Symptoms of Stress

These are typical of the type and range of reactions you might experience under stress. Remember, everyone of us is unique – we don’t all behave or react the same way! You can use this list to note any symptoms which apply to you (i) right now; (ii)  at times in the past when things have been better, and (iii) to check again say in a couple of weeks from now. This way you can keep track of changes; watch for things getting better (good!) or getting worse (a sign that something in your life might need attention).

Emotional Symptoms of Stress1

Physical Symptoms of Stress1

 (1) Source: Prof Greg Wilkinson, Understanding Stress. Family Doctor Series. The BMA & Family Doctor Publications.


Facts About Stress & Reducing It

Stress – it seems that it lurks in almost every aspect of life these days. But what do we really mean by stress? Is it always a bad thing? What makes it bad? What are the facts about stress?

This is the approach that I use in my stress workshops at a local NHS hospital trust. Let’s begin with an over-arching definition: stress is the pressure that you expose yourself to. Actually, we are often more concerned with how we each respond to stress; your physical and emotional reactions, or stress responses. In physics we speak of the strain on the system when it is stressed. So you could argue that we should talk about the strain we experience when under stress.

Consequently, when we talk of “stress levels”, we should take care whether we mean the person’s stress responses, or the levels of pressure they are facing.
Of course, a little bit of pressure can be productive, can’t it? It can give you motivation, and help you to perform better at something. However, too much pressure or prolonged pressure can lead to stress, which is unhealthy for the mind and body.

Everyone reacts differently to stress, don’t they? And some have a higher threshold than others; they can bear more strain before they experience some stress response. This idea that individuals have unique biological, psychological and social sensitivities is the core of the “stress vulnerability model” proposed by Zubin and Spring (1977). When it gets too intense, or too prolonged, the resulting stress response can be physical, mental and emotional symptoms.

The variety of possible symptoms is wider than you might have imagined (see the table below), both physical and emotional. Over time, these culminate in the majority of cases of anxiety and depression, the most common mental health problems in the UK(and mental health problems are the most common health problems in the UK). Research by mental health charities suggests that a quarter of the population will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives.

How does stress happen? A model of stress
When faced with a situation that makes you stressed, your body releases chemicals, including cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These invoke the ‘fight or flight’ feelings that help us to deal with the situation. However, when you’re in a situation that prevents you from fighting or escaping, such as being on an overcrowded train, the chemicals are not used and their effects are felt by the body.
The stress vulnerability model tells us that everyone is different, and we each perceive situations differently (sensitivity) and have our own physical and emotional reactions (personal responses) to a situation.

A build-up of adrenaline and noradrenaline increases blood pressure, heart rate, and the amount that you sweat. Cortisol prevents your immune system from functioning properly, as well as releasing fat and sugar into your blood stream. The real trouble starts if you keep finding (putting?) yourself back in such stressful situations over and over, or if they get more intense.

That’s when mental, behavioural and physical symptoms can develop.

Symptoms of Stress
Emotional Symptoms of stress*
Physical Symptoms of Stress*

*Source: Prof Greg Wilkinson, Understanding Stress. Family Doctor Series. The BMA & Family Doctor Publications.

How to beat stress?
Well, notice the stress has three contributors: the situation, your responses (physical and emotional) and your sensitivities to the situation.

Reduce any one of these, and you impact on your stress response. Most of us want to change the situation in some way; such as how certain people treat us, or trying circumstances such as the bad traffic everyday on the way to work, or difficult clients or customers. Such external factors are hard to influence (short of direct avoidance).

The second factor is about your individual emotional and physical responses. See the table below, for examples. You might learn to reduce these by any of a number of methods, such as taking a break, going for a short walk, getting more exercise, learning to meditate, eating more healthily, learning time management or project management etc. There is plenty of this kind of advice around (the little Understanding Stress book I mentioned above is quite good, actually).

However, the third factor is usually overlooked, and is about your sensitivities to situations. For example, if you get upset if people shout, or you can’t easily say no, or don’t like (and therefore avoid) conflict, or have a need to please others (including the boss), then you are primed for more stress. This is because the world will be the way it is, whether you like it or not, and you will suffer if you can’t assertively make your way through it and get what you want and let things go that are really about other people’s issues.

Here’s the really interesting thing; most people don’t realise that you can modify these sensitivities and bring them back into balance. Do that, and what must happen to your stress response? That’s right, it drops away dramatically. And that’s the kind of mind work that a good brief therapist can achieve in a matter of a few hours work with you.

Evening Classes in Hypnosis & NLP Autumn 2013

  • learn to hypnotise others as well as yourself, to bring about positive benefits
  • discover how to use the magic of NLP – to influence others and to make personal change.

Previously delivered by Richard Walker PhD for many years at Oaklands College and Luton Adult Education College, Richard once again offers this popular course of Evening Classes for Autumn 2013.  The course will run on Tuesday evenings. 7.15 to 9.45 pm for eight weeks, in the centre of Harpenden.

Changes in funding at the local colleges meant that they were unable to support the courses without large numbers of students. However, the course was always enjoyed by everyone, whether just for fun, or to learn how to deal with common problem like stress or weight control, or as an introduction to something more. Indeed, many participants so much enjoy what they learned, that they have gone on to qualify as practitioners in Hypnosis and NLP themselves!

Eight evenings, for just £79. Includes course booklet and notes.

Find out more by following this link to the Herts College of Hypnosis and NLP

What really is intelligence?

What if we have misunderstood what we want out of intelligence? What if, in fact, less is more when it comes to true creative thinking ability? That’s exactly what was implied by a recent BBC Horizon programme, “How Insight Works.” Turns out that the left side of your brain grows into a rapid switching network, connecting up what you have already learned and making it almost instantly available to you. But the other way of interpreting this, is that it is like a “habit” monster.

The right side of the brain is wired differently. It is less densely packed (less “white matter”), and has lots of extended and convoluted connections. It seems that this causes ideas to “collide” with each other, and push new insights into our conscious awareness. In other words, this side is more creatively intelligent. Left-brain dominance means “more of the same” and no new solutions; right-brain intelligence is about problem-solving ability.

Trance-inducing drugs have long been used to loosen up old thinking. In fact, much of the modern advances in psychotherapy came from using LSD and the like in the 60’s. Naturally induced hypnosis, or meditation, is far safer, and allows new ideas to appear and take root. The key question here is, do you want to think in the same old familiar straight lines, and see things the same old way, or do you want to access more of your creativity? Love your right brain and nurture it with meditation, self-hypnosis and the like.

Watch the Brief Clip the Horizon programme or the Full Episode by following the links.

Weight Control with Hypnosis

  • Panicking at the thought of wearing a bathing suit or tight jeans?
  • Huffing and puffing when you walk?
  • Trying to find clothes to hide those bulges?
  • Avoiding the mirror / intimate relationships?
  • Feeling like your weight is out of control?

I’m sorry to hit you with the nasty stuff first. But is this familiar?
In this situation most people have probably tried every imaginable diet, weight loss program, pill, shake, meal replacement, starvation method and exercise gadget under the sun (we don’t always admit to it!) to try lose weight… But failed. You become discouraged and frustrated.
Looking for an answer? I have a different solution > find out more about how to put an end to dieting and overcome self-defeat.


Why Do I Feel This Way?

Bad feelings are not nice. But not all bad feelings are a bad thing. So-called “negative” emotions also have a purpose – they are a signal from your mind&body system that something needs attention.  But few of us – if any – got taught how to understand our feelings and what they are teaching us. This little article helps to explain your emotions.

Negative emotions get a bad press.
But what if “bad feelings” were not actually “bad” at all? Could they simply be a feedback message from your mind and body that something needs attention? That is my theory from my PhD, and it’s supported by some significant researchers too.

What could bad feelings, or “negative” emotions really mean then? Well I’ll reveal to you what I have worked out, from my years of experience with clients. This what I believe to be the real value of your emotions, what they mean, and how to make use of them. They are like a feedback signal, telling you there is something to learn or change in connection with some situation in your life – so that you can learn to “out-think” it and handle it better in future (or even pre-empt it).

Your emotions are YOURS
The first point I want to make is that no-one can make you feel anything. Yes, you can prompt, goad or encourage them in someone… but their response is down to them. I know it seems like other people upset you, or make you angry, but if you slow it right down, and examine closely, there are a series of steps involved. Fro example, If a cat gets run over, how much will purely dog-lovers care? Maybe rather less than the cat-lovers? And what about those people who hate clearing cat ‘poo’ from their lawns? I bet they would react differently. There are no emotions “out there” in the external world; we have to create them inside us. First, something happens ‘out there’, or someone does something. Then we respond with some feeling, or not, according to some internal ‘rules’ we have about what things mean to us. Does that make sense?

With that in mind, here’s a summary of what the primary emotions can be telling you.

Anger   Anger is a stimulant.Anger says, “Do something now!” There is something you need to do now! Perhaps there is something unique to say, an action you need to take? Ask yourself, ‘Am I wanting the world behave the way I want it to, rather than acknowledge the way it is?’ Perhaps you need to learn something new, look at something a different way, or take action! And to do it now! Frustration is anger directed at yourself.

Sadness   Sadness says,  “Slow down, reflect and learn.” Something just changed, and it feels like a loss. Sadness slows us down and gives us time to think, reflect and gain new understanding from an event or new situation. Essentially, to absorb the positive learnings – after which it is time to let go and move on. Sadness over someone who died years ago is way past is ‘sell-by’ date! Sadness is keeping you away from all the wonderful feelings you shared with that person.

Fear   Fear says, “Stop! Is it safe? Am I ready?” Fear originates from the instinct for self-preservation. If all logical checks have been made, and only a fear itself remains, then ask, “Do I still want to do this?” If the answer is yes, the following rule applies, “feel the fear and do it anyway.” An acronym of FEAR is: ‘False Expectations Appearing Real’. Mark Twain’s wrote, ‘ I have had thousands of scary experiences in my life, some of which actually happened.’  

Hurt   Hurt asks, “What were you overlooking the risk of happening, whilst hoping for the best?” Then when that unwelcome outcome turned up instead, essentially we then react by feeling hurt or let down. Even when someone says something ‘hurtful’ – it really means that we didn’t like what they said, and reacted badly. After all, people will say things –  and in some cases we are hearing a ‘home truth.’ Hurt is a negative emotion, turned inwards on ourselves, which is telling us ‘there is something to learn here! If you don’t learn from this, bad stuff like this will probably happen again in the future!’

Guilt   Guilt is the bad feeling you get when you are doing/not doing something which is important to you. It might be past tense. The question to ask yourself is “What am I doing/not doing, that wish I were(/n’t) ?”  Or, “what did I do /not do, that I wish I did(/n’t) ?” Guilt is a totally pernicious emotion, in that keeping it will keep you trapped from doing what’s important to you! It stops you being true to yourself and to your true purpose in life. Be prepared to honour your true, personal values, as opposed to what others would have you do. Dump guilt now, and start dong what’s important  to you.

Can you get rid of negative emotions?  Yes, I believe you can. One way is to explore them as above. Buddhism also recommends this kind of approach. If you are struggling to release a negative emotion which is holding you back, then an enormously effective method to remove it is with Time Line TherapyTM techniques.

Having tough times? Or just want to break old patterns?

You’re not alone; it happens to nearly everyone at some point in life that things go wrong or come to a head. However, no matter how bad it seems, there is almost always every hope of untangling the mess. Rest assured, there’s seldom anything clinically wrong with you!

Most things fade away with time. But if you don’t want to wait, or want to put an end to what might be an old pattern or cycle, then I can help. I usually get to the heart of the underlying problem very quickly and, perhaps surprisingly, resolve it within a matter of hours with your commitment.

The extra benefit of using hypnotic techniques to resolve the underlying matter in the subconscious is that you will pre-empt similar kinds of things from recurring in the future. Solve the right issue in the right way once, and it’s fixed forever.

So, if you want help using hypnosis for stress, anxiety or other problems in Harpenden, Welwyn, St Albans, Wheathampstead, Luton and Bedford,  I have a local consulting room. I also offices in London Harley Street and Bournemouth. Of course, I treat smoking and weight control too. Did you know that hypnotic techniques can help with many physical complaints, including chronic pain?

My latest articles and posts follow below. These are also listed on the right. Why not keep yourself updated?