What is Stress?

Stress is a normal and natural response to challenges and demands in life. It is the body’s way of preparing to cope with a situation or problem. However, when stress becomes chronic or overwhelming, it can have negative impacts on physical and mental health.

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When a person is under stress, their body releases stress hormones, such as cortisol, which can affect various systems in the body. Some common physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Changes in sex drive

In addition to physical symptoms, stress can also affect a person’s emotional and mental well-being. Some common emotional and mental symptoms of stress include:

  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Negative thinking or feelings of hopelessness
  • Depression or anxiety

It is important for individuals to learn how to manage stress effectively in order to maintain their physical and mental health. Some effective strategies for managing stress include:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Managing time effectively
  • Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation
  • Seeking support from trusted friends and family

If stress becomes overwhelming or interferes with a person’s ability to function in their daily life, it is important to seek support from a mental health professional. A mental health professional can help individuals identify the root causes of their stress and develop strategies to manage their stress and improve their overall well-being.

If we don’t know how to cope with circumstances, we can often turn to things like substances and avoidance behaviours, which further entrench our stress. We rob ourselves of the skills to actually process our feelings and take control of our lives. It’s always tragic to live too much of our lives on autopilot.

Some of us somatize when we’re overly stressed or burnt out. Somatization is the process of experiencing physical symptoms as a result of emotional or psychological distress. When a person is under chronic stress, they may be more likely to experience physical symptoms as a result of their stress.

Stress affects us profoundly, there’s an entire peer-reviewed journal called the Neurobiology of Stress studying it.

The neurobiology of stress refers to the ways in which stress affects the functioning of the brain and the body. When a person is under stress, their body releases stress hormones, such as cortisol, which can affect various systems in the body.

One important area of the brain that is involved in the stress response is the amygdala, which is responsible for detecting threats and activating the body’s stress response. When the amygdala senses a threat, it sends a signal to the hypothalamus, which then activates the body’s stress response by releasing stress hormones.

The stress response involves the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which increases heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. It also involves the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which can affect various systems in the body, including the immune system and the digestive system.

Chronic stress can have negative impacts on physical and mental health. It can contribute to the development of conditions such as:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Depression
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Memory impairment

How does Psychotherapy help with stress?

Psychotherapy is an effective treatment for stress and can help individuals identify and address the underlying causes of their stress. Some common approaches to psychotherapy that may be used to treat stress include:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps individuals identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their stress. It may involve setting goals, tracking progress, and developing coping strategies to manage stress.

  • Mindfulness-based therapy: This approach involves helping individuals pay attention to their present-moment experiences in a non-judgmental way. It may involve techniques such as mindfulness meditation, which can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and feelings and respond to stress in a more balanced way.
  • Psychodynamic therapy: This approach focuses on helping individuals understand and explore their unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that may be contributing to their stress. It may involve exploring past experiences and relationships and how they are affecting current behavior.
  • Emotion-focused therapy: This approach helps individuals identify and understand their emotions and learn how to manage and express them in a healthy way. It may involve techniques such as emotion regulation skills and mindfulness practices.

Overall, psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for stress by helping individuals identify and address the underlying causes of their stress and develop coping strategies to manage their stress and improve their overall well-being. It is important for individuals who are struggling with stress to seek support from a mental health professional to address their challenges and improve their quality of life.

Your therapist will work with you to support you applying a blend of modalities based on the context. Everyone’s experience of stress is unique and that’s why Psychotherapy has to be tailored to the individual. Trust the experts to help you through this.

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More often than not, medication is not recommended as the first line of defence or primary solution for stress. Relying on medication may deter addressing underlying issues, perpetuating stressors. Rather than masking stress symptoms, addressing the root causes through psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and stress management techniques is advised. These approaches promote long-term resilience and coping skills, fostering a holistic and sustainable approach to stress reduction. Utilizing medication should be considered judiciously, with a focus on comprehensive strategies for stress management and overall well-being.

Yes, persistent stress is linked to various medical issues. It can result in chronic headaches, escalating in intensity over time. Insomnia, chest pain, and rapid heartbeats are common stress-related problems. Individuals frequently exposed to stress have an increased risk of heart-related issues. While these associations exist, it’s essential to note that effective stress management can mitigate these health risks. Implementing strategies such as relaxation techniques, exercise, and seeking support can significantly reduce the impact of stress on physical health, promoting overall well-being and minimizing the potential for stress-related medical complications.

While there’s limited direct evidence linking stress to weight gain, a substantial correlation exists. Stress often prompts unhealthy eating habits and overconsumption. Additionally, individuals under stress may experience low energy levels, leading to a more sedentary lifestyle. The combination of poor dietary choices and reduced physical activity can contribute to weight gain. While stress itself may not be the sole cause, its influence on lifestyle factors plays a significant role in weight management. Implementing stress-reducing strategies and adopting healthy habits are crucial for maintaining a balanced lifestyle and mitigating the potential for stress-induced weight gain.

Eustress is a moderate level of stress perceived as advantageous. It is also known as the optimal level of stress; a push without being overwhelmed. Examples include the stress felt during a first date, job interview, or work presentation. In these instances, stress serves as positive motivation, enhancing focus, energy, skill acquisition, and goal achievement. Eustress stands in contrast to distress, the detrimental stress causing overwhelm and disrupting mood, sleep, and overall health. Recognizing the positive role of eustress highlights its beneficial impact on performance and personal growth, emphasizing the importance of managing stress levels within a manageable and constructive range for optimal well-being.