Stress means pressure and too much of it can lead to anxiety and depression. We may suffer from stress as a result of challenging life changes or because we simply have too much to deal with in our everyday lives. Symptoms include crying, shouting, anger, sleeplessness, diarrhoea, palpitations, dizziness, sweating.
Anxiety is a term used to cover a whole range of problems, from temporary stress to panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder and phobias. It is thought that a quarter of the population will suffer from anxiety at some time in their lives. Symptoms are extensive and may include shaking, sweating, churning stomach, nausea, sleeplessness, obsessive thoughts, palpitations and irregular breathing.
Psychotherapy and counselling address anxiety by seeking to understand the source of the distress and there may be more than one level to this source.
It is a little like peeling the layers of an onion. So, perhaps a client comes into therapy stressed because of poor sleep. Her sleep may be poor because she is worrying about an upsetting relationship where s/he feels she “doesn’t count”. Exploring this, the client may come to understand that “not counting” is familiar, an echo of how s/he experienced life in her family as a child. Pursuing this further s/he may discover more about the family dynamic – not counting might have had nothing to do with her personally, but that all attention was on another family member who was perhaps ill, disabled or highly emotionally demanding.
At a practical level anxiety and stress can be eased by practising mindfulness (meditation), relaxation techniques, exercise, reducing alcohol, caffeine etc, and better general self-care.
The internet provides lots of useful information about anxiety and stress. You can consult your GP for help and use medication if that is what you prefer. Therapy/counselling with a well-qualified/skilled practitioner is helpful in understanding and managing anxiety and stress; research shows that it is precisely the safe, attuned, empathic relationship with the therapist that contributes so effectively to the exploration and recovery from distress.
Further information: There are 2 books that I particularly like on this subject. They are both by Roger Baker – Understanding Panic Attacks: Overcoming Fear, and Emotional Processing: Healing through Feeling.