Symptom or Cause?

Pink Rose When you think of those behaviours you've picked, are they symptoms of stress or causes of stress? Or both?

For example, you may find you overeat when you are stressed. However, this may make you feel guilty or worry that you are putting on weight, so this behaviour is adding to your stress. The same is true of pretty well all these behaviours - for example,you are stressed so you start arguments rather than working towards a mutual solution. This means you fall out with people and, again, adds to your stress levels - you feel angry or guilty or sad. Or you work or play computer games excessively to avoid facing what you're worrying about, which means you become overtired and don't sleep well, and probably consume lots of coffee to keep going. In the meantime, your problems don't go away, so you're still stressed by them as well.

So how do you break this cycle?

By using all the different techniques you are learning - meditation, visualisation, breathing... changing your diet, sleeping better, changing how you think about things. Well, I would say that, wouldn't I? But it works!

Genevieve, who came to a series of workshops, was easily angered as well as fearful. She would snap, lose her temper easily and pick fights with neighbours, friends and family. She was also anxious when she travelled out and about. She decided to completely change her lifestyle and tried to use all the different ideas in the Chill Out Course, completely changing what she ate and drank, using relaxation techniques, changing the way she thought about things. By the end, she was very much more relaxed and calmer. It really does work!

As you know, behaviour and feelings are inextricably linked. How you feel affects how you behave and how you behave affects how you feel. However, some behaviours affect your physical stress levels as well...

Smoking

Although, in many countries, less people are smoking these days, those that do will tell you that smoking relaxes them. Physiologically, this is completely not true! Nicotine raises your cortisol levels - the last thing you want when you are hoping to relax! The truth is that a cigarette makes you feel more relaxed because you are relieving your withdrawal pangs!

I know I don't need to go on about cigarettes being bad for your health generally. However, you might want to consider that they are adding to your stress levels. If you want to become more relaxed, this is definitely something to deal with! Visit the Library for help with this.

Alcohol

People often say they like a drink to relax themselves. Alcohol works by depressing the parts of the brain that inhibits you. So you may stop worrying so much. However, this means that you also lose judgement and control over your emotions which can cause a lot of trouble. (Think of people weeping into their glass) And in the longer term, alcohol actually raises your stress hormone levels, the more so as you become older.

Alcohol isn't actually the solution at all, and can become a massive cause of stress as it, too, is addictive. If you've just been dosing yourself with a little alcohol in the evening as the end to a busy day, try substituting this with a relaxation technique.

If you know in your heart of hearts that alcohol has now become a problem, then you'll find some helpful links in the Library.

And next...

...some information about changing your habits.