The World seems to be spinning faster and faster, and life seems to be lived at breakneck speed, with so much to do and so much expected of us. Stress seems unavoidable in today’s fast-paced society, where our 24/7 ‘always-on’ culture doesn’t ever seem to cut us a break. Stress is hard to define, hard to diagnose, and hard to treat, but dealing with stress is vital, not just for our mental wellbeing, but for our physical health, too.
A little bit of stress isn’t a bad thing - without it, we wouldn’t get anything done! However, severe or prolonged stress is harmful. In times of stress, our bodies create adrenaline, the ‘fight or flight’ hormone, which used to help us run faster, or fight our way out of trouble. However, the majority of our modern stress triggers don’t respond well to a quick sprint or being punched, which prevents a resolution!
Some common symptoms of chronic or long-term stress are:
• Not being able to sleep properly
• Being irritable
• Drinking lots of caffeinated drinks, increased alcohol consumption, increased smoking, or a combination of these
• Reduced levels of concentration, or reduced decision-making ability
• Heart palpitations, dry mouth, tremor of the hands, and/or a feeling of a ‘lump’ in the throat or stomach
• Always feeling that something needs to be done
• Inability to ‘switch off’, or sit and relax
• Chest pain, radiating into the neck or arm
• Suicidal or self-harming thoughts
• A change in your bowel activity - such as constipation or diarrhoea
• Rapid weight-loss
• A rapid or erratic heart rate for no obvious reason
• Feelings of self-harm or suicidal thoughts
Dealing with stress is important as, left unattended to, stress can increase your risks of heart attack, stroke and other serious illnesses in the long term. If you are in any way concerned, it’s important to see your GP. However, there are plenty of options to help you self-manage stress.
Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy is a popular option to help manage stress. Basil, cedarwood, lavender, palmarosa, geranium, Ylang Ylang, cinnamon, eucalyptus, valerian, pine, rosemary and citrus oils are excellent for helping deal with stress. Alternatively, why not try our ‘Calmer Chameleon’ range, either in aroma oil or for a relaxing bath?
Herbal Medicine: Natural herbal remedies can be helpful. The most effective options are passionflower, lavender, valerian, hops, linden(lime tree) flower, chamomile and orange blossom. These are most easily made into a tea. We make a blend of many of these herbs, Farewell Anxie-Tea, designed to calm anxiety and reduce stress.
Meditation: Meditation is a group of practices designed to alter the practitioner’s state of consciousness. There are a wide range of methods, some are linked to religious practices, while some begin as simple self-taught exercises. This website has a good introduction to meditation.
Mind and Body Techniques: Practices such as yoga and tai chi can be very beneficial to help control stress. Massage can also be helpful.
The following sites may contain information which you might find useful:
NHS Direct online has some very authoritative and in-depth information, including an explanatory video.
The Samaritans are a charity who provide a listening ear to anyone and everyone on an anonymous basis. If you need to talk to someone other than a doctor about stress, then they are a great port of call. They can provide a friendly ear, free of charge, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. They also have a Minicom service for the deaf or hard of hearing, and you can also contact them by post or email if the phone isn’t for you.
An allied condition is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. This is a nervous disorder brought about by being involved in or witnessing a traumatic event or series of events. It’s a common problem among members of the armed services, but can affect anyone, and can follow traumatic events like a road accident, sexual assault, natural disaster or being the victim of a crime. NHS Direct have some good resources and a video interview. The charity MIND also have some really useful information and a comprehensive list of contacts.