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The stress of mental illness

Stress can have a huge effect on our lives, yet the cause can start in a simple way. Perhaps we feel an increase of pressure at work to get a project done, perhaps changes at home mean we have more to do and less time to do it. Perhaps relationship problems are around and are being made worse because you are stressed and anxious about a solution.  Stress can make a difference to how you view the world, what you feel you can achieve and can cause physical as well as psychological changes.

AnxietyThere are many signs of stress and they vary between different people but among the most common are anxiety, thoughts that race round your head uncontrollably, headaches and a feeling that you should be able to cope better. Many suffers talk about a wish for the world to stop for 5 minutes so that they can get a chance to catch up.  Often people will try unhelpful ways of coping through drinking or misuse of drugs, just to make symptoms go away for a short time.

Stress is an entirely natural response to threat, and helps keep us safe. The problem comes when there is no respite from the heightened state that the stress response puts your body through. You begin to worry that everything is a threat and worry about the consequences. It is not an illness but left unchecked it can make you ill.

It may help to know that you are not alone and stress is a very common condition. One of the first steps in treating your stress is to understand the trigger or triggers that are causing your stress. You should be specific as possible. Some people find it useful to note down where they were and what happened then review these to look for patterns. Perhaps it is a person who makes you stressed or a particular set of circumstances. There was a man who suffered from road rage who discovered that he only got angry and stressed when there was pop or rock music with a pounding beat on in the car so by changing to classical music and talk radio, he avoided many of the triggers that caused him stress by driving. Identifying triggers can be important to changing how you act.

It important to learn how to let go of the anxiety associated with stress, this lets the body calm down and start to reduce the level of hormone. Techniques like relaxation and exercise can be very valuable in reducing both stress and anxiety. Indeed many people who exercise find that they can focus on that rather than their worries so get a rest from the anxiety for a short time. Remember that exercise need not be hours pushing weights at the gym it can just as easily be a walk round the block.

Counselling and talking therapies are a good way to treat both anxiety and depression and while they are not an alternative to the care your GP offers, counselling is recognised throughout the health service as an effective treatment allowing the space to find the triggers and work on different behaviours and ways of dealing with the situations that arise.

In conclusion if you suffer from stress there are many ways to help yourself, by knowing what causes your stress and making changes. Often this will be easier with a counsellor, but we all have it within ourselves to defeat stress.

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