Understanding and managing stress
My name is Lucia and I am the new receptionist at Growth Psychology! Having completed honours last year in psychology and engaging in full-time study for the past few years, I am all too familiar with feelings of stress when I was buried in assignments and making deadlines for my thesis. With reference to the Australian Psychological Society, today’s blog post is a short reminder of being aware of our state of mental health and the importance of monitoring it to ensure we are functionally optimally.
WHAT IS STRESS?
Being overloaded, tense and worried are often feelings associated with stress. At minimum levels, stress can motivate us to achieve goals and enhance our performance; however, when stress becomes too high, it can impede us from achieving tasks and interfere with normal life.
SIGNS OF STRESS
A normal response to a stressful event occurs when the nervous system is activated leading to an increased in heart rate, breathing, muscle tension and perspiration. This is commonly referred as the ‘flight or fight’ response. Our bodies release hormones including adrenalin and cortisol which helps us to get moving to meet demands. If this response continues over an extended period of time, both physical and psychological changes can result. These changes may include:
• Sleep disturbance
• Weakened immune system
• Low self-esteem and lack of confidence
TIPS TO MANAGE STRESS
So what can we do about stress? Here are some tips to consider:
1. Identify warning signs – e.g. grinding your teeth, feeling irritable and short-tempered may indicate high stress levels.
2. Identify triggers – e.g. late nights or seeing certain people. Having an awareness of things that raise our stress can help us better prepare for them by engaging in calming strategies beforehand or avoiding them altogether.
3. Establish routines – Implementing regular times for exercise and relaxation, meal and break times and bedtime helps look after our physical and mental well-being.
4. Spend time with people who care – Social support has been shown to be an important buffer against mental health problems. Sharing thoughts and feelings with people we care about allows us to release tension and feel connected with others.
5. Look after your mental health – A healthy and balanced diet and regular exercise is vital to feeling well and energetic. Doing activities we enjoy such as reading, listening to music or dancing helps us unwind.
6. Notice your ‘self-talk’ – replacing unhelpful thoughts such as: “I can’t cope, “I’m so tired or “I’m so overwhelmed” to more helpful self-talk such as” “I can cope”, or “calm down”, or “just breathe”.
7. Practise relaxation – schedule time to practise relaxation to help your body settle down. Techniques such as meditation, yoga or learning progressive muscle relaxation are great ways to do this and can be used during stressful situations.
HELP IS AVAILABLE!
If you are experiencing ongoing or high levels of stress that you are finding difficult to manage, our psychologists at Growth can help. Call us on 07 3356 2626 to find out more and schedule an appointment.