Stress or the feeling of being under emotional or mental pressure has a bad reputation in society. We are often told to remove it completely from our day-to-day lives. However, having stress is normal. Rather than trying to rid all stress, we need to focus on having good doses and managing the level of it.
For example, you could be stressed about taking your young baby out for a walk due to fear of the pram being knocked over by a vehicle. A bad amount of stress may lead you to never leave the house. A good and healthy amount of stress can cause you to be more switched on and risk-averse; you decide to push your pram on the inside of the footpath rather than the outside which is closer to the road.
Stress is more complicated than just a feeling. It is a psychological response to your body releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. What we don’t realise is that we self-prescribe these hormones, just like a painkiller, to comfort our pain. This response often becomes a habit when we are not able to manage our internal emotional world. Like any drug, we need more and more of it and it becomes habitual. Adrenaline also comes with withdrawal symptoms: a mini crash, feeling depressed and issues sleeping. This explains why sometimes you don’t feel great until a few days into your holiday because it takes time to get the adrenaline out of your system.
Some find ways to get more adrenaline by doing extreme sports like skydiving however, most people can achieve it by using their brains. By bringing traumatic or fearful moments that have occurred in the past into focus. This often happens very briefly and we don’t notice but it is just enough to release the adrenaline needed. It is as if we side-stepped the trauma but still have the same side effect of the stress it caused.
The underlying problem does not lie with stress itself. Rather understanding that past experiences can present healthy and unhealthy responses. Knowing what those fears are is important to ensure they stop being tripped and in turn stop triggering the stress response. It is also key to realise that stress is not something we can avoid but there is such thing as a good and bad amount of it. Some tips to consider are as follows:
Managing immediate stress.
• Count in sync and then out of sync (e.g. 6, 7, 8, 12, 23, 25). This forces the brain back into thinking mode which switches off the adrenaline tap.
Managing longer-term stress.
• Gain awareness of your internal response and the past moments that are hooking into the present. Deal with not just the present but all of the fears that come wrapped together.
• Therapeutic engagement – which isn’t just supportive counselling but therapeutic mapping of how your mind developed and sees the world on the back of all life experiences.
Rafan House offers specialised, compassionate and discreet conversations with individuals, families, and organisations who are seeking help with the demands of 21st century life. We can offer a supportive space to explore experiences and how to manage stress in good doses.