What is stress?

Stress is an innate reaction embedded from our caveman days. Back then humans had to deal with threatening situations, which caused our brains to release a range of stress chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline to provoke what is known as the fight-or-flight reaction. The fight reaction would give us a burst of energy, ready to fight for our lives, while the flight reaction would encourage us to flee from danger and protect ourselves.

These days we rarely encounter such threatening situations, however our brains continue to react in this way when we are under pressure. When this happens, and there is no option to fight or flight a the stress chemicals can build up and affect our immune system and blood pressure. Over time this build-up of stress can affect our mental health too, leading to anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.

Causes of stress

Causes of stress will depend on the individual a so what may cause stress for one person may not be stressful for another. Having said this, most stressful situations are associated with change or a lack of control. Even if the change is a positive one, it can still feel stressful.

Some common stressful events include:

  • getting married
  • moving house
  • having a baby
  • serious illness
  • bereavement
  • divorce.

As well as events like these, stress can also be caused by long-term circumstances, such as:

  • being unemployed
  • having financial issues
  • relationship difficulties
  • caring for a disabled family member/friend
  • problems at work.

In some cases, the absence of change or activities in life is the source of stress.

Stress symptoms

As previously mentioned, stress is experienced individually and some personalities find themselves more susceptible to stress than others. Having said this, there are certain symptoms that are commonly associated with stress. These can affect us both emotionally and physically.

Emotional stress symptoms

  • feeling agitated, frustrated or quick to anger
  • feeling overwhelmed and teary
  • feeling anxious
  • having a low sense of self-esteem
  • avoiding other people and social situations.

Physical stress symptoms

  • using alcohol/drugs/food to seek comfort
  • difficulty sleeping
  • digestive problems and upset stomach
  • feeling dizzy
  • sweating excessively
  • experiencing chest pains or palpitations.

The physical side effects of stress happen because of the hormones released by your brain during the fight or flight response these include adrenaline and cortisol.

How does counselling help stress?

Counselling for stress at work aims to identify the causes of an employees work related stress.

When conducted in a private and judgment-free environment, it can help the employee to understand the cause of stress and find steps to manage and reduce it.