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Honora Totman Counselling for Cheltenham and Chipping Campden


A survey conducted October has been published by BUPA and has proven that 49% of British women are suffering from Stress, compared to 39% of men - are you one of them?

Stress is at chronic proportions in Britain and, out of the stressed two fifths, 27% say they regularly feel close to breaking point. The implications of this are huge. With almost 6 million adults saying they have been feeling stressed for more than a year.

More About Stress #01

Dr Martin Baggaley, medical director at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, believes the statistics are worrying. “It’s concerning to see that so many people are experiencing sustained and relentless stress,” he says. “If left unchecked for a prolonged period of time, stress can cause much more serious, long-term mental and physical illnesses such as anxiety and depression, and be a contributing factor in physical health problems.”

He also commented “Unfortunately, when people are stressed they tend to neglect the routines and habits that help keep them balanced,” says Dr Baggaley. “For example, when stressed you’re more likely to work excessive hours, take less breaks, sleep less, stop exercising and cut-down on your social life. These activities are all naturally protective, so cutting them out is more harmful than you might initially realise".

Am I suffering from stress?
For most people, life is hectic and a certain amount of stress from time to time is inevitable. So how can you tell if your stress has become a problem? Do any of these identified factors that may indicate high levels of stress relate to you?:

  • The way you think has changed: Constant worrying, feeling critical of yourself and others.
  • The way you feel about things has changed: You feel bad tempered, on edge, lonely or depressed.
  • The way you feel physically has changed: Aches and pains, diarrhoea and constipation, chest pains, loss of sex drive.
  • Your behaviour has changed involuntarily: You are eating more or less, sleeping too much or too little, isolating yourself and neglecting responsibilities.

Dr Baggaley followed by saying “As your anxiety levels increase you will become less able to concentrate, causing your performance levels to decrease as you are distracted by the stressful thoughts. This will in turn make you more anxious, and so the cycle goes on. This vicious circle of stress will only stop when you take conscious steps to address it.”

According to the survey, men and women have different ways of dealing with stress. Men who are stressed are more likely to turn to alcohol (30% vs 22%), while women are more inclined to try breathing and relaxation exercises (29% vs 20%).

Worryingly, the research also reveals that of those feeling stressed, two-thirds (61%) would only seek help when they were no longer able to cope with daily life.

So, how should I cope with stress?
The first stage in dealing with stress is to recognise it. There may be a valid reason for feeling this way – 20% of respondents in the survey had money worries, 18% were stressed by work, 8% by family life and 7% by illness – but there are options in dealing with it.“There are a number of simple changes you can make to improve your levels of stress, including taking regular breaks, learning relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, taking exercise and eating healthily,” says Dr Baggaley. “If self-help isn’t having an effect, or if you’re concerned about your stress levels or feeling very anxious, you should always talk to your GP or a healthcare professional.”

  • Stress has been called “the silent killer” and can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pain, and an irregular heartbeat.
  • While it is a myth that stress can turn hair gray, stress can cause hair loss. In fact, telogen effluvium (hair loss) can begin up to three months after a stressful event.
  • Stress alters the neurochemical makeup of the body, which can affect the maturation and release of the human egg. Stress can also cause the fallopian tubes and uterus to spasm, which can affect implantation. Stress in men can affect sperm count and motility and can cause erectile dysfunction. In fact, stress may account for 30% of all infertility problems.
  • Stress can make acne worse. Researchers say stress-related inflammation rather than a rise is sebum (the oily substance in skin) is to blame.
  • Laughing lowers stress hormones (like cortisol, epinephrine, and adrenaline) and strengthens the immune system by releasing health-enhancing hormones.
  • The stress hormone cortisol not only causes abdominal fat to accumulate, but it also enlarges individual fat cells, leading to what researchers call “diseased” fat.
  • Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, liver cirrhosis, and suicide.
  • The stress of caring for a disabled spouse increases the risk of stroke substantially.
  • Chronic stress can impair the developmental growth in children by lowering the production of growth hormone from the pituitary gland.
  • The term “stress” derives from the Latin 'stringere' (to draw tight).
  • Stress causes capillaries to close, which restricts bleeding if a flesh wound should occur.
  • Pupils dilate (mydriasis) during stress much the same way they dilate in response to attraction: to gather more visual information about a situation.
  • Chronic stress floods the brain with powerful hormones that are meant for short-term emergency situations. Chronic exposure can damage, shrink, and kill brain cells.
  • Stress makes the blood “stickier,” in preparation for an injury. Such a reaction, however, also increases the probability of developing a blood clot.
  • Research has shown that dark chocolate reduces stress hormones such as cortisol and other fight-flight hormones.
  • Chronic stress increases cytokines, which produce inflammation. Exposure to constant inflammation can damage arteries and other organs.
  • Stress can alter blood sugar levels, which can cause mood swings, fatigue, hyperglycemia, and metabolic syndrome, a major risk factor for heart attack and diabetes.
  • Chronic stress worsens irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that irritates the large intestine and causes constipation, cramping, and bloating.
  • Peptic ulcers are caused by the H.pylori bacteria or the use of NSAIDS—not stress. However, stress can exacerbate ulcers and keep them from healing.
  • Chronic stress decreases the body’s immune system’s response to infection and can affect a person’s response to immunisations.
  • Stress can increase the ability of chemicals to pass the blood-brain barrier, which shields neurons from some poisons, viruses, toxins, and other fluctuations in normal blood chemistry.
  • Chronic levels of stress place a foetus at greater risk for developing stress-related disorders and affect the foetus’s temperament and neurobehavioral development.
  • Post-traumatic stress physically changes children’s brains; specifically, stress shrinks the hippocampus, a part of the brain that stores and retrieves memories.
  • Stress can result in more headaches as a result of the body rerouting blood flow to other parts of the body.
  • The hyper-arousal of the body’s stress response system can lead to chronic insomnia.
  • When cells shrink due to exposure to stress hormones, they disconnect from each other, which contributes to depression.
  • Men are more likely than women to develop certain stress-related disorders, including hypertension, aggressive behaviour, and abuse of alcohol and drugs.
  • Chronic low-level noise and low-frequency noise below the threshold of human hearing provoke stress hormones that can interfere with learning and can also elevate blood pressure, degrade the immune system, and increase aggression.
  • Extreme or sudden emotional trauma can lead to “broken heart syndrome”(BHS), or stress cardiomyopathy (severe heart muscle weakness). This condition occurs rapidly, and usually in women. In Japan, BHS is called “octopus trap cardiomyopathy” because the left ventricle balloons out in a peculiar shape.

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