What causes stress?
In Part One we covered what stress is, so now we can begin to establish what causes it. With this understanding, we can all slowly make changes in our lives and keep our stress down for good.
Stress is caused by our negative thinking patterns surrounding the events in our lives, rather than the event itself i.e. it’s how we think about the situation that gives us that ‘perception of danger’ and therefore putting us in fight or flight mode. This may explain why you can have two people in a similar scenario where one may be feeling fine, whereas the other could be having panic attacks.
Let’s use the example of an interview. If we tell ourselves that “it’s going to go badly”, that “we’re not good enough” and “we’ll never get the job anyway”, then our brains are going to perceive these thoughts as real danger. Our imaginations are amazing but it also means that our brains think we are literally experiencing those thoughts. It can’t tell the difference between what is our imagination or reality. As our stress and anxiety increases as a result of this perceived ‘danger’, fight or flight takes over and we feel dreadful. Once we’re in this state then we naturally feel more negative as a means for survival and so the vicious cycle continues, as the more negative we are the more stress we create. Not the nicest way to feel just before an interview!
Now let’s take that same scenario but instead tell ourselves encouraging thoughts such as, “today will go well”, “I’ve tried my best” or “I have just as much chance at getting this job as anybody else”. This time instead of perceiving danger and sending out stress signals, the brain releases good neurotransmitters such as serotonin, that helps us to feel happy, motivated and able to cope. Instead of working ourselves up into a panic, we can feel calmer and more in control. This may take a little practise over time if you are usually more prone to the former scenario, however it is still very much achievable!
And this explains why two people in the same situation can perceive two very different experiences. The way we think really does affect our mood and mental health. Once our stress is high it can start to exacerbate other conditions that we may have a genetic predisposition to. Things like OCD, eating disorders, addictions and social anxiety to name a few. Not only that but it has a massive impact on our ability to sleep and all that physical tension affects our physical health too. This is why it is so important to take notice of those not-so-healthy thoughts around the events in our lives.
This isn’t to undermine any problems in anybody’s lives or to pass the blame at all- it’s something we all experience. Instead I want to invite you to just begin to be more mindful of your thoughts and really notice how this is making you feel emotionally and physically. When we are conscious of how our thoughts are affecting us, we can begin to make changes to improve them. Changing our attitude really does do wonders! And we can slowly retrain our brains to think more positively and therefore decrease our overall stress levels but also increase healthy neurotransmitters that make us feel good. Click here to read some tips from a previous blog on ways to feel more positive.
Now this is all well and good but it doesn’t help if your stress is already sky-high! What small things can we do to help reduce our overall stress and help our mental health? I will cover this next week so keep a look-out…
Again if you feel as if you’re struggling with stress or any other issue then please seek help now, as there’s always a way forwards and always a way to build a happier future for yourself. Contact me if you’d like some help or to discuss how hypnotherapy can help with stress.