The Hidden Causes of Stress
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Who hasn’t complained of feeling stressed? It’s such a common complaint, a badge of honour almost, to the extent that saying you are stressed has all but lost its impact. The hidden causes of stress are many. And the hidden effects can be clearly seen in stats from the Faculty of Public Health, which found that, 43% of lost work days are due to stress, anxiety and depression – more than any other single cause. But what does the word ‘stress’ really mean? The textbook definition says “stress is when a person perceives that demands exceed their ability to cope”. In my experience of treating people for stress though, this definition does not go far enough. It describes neither the causes – the demands people aren’t coping with – nor the effects – what happens when they can’t cope. And so I’d like to share with you some of the more hidden causes and effects of stress.
What Happens When you Feel Stressed
Stress has its origins in a primitive survival mechanism: a full-body response to threat. Our body is flooded with hormones to help us run away from a tiger, or fight a marauding tribe. These days though, tigers and marauding tribes are few and far between. These threats have been replaced by being cut up in traffic, stressing out about a deadline, or losing it with the children because they are late for school again. So those hormones float round our system without being used for the purpose they were designed – fight or flight – and do us damage instead. The sugar that was released from our liver gets put down as fat on our abdomen, our muscles remain tense, heart-rate raised, and breathing increased. Processes not essential to fighting or fleeing, like libido, digestion, immunity, and growth are suppressed. And our adrenals – the glands responsible for releasing the hormones – get fatigued if the stress is chronic. In fact, Adrenal Fatigue, though a common diagnosis in the alternative health arena, is as yet unacknowledged by mainstream medicine as a diagnosis.
Hidden Mental & Emotional Causes of Stress
Pressure of work is what people most commonly think of when you say the word ‘stress’. But there are numerous causes of stress, many of which are hidden, in the sense that most people are mostly unaware of them. In my practice as a homeopath, one of my aims is to identify and treat the underlying cause/s of illness. And what I have noticed, is that the stress in my clients is often the result of two behavioural, common denominators:
- Perfectionism. Clients with this tendency, are often also very driven, and overwork, pushing themselves too hard. They work long hours, and then stress out about deadlines, which they could have easily met if they had been less perfectionist. Likewise with Mothers who are compelled to be perfect, and run themselves ragged in the process.
- People-Pleasing / Sacrifice. I see many clients, who suppress their own needs and feelings to keep others happy. And often, I notice that they have one or more people in their life – a partner, colleague, boss or friend – who takes advantage of their inability to stand up for themselves, or to say no. One client had been bullied and sexually harassed at work, and came to me with anxiety, insomnia and frequent infections. Another was unable to say no to social invitations for fear of causing offence, nor to her boss when he asked too much of her. This led to the stress of double-bookings and letting people down, (which of course, she hated), fear of failing her boss, and hence sacrificing her personal life to her work. She suffered with anxiety, insomnia and stomach problems. Yet another client stayed in relationship with a bullying, controlling boyfriend for years longer than she wanted, because she could’t finish it. And yet she didn’t come to me about the relationship issue or her problem with boundaries. She came to me with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which was a direct result of the stress of this relationship, and of her people-pleasing tendency. But once I had treated this tendency in her, not only did her IBS heal, but she also finished the relationship with her boyfriend.
Other causes of stress I have seen include grief, betrayal, humiliation, abuse, bullying, and shock.
Hidden Physical Causes of Stress
Here are just a few examples of some hidden, physical causes of stress…
- An illness – like Glandular Fever or Flu takes its toll on the system, especially the adrenal glands. And months, or sometimes years later, the person still doesn’t feel they’ve quite recovered. Even something as innocent as frequent coughs and colds can put us into a state of Adrenal Fatigue.
- Childbirth. One woman I treated, said her anxiety started after she gave birth. The body goes through so much, not just with the labour and birth, but with all the hormonal changes, as well. Not to mention the stress of looking after a baby. Most of us bounce back. Some do not.
- Longterm caring for a sick loved one. The physical strain, as well as the worry, put a lot of stress on the system. And the effect should not be underestimated.
- Sleep deprivation, menopause, frequent colds and coughs, surgery, and accident /s
Hidden Effects of Stress
Stress is just the pressure that acts on us. Our reaction to that pressure is very individual. So the list below represents the broad scope of possible effects…
- anxiety, depression, irritability,
- loss of confidence, withdrawing socially, loneliness
- substance abuse, self-medicating with sugar and caffeine
- foggy thinking, impaired judgement, indecision
- insomnia, palpitations, panic attacks
- loss of appetite, substance abuse
- skin irritations
- backache and headaches
- frequent infections
And when stress becomes chronic, then watch out for:
- furred arteries, clots and heart attack
- obesity, diabetes
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome, stomach ulcers
- adrenal fatigue, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and burnout.
There are many approaches to treating stress, beyond the usual mainstream interventions: Cranial Osteopathy, Psychotherapy, Nutrition, Naturopathy and Homeopathy are just a few. Homeopathy, as I have pointed out, treats the underlying cause. It also treats the effects of stress, be they physical or mental. If you would like to explore whether homeopathy could help you in a FREE 20-minute consultation, click here to request on.
Free Discovery Call
A free 20 minute call for you to find out how homeopathy could help you,
and what to expect from working with me.