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HEALTH & BEAUTY
Stress is a form of anxiety, a human response that features in most people’s lives to some extent – but there are ways of managing it positively to keep your life in a more natural balance
Hypnotherapist Andrea Kelly sees stress as a powerful force in our lives: “Stress can be defined as the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable. We persistently worry about work, family and finances – it’s called a silent epidemic. Stress effects every single cell in the body and it is linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, it can cause memory loss, IBS, obesity, insomnia and even lack of libido and fertility problems. It can also cause havoc with our skin and hair.
We think that stress only affects us in the brain, but it has a physical effect on our body and organs, too
tress in physics is described as the force that produces strain on a physical body. As a psychological concept, it wasn’t until 1915 when American physiologist Walter Cannon first applied the term ‘stress’ to his work relating to the flight-or-flight response. Is the concept of psychological stress, therefore, relatively young, to do with our fast-paced lives in the 21st-century: juggling multiple obligations, the relentless pace of technology, the merciless drive to succeed in the workplace, the pressures of social media? Or perhaps stress is just a new name for a human condition – reflected historically by terms such as melancholia, neurasthenia, depression, chronic fatigue or acedia, or ‘weariness of the heart’, in medieval times. Why do we get stressed? “Stress is a form of anxiety,” says hypnotherapist Viv Kenchington. “Causes can be things such as work and financial pressures, family issues, juggling work and family life, breakdown of relationships, illness or injury.” “All stress is anxiety related,” Viv continues. “It is when one has dropped into a fight, flight or freeze response. We end up doing things that we feel uncomfortable about later – like shouting at someone, ignoring someone on purpose, over-thinking when in social situations and then not being able to get your words out. “The negative impact that stress has can be seen in a host of different ways,” says Viv. “One’s sleep often suffers. Whether it’s not being able to get to sleep, waking during the night or finding it difficult to rise in the morning. This often results in a foggy head. Which in turn creates difficulties with focus, concentration and decision-making. “And if that’s happening, it can lead to panic attacks in social situations, shortness of breath, throat closing down, blushing, dry mouth, feeling faint even. All unhelpful symptoms when you are trying to get on and have a normal life.”
“We think that stress only affects us in the brain, but it has a physical effect on our body and organs, too,” says Andrea. Studies show that three-quarters of us have felt so stressed in the last year that we’ve felt unable to cope. We know stress is linked to a range of health problems from obesity to IBS. “A small amount of stress is good for us – it can motivate us and spur us on to get things done – but we need to make sure it doesn’t get out of control.” How then can hypnotherapy help? “I practise solution-focused hypnotherapy, a style that combines solution-focused brief therapy (a type of psychotherapy) with clinical hypnosis,” says Viv Kenchington. I get my clients focusing on what they want their outcomes to be. There are no time machines – we can’t change the past, but we
can control what happens next. Sessions are geared towards lowering stress levels, and people are often surprised at the amount of laughter in the clinic room. “The first half of a session is talking. Working the intellectual mind, focusing on what is going well, what’s been enjoyed and positive differences. The second half is the trance/hypnosis part where the person gets to relax after working their brain, an important stage, when working on solutions.” “During a consultation I talk about what is happening in the brain when we suffer with anxiety disorders and what we can do about it,” says Andrea Kelly. “We need to start the day without any anxiety so we can deal with our lives, but most of us don’t. I talk about the ‘stress bucket’ and how to keep it empty – doing makes it possible for us to deal with what life throws at us and enables us to actually enjoy our lives to the full. I will explain why sleep is so important – we know a lack of it is one of the biggest stresses on the body and it affects our mind too. It’s good quality sleep that is important. “If we don’t change what we are doing and thinking, stress can be a continuous lifestyle cycle. We need to change our relationship with stress and discover what we can do to keep our bucket empty.” Yoga teacher Holly Warren – who teaches at Yoga Bodhi in Bath and at Kaliyoga yoga retreats in the UK and Italy – says that yoga and meditation practices allow your body to cope better with stress: “Prolonged stress can lead to physical, mental and emotional disease. Bringing yoga, breath work and meditation into your life can bring dramatic improvements. “Yoga trains the counter-stress response, the parasympathetic part of the nervous system. This is measured using heart rate variability or HRV. Changing the rate and pattern of breathing alters HRV, reflecting shifts in the nervous system.
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