Today I am warning of the dangers of prolonged stress on our psychological and physical well-being.
Our early ancestors faced very real hazards on a daily basis resulting in the development of stress responses to enable our survival against predators and aggressors. We are hard-wired to respond to perceived threats by secreting the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
In reality, we rarely face life-threatening situations, but we still have the in-built automatic response which activates when our minds perceive we are in danger, regardless of whether the threat is ‘real’.
I often see clients who are exhibiting the stress response as a result of a heavy workload, fast-paced lifestyle, financial pressures or relationship issues.
We’re really not that far removed from cavemen, and even though a company restructure, divorce or exams are not life-threatening, they are the kind of situations that will cause clients to become stressed.
When we’re under threat, we secrete adrenaline and cortisol, which have a profound effect on our bodies. Adrenaline increases our heart rate and raises our blood pressure. Cortisol increases sugar levels in our blood, and it also suppresses the functioning of internal systems, such as our immune response, digestion and reproductive system. Our moods are also affected, impacting on motivation and generating fear.
Prolonged stress can even affect our short-term memory. In a recent study, researchers from the University of Iowa found a link between high levels of cortisol and the gradual loss of synapses in the part of the brain that processes short-term memory. Synapses are connections that process, store, and recall information. Repeated and long-term exposure to cortisol can cause them to shrink and disappear, potentially contributing to mental decline and memory loss as we age.
My clients report a wide range of stress-related conditions, including anxiety, digestive problems, high blood pressure, sleep problems, weight gain, concentration problems and decision-making impairment.
I can help clients lower their stress levels by helping them to relax, giving their mind and body respite from the hormonal onslaught. Then, by using a combination of techniques, I help them to respond to their situation in a more constructive way.