Strategies for Stress Management
Stress. If you’re a human being living in today’s world, then chances are you’ve felt it.
You know the feeling: you can’t focus. You find yourself constantly worrying about projects at work. Your stomach hurts, and you’re eating too much (or maybe you’ve completely lost your appetite). And you don't even know when you last got a good night’s rest.
Stress is a common human experience, no matter what your background is. But that doesn’t mean that it’s your fate to be stressed out all the time if you’re human. By working with an experienced, compassionate, and down-to-earth psychologist at Reimagine Psychology Melbourne, you can learn tools to manage your stress in healthy ways and live a happy and balanced life.
What is Stress?
Stress is the emotional response to an overwhelming situation. It’s actually biological 一 all sorts of physical changes happen in your nervous system when you’re under a lot of stress.
Your stress response lets you go into fight, flight, or freeze mode when you need to, so it’s not a completely terrible thing. Stress is helpful in some situations.
And that’s actually helpful in certain situations 一 for example, if you’re running for your life from a tyrannosaurus rex (just humor us!), the biological changes that happen under stress will allow you to run faster, get more oxygen to your brain quicker, and have more blood flowing to your limbs. Different chemicals are released in the brain, like cortisol and adrenaline. These things, and more, happen during the body’s stress response.
It’s when you’re under chronic stress that it becomes harmful to your health. Unlike our ancestors, most of us feel stressed under circumstances that aren’t life-threatening; for example, we might be really stressed about an upcoming deadline. Some situations that might cause us to be under chronic stress are life-threatening - like being in an abusive relationship, for example - and the stress might act as an important alarm that something needs to change.
But our bodies weren’t designed to be under stress all the time. Living with high levels of cortisol and other stress hormones in your body can lead to high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and even a chronically high blood sugar, which can lead to an increased risk for diabetes complications.
Chronically high stress levels also make you more susceptible to developing mental illnesses like depression.
When Stress Becomes Chronic
How Common is Stress?
People all around the world are stressed, and Australia is no different. Over 2 million Australians reported feeling very high levels of stress in a recent study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a number that is consistently rising. Another survey found that up to 75% of Australians feel that stress is impacting their physical health.
These are alarming numbers, but perhaps the silver lining is that we’re all in it together. Nothing’s wrong with you if you’ve been under a lot of stress. Stress is a completely normal experience, and all of us have gone through it at some point or another.
How Does Stress Affect You?
Stress is sneaky - it can look differently for everyone. However, there are many common stress symptoms that a lot of people face when they’re under a lot of stress. Take note if you’ve experienced any of the following lately. If you have, that might be a sign of being stressed.
Feeling anxious or worried almost all the time. Maybe you find yourself thinking about that work deadline when you're out with your family, for example.
Being more irritable. You’re snapping at others more often than you usually would. For example, your colleague forgets to do something they promised, and you get angrier with them than you normally would.
Having mood swings. Mood swings are when you feel one way one minute, and feel totally differently the next. Maybe in the morning, you wake up feeling pretty good about your day, only to feel horrible a couple hours later for no obvious reason.
Drinking or using drugs more often than before. A lot of people feel like the only way to get away from stress completely is by escaping into alcohol and drugs. Unfortunately, that only makes things worse; once you sober up, you’ll likely feel more stressed than before.
Isolating from your friends and family. If you’ve found yourself not reaching out to your loved ones as much as you usually do, that could be a sign of stress.
How Does Stress Affect Your Body?
Aches and pains
Feeling tired or low energy
Grinding your teeth at night
Insomnia or other sleep problems
Lower sex drive
More headaches than usual
Tightness in your chest
Of course, all of these could be signs of a more serious (physical or mental) illness, so it’s important to talk to a doctor if you’re facing any of these symptoms.
Like we talked about earlier, a huge part of stress is physical. So it makes sense that many stress symptoms are physical, too. Some signs of stress to watch out for in your body are:
How a Psychologist Can Help: Strategies for Stress Management
Stress is normal, but that doesn’t mean that chronic high stress should be normalised. By that, we mean that there are ways to manage stress so that it doesn’t get in the way of a happy and fulfilling life.
Being “busy” is glamorized in our society, and sometimes, it almost feels like if you’re not busy, then you’re doing something wrong. But being busy all the time doesn’t give you enough time to bring down your body’s stress response 一 which is really harmful to your health. No matter what society says, you don’t need to continue living the way you have. A certain amount of “busyness” and stress might be unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to run your life all the time.
Our psychologists can help you figure out what changes can be made in your life. Is there any change that would make a tangible difference in your stress levels? For example, maybe you can change your work schedule, or set boundaries with family. Maybe setting aside some time for self-care might make a difference for you.
We can also help equip you with healthy stress management strategies. There are so many healthy ways to manage stress - from cognitive behavioural techniques to mindfulness exercises - and we understand that what works for someone else might not work for you. Some people think running is a great stress reliever, and others feel even more stressed out at the thought of running. Some people find classical music soothing, and others hate it.
Everyone is different. We’ll always keep it real with you, and you’ll always get the final say on what stress management strategies might be realistic to implement into your life right now.
Schedule an Appointment in Melbourne or Online
If you’re feeling the weight of the stress you’re carrying around, you’re not alone. And there are ways to gently give yourself a break from carrying around so much weight. Our team of psychologists at Reimagine Psychology Melbourne is here for you and rooting for you. With our support and encouragement, you can learn and implement techniques for stress management that work for you.
For more information or to book an appointment with one of our experienced Psychologists, call the team at Reimagine Psychology Melbourne on (03) 8330 5588 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.