Stress

Stress is a common feeling we all experience at times. Some stress is good for us and helps us to perform our best. But when we are under too much stress for too long, our performance decreases and our overall health and wellbeing is affected.

Knowing how to manage stress, set limits, problem-solve, engage in self-care and take time out is necessary for everybody.

Top tips for dealing with stress:

  1. Learn how to recognise stress and ways to cope with it.
  2. Engage in techniques to help you relax.
  3. Learn skills you can use every day such as effective problem solving, healthy communication and healthy thinking.
  4. Develop a healthy work-life balance by staying physically active, eating a balanced diet, establishing good sleeping patterns, and making time for pleasurable activities and people who are important to you.
  5. Spend time with people who can support you when you’re feeling stressed.

Read more about beating stress.

What is stress?

Stress is our body’s natural reaction to any kind of excess demand or threat. What causes stress for you may not be stressful for someone else.

Stress can come from many sources such as health issues, relationship problems, workplace, paying the bills, deadlines, exams, or even unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves.

Sometimes stress is helpful as it can motivate you to meet a deadline or get things done. But long-term stress can increase the risk of conditions like:

A stress-related illness called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop after an event like war, physical or sexual assault, or a natural disaster.

Symptoms of long-term stress

As mentioned, in small doses, stress can be useful – we work faster, are more motivated and focused or can achieve a challenging physical goal. On the other hand, long-term stress can be harmful.

Common symptoms caused by long-term stress include:

  • headaches, muscle tension, neck or back pain
  • dry mouth
  • feeling anxious, or jittery
  • being more irritable or angry than normal
  • overeating or loss of appetite and not eating well
  • upset stomach
  • chest pains, rapid heartbeat
  • not sleeping
  • feeling tired, flat, down or 'worn out'
  • finding it hard to concentrate or focus
  • needing coffee, energy drinks or sugar buzz to keep going
  • increased skin infections, mouth ulcers, colds, rashes or asthma.

Managing stress

According to the Mayo Clinic in the US, when you learn to manage your stress, you will find peace of mind and have a longer, healthier life. The most recent thinking on stress management has found that you should tackle it before the symptoms appear, which means learning to recognise what sparks stress in your daily life.

In order to beat stress effectively you need to have a grab-bag of anti-stressing tools that you use often and proactively before your body's stress response fully kicks in. The more anti-stressing tools you can learn the better. Here are some to help you get started:

  • do something you find relaxing
  • breath deeply, from your diaprahgm
  • eat well
  • listen to music
  • practice mindfulness meditation
  • exercise regularly
  • take frequent breaks
  • talk with someone
  • get as much sleep as you can.

Read more about these and other anti-stressing techniques.

Self care when you're feeling stressed

Stress is a normal part of life and can be either positive or negative. If stress has got to the point where you feel overwhelmed and are finding it hard to relax, then you need to do something about it.

You may find it helps to:

  • Talk with someone who will listen and provide good support and advice if you want it.
  • Review all the sources of stress in your life – what can be reduced, stopped or changed to take some pressure off.
  • Problem-solve and action plan to help break things down into doable steps.
  • Look at your lifestyle and make sure you are eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep and exercise.

Who can I talk to if I'm feeling stressed?

If you have tried the tips above and are still feeling stressed, the best person to go to for help initially is your doctor. They may:

  • offer stress reduction techniques or direct you to courses that teach stress reduction
  • draw up a stress management plan and monitor your stress over time
  • refer you for psychotherapy or counselling or talk to you about medication if it is appropriate for you.

Learn more

What is anxiety? beyondblue, 2015
What is depression?  beyondblue, 2015
Problem Solving Worksheet BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information, 2009
Online Life Skills Resource Living Life to the Full

References

  1. National Library of Medicine USA
Credits: Editorial team.