Everyone feels stressed from time to time, but what is stress? How does it affect your overall health? And what can you do to manage your stress?
What is stress?
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body’s defences kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the “stress response.” The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you.
Does stress affect everyone?
Yes – stress does affect everyone, and everyone will experience stress from time to time. There are different types of stress—all of which carry physical and mental health risks. A stressor may be a one-time or short-term occurrence, or it can happen repeatedly over a long time. Some people may cope with stress more effectively and recover from stressful events quicker than others.
Examples of stress include:
> Routine stress related to the pressures of school, work, family, and other daily responsibilities.
> Stress brought about by a sudden negative change, such as losing a job, divorce, or illness.
> Traumatic stress experienced during an event such as a major accident, war, assault, or natural disaster where people may be in danger of being seriously hurt or killed. People who experience traumatic stress may have very distressing temporary emotional and physical symptoms, but most recover naturally soon after.
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
You can try a few of these more ‘practical’ strategies for managing stress when feeling overwhelmed and finding it difficult to cope:
> Set goals and priorities – you may decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say “no” to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much. Try to be mindful of what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have been unable to do.
> Stay connected – yes, this means not withdrawing as you are not alone. Keep in touch with friends or others who can provide emotional support and practical help. To reduce stress, ask for help from friends, family and community or religious organizations.
How Can Positive Wellbeing Psychology Help?
You may benefit from talking to a warm and nurturing Psychologist to help understand what is causing stress and maintaining the cycle. At Positive Wellbeing Psychology, we are experienced in a range of proven techniques to help reduce stress. Our warm and caring psychologists in clinical practice are available online Australia wide, experienced in stress management and effective psychological treatments for managing stress, including cognitive-behaviour therapy and mindfulness based strategies.