On Friday 24 July, it’s Lifeline’s Stress Down Day. Lifeline is encouraging you to reflect on your stress levels and to start stressing down…

But what causes you stress in the first place? Is it stress in the workplace? In the home? Is the pandemic and the continous lockdowns? Or maybe it’s a combination of factors?

As we are all unique, what may cause stress for one person, may be a mere hiccup for another.

Work

For some people, work causes them stress. It could be working to unrealistic deadlines, dealing with an overloaded inbox, or working from home during the pandemic and home schooling at the same time…

Relationships

For others, it’s relationships with their loved ones or peers that can cause them stress. This can include disagreements with family members, children misbehaving or not wishing to get off the internet, or demanding and needy friends.

Other stressors

Other common triggers for stress include the current global pandemic and the social distancing and isolation this has caused for many people.

Finances can also be a constant source of stress, such as looming bills, mortgage repayments or car repairs. During the pandemic, many people have lost their jobs or are working reduced hours, and this has added additional pressures to the family budget…

Some other common examples include lack of sleep, trying to quit smoking or cut down on alcohol, public transport or traffic accidents, as well as public speaking, sitting exams, job interviews and losing your wallet or keys.

For most Australians, finances and family issues remain the leading causes of stress (1).

Stress is a physical reaction

When we experience stress, our survival mechanism of ‘fight, flight or freeze’ kicks in and we experience a range of symptoms.

The symptoms we can experience can include both physical ones such as tensing your jaw and muscles plus headaches, as well as psychological ones, such as feeling anxious, irritable, not being able to concentrate, and overall feeling a sense of overwhelm and feeling out of control.

What symptoms do you experience when you feel stressed? And how do you manage your stress?

As the experience of stress is very individual, so too, is how we handle stress, as what may work for one person, may not necessarily work for another.

What’s important however, is finding what works for you and putting this into practice consistently to help you manage your stress both in the short term and long term.

So what can you do? These 5 tips can help:

1. Take some positive action

Firstly, start by identifying what is actually causing you stress and then reflect on what constructive and effective action you could take moving forward to help you.

Think about how you’ve coped in the past and what has or hasn’t worked for you. Reflect on what you will do this time, and put your plan into action, and if it doesn’t work, it’s important to try a different approach.

Take control and take the necessary steps that are needed to help reduce or manage the stress that you’re experiencing.

If you are currently experiencing ongoing stress as a result of the pandemic, and are struggling to move forward in a positive way, please speak to your doctor as soon as possible, and please seek professional help. Please see tip number 5 for further information about this…

2. Do some deep breathing

Take a moment to breathe deeply. Breathing deeply triggers our body to produce endorphins; this leaves us feeling much more in control in a short amount of time.

Deep breathing also lowers the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies, and can help bring clarity to the situation at hand. Give yourself a moment to breathe deeply, to reflect on the situation that is causing you stress, and to think about what positive action you can take to move forward.

3. Exercise

It is well established that exercise releases endorphins and helps to elevate and stabilise our moods.

Physical activity reduces the levels of the stress hormones in our body. It relieves physical tension and brings a sense of calm.

Even a short 10 minute walk can do wonders. It can leave you feeling energised, and can help increase your clarity about the steps that you need to take to help reduce or manage the stress you’re experiencing.

If you’re working from home, it’s important to take regular breaks away from the screen and if possible, to take a short walk outside (or around the block) to help you re-energise and reset for the next part of your day…

4. Prioritise your health

When feeling stressed, we tend to seek comfort foods to suppress what we are feeling, thinking and experiencing. Instead, aim to eat healthy nutritious foods which will help boost your mood, energy and concentration.

Aim to get a good night’s sleep – it will help to clear your mind and can help bring a different perspective to what you’re experiencing, as a well as a possible solution moving forward.

Try and also take some time out to recharge the batteries. Listen to your favourite music, take a bath, read your favourite book, watch cat videos – do what makes you happy.

5. Talk to someone about it

Spend time with the people who care about you and share your thoughts and feelings with them. This may include debriefing with a loved one or a trusted colleague.

If you’re experiencing high levels of stress and your health and wellbeing is truly compromised, then speak to your doctor or seek some professional counselling. Counselling can help increase your self-awareness and understanding of the issue at hand, can help you reframe your thinking patterns, and can also help improve your decision making skills in managing stressful situations in the long term.

Find what works for you

Stress can be managed effectively. It’s important to find strategies that work for you and to put them into practice. If one strategy isn’t working, reflect on what you could try instead so you can keep moving forward in a positive way by remaining in control and taking charge of your own health and wellbeing.

Don’t forget to breathe, to prioritise your health, to exercise and when feeling overwhelmed and out of control, to talk to someone about it.

If you are experiencing long periods of stress, it’s important to seek professional help…

For further information about Stress Down Day, visit Lifeline’s Stress Down Day’s initiative.

Until next time wishing you all great health and wellbeing.

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REFERENCE:

1. Casey L & Pui-Tak Liang R. (2014). Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2014. The state of the nation three years on, and special feature on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Australian Psychological Society.