The management of stress and anxiety with hypnosis or hypnotherapy

Stresson April 9th, 2014No Comments

by Jorg Thonnissen (2010) Registered Psychologist

We all have been ‘stressed out’ at some point in our lives. In fact, the term ‘stress management’ has gained much popularity over the last few decades. How to practice ‘stress reduction’ when anxiety seems to win the upper hand is a question that many seem to ask. But what is this condition that we call stress, and what does it do? Most importantly, what can we do about stress when we feel all ‘stressed out’?

Being “stressed out” covers a vast array of phenomena ranging from mild irritation to a level of problems that are so severe that they could result in a breakdown of an individual’s health.

The term stress in psychology is defined as the consequences of a person failing to respond appropriately to physical or emotional threats. Here it doesn’t really matter whether these threats are actual or imagined, either way they are real to the person suffering from stress.

There are a multitude of consequences resulting from stress. The most common symptoms include a feeling of a state of alarm, heightened adrenaline production, exhaustion, irritability and difficulties concentrating. There are also a whole range of physiological problems associated with stress such as tension headaches, aches and pains such as chest pain, increased blood pressure, dizziness and nausea as well as constipation and diarrhoea.

Besides the obvious physiological problems caused by stress there are cognitive as well as resulting behavioural signs that include excessive worrying and moodiness, agitation and irritability, feelings of depression, loneliness and isolation. All of these symptoms can typically result in social withdrawal, disrupted sleep patterns, eating excesses, neglect of responsibilities or procrastination. Consequently nervous habits such as nail biting and increased nicotine, alcohol or drug use can result as a coping mechanism to stress.

The effects of stress have been thoroughly researched and divided into three stages.

1.     The first stage is ‘alarm’. This is when we perceive a certain stressor as threatening and in response our body produces adrenaline to be ready for ‘fight or flight’. Consequently, our body produces cortisol which an anti-inflammatory.

2.     The second stage is defined as ‘resistance’. If we keep perceiving a certain situation as stressful, we will need to find ways of coping with the stress. However, even though our body aims to adapt to the situation, the continuous threat   eventually leads to a gradual depletion of resources which will eventually lead to the next stage.

3.     Thus, the third and final stage is ‘exhaustion’. This is the point where the body’s resources have run down to a point where it is unable to maintain its normal function.

It is in this stage that if extended for too long, long term damage may result as a consequence of stress. The exhausted immune system is impaired and illnesses such as digestive problems, ulcers, diabetes, cardiovascular problems or diabetes can occur as a result of prolonged stressors.

In other words, unresolved persistent stress that has not been successfully addressed through coping or adaptation could ultimately lead to anxiety or depressive (withdrawal) behaviours.

Studies indicate that the causes for stress can be manifold and varied. Stress can be caused by pain, relationships, unemployment, employment, insufficient sleep, project deadlines, poverty, exams, abuse, etc. to name only a few.

As mentioned earlier, the effects of chronic stress have been extensively researched and there seems to be no doubt that the body’s immune system can be severely affected by persistent stress. Studies have shown that chronic stress can significantly increase vulnerability to infections and skin disorders, impair developmental growth in children and may even affect the levels of visceral fat production in the body which in turn increases the chances of developing heart disease or other related health problems.

The diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder is probably one of the most extreme types of diagnosis relating to severe stressors. As such it is a severe reaction to a traumatic experience or ongoing experiences.

Understanding the potential damaging effects of ongoing stress it is crucial to understand that stress must be managed if one wants to avoid increased propensity to psychological and physiological illness.

Stress management are techniques that can be learned and which have the purpose to equip people with effective coping skills when faced with psychological stress.

Hypnotherapy has much to offer in terms of stress management and in my experience I found that once a stressor has been removed or the perception of the stressor altered clients quickly find relieve from anxiety and the kind of doom and gloom feeling that hangs over their head most of the time.  Sometimes it really doesn’t take much and the world that looked so dark and heavy all of a sudden looks a lot brighter and lighter.

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