With Stress Awareness Month starting today, combined with the currently panicked state of our community and world at large, what better topic to discuss…
What is Stress?
It is the physiological and psychological reaction an individual experiences when they perceive the demands of a situation to go beyond their ability to cope.
Some stress is inevitable and necessary for all livings systems and can even be utilised to help with motivation and performance.
However, excessive stress and/or ineffective coping skills can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing.
What are the Signs and Symptoms?
- Increased heart rate and/or elevated blood pressure
- Loss of appetite and/or nausea
- Racing and/or persistent thoughts
- Anger, irritability, restlessness, inability to focus, confusion and/or fatigue
- Self medicating (overeating, smoking, alcohol/drug abuse etc.)
How Can I Effectively Cope?
Although quick fixes (such as avoidance, substance abuse etc.) can subdue stressful feelings for the moment, they often cause us to suffer even more later on. This leads to the solution now becoming the problem; creating a viscous cycle. Although you may want to avoid a situation or indulge yourself every now and again, this behaviour can quickly turn destructive if not accompanied by a diverse coping skillset. Below are a few suggestions on how to effectively cope with stress.
Develop and/or Maintain a Support System
You do not have to manage your stress alone and without support, and may be surprised by the helpful and understanding responses you get when you reach out to people, organisations and information around you.
For many of us, the people already apart of our lives – our immediate family and close friends – will make up an important part of our support system. This may not be the case for others, who may have to form new relationships in order to find people that they genuinely like, trust, share common interests with, and will act in the interest of their health and wellbeing. This might happen through accessing the available resources around you, such as joining a community activity or special interest group, volunteering or taking a course.
Maintaining your support system involves mutual support; giving back what is given to you by listening closely, communicating openly, keeping things confidential, not overburdening one person, and generally showing respect, acceptance, compassion and care.
It is also common to seek professional help, especially when experiencing signs and symptoms of chronic stress. Healthcare providers such as general practitioners, psychologists and/or psychiatrists have a comprehensive range of knowledge and resources that can be hard to find elsewhere. You can learn more about this, as well as other non-for-profit organisations you can reach out to, here.
It is worth noting that you are an active part of your own support system, specifically through practicing acts of self-acceptance and self-care. There are endless ways to support yourself, some of which we’ll touch on next…
Long-term mindfulness practise has been proven to help with our ability to manage stress, even changing the structure of our brains in the process. We have previously touched on how to start practicing this skill, both here and here.
Commit to a Beneficial Routine
The word ‘routine’ might not spark immediate feelings of joy (with connotations of monotony), but it can be truly fundamental in both managing stress throughout our day-to-day lives and maintaining stability for the long-term. We are both creatures of habit and creatures of comfort, the two being closely related in that our habits, or ‘routines’, induce feelings of comfort; decreasing levels of stress.
However, obviously not all routines are created equal, specifically in terms of outcome. For example, eating a packet of chips in front of a TV show most nights is not the same as regularly waking up early to do a yoga routine. It may at first seem more rewarding to continuosuly take the easy route, but once you start to engage in a beneficial routine and see the outcomes you have actively created, it becomes much easier to practise.
Determining and committing to more beneficial routines is therefore important, as the short term and long term psychological and physiological impacts can differ greatly. When thinking about what a beneficial routine might involve, it helps to focus on some of our most basic needs; nutritional food, good sleep and some sort of physical movement. This might lead us to factor in things like food prep strategies, set bed/wake-up times and regular, planned exercise that we enjoy.
Apart from coping with stress, embracing your own beneficial routine can also allow you to engage in and/or make more time for that which you deeply love and value.
Want to learn more? Book an appointment with one of our psychologists or visit our clinic and wellbeing store in Bulimba.