Posts

Everybody is Stressed, but What Can You do About it?

Stress - Everybody is Stressed, but What Can You do About it?

 

I’ve been a therapist now since 2004 and, for most of that time, when people asked me what I specialised in, I told them that anxiety disorders and work-related stress management were my forte but, on reflection, and for several years now, I would say that both life and work have made me a stress specialist.

That term still covers anxiety disorders and work-stress but, it also covers a whole lot more. Stress affects us all and we are becoming more stressed, not less so. In fact, research from the Chartered Institute of Development has found staff absences due to stress are at their highest levels in over a decade, with the pandemic, the high cost of living and other issues all being significant contributing factors, (click here). But what is stress?

According to the World Health Organisation, “stress can be defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation.”

However, there are two types of stress: good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress).

Eustress refers to the sort of challenge and pressure that you thrive under or rise to meet with excitement. It could be a work deadline, or a wedding, or a rollercoaster ride. Meanwhile, distress is what we often mean when we are talking about ‘stress.’ It can refer to seemingly insurmountable pressures in any context (life or work), pressures that you feel you can’t cope with, or are not dealing with as well as you’d like. But stress isn’t a diagnosis in and of itself. It’s an umbrella term for a variety of things including:

 

  • Anxiety
  • Reactive depression
  • Anger-management
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Procrastination
  • Insomnia (often stress related)
  • Skin conditions such as psoriasis (also often stress related)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, (nearly always stress related)

 

You can turn to unhealthy coping strategies when you are stressed, such as alcohol, drugs (both prescription and recreational) and comforting eating. Stress can wear you down, it can affect you physically as well as mentally. You can become distracted, less productive, more forgetful, and more prone to illness (stress affects your immune system). Chronic work stress even has its own diagnosis: Burnout Syndrome. This is a purely occupational phenomenon not official recognised until 2019 and characterised by exhaustion, increased negativity (or cynicism) towards your job, and reduced professional efficacy.

Stress is such as small word for something with so many distressing ramifications.

Stress affects both your mind and your body. A little bit of it is good for you, but too much stress can easily overwhelm you. And we are living in a very stressful world; one that doesn’t seem to be interested in getting any easier. Stress quickly mounts up and it soon takes its toll.

Thankfully, there are things you can do to help mitigate your stress, such as yoga, meditation, taking regular breaks, and going for long walks. And, if those things aren’t enough then therapy and coaching can help.

I practice rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) and clinical hypnotherapy, and both can help you mitigate your stress and build effective coping strategies in the face of it. With REBT and hypnotherapy the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in your daily live become something much easier to deal with.

So, if you think your stress is getting the better of you, feel free to book a call. I work face-to-face and online and can see anyone, anywhere (time zones permitting). And online therapy is just as effective as face-to-face, studies say so (click here).

Where Does the Time Go?

Ask - Where Does the Time Go?

 

Can it really be three years and five months since I last blogged on my own website? The answer to that question, going by the dates, is obviously yes. Yes, it has been more than three years.

Okay, in that time, I wrote and published one book (you can find a link to it here) and I’ve been writing a regular column over at Psychology Today (you can click on that here) and I’ve also been writing elsewhere (you can check a selection of those articles out here) but, still. Three years.

It’s been a tad remiss of me and so, to address that imbalance, I am going back to blogging on my own website where, over the coming months, I will hopefully be not only offering words of wisdom, but also helpful tips, exercises, and insights to help you manage your mental health and wellbeing that much better. After all, it’s a stressful world out there. So much so, that I’ve had to slightly redefine what it is that I offer (or, more importantly, what it is I treat).

I offer rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) and clinical hypnotherapy (either separately or combined) together with elements of positive psychology and I offer it in both a psychotherapeutic and coaching capacity.

Times past, I said I specialised in the treatment of anxiety disorders and work-related stress management as, at the time, I was receiving more referrals for these things than anything else. So, that is how and where I built my areas of expertise.  I can also help you with pain control, but that’s another story.

Meanwhile, back to stress.

Since the pandemic and everything else that came after it, I’ve just accepted the fact that I am now a stress specialist. This still covers anxiety disorders and work-related stress management but, also a whole host of other things (more of that in another blog, I reckon).

“Stress,” is what people state the most when I ask them what they want help with. “I want you to help me manage my stress more effectively,” they say. And this I can do.

People also ask me to provide them with coping strategies (again, this I can do) but, when I used to ask them what they wanted those coping strategies for, they used to mention specific things, such as “my job,” or “my boss” or “my relationship” or “my challenging friend.” Nowadays, however, when I ask people what they want those coping strategies for, the most common response is, “everything.”

Despite all the strides made in mental health and wellbeing, despite the mine of information and the wealth of support that is out there, life has become even more stressful, not less so. And people need help in dealing with that.

To that end, my next book (out Spring 2024) is called How to Cope with Almost Anything with Hypnotherapy. And it will do just what the title suggests, using not only hypnotherapy, but also elements of REBT and positive psychology to help you increase your resilience, improve your wellbeing, and handle whatever life throws at you next more effectively.

In the meantime, I can personally help you cope with almost anything either face-to-face or online. And a recent study (click here) has found that online therapy is just as effective as face-to-face therapy.

People also value the convenience of it and the ability to engage with a therapist from the comfort of their own homes. So too do many of the therapists that offer online therapy.

So, face-to-face, or online, if there is stress in your life, if there is something you would like help in coping with, now is a good time to start. Because life always has that something to throw at you.

Swearing at the Coronavirus Might Just Do You the Power of Good

IMG 7473 - Swearing at the Coronavirus Might Just Do You the Power of Good

 

Sometimes, you’ve just got to call a spade a spade and, sometimes, you’ve got to look at something that’s a bit shit and just say, “fuck it.” Believe me, it will help you, as swearing at things can be a very empowering and life-affirming thing to do.

 

Many studies have backed up the usefulness of swearing in a variety of settings. Swearing can help you cope with adversity, get on with people more quickly, cope with difficult and demanding situations and, even, bolster the persuasiveness of your arguments, speeches and conversations.

 

One such experiment, from researchers at Northern Illinois University, examined the effects of swearing on the persuasiveness of a speaker. Participants were invited to listen to three versions of a speech. One where the word ‘damn’ appeared at the beginning, one where it appeared at the end and one where it didn’t appear at all. The results showed that swearing at the beginning or the end of the speech significantly increased not only the persuasiveness of the speech but also the perceived intensity of the speaker. 1

 

Meanwhile, Professor Richard Stephens, over at Keele University in Newcastle, has tested swearing in a wide variety of ways over the years. He and his team have discovered that people who do swear can hold their hands in freezing cold water for longer than those who don’t swear and that, in a test of anaerobic strength, people who swore produced more power wattage and a stronger handgrip on a stationary exercise bike than those who did not.

 

Elsewhere, other studies have shown that people who swear, as long as swearing is part of their overall and otherwise extensive vocabulary, tend to be healthier, happier and a whole lot more honest too.

 

 

Swearing then, is not only good for your physical and mental health, but it is also a great way to gain control over your pain, your stress and your emotions.

 

There’s a lot going on at the moment; a lot of things are currently out of our control and it’s easy to feel powerless and lost. However, if you want to lift your spirits and feel more resilient in the face of the current adversity, don’t be afraid to drop the F-bomb.

 

It’s not for nothing my therapy book is called The Four Thoughts That F*ck You Up (and how to fix them). In fact, it when it comes to self-help books with swearwords in the title, it’s not alone.

 

We have The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (as well as his follow-up, Everything Is F*cked) and The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight, as well as Healthy as F*ck (Oonagh Duncan), Wake the F#ck Up (Brett Moran) and, my favourite, Fuck Off (a mindfulness swearword colouring book for adults). Finally, there’s the daddy of them all, F**k It Therapy by John C Parkin (plus his two f*ck-related follow ups). In a similar, but also slightly different refrain, we have Get your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight and (proving that even Knights of the Realm thing swearing is good for you) How to Fix Your Sh*t by Sháá Wasmund MBE.

 

Swearing crops up very frequently in my therapy room.

 

I once had a client who had an anger management issue and a very short fuse. “You must respect me,” he believed. “It’s intolerable to not be respected and people who don’t show respect me are arseholes.” This belief allowed him to kick off whenever he felt disrespected by anyone and, even, anything. He once ripped an IKEA cabinet to little bits and pieces just because ‘Thing A’ disrespected him by not fitting into ‘Groove B.’

 

The healthy alternative to all this was, “I like to be respected but I don’t have to be respected; I find it difficult to deal with when I’m not, but I know I can stand it; people who don’t respect me are not arseholes, they are worthwhile fallible human beings.”

 

With a little vim and vigour, his healthy beliefs became “I like to be respected but I don’t fucking have to be respected; I won’t like it when I’m not but it won’t fucking kill me and people who don’t aren’t fucking arseholes, they’re all-fucking-right really.” Eventually, over time, he whittled all this down to just, “fuck it.” And that was enough for him to gain control over his anger and keep calm, even when other people were being less than his ideal.

 

Profanity can be quite profound, you see; and this Coronavirus well, it can just fucking do one, can’t it?

 

 

1:Cory R. Scherer & Brad J. Sagarin (2006) Indecent influence: The positive effects of obscenity on persuasion, Social Influence, 1:2, 138-146, DOI: 10.1080/15534510600747597

 

 

Work Stress: More Needs to be Done!

A recent survey by health charity Mind has found that only one in five (22%) of employees felt that their employer took active steps to help them manage their stress. That’s leaving a lot of unhappy and unsupported workers. If you want to know what can be done about it, read on. Read more