Last week I had a client come to the practice, for the sake of this post we’ll call him Simon. Simon was feeling really fed-up and downhearted – he told me that he’d recently been to his doctor about being tired all the time. Doctors hear this so often, they just write TATT in your notes!
No matter how much sleep he has he wakes up tired. He was struggling living like this and felt it was impacting his productivity at work. He wanted a magic pill or solution and thought he ought to get help from a professional.
But guess what, Simon was advised to eat more chocolate or cake to give him energy! Can you believe it? It wasn’t an April fool – this is the remedy they suggested – sugar! Absurd…
As we sat and talked about his symptoms and what was going on in his life, his daily routines for eating, exercise and what goes on at work, it soon became clear that Simon was living with massive stress.
Most people think that stress just comes from pressure at work and many put it down to the targets they have to reach or the boss that bullies them. And it’s true that those are major stressors that create an atmosphere of fear in the office. We no longer have a job for life so everyone lives on adrenalin and the fear of losing their job to someone younger/better/smarter ….. [take your pick of the thoughts in your head!]
People also believe stress only comes from “big” concerns like family conflicts and money worries. Of course, this is true; all of these things can cause massive amounts of stress and worry. But, what a lot of people don’t realise is that the six cups of coffee they drink, no breakfast or indeed chocolate for breakfast and sitting at a computer all day, all contribute to stress.
Stress is cumulative and we adapt to it because we’re hard wired to adapt. At some point though, if we don’t realise what’s happening, we’ll reach breaking point and this manifests in both physical and mental symptoms or even in complete burn out.
Do any of these points below sound familiar to you?
- You don’t switch off
- You don’t allow yourself to be bored
- You’re addicted to devices and being “always on” phones/Netflix/TV
- You rarely communicate face to face – you mostly text
- You’re too tired to exercise at the end of the day
- You eat a rubbish diet, rubbish in means rubbish out
- You’re sleepwalking [unaware] to burn out
You go to bed at 1am but get up at 7am and are surprised you don’t have any energy. (we have cycles, and our body’s not adapted to this because sleep is when we repair and heal)
These are all cumulative factors for stress.
Luckily, there are usually a number of warning signs that help indicate when we’re having trouble coping with stress before any severe signs become apparent.
Phase 1 Emotional: anxiety, irritability, sadness, defensiveness, anger, mood swings, hypersensitivity, apathy, depression, slowed thinking or racing thoughts; feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, being trapped, boredom, apathy.
Phase 2 Physical: headaches, grinding teeth, clenched jaws, chest pain, shortness of breath, pounding heart, muscle aches and pains, indigestion, constipation or diarrhoea, increased perspiration, fatigue, insomnia, frequent colds, irritability.
Phase 3 Impact on family and relationships: increased use of alcohol, smoking, non-prescription drugs, depression, physical and emotional fatigue, loss of sex drive, ulcers, marital problems, crying spells, intense anxiety, rigid thinking, withdrawal, restlessness and poor job performance.
Simon had quite a few of these symptoms and in order to make changes to help alleviate and get him back on track we made changes to his diet, we added an exercise programme he could easily follow [just 20 mins at the gym] and we looked at the differences between the life he has now and the life he wants in the future.
So we have a plan, one that will help him create the life he really wants and which he feels aligned with. It’s going to take time to put things into place but as he told me when he left, “if you fail to plan, then plan to fail”.