“I’m so stressed out right now!”. Now, there’s a common phrase, used often and loosely by most of us. We often use the word “stress” to describe how we are feeling when under pressure.
Would it surprise you to know that know that “stress” actually refers to your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat?
When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined, the body’s defenses kick into high gear. This rapid, automatic process is known as the fight-or-flight reaction, or the body’s stress response.
This response is the body’s way of protecting you. However, without good coping strategies, the body may not be helping in the most beneficial of ways. And the truth is that many people are not aware of their body’s stress response.
If they are used to being “stressed” most of the time, they may become unable to identify when their bodies have kicked their responses into high gear. In fact, it is not uncommon for people who suffer from GI symptoms such as IBS to say “I don’t feel stressed”, even though their body’s symptoms are obvious.
Anxiety or Stress?
Many times, it is used interchangeably with anxiety, a word that describes the result of a worry. But, what is anxiety really, and how do they affect each other?
In a nutshell, anxiety is a “motivational response” to stress, and a little anxiety can actually be helpful.
Some people approach our practice with the statement “I want to get rid of my anxiety!” and our response to that, “well… let’s re-think that and see how you can perhaps dial it down instead.”
You might have a work deadline coming up, or perhaps you’re planning a surprise party for someone important to you. If you’re a student, you might feel anxious about getting a poor grade in school. Your anxiety spurs you to study more and work harder or find an alternative way of studying.
In these cases, healthy anxiety can be helpful. It motivates you to be proactive or creative so that you can achieve your goals. Anxiety would have a direct impact on what you want that party to look like or to ensure that you are meeting deadlines at work or securing good grades on your exams.
Unfortunately, many people struggle with what is commonly referred to as unhelpful anxiety or unhelpful worries.
As the word unhelpful implies, this type of anxiety or worry causes your mind and body to react in ways that cause distress. More severe forms of anxiety cause the brain’s alarm system to send “danger signals” down to your body, even when there is no real danger.
As a result, you may feel overly anxious or fearful over situations that, although uncomfortable, do not involve actual danger. Your brain needs a re-training, and that is where we can help.
How Can Stress Management Through Therapy Help?
With the right combination of skills and tools, it is possible for you to conquer your stress and manage your anxiety to come out on that winning side of it.
We’ll guide you through approaches that will help you to cope with stress, including lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques, and reframing through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
You may also learn of coping mechanisms which you are accustomed to using, but which may now be working against you, and find new ways of better coping.
There is no reason for you or a loved one to continue to struggle with unmanageable stress and anxiety. Learning to manage it better takes a combination of learning, practice and consistency.
You deserve to take a breath and enjoy your life without stress absorbing your thoughts. Let’s be in touch to see if therapy is the right next step for you.