What is stress and is it good for us?
We all know that a little bit of stress can be good. Positive stresses are typically short-lived and your body’s way of getting you through a potentially difficult situation. The pesky deadline that activates us to get things done, for example, or the nerves associated with an interview.
But what about the stress makes us feel worn out and tense? This is chronic stress, which is ongoing and doesn’t feel so good. Messages are sent to the adrenal glands to activate extra chemicals such as cortisol, a steroid hormone, to keep the stress process going. These chemicals can communicate with most of our cells, potentially putting our systems under unnecessary strain.
If we think of stress as hormones that are released through our body by a sort of traffic light system: red for stop and green for go, we get an idea of how our nervous system works.
The sympathetic nervous system is the green light. This releases adrenaline when we need to react to stress to give our muscles and heart extra energy.
The parasympathetic nervous system is the red light. It slows the release of adrenaline when it’s no longer needed, making us feel relaxed and calm.
This traffic light system is actually run by your mind. And in fact, there’s very little difference between imagined stress and real stress when it comes to how the traffic light system reacts.
Have you caught yourself reflecting on a stressful event at work over the weekend? Thinking about a difficult situation can lead us to experience that stress in a very real and physical way.
This is the mind-body connection at work.
The mind-body connection broadly describes the link between our mind (thoughts, feelings and beliefs) and the body (biological functioning, physiological symptoms and sensations).
Some examples are easy to identify; when we feel embarrassed, we may blush. When we feel excited, we describe getting ‘butterflies’ in our stomach. At other times it can be more subtle. It is believed that teeth grinding, for instance, may be linked with an inability to communicate assertively, whilst worry can have an effect on the ability to get to sleep, or sleep well.
By using techniques like hypnotherapy, we can learn to be more aware and gain greater control of ‘traffic light’ system within us to keep our stress levels just where we want them.
The British Medical Association defines hypnosis as a “transient state of altered attention.”
Hypnotherapy can also be explained as a focused state of relaxation. Some say it’s like goal-orientated mediation.
It is a soothing, relaxing experience when the unconscious mind is more open to suggestion and different ways of thinking. By strengthening these new ways of thinking within the unconscious mind, they become new conscious habits, or new ways of being. Some of the techniques may include relaxing imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, self-hypnosis and positive suggestions for the subconscious mind that promote calmness, self-confidence and optimism.
Once our mind establishes a more empowering way of thinking, it can lead to a different interpretation of the things we find stressful and how we respond to them. Over a period of time, and with some practice, we can then learn how to live life from a calm, positive and optimistic mental state more easily and more often.

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