Category Archives: Depression And Anxiety Articles

Overcoming Guilt Caused by Childhood Trauma

childhood trauma and guilt

If we have been mistreated as children, we may well grow up with a pervasive feeling that we are irredeemably ‘bad’ people (click here to read my article on why this happens). This can lead to what has been termed ‘neurotic guilt’ ; this occurs when we feel a sense of shame about ourselves and we have a generalized feeling of guilt which is not attached to specific acts (or is attached to acts for which we should not, objectively speaking, feel guilt),

guilt and childhood trauma

Another type of guilt can be termed ‘real guilt’ ; this is guilt attached to a specific act which IT IS objectively reasonable to feel guilt about. The main type of guilt that those who have been mistreated as children tend to feel is of the first type – neurotic guilt (although this can cover some real guilt that has not yet been acknowledged).

A certain level of psychological development needs to have been attained to experience guilt (although some people never develop the capacity to experience it – these are called psychopaths and sociopaths).

overcoming guilt

Of course, feeling a certain amount of guilt is a good thing as it stops us doing things (usually) that are in conflict with our values, or encourages us not to repeat our behaviour if we have transgressed our particular moral boundaries. Paradoxically, guilt can, on one level, make us feel better about ourselves. Our reasoning might be that. because our conscience is bothering us about something we feel we have done wrong, we must be a good person to have such high standards which cause us psychological pain if we fall short of them. We conclude we have a strong conscience which is a moral virtue.

However, excessive guilt is unhelpful to both us and others – at its worst, it can lead to a state of deep depression and almost paralyzed inactivity, suicidal feelings, or, even, actual suicide. It is, therefore, important to be able to process guilt and then move on with our lives.

A MORE DETAILED LOOK AT ‘NEUROTIC’ AND ‘REAL’ GUILT :

1) Neurotic Guilt – because this is a generalized sense of guilt that is unattached to a particular action/actions, it follows that it cannot be resolved by any particular action (or abatement of action/s).

It is a deep sense of guilt which seems to penetrate to the very core of our being – it is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves as a person : we feel we are thoroughly bad, intrinsically evil, even.

It is a feeling closely linked to a sense of profound shame. However, it is an irrational guilt and one that is not based on objective reality. Psychoanalysis frequently reveals that this irrational, or neurotic guilt, is actually a defense mechanism against feelings of anxiety, fear and anger. The example below illustrates how this might work :

Say a child grows up in a household in which his/her parents have frequent, violent arguments (involving physical blows, smashing objects, making threats etc). This will clearly disturb the child and cause him/her to feel acute anxiety and fear. The child then develops a psychological coping strategy as follows :

a) the violence of my parents towards one another fills me with fear

b) I need to control the situation so that I am no longer frightened

c) But I have no control over my parents, only over myself

d) I must be the cause of their violent arguing (this thinking occurs because it is psychologically less painful for the child to think of him/herself as the cause of the arguing – and therefore to have some control over it – than to acknowledge s/he has no control over it, which would be psychologically overwhelming)

e) Because I am the cause, I must be a very bad person

f) Because I am a very bad person, I feel extremely guilty.

This all occurs on an unconscious level, according to psychoanalytic theory

So it is this coping mechanism, developed in childhood, that can lead to neurotic guilt.

People who suffer from neurotic guilt also tend to have extremely low self-esteem and are prone to blame themselves for all manner of things that go wrong even if they had nothing to do with them. They are also likely to be prone to severe depression.

2) ‘Real Guilt’ – As we have seen, this type of guilt has a definite and valid cause. It is not irrational and it relates to our moral code. If we do something that contravenes our moral code, we will feel guilty about it (unless we happen to be a psychopath). Therefore, the only way of avoiding a recurrence of this painful feeling in the future is to either adjust our moral code, or ensure we do not repeat our original error.

One way of helping ourselves to resolve feelings of ‘real guilt’ is to openly and frankly admit to somebody what we have done (eg a counsellor or close friend) and acknowledge what we did was wrong. We also need to articulate the fact that we take the moral responsibility for our transgression. Ideally, this will then lead to forgiveness – from both the person we wronged and, importantly, from ourselves (self-forgiveness).

DETERMINING WHETHER GUILT IS ‘REAL’ OR ‘NEUROTIC :

In order to make this determination, it is necessary for us to pose certain questions to ourselves; these are :

– is what happened really my responsibility?

– if so, what factors actually make me responsible?

– which of my moral rules have I broken?

– are such moral rules appropriate/reasonable?

– can I ensure what I did does not recur?

– can I make amends ; if so, how?

RIDDING OURSELVES OF GUILT :

To rid ourselves of ‘neurotic guilt’ we need to concentrate on resolving our ‘real  guilt’. We can only do this, of course, once we have identified which of our guilty feelings have a basis in neurosis and which are genuine.

Once we identify our’ real guilt’ (which we may not have so far acknowledged) we can address and resolve it in the ways mentioned above (eg taking responsibility, making amends, verbally acknowledging we were wrong).

In relation to our ‘neurotic guilt’, we need to accept it is not rational and has materialized due to psychological processes we underwent as a child. Often, too, when we see ourselves as’ bad’, it is  because we have internalized the view of someone who treated us as ‘bad’ when we were also a child (eg a parent, primary carer, or someone else who was important to us). Becoming aware of this will also help us to rid ourselves of our neurotic guilt.

Once ‘real guilt’ has been uncovered and resolved, and we have formed a clearer understanding of what has caused our ‘neurotic guilt’, both should start to fade away.

RESOURCE :

 

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma : Coping with Rejection.

childhood-trauma-fact-sheet

 

‘We are never so defenceless against suffering as when we love, never so unhelplessly unhappy as when we have lost our loved object or its love’

Sigmund Freud, 1856 – 1939

My mother threw me out of the house when I was thirteen years old, so it was necessary for me to go and live with my emotionally aloof father and religious fundamentalist step-mother (she was prone to shout at me in ‘tongues’). Later in my adolescence, she manipulated my father into throwing me out of the house, too. The irony was that my step-mother had founded and ran a charity for the homeless, called Watford New Hope Trust, which still exists today. The irony seemed to be completely lost on her, however.

If we find we have relationship difficulties in adult life, frequently this can be traced back to the kind of childhood trauma I describe above. As a result of these difficulties, we may find that we perpetually repeat meeting with rejection in our adult relationships,  mirroring the rejection we experienced in childhood.

Being rejected, for most of us, is a deeply painful experience, and, at the extreme end of the scale, can lead to suicide.

One reason why the pain of rejection can be so acute is that it reawakens the feelings of profound distress we experienced due to the rejection we suffered in childhood.

OUR EMOTIONAL RESPONSE TO REJECTION :

The kinds of emotional response being rejected by someone important to us entail include :

a) grief

b) anger (eg ‘why has this person hurt me so badly?’)

c) depression

d) fear (eg of future loneliness or of having to cope without the person’s emotional support).

e) hate (linked to anger, above, but can also involve self-hatred due to the lowering of own self-esteem in the face of having been rejected).

THE DIFFERENT WAYS IN WHICH REJECTION MAY OCCUR :

One important form of rejection can be termed ‘self-rejection.’ This kind of rejection has its roots in us having been rejected as children. Examples of such rejection may include :

– having a parent walking out on us,

– having a narcissistic mother (click here to read my post on this) who was too self-involved to meet the emotional needs of her children

– having an emotionally distant and aloof father

– having an alcoholic parent who consequently neglects us emotionally

– losing a parent through suicide

NB If the child has someone else in their life who provides a lot of love and affection the effects of the kinds of losses outlined above may be mitigated.

If, due to such early experiences of loss and rejection, we do indeed become self-rejecting, it can take the form self-damaging behaviour that makes us unattractive to others. Examples include : over-eating to the point of obesity, not bothering about personal hygiene, substance misuse,  wearing deliberately unflattering clothes, or behaving in such a way that it makes it highly probable we will drive others away. Such self-rejection usually operates on an unconscious level.

CHILDHOOD REJECTION LEADING TO THE REPETITION COMPULSION :

If we have experienced a significant rejection in childhood by one of our primary caregivers and were unable to make sense of it, mentally process it or come to terms with it we may develop, on an unconscious level, a deep-rooted psychological need to perpetually repeat the experience of rejection. The compulsion to repeat the experience will tend to continue until we become consciously aware of what it is we are doing. This can mean, as adults, a pattern is developed in which we unconsciously seek out relationships with those who are bound to reject us, just as we were rejected as children. 

For example :

– a gay man may try to establish a relationship with a straight man

– we may behave in such ways that we ensure our partner rejects (making impossible demands, extreme possessiveness etc) us

– we may form relationships with people who emotionally or physically mistreat us and who show little, if any, affection

Of course, there are many other ways we might put ourselves into the position whereby we will drive others to reject us ; however, underlying them all is a desperate attempt to come to terms with the primary, childhood loss. By re-experiencing it, we unconsciously hope to master it.

HOW DO WE BREAK OUT OF THE CYCLE OF REPETITION COMPULSION?

Psychologists have identified the following steps as being necessary in order for us to break out of the cycle of repetition compulsion :

1) the acknowledgement that we are stuck in a pattern of behaviour whereby we have been ‘courting rejection.’

2) the acknowledgement that we have been behaving in this way, up until now, due to the profound pain we have been caused by our childhood rejection (and of which, up until now, we may well not have been fully aware).

3) making a definite decision to try to alter our behaviour in such a way that the likelihood of further rejection is minimized (whilst accepting nobody can completely eliminate the possibility of meeting with rejection in life and therefore being prepared to take some level of risk with future relationships)

4) a concerted effort (ideally through therapy) to come to terms with, and fully mentally process, the original childhood loss

5) we need to come to terms with the realization that our future behaviour need not be dictated by our past experiences and that we are capable of making a proactive decision to stop self-sabotaging.

RESOURCE :

Dealing With Rejection | Self Hypnosis Downloads

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE (FAHE).

Study Suggesting Meditation More Effective Than Anti-depressants

mindfulness based cognitive therapy

mindfulness based cognitive therapy

A recent research study, carried out jointly by researchers from the University of Exeter and King’s College, University of London, demonstrated that mindfulness meditation can be more effective at treating depression than anti-depressant medication.

mindfulness - the art of living in the present

mindfulness

In the study, which comprised 123 volunteers suffering from depression, the participants were split into two groups :

GROUP 1 : the participants in this group were given a therapy called mindfulness based cognitive therapy (this therapy combines meditation with traditional cognitive therapy and focuses upon addressing negative thinking patterns and helping the person to concentrate more on the present, rather than obsessing about the past and the future)

GROUP 2 : the participants in this group were treated with anti-depressant medication.

This trial lasted for 8 weeks. By the end of this period, those in Group 1 had been taught meditation techniques they could practice on their own without the assistance of a therapist.

mindfulness meditation - the art of living in the present

mindfulness meditation – the art of living in the present

RESULTS :

At the end of the 8 week period, those in Group 1 reported greater control over their negative thinking and over their negative emotions. Furthermore, when the two groups were followed up 15 months later, 60% of those in Group 2 had suffered a relapse compared to just 47% in Group 1. Also, those in Group 1 reported an overall higher quality of life and a greater ability to derive pleasure from life than those in Group 2.

CONCLUSION :

Professor William Kuyken, who led the study, summarized the implications of the findings by explaining that whilst those who take medication for their depression are highly vulnerable to relapse when they cease to take it, mindfulness based cognitive therapy teaches people skills to manage their illness for life. He went on to say that this form of meditation therapy could be a most viable alternative treatment for many of the three-and-a-half million people currently suffering from clinical depression in the United Kingdom.

Indeed, studies are now being carried out that suggest anti-depressant treatment may not be as effective as once thought – for example, a recent study suggested that anti-depressants work little better than placebos (click here to read my article on this).

sssdddchildhood trauma therapies and treatmentschildhood_trauma_aggression_ebook  childhood_ trauma _workbook

Above eBooks by David Hosier MSc available on Amazon for immediate download at $4.99 (except Workbook priced at $9.99) CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Can Effects of Childhood Trauma be Fully Resolved?

can childhood trauma ever be fully resolved?

can childhood trauma ever be fully resolved?

The resolution of childhood trauma is best viewed as an on-going process throughout one’s life. Different issues related to the trauma are likely to be resolved at different stages in life, and, even once resolved, may be re-triggered at times of acute stress ; this is especially likely if the individual experiences in later life events which are similar in nature to the original trauma and trigger memories of it. For example, a person who was abandoned by his mother as a child may find the traumatic response is re-activated if his wife walks out on him.

Therefore, if a person completes a course in psychotherapy, and, at the end of it, feels his emotional difficulties have been resolved, but later experiences a relapse due to a particular stressful event later in life, he should not see his original therapy as a waste of time or himself as having somehow failed. Relapses at times of high anxiety are perfectly normal. Because of this, by the end of a course of therapy intended to resolve the experience of childhood trauma, it is essential that the therapist has taught the client relevant coping strategies for such an eventuality. The client should also be made aware that effects of severe trauma can never be absolutely guaranteed to be over and that there will always be some chance of recurrence. If a relapse is severe enough, it may, of course, be necessary for the individual to return to therapy.

SIGNS OF RECOVERY :

One of the best signs of recovery from trauma is the ability to return to pursuing normal, everyday activities and the return of the capacity to experience some pleasure in life, especially in connection with relationships with others.

Another indication of recovery is when the individual becomes less obsessed with the past and starts to be capable of focusing more upon the present and the future.

SEVEN CRITERIA FOR THE RESOLUTION OF TRAUMA :

Seven criteria for the resolution of trauma have been proposed by the psychologist Mary Harvey ; these are :

1) the physiological symptoms of the post traumatic stress have become manageable

2) the person is able to cope with the unpleasant memories connected to the experience of the trauma

3) the traumatic memories have ceased to be so intrusive

4) the memory of the traumatic event has resolved itself into a coherent narrative

5) the person has regained a sense of self-esteem

6) the person has been able to re-establish significant relationships with others

7) the person has reconstructed a coherent system of meaning and belief that makes sense of the traumatic experience and its subsequent damaging effects

effects of childhood traumachildhood trauma therapies and treatments

The above two eBooks by David Hosier MSc are available for immediate download on Amazon at $4.99. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Depression Treatment And Neuroplasticity

effects of stress

Depression And Neuroplasticity

I have described, in other articles, how the brain goes on physically changing all our lives – the process does not stop when we reach adulthood. The quality of the brain, which allows it to continually restructure its architecture, neuroscientists call NEUROPLASTICITY (click here to read my article on this). The really exciting thing is, however, that it is now known, beyond all doubt ,that it is possible for us to very significantly influence our brain’s physical development throughout our lives in extremely beneficial ways simply by changing how we think and how we behave.

This discovery has enormous implications as to how psychiatric conditions like depression, anxiety, addictions and many others will be treated in the (hopefully near) future.

Indeed, if, soon, more and more individuals suffering from depression and other conditions are treated by teaching them to manipulate their own brain structure through behavior changes and new ways of thinking, the need for medications will be reduced thus allowing many to avoid their sometimes negative side-effects  – in fact, studies now suggest that any positive effects anti-depressants have is largely due to the placebo effect (read my article on this by clicking here).

It is useful to give an example of a study that shows that what we think and do creates physical changes in the brain. In one particular study, a group of medical students underwent brain scans/imaging before and after weeks of intensive revision. It was found that the parts of the brain associated with this activity, by the end of their revision period, had become physically denser (due to the growing of more connections between neurons/brain cells).

This is similar to a study I referred to in another post involving London taxi drivers – after a long period of training (involving memorizing all of London’s streets and various landmarks) it was found that the area of their brain which processes spatial information had grown.

Whilst these two examples do not involve the treatment of psychiatric conditions, it is believed the same principles can be applied to future therapies. Research is currently at an incipient stage.

NEGATIVE NEUROPLASTICITY :

One of the reasons that depression is so insidious is that it leads to negative neuroplasticity. In very simple terms, this means :

a) when we are depressed, we think and act in negative ways which (b) stimulates regions of the brain involved in negative thinking and acting causing (c) these regions to grow. This leads to (d) further negative thinking and behaving – thus, a vicious cycle develops.

POSITIVE NEUROPLASTICITY :

Research is currently investigating if positive neuroplasticity can be created in depressed people to stop and reverse the above process. Again, in very simplified terms, this might involve :

a) encouraging and training patients to think and behave in more positive ways which (b) stimulates regions in the brain involved with positive thinking and positive behaviour causing (c) these regions to grow. This should lead to (d) further positive thinking and behaviour – thus, instead of a vicious cycle, a virtuous cycle is created and will hopefully keep going due to its own momentum.

THE AMYGDALA :

As this momentum builds, it is theorized that the regions of the brain that contributed to our depression will lose their power as  their neural interconnections wither away and atrophy due to lack of use. In connection to this idea, the region of the brain called the amygdala has been focused upon by researchers.

The amygdala (click here to read my article on this) is often over-developed and over-sensitive in those who have suffered childhood trauma due to the effects early adverse experience has had on its development. It is high activity in the amygdala that makes people feel anxious, distressed and fearful. A key aim of future therapies may therefore be to reduce connections in this brain region.

RESOURCES :

   

 

Above eBooks available on Amazon. CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Trauma, Depression and Learned Helplessness

perfectionism_linked_to_childhood

If we suffered a traumatic childhood in which we felt powerless to change our situation for the better, we may have become conditioned to believe that there is no point in trying to improve our situation in life as any such attempt will inevitably be doomed to failure. Such a state of mind, one of the hallmarks of clinical depression, has been termed ‘learned helplessness’ by psychologists. If we are suffering from learned helplessness, we will lack motivation to create positive change even when it is clearly possible to do so from an objective perspective.

The following experiment, involving dogs, helps to illustrate precisely what psychologists mean by the condition of learned helplessness. It is a controversial experiment which is ethically questionable and I do not think I would feel comfortable carrying out such a research activity myself. However, here are the findings :

PHASE 1 OF EXPERIMENT :

The experiment, part of a research study by Martin Seligman, was carried out in the 1960s and involved two sets of dogs. Both sets of dogs were given electric shocks ; however :

– one group of dogs could stop the pain by learning to press a lever

– the other group of dogs could not escape the pain whatever they did

PHASE 2 OF EXPERIMENT :

After this unpleasant experience, BOTH groups of dogs were placed in shuttle box with two sides separated by a short barrier. Again, electric shocks were applied through the floor in the cage. This time, however, IT WAS POSSIBLE FOR BOTH SETS OF DOGS TO ESCAPE THE PAIN by jumping over the short barrier to the other (safe) side of the box.

RESULTS :

– the first group of dogs (who had control in the first phase of the experiment by being able to press the lever to stop the shocks) learned to avoid the pain by jumping the barrier in phase 2.

HOWEVER :

– the second set of dogs (who had no control over the electric shocks in the first phase of the experiment) failed to avoid the punishment (they did not learn they could do so by jumping the barrier) in phase 2.

It is thought, in the same way, that if as children we have been in traumatic situations over extended time periods that we were unable to escape, as adults we might become, like the second group of dogs in the experiment, despondent, depressed and unable to try to help ourselves.

However, also like the second set of dogs in the experiment, we may falsely believe we can’t help ourselves (due to our past experiences) when, in fact, we can – it can be our depressed and helpless frame of mind, formed in our childhoods, that creates the illusion that there is no way out for us when, in fact, there is.

RESOURCES :

MP3s :

OVERCOME LEARNED HELPLESSNESS MP3 – CLICK HERE

EBOOKS :

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Above eBooks now available for instant download from Amazon. $4.99. CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Fifteen Emotional Symptoms of Stress

effects of stress

emotional symptoms of stress

If we have suffered long-lasting significant stress when we were children it is very likely to have affected the physical development of our brains in an adverse manner which makes it very much harder to cope with the effects of even minor stress as adults. On an emotional level, we react far more intensely to it than those whose brain development was normal (click here to read my article on how childhood stress affects the physical development of the brain).

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In this post, I therefore thought it might be helpful to list some of the main emotional symptoms we might have indicating that we are suffering the effects of stress.

Before I do this, however, I should also point out that when we are finding it difficult to cope with the effects of stress it affects other aspects of ourselves, too – not just our emotions. It also affects us physically and how we behave.

It is important to point out that different people are affected by stress in different ways. In some, the symptoms of stress may be obviously apparent (overt), whilst in others they may be hidden or ‘invisible’ (covert). Furthemore, in some individuals the symptoms may be short-term, whilst in others they may be long-term (ie chronic). The warning signs that someone is suffering the effects of excessive stress may include headaches, chest discomfort, indigestion, muscle tension (physical symptoms) or behavioural symptoms (eg physical aggression, increased alcohol intake etc).

However, in this post I want to focus on EMOTIONAL SYMPTOMS OF STRESS, and, in keeping with the title of this post, I list 15 of these below :

– inability to feel pleasue (psychologists sometimes refer to this as anhedonia)

– feelings of aggression towards others

– feelings of frustration

– a tendency to become easily tearful

– feeling constantly under intense pressure

– increased feelings of suspiciousness

– increased feelings of irritability and increased likeliness to complain

– more easily triggered ‘fight/flight’ impulse and feelings of wanting to ‘hide away.’

– feeling in a constant state of fear

– finding it hard to make decisions

– a feeling of being mentally drained and exhausted

– feeling tense, agitated and unable to relax

– impaired ability to concentrate

– social self-consciousness

– fears of imminent death, ‘madness’ or collapse

childhood trauma help guide

100 Articles On Childhood Trauma Recovery by David Hosier MSc now available as eBook on Amazon. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Ten Questions We can Ask Ourselves to Challenge Our Negative Thoughts.

childhood_trauma_questionnaire

My mother was one of the world’s most negative people. I remember, when I was a young child, one of her favorite sayings was that people did not need to ask what Hell would be like as we were ‘all living in it now’. At the time, it seemed like she might be on to something.

If we have suffered childhood trauma it is likely we have been conditioned to think negatively since we were very young. Negative thinking is also a hallmark of clinical depression (click here to read my article about the link between childhood trauma and major depression) and other serious psychological disorders.

When negative thinking becomes pathological, our views of just about everything may become distorted, or, as it is technically termed, we are very prone to ‘cognitive distortions’  (this term just refers to the errors in thinking – cognitions – we make that causes us to interprete things far more negatively than is objectively warranted).

These ‘thinking errors’ often become so pervasive that they lead us to develop what psychologists refer to as a ‘NEGATIVE COGNITIVE TRIAD’:

THE NEGATIVE COGNITIVE TRIAD involves us holding :

1) A NEGATIVE VIEW OF OURSELVES

2) A NEGATIVE VIEW OF OTHERS

3) A NEGATIVE VIEW OF THE WORLD

When we suffer from excessive negative thinking, psychologists point out that such thinking becomes AUTOMATIC/REFLEXIVE and we therefore need to start challenging our negative thoughts to discover if they are really valid (very often, if we are depressed, they are not).

I therefore list below ten examples of the kinds of questions we can ask ourselves when we find ourselves caught up in a relentless and overwhelming stream of negative thoughts :

–    do I over-focus on my weaknesses at the expense of my strengths?

–   am I jumping to conclusions?

–   am I erroneously treating my thoughts as facts?

–   how appropriate is blame in this situation?

–   am I being too much of a perfectionist?

–   how are my thoughts affecting how I feel?

–   how are my thoughts affecting how I behave?

–   am I looking for clear-cut answers where they don’t exist?

–   am I thinking in terms of extremes rather than taking a more balanced view?

–   is there only a downside to this situation or is there anything I can turn to my advantage?

To read my article on how cognitive-behavioural therapy can help us to challenge our negative thoughts click here.

 

RESOURCE :

Stop Negative Thoughts : CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Physical Symptoms of Stress and How to Reduce Them

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Find resources to reduce stress by clicking banner above.

If we have experienced a traumatic childhood, it is frequently the case that our capacity to deal with stress as adults is seriously diminished (click here to read one of my articles about this).

When we experience stress, it almost invariably involves unpleasant physical symptoms; these include :

– dry mouth/throat

– upset stomach

– frequent urges to pass urine

– muscular twitches

– fatigue

– inability to settle/restlessness/fidgeting

– tingling sensations in hands/feet

– indigestion

– trembling

– muscle weakness

– muscle tension

– shallow, fast breathing – also known as hyperventilating  (this worsens the anxiety so it is extremely useful to learn techniques to help control this – see below)

– dilated pupils

– sweating

– loss or increase in appetite

– sweating

– rapid, uneven or pounding heart beat

– a feeling of nausea

– headaches

– sleep difficulties

– over-alertness/feeling extremely ‘on edge’ (this is also sometimes referred to as ‘hypervigilance’ or ‘hyperarousal’)

– aches and pains (eg in the back)

This is not an exhaustive list, but covers most of the main physical symptoms people tend to experience when suffering from the effects of excessive stress.

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF STRESS :

It sounds too simple to be true, but one of the most effective methods for dealing with the physical symptoms of stress, such as those listed above, is to use controlled breathing techniques.

Normally, of course, breathing is an unconscious process. However, by taking conscious control, for a short period of time, over how we breathe, we can very significantly ameliorate the unpleasant physical sensations which can accompany stress. By changing how we breathe, we can dramatically change how the act of breathing makes our bodies feel.

The beneficial breathing technique which I refer to has been called by various different names – ‘diaphragmatic breathing’, ‘paced respiration’ or, rather less grandly, ‘deep breathing.’ Its physiological effect is simple but effective ; it increases oyygen levels in our bodies and decreases levels of carbon dioxide.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN BENEFITS OF THIS TYPE OF BREATHING TECHNIQUE?

Research is now showing that this conscious breathing technique is much more powerful, and has far more benefits, than people had, hitherto, been aware of. These are :

A) the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated into action and this counters the ‘fight or flight response’ triggered by our sympathetic nervous system

B) it reduces the physical damage stress can do to the body by lowering levels of cortisol (cortisol – a hormone – levels can dangerously increase in response to excessive stress)

C) it increases levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which helps to keep us calm

D) it lowers our blood pressure and our heart rate thus lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease

E) new research now suggests it actually helps a part of the brain involved in attentional processes to grow larger

F) recent research also provides evidence that it helps to improve our immune system

THE DEEP BREATHING TECHNIQUE :

Below I describe a simple breathing technique that helps to counter the effects of stress :

1) Get into as comfortable a position as possible

2) Close eyes

3) Drop jaw and shoulders

4) Allow muscles, especially if you can feel that some muscle groups are particularly tense, to relax as much as possible. Don’t worry if they do not feel completely relaxed.

5) Breathe SLOWLY and DEEPLY, IN THROUGH NOSE, OUT THROUGH MOUTH

6) Try to FILL LUNGS as much as possible by EXPANDING ABDOMEN and RAISING RIBCAGE

7) HOLD BREATH FOR 3-6 SECONDS

8) BREATHE OUT SLOWLY AND TRY TO COMPLETELY EMPTY LUNGS (allow abdomen and ribcage to relax to help with this)

Sessions should be at least 5 minutes (although even a shorter length of time is helpful) and the breathing exercise should be carried out without straining.

Mindfulness meditation therapy is becoming increasingly recognized, due to recent and current research being conducted at universities world wide, as being extremely effective for treating stress, anxiety and many other conditions.

RESOURCES :

MP3s :

MINDFULNESS TRAINING MP3 – CLICK HERE

STRESS MANAGEMENT MP3 – CLICK HERE

E-BOOKS :

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Above e-books available for instant download on Amazon. $4.99 each.(Other titles available).CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

List of Life Events Categorized According to Their Stressfulness.

list of stressful life events

stressful life events

If we have experienced significant childhood trauma, research shows that our ability to cope with stress can, as a result, become severely reduced in adult life (click here to read one of my articles about this). We may well find, then, that we are particularly affected by some of the life events listed below in this article.

Any major change in our lives can produce stress (even positive changes like getting married). The more an event challenges our ability to cope with it, the more stress it is likely to produce.

A list of various life events which can give rise to stress is given below. Over any given period of time, the more of these events we experience, and the higher their combined rating, the more stress they are likely to produce.

It is also worth noting that it is not just the occurrence of a stressful event per se which produces feeling of stress in us (both physical and emotional), but also how significant we perceive the event to be. Other facors which contribute to how stressful we find particular events include their predictability, their familiarity, their unavoidability and their intensity.

The list below is far from set in stone as the subjective experience people have of the events, and the events themselves, vary widely from case to case. The following should, therefore, be seen as a rough guide :

STRESSFUL LIFE EVENTS.

CATEGORY ONE : VERY HIGHLY STRESSFUL :

– death of husband/wife/life-partner

– death of close family member

– divorce/separation from long-term partner

– jail sentence

– marriage

– significant personal injury or illness

– loss of job

CATEGORY TWO : HIGHLY STRESSFUL :

– retirement

– serious illness of family member

– death of close friend

– money problems

– new child

– pregnancy

– change of job

– sex difficulties

CATEGORY THREE : MODERATELY STRESSFUL :

– change in living conditions

– change in work responsibilities

– son or daughter leaving home

– difficulties with in-laws

– outstanding personal achievement

– difficulties with boss at work

– revision of personal habits

– large mortgage or loan

– legal action over debt

– starting or finishing school

– partner begins or stops working

– family arguments

CATEGORY FOUR : LOW LEVEL STRESSORS :

– change in social activities

– Christmas

– holidays

– minor violations of the law

– change in eating habits

– change in sleeping habits

– change in work hours

– change in recreational activities

In my next post, to be published very shortly, I will examine some of our physical responses to stress and how we can deal with these.

David Hosier BSc Hons ; MSc ; PGDE (FAHE).