CBT for Stress
Stress Management in Canary Wharf
- Have you been under a lot of pressure lately?
- Are you feeling undervalued at work?
- Are you experiencing headaches or other physical symptoms more than usual?
- Do you rush about a lot and hurry to get things done?
- Have you noticed a change in your sleep pattern?
- Are you more exhausted than usual?
- Do you feel irritable and get angry more than usual?
If you answered to yes to at least three of the above, you may be suffering with stress. CBT for Stress can help you develop strategies for managing stress.
What is Stress?
We all experience stress from time to time. Our lives are busy, and as technology becomes a bigger part of our lives, it’s difficult to switch off and unwind. When stress is short-lived, we can normally get through it without any major consequences. However, when stress is chronic (longer-lasting), it can start to have a negative impact on our health and relationships.
Stress arises when the demands placed on us exceed our perceived ability to cope.
There are internal as well as external sources of stress. These are called stressors.
Examples of external stressors include:
- A loved one becoming ill
- A career or role change
- Having difficulty conceiving or experiencing a miscarriage
- Divorce or separation
- Financial problems
Internal stressors might include:
- Having unrealistically high standards for yourself or others
- Poor time management
- Fatigue or sleep deprivation
- Emotional well-being
The Stress Response
What do we mean by stress response? The stress response encompasses how you think, feel, and behave when faced with a stressor. It also includes the physiological changes within your body at the time of stress.
Here are the four components to the stress response:
- Cognitive: “I can’t cope”; “there isn’t enough time for this”; “I’ll never get it done”
- Physical: heart racing, breathlessness, muscle tension
- Behavioural: shout, slam doors, arrive late, avoid dealing with the situation
- Emotional: tearful, angry, sad, anxious, worried
Let’s take look at an example:
In the above example, there are two types of appraisals made about the trigger event; a primary appraisal and a secondary appraisal. The stress response normally comes about when you identify that a problem exists (primary appraisal) and when you perceive that you are unable to cope (secondary appraisal).
Fight or flight
We have seen how the fight or flight response kicks in when we feel anxious.
The fight or flight response is also triggered when we are faced with a stressor. A number of bodily changes occur when we are under stress. Our brain sends signals to our sympathetic nervous system to release adrenaline and cortisol into our bloodstream, which prepare our bodies to deal with the stressor, either by fighting, or fleeing. This in turn produces changes in our blood pressure and blood flow, resulting in us needing more blood rich in oxygen so that the blood can get to the brain and muscles needed to fight or run away. Adrenaline causes a speedy release of glucose into the bloodstream, so that the body has more energy to fight or flee. In addition, our pupils dilate and our awareness intensifies.
These physical changes can serve to alert us to a problem and prompt us to resolve the problem, but if the stress is of a chronic nature (an ongoing stressful situation), and if it is a problem that you feel you have little control over, it can have a negative effect on your health.
Examples of chronic stressors:
- Worries about redundancy
- Marital problems
- Working in highly pressurized work environments
- Academic pressure
- Financial stress
Individual Differences and Stress
We all cope differently under different circumstances; some people get very stressed when asked to give a presentation to a large group, whereas others perceive this same situation as an opportunity to be in the spotlight and finally get the recognition they believe they deserve! Similarly, some people enjoy the process of packing for a holiday, while others dread the experience and find it all too much.
Whether you find a situation stressful or not depends on your perception of the stressor and whether you believe you can cope with it.
How much stress is too much?
A certain amount of pressure is good for us as it motivates and energizes, allowing us to perform well. However, if we experience more pressure than we can handle, this results in stress and the feeling that we can’t cope.
This idea is best illustrated by the Yerkes-Dodson Law, which describes how performance on any task varies depending on how aroused we are.
This diagram demonstrates how under-stimulation or under-arousal can lead to boredom, which in itself can be stressful. And, over-stimulation or over-arousal impedes our performance because we can’t concentrate or focus well when we are too highly aroused. Our performance is best when we are somewhere in the middle of these two points.
The Costs of Stress
It is well known that too much stress can take its toll on our health and, in extreme circumstances, can kill us. Stress is linked to all kinds of health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.
Although stress is thought of as a psychological problem, it is also accompanied by real physical changes in the body, many of which are harmful.
Prolonged stress affects the following systems:
- Heart and lungs
- Salivary glands
Many of my clients suffer from a particular type of stress: work-related stress. There are many factors that contribute to work stress and these include:
- Unrealistic deadlines
- Pressure to work long hours
- Lack of control over how you work and/or what you do at work
- Too much work
- Unsupportive managers
- Poor relationship with manager or colleagues
- Feeling undermined
- Feeling undervalued
- Poorly defined role
- Lack of skills to get the job done
- Lack of training
When you experience any of the above, it can take its toll on how you feel about yourself and your abilities, and can have a negative impact on your motivation to actually do your job. A vicious cycle is then set in motion, because self-doubt and feeling undervalued can lead to switching off and detaching from work, which serve to lower performance and further contribute to feeling stressed. In fact, suffering with stress for prolonged periods of time can lead to symptoms of depression.
We’ve all heard the catch-phrase “work-life” balance and although most of us understand what it means, very few of us actually live a balanced life.
Many of us work long hours, take work home, check our devices in the evenings, and this can have a grave impact on the quality time we have with our families. These behaviours also prevent us from relaxing and recharging our batteries.
Many of my clients find it incredibly difficult to put their phones down or to resist checking emails, although ironically, when they do, they report feeling much more relaxed.
I’m all for “digital diets” and “digital detoxes”: prolonged periods away from digital devices. In this day and age, we need this. We need to be “unavailable to take your call”. We need people to “leave a message at the tone” instead of picking up every call.
A work-life balance is important because you need to recharge your batteries at the end of every day. You only have a finite amount of energy and resources to use up each day, and if you don’t recharge, you wake up the next day feeling like you’ve not stopped. When you’re not balancing life and work, it can feel like one day is rolling into the next. CBT for Stress will help you to separate from your mobile device or tablet long enough to unwind and recharge!
How Common is Stress and What Causes it?
The prevalence of stress is best documented in work-related stress literature. It is thought that half a million people in the UK experience work-related stress.
Like other mental health problems, there are different causes of stress: some lie within the individual, and some lie outside the individual.
Genetic factors: certain aspects of our temperaments make us more or less likely to be able to cope with stress. Individuals with Type A personality traits are thought to be more prone to stress than their less competitive and hostile Type B folk. Similarly, those individuals with high levels of trait anxiety are more prone to experience stress than those who are temperamentally more relaxed.
Optimism: this refers to your belief about how likely it is that events will turn out well, and the extent to which you believe you have some control over the outcome. Optimists tend to feel more in control of their stress, and they have also been shown to use more helpful coping strategies than pessimists, when dealing with stress.
Life events and change: whether it is moving house, getting married, or changing job, change can be stressful. This is especially true when the change has come out of the blue, and out of your control, i.e., if you are diagnosed with an illness, or made redundant. Even happy events like marriage and expecting a baby can be stressful. This is because events (positive and negative) are stressful when they are:
Relationship problems: when our relationships are going well, we can feel on top of the world, but when we experience conflict either with a parent, sibling, partner, friend or even our boss, we can experience symptoms of stress.
What is CBT for Stress?
Cognitive-behavioural therapy for stress management can help individuals like you identify the triggers to your stress and help you develop better coping strategies.
In CBT for Stress, you will acquire a variety of tools and treatment techniques to reduce your stress levels. Our work will primarily include helping you to:
- Identify the stressors in your life
- Distinguish between external and internal sources of stress
- Assess your current stress management coping style
- Understand your current stress response
- Make appropriate changes to your current stress response
- Make time for self-care (diet, exercise, sleep, down-time)
Through our work together you will gain a better understanding of what is causing you the most stress, and together we will figure out what changes (if any) need to be made in your external environment, versus what modifications need to be made in your internal world (thoughts, attitude, perception).
Do you still have questions or concerns about therapy for stress?
How do I know that I am stressed and not anxious?
This is a great question, especially since there is an overlap in symptoms for stress and anxiety. An assessment with a CBT therapist will help you to understand whether it’s stress or anxiety that is the main problem for you, but one of the telling signs lies within the type of thoughts you have. Do you find that you worry about many day-to-day events, and find it hard to relax? If so, you may be experiencing generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Or you may worry about having a panic attack and passing out/dying of a heart attack? If so, you may be experiencing panic disorder. If your symptoms are not severe enough to meet the criteria for either GAD or Panic, you may be experiencing more of a stress-related problem.
I don’t want anyone to know I’m seeing a CBT therapist for stress.
I understand your privacy concerns. One way that I protect your anonymity is by booking meetings so they are spaced out. That way, your session will finish before my next client arrives, and you won’t have to worry about running into someone on your way in or out.
The only time I would need to disclose that you are seeing me is if you were a risk to yourself or to others (see FAQ #9 for more information).
If I attend during the day, won’t I feel worse when I go back to work? I’ll need to be able to concentrate back at the office.
This is an understandable concern, but most of my clients actually feel that they are able to return to work feeling more positive. They feel pleased that they are taking charge and tackling their problems.
Sometimes, however, sessions can feel emotionally draining, and it can be a good idea to leave yourself some time to process the session and prepare yourself mentally before you return to work. I recommend stopping off at a coffee shop en route back to work to give you time to reflect and regroup before returning to work.
What does CBT for stress cost?
If you’d like to know more about what CBT for Stress costs, please visit my Fees page.
Do you have more general questions about CBT?
If you have more questions about CBT, please visit my FAQ page.
Are You Ready to Take the First Step?
If you are ready to reduce the stress in your life and want to know how CBT for Stress can help you, or if you still have questions about stress therapy at CBT Canary Wharf, please get in touch with me on (020) 7531-1220 to schedule a preliminary phone consultation. I look forward to hearing from you!