Category Archives: Beating Stress in London

Beating Stress in London PART IV – The Stress-Transformation Therapist

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 instructorHelen 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. 
If you would like more information on brief stress therapy, please visit or email Stephan at (note from Sasha – and please mention the HPL!).

Beating stress in London PART III – The Holistic Therapist

 The HPL has already posted two previous articles on how to cope with stressful London life, from Dylan Ayaloo, yoga instructor and Helen Perkes, psychotherapist.  Today, I asked Polly Essex, holistic therapist, to tell us how to recognise and deal with stress.  I met Polly for a holistic massage last year  – she used reflexology, massage and reiki to address concerns I had about stress and worries, and I ended up feeling incredibly relaxed and exhilarated.  Must book in again soon!  All photos were added by me and were taken from my travels to soothe you into Friday afternoon…

Polly Essex, Holistic Therapist at Tulip Yoga Studio, Clapham (0207 6227274 or 07801 565 234,  (Polly also works as an art psychotherapist treating children with developmental difficulties. You can find out more about Polly at

  • Causes of Stress

All sorts of things can cause stress. Financial worries, relationship problems, health problems, work pressures, time constraints, juggling busy lives with demanding commitments, feelings of not being good enough. All sorts of things can worry us or can feel demanding, and our ability to manage these things varies from person to person. Certain issues, people, or situations that arise may induce more stress, panic or fear that others. Feelings of helplessness can be often connected to the root cause of worry. This kind of stress can feel debilitating and can lead to addictive behaviours. Lance Dodes M.D., has written an excellent book on this called ‘The heart of addiction’.

Depression, mood swings, and aggressive behaviours can be the result of prolonged emotional stress. Other symptoms of emotional stress could be insomnia, hyperactivity, lethargy, migraines, digestive disorders, heart / circulatory conditions, fertility, colds, the list goes on. Physically, you may notice that you clench or grind your teeth, crave sugar, hunch your shoulders, have tense or aching body muscles, and feel generally tired or run down. You will also lose more hair when you’re stressed. When you are psychologically stressed, you may find it difficult to concentrate, think ‘clearly’ and may experience bouts of mental ‘numbness’ and confusion. Your memory can also be affected.

When a person becomes stressed, they release the hormone cortisol. This hormone is what gives us the flight or fight response. Small doses of cortisol is OK, and can necessary for our survival. Imagine being faced by a hungry angry lion (or boss!) it is this hormone that would be released to give you that adrenaline rush necessary to respond and act quickly! However, prolonged release of cortisol creates an unhealthy balance within our bodies. This can lead you to feel run down, and in turn develop all sorts of stress-related illnesses. When we are relaxed however and feeing physical or emotional pleasure, we release happy hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. These hormones are also known as pleasure hormones or endorphins.

  • How to de-stress

There are all sorts of ways of releasing this hormone to help reduce your stress levels, lift your mood and feel good. If you cant get away for that relaxing sunny break, try a swedish massage, Reiki or a Reflexology treatment. Many reputable studies have recorded peoples Cortisol levels (stress hormone) before and after this massage, and have shown that cortisol levels decrease and serotonin and dopamine (endorphins) increase. Sex is also a great stress buster – as long as you are old enough, and can enjoy it! Meditation is also wonderful at calming the mind. People can find that if they are especially stressed, sitting still can be difficult for a while when they are new to it. They can also become irritable finding it too difficult trying to calm the ‘chatter’ inside their minds, and thus give up. Sitting for 5 minutes in the morning and evening is better than nothing at all and can still have very positive effects in reducing stress levels, increasing self awareness, concentration and memory. However, sometimes even 5 minutes can be tricky for people to find the time or patience for, so I recommend doing this in the bath, or even on the loo! Closing the eyes and focusing on the breath can be a good technique to help bring the mind inward and into balance. Yoga or 5 rhythm dance is great for those who are too restless to ‘sit‘ with the benefits being just as great, as well as giving exercise at the same time. Exercise has also been proven to release endorphins (feel good hormones) lower stress levels and lift depression. Certain vitamins and supplements can also be taken due to stress sapping the body from absorbing them effectively. Vitamin C is a major one. A nutritionalist can be the best person to advise on diet, and a kineasologist can test you for any deficiencies you may have and recommend which supplements and how many you should take.

  • What a holistic therapist does

As a holistic therapist I look at the person’s overall health and will advise accordingly on what could be helpful actions for that person to take. I will then treat them with either Swedish massage, Reiki, or Reflexology, or a combination of these treatments – depending on their needs. Both reflexology and swedish massage are excellent for lowering stress levels, detoxifying the body, boosting the immune system, releasing endorphins, restoring energy levels and relieving insomnia. Swedish massage can be especially helpful in treating muscluar aches and pains, lymphatic drainage, improving circulation/ muscle tone and cellulite reduction. Relexology can be particularly helpful in treating hormone/ reproductive/ digestive and urinary disorders, migraines, skin disorders, asthma, and other such problems. Massage, Reflexology and Reiki are all deeply relaxing treatments, that alone helps to manage and reduce stress.

In reflexology, the feet represent a map of the body and ‘reflexes’ are treated with precise thumb, finger and hand pressure techniques. The feet hold over 7000 nerve endings making this a powerful and deeply relaxing treatment that relieves imbalances (symptoms) and restore a free flow of chi (energy) throughout your body. Reflexology works along similar meridians (energy lines) to those used in Acupuncture. By stimulating specific reflex points on the feet, the therapist not only works the corresponding organ (such as your lungs, heart, or brain), but will also be encouraging a free flow of energy in the rest of the ‘energy zone’ that particular organ is in. It is the build up of stagnant chi that leads to symptoms such as headaches, poor digestion, and so on.

Reiki is a gentle yet profound universal healing energy that heals physically and emotionally. The energy goes to where the body needs, and the Reiki practitioner channels the energy by placing their hands on the client’s body (who can either sit, or lie down). There is no need to get undressed. Special attention is paid to the chakras, which are specific areas on the body where the main energy centres are. Most people experience a wonderful feeling of well-being and peace, and may also feel warm or tingling sensations as the energy flows into them, or feel like they are floating, or that their limbs become heavy. It can work alone, or in conjunction with other therapies such as massage or reflexology. It also complements conventional medicine by accelerating recovery following illness and can help alleviate back problems, low energy levels, emotional problems, physical ailments, life challenges, stress management, coping with changes, fatigue syndromes, and high blood pressure. When you experience a treatment, your own natural healing ability is also enhanced.

Beating Stress in London PART II – The Yoga Instructor

As you may know, I’m doing a series of posts on coping with stress in London, because I think London can be a stressful place to live.  Previously, the wonderful Helen Perkes talked about stress from a psychotherapist’s point of view, but today I asked Dylan Ayaloo, instructor at the place I do yoga, Hot Power Yoga in Clapham, to talk about ways a yogi deals with stress. 

I’ve talked about How Power Yoga before, and I do find it really helps me – loosens my bodyslows me down.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also want rock-hard abs and a toned body, but when I practice regularly I find it really calming.  I should point out however, that I’ve not actually found any time to practice in weeks, oops, so I also asked Dylan to suggest ways in which busy people who can’t find time to practice can de-stress the yogic way.  Here’s what he suggested:

Dylan Ayaloo, Yoga Instructor at Hot Power Yoga (

1. Practice yoga at least 2 times a week.  We store tension and stress in the body as a result of our lifestyles. Yoga helps release the tension and toxins in the body while creating a balance of strength and flexibility giving rise to a natural state of well being. 

The breathing technique we use at Hot Power Yoga is called ujjaii breathing. The breath builds heat from within, allowing the body to sweat and release toxins.  Its an audible breath which anchors the mind to the present moment. This allows the practitioner to release any attachments to the worries of the mind, anxieties, stresses and any to-do’s lists which all exist either in the past or the future.

We store stresses and tension in all parts of our bodies, mainly shoulders, neck and lower back. The sequence taught at HPY is an intelligent, time tested and highly effective sequence which takes the body through a journey of releasing tension and stress. Each pose builds onto the next, opens, stretches and strengthens the body in a safe manner. While the sequence is not fixed, a regular practitioner will know enough of the structure of the sequence to bring the practice onto their mat at home or when they’re travelling. This is one of our goals, to teach independence so our students can take this practice anywhere.

If you’re caught in a busy cycle and have very little time to do yoga, simply rolling out the mat for 15-20 mins to do a few sun salutations before you start your day – this will have a profound effect on your day. Some people find it more conducive in their bodies to practice in the morning before they start their days, while others prefer to practice in the evenings when the body is less stiff. There is no fixed formula, it is really about connecting with your body and listening to what your body needs. If for some reason you’re too busy for a few days to even roll the mat out for a short practice at home, then we recommend that you at least stick to your daily meditations.

2. Meditate daily – at least 5 mins in the morning and 5 minutes at night. Use a simple method of following the flow of breath in and out, not trying to block out or stop thoughts but simply noticing them as they arise and letting them go. 

3. Keep your mind focused on the present moment.  Stress is a projection of the mind of what may be in the future, we go through what-ifs in the mind and identify with thoughts of what hasn’t happened yet. Stay on task and keep the mind focused on the very thing you’re doing in this moment, to every fine detail of this moment, live each moment fully in the now and here, and stress will not have a place to exist.

NOTE FROM SASHA:  All photos used with kind permission from HPY’s facebook page.  HPY offers free taster classes for newbies – please say you read about it on The Happiness Project London.  And let me know how you get on!

Beating Stress in London PART I – The Psychotherapist

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).


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.


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.



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.

I’m unlovable.

C. DISPUTE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS I know he’s having a hard time at work.

I’m stressed with family problems.


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.