Everyone suffers from stress at some point in their lives and studies have shown that a small amount can be helpful, enabling us to perform better in certain situations. However too much stress can make us feel unable to cope and affect our health in all sorts of ways.
Many factors can trigger stress but the most common are the break-up of a relationship, bereavement, financial difficulties, moving house and issues affecting family or children. If you are at the end of a relationship you may have a combination of these factors to deal with.
Stress can cause all of sorts of psychological and physical symptoms, the following being some of the most common:
Feeling short tempered, irritated with other people, angry, verbally aggressive
Anxiety, fear, nervousness, tearfulness
Indecisiveness or inflexibility
Insomnia, disturbed sleep patterns
Loss of appetite or increased eating
Loss or increase of sexual appetite
High blood pressure, increased pulse
Shortness of breath
Indigestion, acid heartburn, stomach problems
Alopecia, hair loss in men or women
Aches or pains in the body
Feeling run down, more susceptible to illnesses such as flu or colds
If you think you are suffering from stress you should seek help from your GP. Discuss the possibility of counselling or a referral to another professional so that you can talk through your problems. Your GP may prescribe medication if your symptoms are severe, but any medication should be given in conjunction with counselling and not as a solution in itself.
The important thing with stress is to recognise that you have a problem. Realise that any physical problems are connected with the pressure you are under and seek to manage your stress effectively rather than seek a quick fix.
Many pressures affect us on a long-term basis, especially when caused by life changing events such as the end of a relationship. The key is to managing these pressures effectively and minimising the amount of stress that we put ourselves under.
The following will help to manage stress effectively:
* Work out what stresses you out. It may not be easy to identify but with careful thought you will probably be able to identify situations where you feel more stressed than others.
* Consider how you react in these situations. Do you smoke, eat more, take it out on those around you, shout, scream.? Is there anything you could do to change the way you react and take a calmer approach?
* Ask yourself whether getting worked up will change anything. If you have practical or legal issues to deal with keeping a clear head will be essential so don't waste any emotion on worrying unnecessarily.
* Don't rely on cigarettes and alcohol to help you deal with stress. In the short term a cigarette or drink may make you feel calmer, but long term they will not help you to deal with stress and could make it worse.
* When you feel yourself becoming angry, upset or anxious try to relax your muscles. Take deep breaths, holding each breath in for the count of three and slowly releasing it. Continue this until you feel calmer. Alternatively try the Stop Technique. Close your eyes and say "Stop" forcefully to yourself. Clear your thoughts and count back slowly from ten, taking deep, measured breaths as you do.
* Try physical exercise such as walking, going to the gym, aerobics, sport, yoga etc. to help clear the mind and give you renewed energy to deal with any issues more effectively.
* Take time out for yourself, even if you have other people to care for. An hour a week to visit a complementary therapist would be an excellent way to do this. Complementary Therapies GPs are increasingly referring patients to complementary therapists, recognising that they are extremely effective in reducing the effects of short and long term stress.
The following therapies are some of the most effective for aiding stress relief:
Acupressure involves the application of pressure to key points around the body to allow free flowing energy, used widely for a range of ailments including stress and related symptoms.
Aromatherapy is especially effective in stress relief and involves the use of essential oils through massage. The oils are blended specifically for the client's individual needs and can also be used in baths or vaporisers.
Indian Head Massage involves massaging the head, neck and shoulders and is widely used for stress relief, clients often falling asleep during a treatment.
A full body massage from a professional masseur will release tension and stress in the body and long term will help you sleep better and feel much more relaxed. Massage is particularly effective for relieving muscle tension.
Reiki is based on an oriental form of healing and involves the therapist connecting the client with the earth force or 'reiki' by placing their hands at key points around the body. It can be extremely effective at relieving stress.
Reflexology involves the therapist massaging key points on the feet to unblock the energy lines and meridians that flow through the body. It can help to maintain health and treat specific conditions including stress related illnesses.
For further details of any of the above treatments or to search for a qualified therapist in your local area visit the website of the Federation of Holistic Therapists .For more information on stress or related illnesses visit NHS Direct or call 0845 4647.