Stress is a common and universal experience, but too much stress can impact one’s health and wellbeing. Without relief, excessive stress can lead to a range of undesirable outcomes.

Are Australians stressed?

In 2015, the Australian Psychological Association conducted a national survey and found that the top five causes of stress in Australia over the past five years are:

  1. Personal finances – 49%
  2. Family issues – 45%
  3. Personal health – 44%
  4. Trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle – 40% and
  5. Issues with the health of others close to us – 38%

It also highlighted that Australians are faring worse than they were in 2011 when the survey began. Australians are reporting lower levels of wellbeing and workplace wellbeing and higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety symptoms. Thirty-five per cent of Australians reported having a significant level of distress in their lives.

In a more recent report published in 2018, it was revealed that 1 in 3 employees who work across a range of workplaces live with some form of a mental health condition, including:

  • 31% living with stress
  • 33% living with anxiety
  • 36% living with depression

This latest research also revealed that some people with mental health issues had sought help, but it was low at only 17%. Furthermore, less than half of the Australians surveyed, felt comfortable revealing that were experiencing a mental health issue to their manager. This highlights that more needs to be done to raise the profile of mental health issues, and to reduce the stigma associated with it.

Is this you?

If this is you, do not hesitate to seek professional help. Depression and anxiety can be prevented and treated. Tackling anxiety and depression (and stress) early helps prevent symptoms from becoming worse…

An important element of recovery is talking about it, whether with a family member, a close friend, a trusted colleague or a health professional.

Talking about mental health issues in the workplace or school setting as well as online, helps people to overcome the stigma often associated with depression, and encourages more people to seek help.

If you’re currently suffering from depression (and anxiety), have a chat with people you care and trust. Seek the professional help that you deserve – speak to your family doctor for an assessment, and for further information and support; this is the first step towards recovery from anxiety and depression.

Are you currently experiencing stress?

Do you currently feel overwhelmed and out of control? Do you feel that you’re not able to cope with stress effectively and that it’s impacting your health, work, relationships and overall wellbeing?

If yes, you can take positive action to manage and reduce your stress and improve your health and wellbeing.

These six tips can show you how…

1. Identify your triggers and symptoms

Firstly, think about what is causing you stress – identify the source and learn to recognise the symptoms when you experience them.

The symptoms vary from individual to individual but often include feeling irritable and fatigued, headaches, muscle tension and insomnia.

2. Take control and plan on how you will cope

Once you have identified the triggers and symptoms, think about how you could deal with the stress or how you’ve coped in the past. There are many ways to deal with stress and finding what works for you is important.

Take control by taking the necessary steps that are right for you. This may include debriefing with a colleague or loved one, learning to say ‘no’, taking some time out by going for a short walk around the block, or establishing set routines.

Make the time to prioritise your daily activities, organise your time (without over-extending yourself), and then commit to following your plan.

 3. Look after your health

Eat healthy nutritious foods, get to bed at a reasonable time and exercise daily to help boost your mood, energy and concentration. A good night’s sleep can do wonders in clearing your mind and can help you better tackle your day.

Spend time with people who care, and share your thoughts with them. Another option is to write your thoughts down in a journal. Notice your ‘self-talk’ – is it positive (“I can cope”) or negative (“I can’t cope”; “this is too hard”; “it’s not fair”)?

Even when our life isn’t going according to plan, take some time to focus on what is good in your life. The research shows that people who keep a gratitude journal are better able to cope with life’s challenges – it helps put things into perspective and helps to build resilience.

4. Participate in pleasurable activities

What helps you relax? What activities make you happy? Spend time doing the things you enjoy doing including listening to music, spending time with your family, playing with your children, gardening, reading, painting – the choice is yours.

Every positive decision you make is a step in the right direction. Aim to do this daily and your health and wellbeing will improve.

5. Practice relaxation exercises 

Give yourself permission to take a break and practice some meditation, mindfulness and relaxation exercises. Just a few long deep breaths can be done anywhere and at any time of the day, and can reduce the stress you’re experiencing.

Rather than focusing on the past or what might happen in the future, be mindful and bring your thoughts back to the present moment without judgement.

Accept that you are doing the best you can and that the future will sort itself out…

6. Seek professional help

If you’re struggling, or are experiencing chronic (and/or high) levels of stress, seek professional help. This also applies to anxiety and depression.

If you feel that you’re not making any progress and that your health and wellbeing is truly compromised, then speak to your doctor.

Ask for additional support from loved ones and look for other professional services which can help you get back on track, and find the balance and harmony you need…

Until next time, wishing you all great health and wellbeing!

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