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Is Stress Making You Sick?

Published on 12th February 2019

Did you know that stress can affect your body, thoughts, feelings and behaviour?  Not dealing with stress symptoms can lead to serious health issues, so recognising when you are suffering from stress can give you a head start in managing them.

It is important to recognise when you are suffering from stress and be proactive in managing the symptoms.  If it isn’t dealt with, stress can lead to more serious health concerns:

Insomnia

Stress can upset the balance between sleep and wakefulness.  This makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, greatly affecting the quality of any sleep you do get.  Having a set bedtime routine can help and it is recommended that we avoid looking at computer screens, smart-phones, tablets and televisions up to 2 hours before bedtime.  Using meditation or massage can be very beneficial in helping us to unwind, empty our minds and therefore aid sleep.

Unhealthy Eating Habits

Many people reach for something sweet and tasty when that feel overwhelmed by stress.  When we are stressed hormones such as cortisol are released into the body and these hormones can cause us to have cravings for high fat, calorie dense foods which typically make us gain weight.  This can lead to more serious problems such as obesity and diabetes.

Depression & Anxiety

Chronic or acute stress can lead to depression in susceptible people.  Even positive events such as getting married or starting a new job can be stressful and can trigger depression.  Counsellors have a whole host of techniques, such as Mindfulness and CBT, that can help you fight back against depression and anxiety

Cold & Viruses

Whilst stress cannot cause a cold or the flu, it can lead to a suppressed immune system, reducing the bodys ability to fight viruses and bacteria.  That’s why stressed people are more susceptible to catching colds and flu.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Stress can cause a range of stomach problems, including bloating, cramping and loss of appetite.  When we are under stress our “flight or fight” response kicks in and this sharpens the mind, increases the heart rate and diverts blood to the arms and legs.  In order to balance this the body slows down the workings of the gut.  If stress is prolonged, the digestive system will be consistently working ineffectively.  This leads to excess acid in the stomach and an imbalance of bacteria in the gut; causing symptoms such as indigestion, heartburn, constipation, diarrhoea and nausea.

So, what can you do to help yourself combat stress and stay healthy?  Here are our top stress busting tips:

Be Active

Whilst exercise won’t make stress disappear, it will help clear your thoughts and allow you to deal with your problems more calmly.  Choose an exercise or sports you enjoy doing, preferably one that involves being outside in the fresh air.  Gardening and walking are great exercise and you can “reward” yourself, and your tired muscles, with a deep tissue massage afterwards.

Take Control

“Feeling a lack of control in a situation is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing” says Professor Cary Cooper, an Occupational Health Expert at the University of Lancaster.  Taking control is empowering and is an important part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.  Counselling and Life Coaching can help you gain perspective and put you firmly back in the driving seat!

Connect with People

The time we spend with friends and family helps us to relax.  Spending time with people who make you laugh and feel good is uplifting and that feeling of being appreciated by loved ones is a great tonic.

Spend Some Time on Yourself

In the UK we work the longest hours in Europe, which means we often don’t spend enough time doing the things we really enjoy.  Try putting aside at least one evening a week for some quality “me time”.  Treat yourself to a facial or a massage, spend time reading or listing to music or why not catch up with an old friend.

Avoid Developing Unhealthy Habits

Using alcohol, cigarettes, food or caffeine as a crutch will not solve your problems.  Whilst they might provide temporary relief, they will lead to longer term problems.  If you find that you are developing unhealthy habits, a professional counsellor can help you learn the tools to deal with this.

Work Smarter NOT Harder

Work smarter by prioritising work, concentrating on dealing with tasks that will make a real difference - and accept that your in-tray will never be empty! 

Have a Positive Outlook

Take time to remind yourself of all the things you are grateful for in your life.  Try thinking of three things you are grateful for at the end of each day; it might be a sunny day, ticking something of your “to-do list” or the fact that your dog greets you with a wagging tail every evening after work!  This positive reinforcement helps to give us perspective when we feel that life is not going the way we would like it to.

Remember also, to accept that here are some things you cannot change.  Concentrate on those things you do have control over and try not to focus on things that are beyond your control.

When to Seek Help

If you are unsure whether stress is the cause of your symptoms, or you have taken steps to control your stress, but the symptoms continue, you may want to make an appointment to see your GP. Or you can choose to see a professional counsellor or therapist who can help you identify the source of your stress and teach you new coping strategies.

 

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