Stress: A Therapists Guide to Finding Your Moments of Calm

Let’s face it, these days, stress is as constant as the air we breathe, and many of us are conditioned to live with stress. And actually, stress is good for you. 

But let’s be clear, only a certain amount of stress serves our well-being. Stress Response helps us to adjust to new situations and can be useful in many situations.  

It fuels our drive to meet deadlines, and prepare for tests and has us braking just in time to avoid a car crash without us having to think about it. That ‘fight-or-flight’ response to danger. 

The dangers around stress occur when it becomes a permanent presence in our lives. (A bit like that weird uncle who gives you the heebie-jeebies yet won’t leave the party). Our modern lives mean that our bodily systems remain in constant alert.  Our systems are being disrupted so much that we can never return to a period of homeostasis. It means we can never recover from one period of stress before another one slams into us.  Our mental health takes a battering & our physical health begins to decline.  

This is why we as a species must take steps to find little moments of calm wherever we can. 

Causes of Stress

  1. Life Events: Significant life events such as divorce, job loss, moving to a new place, or the death of a loved one can trigger stress. These events often involve major changes that disrupt one’s sense of stability and security.
  2. Workplace Demands: High workloads, tight deadlines, conflicts with coworkers or supervisors, and job insecurity are common stressors in the workplace. Balancing work responsibilities with personal life can be particularly challenging for single parents.
  3. Financial Pressure: Financial instability, debt, or struggling to make ends meet can cause significant stress. Single parents may face additional financial stressors due to the sole responsibility of providing for their families.
  4. Parenting Challenges: Raising children as a single parent can be demanding, especially when managing multiple responsibilities such as childcare, household chores, and attending to the emotional needs of children.
  5. Health Concerns: Coping with chronic illness, disabilities, or caring for a family member with health issues can be emotionally and physically taxing, leading to heightened stress levels.
  6. Social Isolation: Feeling disconnected from social support networks or lacking a sense of belonging can contribute to feelings of loneliness and stress, particularly for single parents who may have limited opportunities for social interaction.

Stress Is a Natural Response. 

Our bodies are already equipped with a built-in stress response. It propels us into action, sharpens our senses, and primes us for survival. 

It’s what has kept us safe for millennia. It’s what’s helped us stay alive when running away from dinosaurs!

A sudden shot of adrenaline and cortisol to our system makes our heart beat faster, our respiration rate increase, our vision & hearing get sharper, blood vessels in our arms and legs get bigger, and the glucose levels in our bloodstream also increase. Even our digestion system changes! (I mean, you’d shit your pants if you saw a T-Rex, too, right?)

Our whole body shifts into survival mode to deal with the emergency that has presented itself. Then, once the danger is over, our bodies are marvels of self-regulation—designed to return to a state of calm after the danger passes. 

Our modern lives mean that our senses often remain on high alert.  Our brains are inundated with thousands of messages every minute of every day. Financial pressures of going to work when you’re exhausted; the pressures of showing up for a family when you’re thinking about that deadline coming up in work; worrying about childcare needs or having concerns for your elderly parents. Hell, even wondering why that sexy person you’ve been texting has suddenly ghosted you. Can’t leave the house without your make-up on.  Thinking the neighbours are spying on you and are going to report you because when your kids fight, it sounds like the outbreak of the next World War. For many people, this ’emergency mode’ never switches off, leading to what we term chronic stress.

Chronic Stress.

Chronic Stress is where things start to go wrong with our bodies. 

Usually, once the danger has passed/dinosaur has eaten your in-laws, your heart rate returns to its normal rate.  Your blood vessels shrink back down.  Your parasympathetic nervous system (the system responsible for rest and digest; conserving energy and regulating bodily function) takes over.  It’s like a balm to everything, putting out the stressors and de-escalating the body.

But when we live with continued stress, none of these things can happen (not well anyway). 

Staying in a perpetual state of stress wreaks havoc on our bodies.

Do you suffer from regular headaches? Stress can keep you in a constant state of tension, especially in the neck & shoulders. 

Stress on the respiratory system can lead to shortness of breath.  This can aggravate asthma, COPD, bronchitis, and other diseases.  The circulatory system isn’t supplied with enough oxygen because we’re only taking shallow/rapid breaths, which puts stressors on other areas. 

Stress has a disruptive effect on your digestion system.  Your body is unable to process food as efficiently, meaning you’re not getting the vital nutrients & minerals from what you’re eating. Low energy means you’re less likely to want to stand & cook/prepare a nutritious meal. Instead, you’ll go for what is easiest for you. Unhealthy diets affect our mood, leading to increased bouts of depression and bloating.  Stressed-out people tend to eat/drink/smoke more.  

Prolonged stress increases the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure).  It causes inflammation of the coronary artery which is why stress tends to be linked to a heightened risk of heart disease.

Chronic stress impairs our immune system, causing chronic fatigue and other metabolic disorders. 

Not sleeping? Elevated cortisol levels can disrupt sleep patterns.  If you’re waking up throughout the night, then you’re probably feeling permanently exhausted, and like you’re always on the back foot in your life. 

Stress also impacts our mental well-being: 

  • Anxiety and Depression: Chronic stress is closely linked to the development or exacerbation of anxiety disorders and depression.
  • Cognitive Impairment: Stress can impair cognitive function, leading to difficulties with memory, concentration, and decision-making.
  • Mood Swings: Fluctuations in stress levels may contribute to mood swings, irritability, or feelings of agitation.
  • Substance Abuse: Some individuals may turn to alcohol, drugs, or other substances as a way to cope with stress, which can lead to substance abuse disorders.
  • Decreased Self-Esteem: Persistent stress can erode self-confidence and self-esteem, leading to feelings of inadequacy or worthlessness.

Have I scared the crap out of you enough yet? Because I do have a way out of feeling this way. 

Managing Stress – Find Your Moments of Calm

Managing stress effectively is essential for maintaining overall well-being and quality of life. Strategies such as practising mindfulness, engaging in regular physical activity, seeking social support, and implementing stress-reduction techniques can help mitigate the negative effects of stress on both the body and mind. 

Additionally, seeking professional help from therapists or counsellors may be necessary for individuals struggling to cope with chronic stress or its associated mental health issues. By addressing the root causes of stress and adopting healthy coping mechanisms, individuals, including single parents, can better navigate life’s challenges and cultivate resilience in the face of adversity.

However, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for you won’t necessarily work for me.  What works one day might be a pointless exercise on a day when every little thing is pissing you off. 

It’s why I put together 5 Quick & Easy Ways to Relax [LINK]  – where you try to find your Moments of Calm in your busy day.  There are 5 FREE ways (one thing a day for 5 days) for you to see what works for you. 

By incorporating just one of these little ‘Moments of Calm’ practices into your life, you can start to turn the tide on stress, transforming it from a relentless foe to a navigable challenge.

In embracing these practices, you’re not just alleviating symptoms but beginning to fundamentally change how you interact with the world around you.  I’m not offering a way to eradicate stress completely from your life but to harness its energising potential while mitigating the harmful effects on your health & happiness. 

Get your FREE copy today.

If you’re interested in learning more about these techniques, drop me a message HERE

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