The HPL wishes we were more chilled out. I am sometimes – on holiday, home in Scotland; but the fact is I get stressed in London. Too much work, worries about relationships, busy busy diary, the Northern Line. I get tired and irritable, tight muscles in my neck and back, dry and grey skin. All I need is two weeks on a beach/hammock to sort me out, but sadly that only comes once a year if I’m lucky, so I have to be diligent in actively doing things to relieve my stress.
I go to the gym and do yoga sessions. If things get bad, I go see a physio or get a massage. It keeps me feeling normal and stops me from always turning to unhealthy methods of stress relief (i.e. wine and ciggies).
I realise this is a bit GOOP, but I’m lucky to have people I go to when I’m stressed who make me feel better. I have therefore asked them to give me their wisdom on how busy Londoners can combat stress and I was really interested in what they had to say. I will be posting each response separately over the coming weeks – from a stress therapist, nutritionist, yoga teacher and holistic therapist. Today – the wonderful Helen Perkes (the photos I added myself).
Helen Perkes, Individual and Couples Psychotherapist (0207 402 2947).
WHAT IS STRESS?
“Some stress is healthy and necessary to keep us alert and occupied’’ (Spencer Rathus, Psychology: Concepts and Connections).
Imagine this scenario. A Prehistoric man/woman met a mammoth. A memory of an earlier, dangerous confrontation, triggers an alarm response (stress). The adrenal glands (just above the kidneys), produce adrenaline and noradrenaline. In seconds he or she is focussed, energetic, and ready for ‘fight or flight’. A recent U.S study has found that women also produce oxytocin, which promotes an urge to ‘tend and befriend’. Women retain the stress hormones for a longer period than men. Signs of stress may include – insomnia, aggression, impotence, lack of appetite, headaches, constant colds, weight loss or gain, inability to make decisions or concentrate, being argumentative or overly critical.
WHAT CAUSES STRESS?
Imagine now the mammoth is a job interview, public speaking, meeting your partner’s family, your boss, marital issues, concerns over money, loneliness, lack of time, expressing disagreement. Our bodies respond to these, and other perceived threats, as if in danger.
We react to what happens in the present, on the basis of what happened in the past. Perhaps your boss exhibits similar behaviour to a critical parent; we may feel the same emotions we did as a child. Perhaps a lack of money was an issue in your childhood; having a well earned ‘treat’ may bring up feelings of anxiety.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT STRESS?
1. Write down 5 negative emotions that caused stress in the past: being abandoned, criticised, feeling guilty, not good enough. If the present situation triggers any of these emotions you may react out of proportion, and become stressed. Awareness of an old pattern can help to control the emotion. Try writing your thoughts in a daily journal.
2. Sleep deprivation produces stress hormones. Sleep is essential.
3. Exercise, laugh, cry, scream. All help the body to dissipate adrenaline.
4. Try this cognitive behavioural exercise.
|A. EVENT||Argument with partner.|
|B. BELIEFS ABOUT SELF||He doesn’t love me, we may separate.
|C. DISPUTE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS||I know he’s having a hard time at work.
I’m stressed with family problems.
|D.REPLACE WITH POSITIVE THOUGHTS||We had a great weekend.
We need to talk about what actually caused the argument.
Other parts of our relationship work well.
5. Psychotherapy/counselling – to discover old emotional patterns that are sabotaging the present and causing stress.