Stress is a feeling of being overwhelmed, tense or worried. It is usually related to feeling under pressure in some way, whether at work, school, university, socially or domestically. A moderate amount of stress can be helpful for propelling us forward into action. However, becoming over-stressed can be harmful to health and impairs our ability to function optimally.
Prolonged levels of stress are associated with a number of physical and mental health problems, including:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Moodiness or tearfulness
- Concentration problems
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
- Heart disease
At Strategic Psychology in Canberra, our psychologists are trained to assist clients in developing stress management strategies that are based on empirically sound, tried and tested methods. We are passionate about assisting people in Canberra to address the challenges that may arise as a result of stress management difficulties.
If you are currently experiencing problems with stress, you may benefit from the following simple strategies.
Identifying stress triggers and early warning signs
It is helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
- What situations make me stressed? (E.g. running late for an appointment and not being able to find a car park) – You may be able to avoid them or learn to respond differently when they occur.
- How does my body feel when I am stressed? (E.g. Racing heart, sweating, tight chest, muscle tension) – The earlier you recognise these, the more able you will be to make changes to decrease your stress levels
Daily and weekly routines can assist in reducing stress. Routines can include:
- Regular times for exercise and relaxation
- Regular meal times, bedtimes and wake times
- Planning ahead to do particular jobs on set days of the week
Seek social support regularly
Spending time with friends and family members whom you care about, and those who care about you, is an important part of managing ongoing life stress. It is particularly important to spend time with people who are uplifting and supportive, rather than demanding and emotionally draining. This enables you to share your thoughts and feelings with others, rather than bottling up negative feelings.
Ensure you are eating healthy food, exercising regularly and taking time for leisure activities that are calming (e.g. music, walking). Avoid using substances such as caffeine, alcohol or cannabis to cope with stress.
Develop more balanced thinking
It is common for people who are easily stressed to experiencing exaggerated and illogical thoughts (e.g. ‘I can’t cope! Everything is out of control!’). Try to develop and practice more balanced responses to difficult situations that involve being kinder to yourself and others (e.g. ‘This is not the end of the world and being stressed will not help me accomplish my tasks’).
Use mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness involves the ability to notice your inner and outer world without ‘fusing’ with it – this occurs by noticing that you are separate from your thoughts and feelings in the same way that you are separate from an object in the room. Mindfulness meditation slows things down so that you become more self-aware. This opens up more choices about how to react to various feelings, thoughts and situations that arise.
For instance, you may be aware that you went from Point A (totally calm) to Point Z (completely stressed out). Mindfulness enables you to notice the subtle shifts from Point A to point B (mildly aroused), C (thinking ‘I can’t cope with this’) etc. Time will slow down as you notice each individual point from A to Z in the moment in which the shifts occur. This offers you new points in time in which you can choose different ways of reacting to your stress before you reach ‘’completely stressed out’ mode.
If you live in the Canberra region and feel that you may benefit from further training in stress management skills, you can contact Strategic Psychology to arrange to see one of our psychologists. We can assist you in identifying the issues that are causing and maintaining your difficulties and recommend strategies that draw on your strengths and passions in order to achieve optimal social, emotional and academic functioning.
Australian Psychology Society. (2015). Understanding and managing stress. Retrieved from the Australian Psychological Society website: http://www.psychology.org.au/assets/files/stresstipsheet.pdf
Open Door Therapy. (2015). Mindfulness in practice. Retrieved from the Open Door Therapy website: http://www.opendoortherapy.com/pdf/mfa_series_1to3.pdf