to answer because it depends on your baseline. We’ve mentioned, Netflix at work, maybe a bit of lying to friends, or even things like eating expired food that might make you sick, or walking through bad areas alone at night. You’re caring less. It’s as if something in you is courting trouble or even danger - and you don’t know why.
Now. Ask yourself. Have any of these behaviours been going on for more than six weeks and seem to be worsening?
Then, come on, take yourself seriously.
How can a Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist help?
Firstly, why a Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist? Well that’s my training.
I look at all of you. The ‘cognitive’ bit is how you’re currently thinking and feeling. The ‘Behavioural’ part is how you’re acting.
The ‘hypno’ simply means focusing your attention and the ‘therapy’ is the steps you and I take to lower your stress and anxiety: helping you learn how to relax and be calmer – whatever situation you face.
Together we work on learning how to relax. To recognise when you’re stressed and anxious. And how to reframe these moments by controlling your breathing and learning to relax.
Why? You can’t hold these two conflicting thoughts at the same time. You’re either stressed or anxious, or you’re relaxed. We’ll work on associating the pressure situations you face with relaxation.
There’s no need for you to keep going as you are.
We can’t stop stress and anxiety appearing in your life. What we can do is change how you think feel and act in these moments.
You may hear it called resilience.
It's why I called my company 'The Gentle Mind'
I believe in calming things down. Then we are kinder to ourselves. We don’t release cortisol.
Constantly releasing cortisol means living your life in a high gear.
Increased blood sugar levels. Insulin typically helps your body’s cells turn glucose to energy. As your pancreas struggles to keep up with the high demand for insulin, glucose levels in your blood remain high and your cells don’t get the sugar they need to perform at their best.
Weight gain. As your cells are crying out for energy, your body sends signals to the brain that you’re hungry. These ‘false’ hunger signals lead you to crave high-calorie foods, overeat and put on weight.
Suppressed immune system. Cortisol’s positive action to reduce inflammation in the body can turn against you if your levels are too high for too long. They may actually suppress your immune system. So you could be more prone to colds and contagious illnesses. Your risk of cancer and autoimmune diseases also increases.
Digestive problems. When your body reacts to a threat, it shuts down other less critical functions, such as digestion. If the
high-stress level is constant, your digestive tract can’t digest or absorb food well. It’s no coincidence that ulcers occur during stressful times and people with colitis or irritable bowel syndrome report better symptom control when they get their stress under control.
Heart disease. Constricted arteries and high blood pressure can lead to blood vessel damage and clogging up in your arteries. They could be setting the stage for a heart attack or stroke.
Let’s not go there.
James Thomas is a Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist based in Lincolnshire. He runs The Gentle Mind Hypnotherapy Ltd.
He believes we are what we tell ourselves. That when we relax we are kinder to ourselves.