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Stress is a word everyone uses and we all have an idea of what it feels like, but do you every really think about it and try to understand where it comes from? Is it just a fact of modern life, something you need to endure in return for a high-powered job and the life style it affords you? Is it inescapable, a natural response to whatever pressures you face in life?

Its true there are all sorts of situations which can be called “stressful”, which would make anyone feel uncomfortable, raise their heart beat, stop them sleeping, make them drink more, give them headaches or experience any of the many other symptoms of stress. You could even say a bit of stress is a good thing as it can motivate us to make positive changes in our lives. But for all of us at times, it can feel too much.

There are things you can do though – sometimes , you have to face up to the fact that a particular job, set of house mates, relationship, life-style is just too stressful and may decide its time to make a change in your life. Talking with a psychotherapist can help you think through this process and make what can often be quite painful decisions, in a supportive environment.

Therapy can also help you understand why you respond with stress to certain situations, make sense of how the stressors in your earlier life and how you learnt to respond to difficult situations in the past.

But there are also things you can do right now to help you relax and “de-stress:”

Breathing slowly and deeply into your diaphragm for a few minutes, will engage your para-sympathetic nervous system, the bodies calming mechanism. Try this for a few minutes now or next time you’re really feeling stressed and see how it feels.

Taking time to exercise or even just to go for a walk at lunch-time, to get some fresh air will calm you down and cutting back on alcohol, cigarettes and unhealthy foods will also help. Taking time to relax and enjoy yourself outside of work will really also help.

I can hear you say “what’s the point? I can have a nice walk at lunch time, but when I come back, I’ll still have a huge pile of work to do, my annoying colleague will still be sitting next to me and don’t get me started on my boss…” but there is a difference between the situation we find ourselves in and the stress we feel in response: taking time to relax away from work (or even to breathe deeply when you’re at work), won’t make the work / annoying colleague go away, but it may make it easier to deal with it all in the afternoon.

If you would like the chance to think more about stress and how to cope with it, WPF Therapy are running a series of three lunch-time “Stress Buster” Sessions, for free at our offices on Magdalen Street, on Wednesdays in September. Please see the attached link for details if you’d like to come along. This is part of the Team London Bridge “Love Lunch” Programme, which we are delighted to be part of.

Finally, drinking less coffee and more water during the day will help too!

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