This is the final part in the HPL’s series of posts on coping with stress in London. I’m lucky enough to know people to turn to when I feel stressed (even though I’m not always as disciplined as I should be), and I thought I’d share their knowledge with you. The previous posts were by Dylan Ayaloo, yoga instructor , Helen Perkes, psychotherapist and Polly Essex, holistic therapist. Today is the turn of Stephan Langguth, stress transformation therapist. Here’s what he had to say:
DO YOU SUFFER FROM: anxiety, depression, phobia, insomnia, or stress-related physical & emotional symptoms?
We often mistake stress as something that happens to us and look to the events of our lives as the source of that stress. It is good to know that stress is actually caused by our reactions to the events and not by the events themselves.
You might find, for example, that your co-workers find a situation highly stressful that you feel perfectly happy with. In turn, you might find situations stressful which other people might actually enjoy. It is our personal biochemical distress which we experience as stress.
As many as “70% of GP visits are for stress-related complaints” estimates the International Stress Management Association. In your own experience you might have noticed that you feel unhappy, your sleep might be not refreshing and is disrupted, you might experience anxiety and your body might do funny things – from IBS to headaches to a seriously stiff neck and so on. You know these are symptoms of stress and you might be fed up with your experience.
But what to do about it?
Working with clients who tried “coping” with their stress until they manoeuvred themselves into a serious stress-related illness, here are some tips for those who are keen to take early action:
1. Start by exploring where stress makes you feel fantastic, powerful and alive. Have there been challenges in your life which you just loved, where rising to the occasion was pure pleasure. If yes, great. You can use this as a model for what you want to experience also with those challenges which currently still distress you.
2. Where challenges do make you feel less then fantastic, stop looking for ways to “cope” with your stress. It means you are still viewing stress as something “bad out there” against which you are powerless. The good news is that not only is it not ‘out there’ but you are also not powerless. This means you can stop blaming your environment, London, the weather, your partner or the bad boss and the impossible work load.
(By the way my friend Christie just remarked that most of us feel it is a relief to blame and rant at times. Of course and that’s good. What I suggest here is not about denying yourself that fun and enjoyment. I am talking about the time when blaming gets in the way from you being happy and symptom free because it makes you the victim. At that point blaming does not feel that great anymore and can become a real health hazard.)
3. That brings you to an even more important step: Stop blaming yourself! If you experience stress-related symptoms like headaches, IBS or muscular tension it often just means that you are missing some vital information or skills.
Imagine you wake up finding yourself in the pilot seat of a 300 seater airplane. The stewardess tells you that it is up to you to land this plane now. The runway is already visible. No one else is in the cockpit. Just you and too many control switches. You might feel overwhelmed and panicky – not long and you simply freeze. Wouldn’t it be more than natural for you to respond with a panic attack – while a pilot, after 1000’s of hours of training, actually can enjoy herself as she lands the plane? Like learning to fly before settling into a pilot seat, we have to learn to deal with our stressful environment and here specifically with our own stress response to that environment in order to not feel stressed.
4. After you have stopped blaming both the environment and yourself, you can start taking some steps today:
- Talk to people. Your boss, a friend, your partner about what you experience and what you specifically need in this situation. Remember neither they nor you are to blame. You need the information and support you are asking for in order to get something done or simply to have fewer stress-chemicals running through your system.
- Have more fun every day and do endorphin-releasing things. Endorphins are the happy-chemicals our body releases when doing sport or things we really enjoy. Fun and endorphins are antidotes to stress symptoms.
- If you have persistent physical or emotional symptoms, I suggest you get some training in recognising what your body is signalling you to do through your symptoms. This is where listening to your body gets specific and this skill can be learned, like riding a bike.
Our bodies want us to do something? Yes. Stress-related symptoms are physiological and in fact nothing other than urgent cues for action. Your “Bodymind”, the intelligence of your body, is literally signalling to you that something needs doing… now! Its your body’s way of guiding you in order for you to be safe, happy and fulfilled! The key to reversing your symptoms lies in understanding what your body is saying and then do it. You can learn this immensely satisfying process in Stress-Transformation therapy and it takes on average only 4-8 sessions to learn.