Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or pressure.
The amount of stress you feel can depend on your attitude to a particular situation. An event that may be extremely stressful for one person can be a mere hiccup for another person.
When the term ‘stress’ is used in a clinical sense, it refers to a situation that causes discomfort and distress for a person and can lead to other mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.
Feelings of stress can affect all of us
You may feel under pressure to do something and fear you may fail. The more important the outcome, the more stressed you feel.
You can feel stressed by external situations (too much work, children misbehaving) and by internal triggers (the way you think about external situations).
It’s not always a bad thing
Some people thrive on stress and even need it to get things done. For example, a small amount of stress, like meeting a deadline, can actually be helpful.
Signs of stress
There are some signs which indicate our stress levels are affecting us in a negative way:
- Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
- Feeling ‘on edge’ or unable to stop worrying
- Difficulty sleeping, fatigue and exhaustion
- Changes in appetite
- Physical reactions such as headaches, muscle tension, upset stomach, and difficulty concentrating
- Changes in mood and irritability
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Thoughts of suicide
- Reliance on alcohol or other substances to cope.
Effects of stress
Stress affects us in many ways, including:
- Emotionally – anxiety, depression, tension, anger
- The way we think – poor concentration, forgetfulness, indecisiveness, apathy, hopelessness
- Behaviourally – increased drinking and smoking, insomnia, accident proneness, weight problems, obsessive-compulsive behaviour, nervousness, gambling.
Stress may also contribute to physical illness such as cardiovascular disease. When stress turns into a serious illness, it’s important to get professional help as soon as possible.
How to manage stress
The old saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is certainly true for stress management. It will help if you:
- Exercise regularly – regular exercise is a great way to manage stress. You should do some form of exercise that causes you to feel puffed afterwards – a leisurely stroll to the bus stop is not enough! Have at least 20 minutes of exercise three times a week
- Avoid conflict – avoid situations that make you feel stressed such as unnecessary arguments and conflict (although ignoring a problem is not always the best way to reduce stress). Assertiveness is fine but becoming distressed is not
- Relax – give yourself some time to relax each day and try to spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself
- Eat well – a nutritious diet is important. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and avoid sweet and fatty foods
- Sleep – a good sleep routine is essential. If you have difficulty falling asleep, do something calm and relaxing before you go to bed like listening to music or reading
- Enjoy your life – it’s important to make time to have some fun and to get a balance in your life.
How to get help
Start with your GP for a check-up.
Your GP may refer you for some specialised help. This may include a member of our on-site allied health team such as a psychologist, physiotherapist or exercise physiologist.
There are also some great support services available, such as Lifeline.
The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can get on top of your stress levels and feel more equipped to cope.
Note: This information is of a general nature only and should not be substituted for medical advice. It does not replace consultations with qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual medical needs.