What is it?  How does it affect us?  How can we recognise it? What can we do about it?

Stress is related to the freeze, flight or fight mode of human functioning.  Obviously everyday stress does not generally constitute activation of a full response but the process is controlled in the same way.   When the brain perceives and/or the body experiences stress, the Vagus gland is activated and begins to control the parts of the limbic system and brain which relate to fight, flight or freeze.  The Vagus nerve also controls how “serious” the “stressful” situation is.  For more information on Stress and its physiological workings, You can check out the references below.

Stress puts us into a constant state of uncertainty.  A state in which we are always on “high alert”.  The body is ready to jump into fight, flight or freeze mode at any time.  As you can imagine, that is pretty draining on the body and mind, after time there will be other physiological as well as emotional side effects such as, anxiety attacks, insomnia, depression, highs and lows, loss of appetite, digestive problems, high/low blood pressure, heart problems and I could go on all day!  So how do we know when we are being affected by stress if the symptoms are so wide ranging?  Good question!  Self-awareness is the key.  The more you know about your body, the more you can recognise what is going on.  Once you have recognised that you are feeling “stressed” you can make a decision to do something about it.  The most effective methods to learning self-awareness are breathing and focusing techniques.  These techniques can be practised whilst doing everyday tasks so they do not take extra time out of your day.  In addition, the effect of mastering a simple breathing/focusing technique can have quite profound results on your levels of stress and your physical and emotional well-being.  You may be surprised at how hard it is at first but once you begin to train and discipline your mind just that tiny little bit, you will notice not only that you feel calmer and not so “stressed” but also that your mind is clearer, you are more aware of yourself and even memory improves, clarity of thinking and better decision making.

 Don’t believe me? Give it a go for a week or so…  You can email me your findings and questions to  In a fortnights time I will print the answers to any questions and share any informative experiences which may help others, it will be anonymous of course, so come on, hit me!

So here is a breathing/focusing technique.  It can be done anywhere, on the bus, whilst walking, in the shower, on a toilet break etc.  Breath in for the count of 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds and then release the breath over 8 seconds.  Repeat this process the amount of times as is comfortable for you.  If you need to reduce the seconds then reduce all sections by 1 second.  Be aware of thoughts distracting you, when you realise that they have taken your focus away then just bring your focus back to the counting.  If you lose count just begin again.  You can start off with one cycle and when you become more familiar with it, do 2 or 3 or however many cycles you want.  Experiment and see how easy, or not, it is to be aware!  Enjoy!

If you would like more information on stress or help with stress or anxiety please contact me on