‘I was in a very dark place - I didn’t want to get out of bed, didn’t want to see anyone, my relationship with my husband wasn’t good and I was signed off work’, Petra Kelliher-Dukes shared with me when we first met.
‘I just wanted to get my old self back – I used to be so confident, outgoing and sociable’ she continued.
Research shows our bodies take control of us when life becomes out of control. And that’s what had happened to 46-year-old Petra from Nottingham.
‘A panic attack is an extreme form of our bodies controlling us’, explains Felicity. ‘Our bodies respond to excessive stress with fight, flight or freeze. That response is helpful for when it’s needed. But it also happens when we are under too much pressure. And that’s unhelpful.
Stress makes us ill
At Bodylibrium we work identify where stress can be managed better. We are human beings, not human doings. If we do too much, we forget how to ‘be’; if we are too anxious; we don’t relax. And if we don’t relax, we don’t sleep well.
Another example of unhelpful stress is when we become scared unnecessarily of something, such as flying or a particular animal. That ‘phobia’ can develop into bigger fears.
When fears become phobias
Ten-year-old Emily came to see me because she was scared of dogs. Emily isn’t her real name – I’m protecting her identity because she’s a child. But her story is important to share. Because Emily’s phobia of dogs had got out of hand – she had become scared of leaving her home.
When Emily was two years old she’d been bitten by the family dog. Over the years that fear developed into a fear of cats, rabbits – in fact all animals. Over a few weeks Emily and I faced and conquered her fears.
Stress, anxiety and children
I’m increasingly seeing children and young people with anxiety and depression. It seems the pressures of work/school/life balance are getting worse from a younger age.
We learn how to take decisions from a very young age. Sometimes we get more anxious than others. If we are able to problem solve around that anxiety, we can stay in control.
If that decision taking process becomes the problem, then anxiety gets out of control, and our bodies take over. That vicious cycle of worrying thoughts starts and we become less and less able to get off the anxiety hamster wheel.
Why stress can be a killer
As Petra and Emily found, once we learn techniques to take back control of our bodies and jump off that anxiety hamster wheel, life starts to get easier, very quickly.
Tell-tell signs of chronic stress include not being able to sleep, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, fears/uncontrollable worry and panic attacks.
Studies show this constant or ‘chronic/toxic’ stress causes illnesses such as some cancers, heart disease and stroke, and shortens life.
So getting back in control of our bodies not only makes us feel better, it means we will live longer and in better health.