Stress Management Courses in Essex

Stress & Anxiety

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Stress is something we all experience to varying degrees during our lives. At healthy levels, it can be an effective motivator, or a warning signal for a dangerous situation. But, extreme stress can be mentally and emotionally exhausting, preventing us from enjoying life and carrying out day-to-day activities.

On this page, you’ll find all the information you need about the types of stress, a breakdown of the numerous causes and symptoms related to it, and techniques for dealing with stress if it ever starts to overwhelm you.

One of these ways is stress therapy. At Therapy For You, our stress management courses can help you understand stress as a condition, identify your own personal trigger points, and develop the most fitting ways to cope with stress in the long-term.

If you’d like to learn more about our one-to-one or online stress counselling in Essex, contact our team today on 01268 739 128.

What is stress?

Stress is a feeling of being under too much pressure, either mentally or emotionally (or a combination of both). This pressure becomes stress when you feel unable to cope with a situation you’re in.

You may have heard of the ‘fight or flight’ response before. This is how your body reacts to stress. It feels it’s under threat, so it releases a range of hormones and chemicals like adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to react to the danger, either by fighting it or running away (and sometimes even freezing in place).

In certain situations, stress can be beneficial. It can help you react quickly to dangerous environments, or boost your motivation if you’re giving a presentation. People manage stress in different ways – it is not a one-size-fits-all condition.

However, at other times emotional stress can affect us in non-dangerous situations, or become a chronic condition. If stress responses occur repeatedly, or are frequent over time, this can have a seriously detrimental effect on your physical and mental health.

Developing techniques for coping with stress can help reduce the regularity of these feelings, and help you approach stress in a healthier, more positive way.

Types of stress

There are three different types of stress – acute stress, episodic acute stress and chronic stress.

Acute Stress
This is usually brief instances of stress brought on by reactive thinking to a negative situation or threat. For example, if you’ve been involved in an argument, you may have acute stress related to thoughts remaining from that argument.

Episodic Acute Stress
This is when people frequently experience acute stress. People with this type of stress often worry a lot or are dealing with many pressures at the same time.

Chronic Stress
The most harmful kind of stress, chronic stress is an unending feeling of pressure that may be caused by a sustained negative issue, like long-term debts, unemployment, family tension or substance abuse. It could also be the result of childhood experiences or distressing events (i.e. post-traumatic stress disorder).

While acute stress is the most common and something everyone experiences at times in their lives, episode acute stress and chronic stress can have more long-lasting impacts on your well-being. In these instances, stress management techniques are highly encouraged.

What does stress feel like?

There is no rule to what stress feels like, other than an awareness of pressure. For some, it could present itself as a tightening in the chest, others like a rush of blood to the head. Your heart could start pounding fast, you feel numbness in your fingers or toes, or you might start shaking due to the influx of chemicals in your body.

As previously mentioned, there is no universal agreement for what stress feels like, or the symptoms that arise due to it. As such, stress treatments should be tailored to an individual’s particular trigger points for the most effective results. Of course, when stress begins to affect your day-to-day life, it is encouraged to seek professional help.

What causes stress?

There are an extensive number of potential causes of stress. It is usually related to a change of circumstances in your life, not being able to control the outcome of a situation or worrying about something happening.

Common sources of stress include:

Personal

  • Illness or injury
  • Pregnancy or parenthood
  • Bereavement
  • Organising a complicated event
  • Everyday tasks becoming overwhelming (e.g. travel, chores)

Loved Ones

  • Getting married or civil partnered
  • Going through a break-up or divorce
  • Strained relationships with parents, children or other family members
  • Working as a carer for loved ones

Employment

  • Losing your job
  • Long-term unemployment
  • Retirement
  • Deadlines
  • Starting a new job

Study

  • Worrying about exams
  • Starting at a new school
  • Bullying or strained friendships
  • Deadlines 

Home & Finances

  • Moving home
  • Housing problems or homelessness
  • Problems with neighbours
  • Money problems
  • Debt or poverty

The list above is just a sample of some common causes of stress, and they may not necessarily apply to you. Even events that you are happy about or looking forward to can cause stress, like getting married, moving to your first home or travelling abroad.

What’s important to remember is that key to managing stress is recognising and addressing the source of this added pressure, whether it’s a recurring activity or one-off events. That is often crucial to effective treatment, which will allow you to approach this situation with more assured emotional intelligence.

Am I stressed?

As everyone experiences stress in different ways, it is possible that you are going through life unaware of signs of stress intruding on your day-to-day routine.

Like the causes, there are a wide range of stress symptoms that you may be presenting to varying degrees. Identifying these common signs of stress is crucial to addressing the condition early, preventing these mental and physical problems becoming chronic over time.

Stress Symptoms Checklist

Cognitive & Emotional Symptoms of Stress

  • Are you feeling irritable or aggressive?
  • Are you feeling more fearful?
  • Are you feeling depressed or uninterested in life?
  • Do you have a low opinion of yourself?
  • Are you feeling restless or impatient?
  • Do you find it difficult to relax?
  • Are you struggling to enjoy anything?
  • Are you worrying constantly?
  • Do you find it difficult to concentrate?
  • Are you having problems with your memory?
  • Are you struggling to make decisions?

Physical & Behavioural Symptoms of Stress
Are you experiencing any of the following:

  • Headaches?
  • Muscle tension, numbness or pain?
  • Dizziness or nausea?
  • Diarrhoea or constipation?
  • Rapid heart rate?
  • Frequent illnesses like colds or flu?
  • Chronic tiredness or sleep problems?
  • Eating too much or too little?
  • Drinking or smoking more?
  • Snapping at people more frequently?
  • Avoiding situations or people?
  • Procrastinating or avoiding responsibilities?
  • Biting your nails, pacing or other nervous habits?

Stress doesn’t impact us all equally. The amount of stress we feel and the symptoms we experience can vary depending on our perception of the situation, our ability to deal with pressure, our personality and our emotional intelligence.

If you notice one or several of these signs, you should consider techniques to help you manage and relieve stress, or speak to a professional about stress management courses if you feel unable to cope with these conditions.

How does stress affect your health?

Particularly in cases of chronic and severe stress, this condition can have long-term ramifications on your mental and physical well-being if not addressed. As you can see from the physical symptoms of stress listed above, stress can make you feel sick, exhausted and in pain for extended periods of time.

While short instances of stress are perfectly natural, the long-term effects of this condition can result in several serious stress-related illnesses, such as:

  • Mental health problems, such as depression or behavioural disorders
  • Cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, heart attacks)
  • Obesity and other eating disorders
  • Menstrual problems
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Skin and hair problems (acne, eczema, hair loss)
  • Gastrointestinal issues (heartburn, gastritis, irritable colon)

Does stress affect men and women differently?

While both men and women can share the same sources of stress and demonstrate similar mental, emotional and physical symptoms, how they tend to react to this condition tends to differ.

Surveys conducted have demonstrated that women are more likely to suffer stress than men. A survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation in 2018 showed that across the UK, 81% of women have experienced serious levels of stress in the past 12 months, compared to 67% of men.

Women are also more likely to seek treatment or support for signs of stress than men. However, men are considered more likely to die due to stress-related illnesses, such as heart disease.

Of course, this is just a general overview, as every person will react to stress differently. Therefore, it is important to seek help that relates to your specific needs if stress begins to impact you on a daily basis.

Is stress a mental illness?

Stress itself is not considered a psychiatric diagnosis. However, an inability to cope with stress over time can lead to several other mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety.

Furthermore, pre-existing mental health problems can cause or intensify feelings of stress. Coping with day-to-day symptoms, managing medication and arranging appointments can all be sources of additional stress, which can start a vicious circle across your stress levels and your overall mental health.

How to prevent stress

As mentioned in earlier sections, everyone endures periods of stress in their lives, and in some instances, it can be a helpful motivator. But when those feelings become entrenched in our day-to-day lives, there are ways to limit and prevent stress from becoming overwhelming.

Stress therapy can help you develop techniques to control stress in circumstances where there is little cause for it, which might be stopping you experiencing new things and meeting new people. As stress is something we all encounter, these techniques can soften the impact stress has in these situations.

Our techniques and stress management courses help you build the coping skills you can use in combat stress and minimise its impact during difficult experiences, ensuring it has less of an effect on your physical and mental well-being.

How to manage stress

There are many practical steps you can take to help relieve stress and the impact it holds on your life, from changes in lifestyle and looking after yourself mentally, to building a support network that helps you cope under pressure.

The techniques listed below will have different degrees of effectiveness from person-to-person. Our stress management courses are about helping people finding the practices that work for them, and how to use them regularly to gradually build an emotional resilience to stressful situations. 

Here are some ways you can manage and release stress to improve your well-being:

Adapt Your Lifestyle

  • Get things down on paper – if your stress is related to time management, writing to-do lists and getting better control over your calendar can help you feel under less pressure to complete tasks or get overwhelmed with too many things to do at once.
  • Practise assertiveness – if people make unreasonable requests that are a source of stress, developing your ability to stand up for yourself can take burdens off your shoulders.
  • Develop interests & hobbies – embracing activities and pastimes that get you away from stressful situations can release the pressure, and help you meet new people with like-minded interests.
  • Take holidays/breaks – if the rigours of day-to-day life are the source of stress, getting away to a new environment, or even reducing device use with some time outside, can prevent stress levels from becoming too high or constant.

Improve Your Physical Health

  • Get more active – exercise in any form is valuable for our physical and mental well-being, whether it’s a gym session, yoga or regular walks outside.
  • Eat healthy – stress can lead us to skipping meals, or eating more things that are bad for us. Maintaining a diet that is balanced and consistent can be a big help in stress reduction.
  • Sleep regularly – with stress often resulting in lack of sleep or restlessness, fixing your bed routine and getting 7-8 hours of sleep can reduce feelings of stress – mindfulness exercises can be a big help if you’re struggling to get some sleep.
  • Minimise drinking & smoking – while these are seen to reduce stress at the time of being consumed, using alcohol or cigarettes to cope with stress can make the problem worse, as well as result in further long-term health problems.

Practise Meditative Techniques

  • Practise deep breathing – calming breathing exercises gives your body more oxygen and slows your heart rate, helping to reduce feelings of stress naturally.
  • Take time to relax – when you have the opportunity, prioritise self-care and find a space where you can relax, unwind and let release pressures from your thoughts.
  • Explore mindfulness – taking time to be more aware of the present moment and how we are feeling helps put stressful events into perspective, as well as escape negative thoughts of the past and future.
  • Download meditation apps – there are many free apps that can help you practise meditation and empower your ability to manage stress.

Be Kind to Yourself

  • Reward your achievements – we can often take our accomplishments for granted. When you do something well, giving yourself a reward improves your self-esteem and associates good work with benefits.
  • Forgive yourself for mistakes – Nobody’s perfect, and we all make mistakes. Taking steps to forgive yourself and making things right where possible reduces the stress these mistakes give you in later life.
  • Challenge yourself – set yourself achievable goals and challenges that encourage you to grow and become a more emotionally resilient person.
  • Accept some things are beyond your control – this isn’t easy for everyone, but recognising that there are things you can’t influence reduces the stress these cause you and allows you to focus on things you can control.

Grow Your Support Network

  • Talk to your friends & family – sometimes the best help comes from home. Just speaking to the people you’re closest to about the pressures your facing can be a huge relief.
  • Get support at work & school – talking about your problems to your manager, supervisor or teacher is not a sign of weakness; they are concerned about your well-being, and can help find solutions for your stress.
  • Speak to your GP – if you feel unable to cope with feelings of stress, speaking to your GP can help you find relevant support and treatments, as well as prescriptions where necessary.
  • Access stress therapy – stress therapy and stress management courses can be effective ways to talk through your problems and develop regular techniques to manage stress in challenging circumstances.

What treatments are there for stress?

Stress isn’t a medical diagnosis, meaning there are no specific treatments that can be applied to ‘cure’ it. Instead, if you are struggling to cope with persistent feelings of stress and pressure, there are a variety of stress treatments that help you manage your condition.

Stress Therapy
Speaking to a therapist or other qualified professional can help determine the cause of your stress, explore your various thoughts and feelings, and outline practical steps to help control stress levels.

Here at Therapy For You, we offer access to a mix of one-on-one and online stress management courses in Essex, as well as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Through these, you discover more about stress as a condition, identify your own personal trigger points, and develop the techniques that help relieve stress and reduce its negative impact on your life.

Medication
Different types of medication can help reduce the signs of stress and the symptoms they cause. Of course, it is important to consult with your GP and learn all the facts about any medication you are considering before you take them, ensuring you are aware of any side effects.

Ecotherapy
Ecotherapy embraces the use of the outdoors and green spaces to improve your well-being and self-esteem, from exercising outdoors to taking part in conservation projects.

Alternative Therapies
Alternatives to the above stress therapies and treatments can also prove effective in minimising the impact pressure has. These include:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Acupuncture
  • Aromatherapy
  • Massage

What if my friend is suffering from stress?

If a friend or family member is suffering from severe or chronic stress, it can be difficult to feel what they’re going through, or indeed change their perspective. But, there are several practical ways you can make a difference in how they’re feeling, supporting their journey to stress relief.

Listen
If they share with you how they are feeling or what is causing them stress, allow them to talk openly and listen to their concerns without judgment or ridicule.

Reassure
Give your friend encouragement that what is causing them stress can and will change over time, and that you’re there for them during this difficult period.

Identify
While remaining open-minded and non-judgmental, you might be able to pick up on triggers that are causing a loved one to feel stressed before they do.

Practise
Either by helping them track or joining them with their activities, encourage them to practise their relaxation and breathing techniques.

Help
If they’re struggling significantly with stress, urge them to contact their GP or reach out for stress therapy to help resolve their problems.

How to deal with stress

There are several situations that are common causes of stress, based on our experiences supporting those dealing with this condition on our courses. Here, we will break down dealing with stress in these frequently seen areas:

How to deal with stress at work

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that 595,000 people in the UK reported work-related stress symptoms in 2017/18. This accounted for 40% of all work-related illnesses.

The core causes for workplace stress include pressure over deadlines, lack of support from managers and work-related violence, bullying and discrimination. Work is often closely linked to other potential causes of stress (financial worries, relationships, unemployment), which makes the need for stress management techniques particularly valuable in this environment.

If you are showing symptoms of stress at work and this is impacting your quality of performance and general well-being, consider the following:

  • Ask for help from your co-workers, supervisors or manager
  • Spend time organising your daily, weekly and monthly schedules
  • Take short breaks from work during the day, as well as a lengthier lunch break
  • Use your holiday time strategically to give yourself breaks
  • Communicate any problems you’re having with higher-ups
  • Develop end-of-day routines that aren’t intensive, like tidying your desk or making tomorrow’s to-do list

By applying these approaches as well as stress treatments listed above, you are in a better position to use workplace stress as a motivator, rather than a drain on performance.

How to cope with exam stress

Exams can be some of the most stressful events we face at any age, from our childhood years to pursuing qualifications in adulthood. Preparing for and working towards exams can create strong feelings of pressure and worry that lead to extreme stress, particularly on the days of exams themselves.

Like the causes listed above, stress can have detrimental effects on eating and sleeping habits and the overall happiness and well-being, all of which can result in poor performance during the exams themselves. With that in mind, you may wish to take note of the following tips to coping with exam stress:

  • Enjoy a balanced, healthy diet, restricting the number of high-fat, high-sugar and high-caffeine snacks and drinks
  • Aim to get between 8 and 10 hours sleep a night, and avoid the temptation to cram all evening
  • Get help with your studies and reassurance that some stress is totally normal leading into these exams
  • Don’t add pressure by giving yourself high expectations – just focus on trying your best
  • If your stress extends beyond exams or proves severe during exams, speak to your school/college/university/GP to discuss the situation and any solutions

For students who are worried about exam stress, the NHS offers several tips on revision and handling exam days to reduce stress levels.

How to stop stress eating

In many cases, stress can result in people feeling nauseous and losing their appetite, which in turn badly affects their physical and mental health. For others, this condition can result in excess stress eating, where people respond to stress and other strong emotions by eating unhealthy amounts of food.

Emotional eating is more common than you may think, as social relationships, marketing and more have developed a strong association between emotions and food. If your stress levels have resulted in binge eating disorders, the following self-help strategies can help:

  • Monitor and journal what you are eating, as well as their nutrient information
  • Make realistic meal plans for each day, regulating the amount of snacking you do in between
  • Identify the stress triggers that encourage you to eat more and address these
  • Find other ways to cope with feelings of stress using the techniques listed in the “How to manage stress” section
  • Track your weight regularly, not putting yourself under too much pressure to maintain an ideal weight

If these self-help treatments don’t alleviate your stress eating, other treatments such as one-to-one therapy, CBT or medication might be more beneficial.

What are the effects of stress when pregnant?

It is common for women to experience mental health concerns like added stress during pregnancy and immediately following this. The change of circumstances that come with pregnancy can add new stresses to everyday life, as can adjusting to life as a new parent. If stress during your pregnancy is causing any concern, please contact your GP.

To manage stress levels during pregnancy and the early stages of parenthood, the following techniques can help:

  • Light exercise
  • Prenatal yoga and meditation
  • Hobbies (reading, puzzles, watching TV)
  • Talking to your partner and other loved ones about your worries
  • Maintaining a healthy, nutritious diet
  • Joining a support group of expectant mums experiencing similar issues
  • Seeking stress therapy treatments

Looking for Stress Management Support in Essex?

We hope this has given you a deeper insight into what stress is, the various causes and symptoms associated with it, and techniques you can apply to manage the level of stress in your life.

Remember that everyone encounters stress throughout their lives in varying degrees. Learning ways to cope with stress effectively will help you focus on the positives of this condition, and avoid long-term mental and physical consequences.

If you feel you are unable to cope with stress at present and self-help is proving ineffective, Therapy For You is here to help. Our stress management courses in Essex, available both in-person and online, can help you identify your own specific stress triggers, and develop a specific plan of action to manage your feelings and limit any negative results.

For more information on stress therapy and the courses available, contact us today on 01268 739 128 to book a Telephone Assessment with one of our qualified therapists, or reach us via email at epunft.contactcentre.iapt@nhs.net.

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