Stress Management : What is stress?

As you may or may not know; I recently started a new group at the Day Hospital. It used to be called 'Holistic Approaches to Stress Management' but now it's just called 'Stress Management'. It's a weekly programme that runs for 6 hour long sessions in a closed group. My group has 10 people in all; 7 women and 3 men. This isn't a hard-going psychological therapy. It's common sense and education while getting us used to being around people and being part of a discussion.

I thought it would be a good idea for me to share as much as I can from my time in the Day Hospital, as I am painfully aware that some are not able to access such services either because they don't exist or the waiting list is a mile and a half long. With any luck, if you can access support from a service such as this, it will take away some of your anxieties. I was petrified when I first attended at 18 years old!!

In future I will plan to have these 'sessions' uploaded on Thursday evening or Friday morning. 

Anyway... On with our group! Phone's on silent please.

Stress is something we all experience from time to time. Not all stress is bad and we need a certain amount to function. But when our body interprets day-to-day demands as an inability to cope, then we begin to suffer physically and emotionally as our body tries to restore us to an equal state.

The aim of this group is to focus on the impact of stress on your life and what practical changes you can make to your lifestyle that will reduce the negative effects of stress on you.

This is a very difficult question to answer. We are all different. What others might find exciting and enjoyable, could be our idea of a bad day in hell. Indeed, some professions require their employees to be able to thrive on stress and adrenaline. Have you watched 24 hours in A&E? Or Hell's Kitchen? Indeed, even identical twins can differ hugely in their tolerance or interpretation of stress.

If we look at the definition of stress provided by Wikipedia: Stress is a person's response to a stressor such as an environmental condition or a stimulus. Stress is a body's way to react to a challenge. According to the stressful event, the body's way to respond to stress is by sympathetic nervous system activation which results in the fight-or-flight response. Stress typically describes a negative condition or a positive condition that can have an impact on a person's mental and physical well-being.

So let's turn this into a 'real-life' problem that we can all relate to; debt. It can feel very overwhelming and unavoidable, especially if you are unemployed or facing redundancy.  Over time, the level of adrenaline and other 'stress hormones' increase in your system until you react. This can be moments, days, weeks... It all depends on you as an individual. In this situation; your fight or flight could be as simple as sitting down and writing a budget plan to get your finances back in control, or denying the existence of a problem and watching it spiral out of control while your level of stress builds. And builds. And builds.

Until you end up in the care of the local community mental health team...

The most fundamental and basic four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called 'deficiency needs'. If these deficiency needs are not met - with the exception of the most basic physiological needs - there may not be a physical indication, but the individual will feel anxious and tense. In other words, stressed!

Maslow's theory suggests that the most basic level of human needs must be met before the individual will feel desire towards the secondary and higher level needs.

This pyramid can be used to help us identify our own sources of stress and un-met needs.  

Physiological: homeostasis; food; water; sleep; sex
Safety: security of: body; home; employment; resources; mortality; family; health
Love/belonging: friendship; family; sexual intimacy
Esteem: self-esteem; confidence; achievement; respect of others; respect by others
Self-actualization: morality; creativity; spontaneity; problem solving; lack of prejudice; acceptance of facts

How does stress affect you?

Due to the fact that stress is such a uniquely personal experience, we all have different 'red flags' for when things aren't going well. Have a look at these worksheets - they're already filled in with my symptoms -  and see what you find out:

That's all for this session! Next time I'm going to introduce you to a bucket.

See you then :)

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