Sometimes we don’t want to admit to feeling overwhelmed, we feel we should be able to cope with everything life throws at us and that we’d be admitting to a weakness, or our career may be under threat, if we say we’re stressed.

For many people though, it’s just that the difference between stress and pressure is not clear. That means they’re not aware of the effects undue stress can have on their physical, mental & spiritual wellbeing and what can be done to make things better.

Which is why everyone needs to understand stress and its implications.

The good news is that there are many proven techniques, which can help…

• reduce undue stress
• improve quality of sleep
• reduce anxiety, panic & phobias
• reduce blood pressure
• calm nerves
• restore mental and physical health
• improve relationships & communication
• restore a positive mental attitude
• restore self-confidence
• improve performance & enjoyment of life
• help people understand more about themselves and what they want out of life so they make the right choices for them
• give people the tools to go for it!

Big claims I know, but in the words of one client; “This stuff works, doesn’t it?” Yes it does and it transforms the lives of those people who work with stress management techniques.

There is a lot of debate in the wellbeing industry about the definition of stress and nobody seems to be able to settle on one definitive description. Why? Because:

• stress is a very individual thing and can mean different things to different people at different times in there lives
• although we think that situations and people cause us stress, it is not the situation or person that stresses us, but our own reaction to it. That puts us in a lot more control as to how we deal with it and
• there is a huge difference between short term pressure after which we return to normal mental and physical good health and long term, unabated pressure which causes undue stress and can lead to serious illness

When we perceive that we are under excessive pressure for one reason or another, there is a reaction in the body called ‘fight or flight’ which affects just about every system in the body. This is great in the short term as it allows us to either escape danger or face it and survive. But herein lies the rub.

It’s called The Stress Paradox.

After periods of excessive pressure like this over a short time, our body and minds are designed to take a break and give themselves a chance to restore equilibrium and for the body’s functions to return to a more relaxed state.

The issue is that our current 24/7 culture teaches us to be on the go 24/7 and often even our ‘relaxation’ time is filled all the time with things which excite us. Our exercise regimes, where we go on holiday, how we spend our time – all are packed with stuff that takes us to ‘the edge’ and fills every waking moment.

In short, we’ve become adrenaline junkies!

When we constantly find ourselves in an over-stimulated state, it becomes a habit and we can’t return to relaxation even if we want to. This means we leave ourselves exposed to becoming:
• hypervigilant causing anxiety, fears & phobias
• over-emotional and irrational in our thinking
• unable to relax and take time out
• physically unwell because our immune system is affected
• unable to make clear decisions
• lacking in energy and constantly tired
• unable to enjoy where we are right now and constantly unsatisfied with what we have and where we are
• unhappy with who we are and/or with those around us
• unhappy because we feel victimised and unlucky and often blame others for our situation
• unhappy with life

Over a period of time, this can manifest itself in numerous ways and often with physical, mental and perhaps most importantly spiritual (in its broadest sense!) illness. At best it makes us extremely uncomfortable and unhappy. At worst, it’s potentially fatal.

Thinking you can battle through it couldn’t be further from the truth and is just another symptom. Undue stress does NOT go away if untreated. It gets worse until the symptoms are such that you HAVE to do something about it.

So What Can You Do About It?

What is essential to understand is that, unless you’re willing to change some of the things you do, no amount of workshops, seminars, counselling or coaching will make any difference.

People who are experiencing undue stress are not ‘bonkers’ and they are not ‘weak’. Without exception, they are all extremely capable people. They’re just overloaded or facing a particular challenge. They’ve either reached a crisis or challenge in their lives or need some practical coaching. They’re looking for a non-judgmental, practical and objective approach to life and they’re open to exploring new ways of thinking and behaving.

They may for example be dealing with:
• Relationship issues at home or at work
• Ill-health or sick relatives
• Feelings of being victimised
• Lack of self-esteem
• Feelings that, ‘there must be more to life than this!’
• Conflict
• Communication issues
• Phobias, anxiety and fear
• Negative, self-critical and unhappy behaviour
• Major life and career decisions
• Exam nerves
Or any situation which makes them feel out of control and overwhelmed. The great thing is that there is plenty on offer to reverse that trend.


1. Review what’s going on in your life and try to identify the triggers and symptoms. There is a Free Stress Questionnaire on

2. Learn how to use breathing & relaxation techniques to calm your nervous system down.

3. Regular exercise is not only good for us physically, but also is a great stress-reliever. Make sure you build exercise into your daily routine. Walk to work instead of driving, take dancing lessons, take up a sport, walk up the escalators instead of standing on them etc. There are many ways you can build physical exercise into your routine without going anywhere near a gym!

4. Limit your intake of pre-prepared, take-away and processed foods. The more fresh, unprocessed foods you eat, the better your body is able to process them. Reduce your intake of fizzy drinks (including low calorie versions), white bread, white sugar, caffeinated drinks, eat more fresh fish, salads, fruits, vegetables, stir fries and so on and drink plenty of still water.

5. Take regular breaks of a few minutes every hour and take a break away from your work or house during the day for at least half an hour to give your body and mind to refresh themselves. It’s often in periods of rest that we come up with our best ideas and solutions and constant activity is inefficient and stressful.

6. If you are constantly trying to please others and find yourself in stressful situations, battling to keep up, put your own health and wellbeing first because then you are in a better position to take others into consideration.

7. Monitor your talk about yourself and others? Is your language negative or positive? Are you kind to yourself and others? Do you constantly see the downside in everything? Maintaining a balance between positive and negative thinking is essential to positive stress management and wellbeing. Proven techniques help you retrain your mind to a more balanced way of thinking.

8. Do you sleep well? 6 to 7 hours good sleep a night restores all the body and mind’s functions and even boosts your immune system. For a free download ‘An Easy Guide to a Blissful Night’s Sleep’ visit and click on the icon at the bottom left hand corner of the screen for an instant download.

9. Do you have even a short time to yourself most days? If not, look at ways you can create space for yourself to read, relax, take part in a hobby, listen to music and so on and make ‘you’ time a priority.

10. If you think you need professional help, seek a specialist in Stress Management in your area who will introduce you to proven techniques to reverse unhelpful trends.

About the Author: Annie Lawler is Managing Director of Breathing Space Therapies & Breathing Space for Business. For further information, contact Annie Lawler on 0772 581 8884, email on

You  can hear interviews with Annie on this site. Type her name into the search box at the top right of this page.

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