Jo Wilson and Andy Coley from Beyond NLP look at how stress manifests itself and the affect this has on those around and the overall healthcare system.

Physical Impact of Stress and how to avoid itAccording to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), stress is “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other demands placed on them”.

So what actually is stress? One definition is that it is ‘the feeling of being under pressure’. Of course a small amount of that pressure can increase productivity, be motivating and improve performance.  However, too much pressure, or prolonged pressure, can lead to an overwhelming feeling of stress which can then lead to a number of physical symptoms including difficulty sleeping, sweating, lack of appetite and difficulty in concentrating.

In times of high stress the symptoms are many and varied including chest pains, dizziness, changes in behaviour, feeling restless and even difficulties in sexual performance and ultimately it can lead to high blood pressure which, as we know, is a major cause of heart attack or stroke.

So who’s putting us under all this pressure?  Is it the outside world and everyone else that causes your stress or ultimately is it down to you (unwittingly) creating that stress and thus the physical conditions associated with it? This may seem like a rhetorical question as people affected by stress feel that they have no choice, yet it is the empowerment of themselves to realise they do have a choice in their reaction that can really make the difference. As we put it in NLP terms – moving from being at effect of circumstances, situations or people to being at cause or in control of what’s happening.

The work we do within NLP is based around the Epistemology model from respected social scientist Gregory Bateson who in turn developed his thinking from the original epistemology work of metaphysical writer James Ferrier.  This model looks at how we take in and process information using our senses and our filters, resulting in a unique view of what’s occurred based on our previous experiences, memories, values, beliefs and so on.  This then forms our internal representation of how we view or react to an event which then manifests a chain of state of mind, physiology (physical symptoms) and behaviours.

This therefore means that we are able to actually affect our physiology by changing our behaviours, our state of mind or even our internal representation of the ‘stressful’ event. With a similar outcome to CBT and person -centred counselling, NLP empowers a change in the meaning of the experience that a person holds in their head to affect the way they feel and thus change the physical symptoms at the same time.

This is also true with physical exercise, the change in hormones affects our internal state and the ‘stress’  does not seem the same, it may not have actually gone but how we feel about the situation will have changed, it can’t not have.

We find that people are too stuck ‘in’ their stressful state in order to see what’s wrong. They tend to generalise a situation and use phrases such as ‘everything is wrong’, ‘he always does this to me’, ‘I never have enough time’ and so on.  If you actually start to challenge those limiting beliefs you find that underlying those generalisations is usually a specific instance/time/set of circumstances/ person or lack of skills that is actually the cause of the stress.

The ability to allow the client or patient to ‘take a step back’ and look at the situation, without taking on the emotions associated with being in the situation , gives rise to new opportunities to learn from what’s happening and then take control through a positive enabling action.

Once people feel more in control and take action towards resolving their own problems, using a solution-based approach that is appropriate and ecological for their situation, they are more than half-way to resolving their stress.  This change in their own state will then come present in a positive change in their behaviours and interactions with friends, family, colleagues and clients.

Our Master Class at the forthcoming Public Health Conference on the 11th October at the Brewery in London will be looking at stress and how the prevention or management of stress and owning health outcomes is vital within public health. We look forward to providing some innovative and easily implemented methods of achieving this at our Master Class and also with discussing the many other ways we can assist organisations to meet the current challenges within health care at our stand.

Ultimately it is ourselves who choose to let a situation create a stressful state of mind and the good news is that we also have the control to take a step back, learn from it and then choose a different state of mind going forward.  This can only be good news for our bodies and of course good for the healthcare system as we see less stressed people and are treated by those who are less stressed in themselves!

Andy and Jo specialise in providing training that makes a difference to health professionals and those passionate about health and development and look forward to discussing the current challenges within your area and providing you with ways to empower the change needed.

Visit for more information about what they will be discussing at the Public Health Event.