When people ask what I do for a living and I tell the I'm a specialist in Stress Management, the universal reaction is 'Boy! You must be busy!' or 'Goodness! Do I need you, but what exactly do you do?'.

Then often what happens afterwards is...nothing. Sometimes it's because people don't want to admit to feeling overwhelmed or they feel they should be able to cope. Sometimes they feel they'd be admitting a weakness or their career may be under threat if they said they were stressed. But more often I think it's just that people don't really understand the difference between stress and pressure. They're not aware of the effects that undue stress has on one's physical, mental & spiritual wellbeing and what can be done to make things better.

So, having mused over this for some time, I thought now would be a good time to explain in-depth what it is that I actually do and why everyone needs to understand stress and its implications!

The first thing to understand is that the techniques I use work. They've been used for many years and have proved successful in:
reducing undue stress
• improving quality of sleep
• reducing anxiety, panic & phobias
• reducing blood pressure
• calming nerves
• restoring mental and physical health
• improving relationships & communication
• restoring a positive mental attitude
• restoring self-confidence
• improving performance & enjoyment of life
• helping people understand more about themselves and what they want out of life so they make the right choices for them
• giving people the tools to go for it!

Big claims I know, but in the words of one of my clients who came to see me early this year, "This stuff works, doesn't it?". Yes it does and that's why I do it. Because I know first hand how it has changed my life and how it changes the lives of people I work with. That's why I LOVE what I do!

Now I'm going to get a bit technical in the next few paragraphs, so if you want to get straight to the point and discover the kinds of people who benefit from my work, skip to 'What Kind of People Benefit from Stress Management' and if you recognise yourself in any of this, give me a call!

Many people talk about being stressed these days but what causes us to feel stressed and why should we take notice?

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.

What we do know is that 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 many systems in the body:

• our heart rate increases to pump oxygen around the body more quickly so that we are ready to take action (either to fly from perceived danger or to fight it off!). This means our breathing becomes shallower and quicker.
• energy is diverted from the digestive system to the body's extremities and we can feel a strong need (or even an 'automatic' reaction) to empty our bowels. This makes us lighter and able to move more quickly. It's also why when we're under stress, our digestive system is often affected in one way or another.
• we become hyperalert - our senses are heightened including our sight, our hearing and our instincts - meaning we're ready to act quickly and in a focussed manner to either fight our corner or run like hell!
• production of hormones such as adrenaline and cortizol is triggered to aid all these actions quickly and efficiently and so on

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.

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 an unexcited state.

In this state, we are perhaps less physically active, but more able to react should another extreme situation arise. We're also more able to think clearly and work more efficiently. So by taking breaks and giving ourselves time to restore balance, we are actually more effective.

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 and how we spend our time is packed with stuff that takes us to 'the edge' and fills every waking moment.

In short, we've become adrenaline junkies! So what's wrong with that?

When we constantly find ourselves in an overstimulated 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 and this can cause 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 and where we are in life 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.

What Can I Do About It?

Well, one thing I can't do is wave a magic wand. What I CAN do is work with you on some proven techniques which will make your life a whole bunch easier, better and more enjoyable.

Now, here comes the health warning. If you come for sessions or to one of my workshops, you will need to put into practice what you learn. Unless you're willing to change what you do, no amount of workshops, seminars, counselling or coaching will make any difference.

What we explore in sessions include:
• Any particular issues you are currently faced with
• Your beliefs about yourself and the world around you
• What you want to achieve in life & how you might get there
• Your lifestyle - diet, exercise regime, work & leisure schedules etc
• Any symptoms you are experiencing

Treatments are a mix of:
• Lifestyle Adjustments including Nutrition & Exercise
• Cognitive Behavioural Techniques
• Hypnotherapy
• Breathing & Relaxation Techniques
Meditation & Visualisation
• Practical Executive Coaching & Management Techniques

What Kind of People Benefit From Stress Management?

People come to me with all manner of issues. They 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 at present.

However they've either reached a crisis or challenge in their lives or they 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.

To give you an idea, these are just some of the issues I've been able to make a real difference with:
• People who are unhappy with relationships at home or at work - partners, parents, colleagues etc.
• People who are sick or who have sick relatives
• People who feel they are being victimised
• People who are maybe outwardly confident but inside lack self-esteem
• People who are outwardly lacking in confidence
• People who feel, 'there must be more to life than this!'
• People who are afraid of conflict
• People who need to communicate or establish better relationships with colleagues
• People who are phobic, anxious and fearful
• People who are negative, self-critical and unhappy
• People with major life and career decisions to make
• People who need help with presentation skills & negotiation techniques
• People who are taking key examinations
• People who feel out of control and overwhelmed
and that's just an example. If you have a particular issue you feel you need help with, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Author's Bio: 

Annie is a specialist in Stress Management, qualified in Stress Management, Hypnotherapy, Psychotherapy, NLP & Reiki.

I spent over 20 years in the advertising industry, reaching Board level.
However in the last 3 years in my career, my boss sold the company without securing my future, changes occurred which I found challenging, I found myself having to prove myself all over again and frankly, by the end of it, I burned out. My relationship was at breaking point and so was my heart and I just didn't understand why. I spent a lot of time being very self-critical and generally negative, despite my belief that I had always been a positive person.

In the end, I was made redundant, my marriage failed and my Father died. This was honestly my darkest hour.

So thank goodness then, that, whilst searching for a hobby to keep me in some way sane, I found a Stress Management Diploma Course. The course took me 18 months to complete and the training has not stopped since! Within 6 months of starting it, I realised that THIS was what I wanted to do.

I wish I'd known what I've learned through my stress management training 20 years ago. Life would have been a lot simpler and far happier!

Subsequently, I've found a new partner who I feel lucky to be with, I divide my time between London, New York and the South of Spain, work in Stress Management, Wellbeing & Personal Development and consider myself to be the luckiest person on the planet bar none!

By teaching others what I know and working with people to overcome their own challenges using a variety of proven and effective techniques, I can help them reach the happy, healthy and fulfilled state that is everyone's right and there for the taking, if we're prepared to devote some time to looking after ourselves and to challenge a few of our beliefs and patterns.

My range of Stress-relieving CDs are available on Amazon, through New World Music and via my website www.breathingspacetherapies.com.

Annie is invited regularly to speak about her specialist subject at events. She has written articles for traditional and online publications consumer publications

Memberships include The Worshipful Company of Marketors,
Complementary Medical Association
International Stress Management Association