Most of us will suffer from stress at some point in our lives, but at what point does it get more serious? When do you need to see a doctor? And - most importantly - what are the best ways to deal with it as you get older? Leading Harley Street psychologist Dr Ashley Conway offers expert advice.
Sign up to Gransnet for more health advice
Stress is caused by a loss of psychological and physiological stability as the systems that maintain our intended equilibrium become overwhelmed.
Symptoms may include:
Symptoms may include:
You are not likely to have all of these symptoms, but if you are experiencing two or three from each group, it’s a good idea to try and assess what may be causing them.
If you have any concerns about your physical health, see a medical professional. When approaching a doctor about stress symptoms, you might be recommended medication for physical problems, e.g. blood pressure medication or tablets to help you sleep (although long-term use of prescribed drugs is not generally recommended for insomnia). There are also plenty of natural sleep remedies to consider, too. Or you may be prescribed medication for psychological symptoms, such as antidepressants and/or anxiety medication. If this does happen, then it should be considered as appropriate first aid, not a long-term solution.
Your doctor may also help you decide if you would benefit from some time off work or a break away. This is not always an easy decision. Avoidance is often unhelpful, but sometimes a relatively short-term tactical withdrawal can be effective. Your doctor might also discuss with you whether you would benefit from seeing an experienced psychologist.
Get the latest health tips and more delivered straight to your inbox...
Take exercise, don't smoke and minimise alcohol intake. Avoid caffeine and eat sensible foods at regular intervals.
Physical and psychological practices include yoga, Tai Chi and even a regular massage, which can help you to unwind.
Learn a relaxation technique - meditation or visualisation are both really helpful. Alternatively, you can try this simple breathing technique:
- Place one hand on your abdomen and one higher up on your breastbone.
- Keep your lips together and breathe in and out through your nose so that only your lower hand is moving.
- Breathe low and breathe slow (approximately three seconds in and four seconds out is about right for most people). Just remember: nose, low and slow. If you'd like a demonstration you can find one here.
Particularly in giving yourself space and time.
Especially if relaxing music tends to be of benefit to you.
Surround yourself by people who make you laugh.
Get support – either in the form of a trusted confidant, or a professional psychologist. Do not try to "be brave" or pretend to be okay if you are not. Often it takes more courage to express feelings to others than it does to hide them.
...and what you cannot. Be sure to focus your energy on the former.
Become aware of the factors that contribute to you feeling more or less stressed, and act on this information.
Even the small things.
Dr Ashley Conway is a Harley Street psychologist with over 25 years of professional experience in helping people overcome issues such as anxiety, panic attacks, trauma reactions, childhood abuse and stress-related illnesses.
Disclaimer: The information on our health pages is only intended as an informal guide and should not be treated as a substitute for medical advice. Gransnet would urge you to consult your GP before you begin any diet if you're concerned about your weight, have existing health conditions and/or are taking medication.