A little bit of stress in your life is okay. In fact, it is perfectly normal and can be a good thing. It can help increase energy and motivation. Everyone feels stress now and again. It’s a normal response to challenging or dangerous situations.
It is when it shifts into being a constant thing you are dealing with that it becomes an issue. Too much stress can be overwhelming and that isn’t a good feeling. It can affect your quality of life and cause problems with physical and mental health.
There are many different ways to deal with stress just as stress affects everyone differently. The best way to work out how to deal with it for yourself is to understand how it affects you.
A great starting point is to identify what makes you stressed, then take steps to avoid it or reduce the feelings of stress.
Dealing with the symptoms of stress
There are things that you can do that will help you to learn the signs in your body that indicate stress is becoming a problem. Some signs that you may be stressed include:
- muscle tension
- poor sleep — or sleeping too much
- being irritable
- having a lack of motivation
- being moody with no other reason
- not being able to concentrate
- feeling overwhelmed or anxious
- relying on alcohol or drugs to cope with situations
- nervous habits such as biting your nails, picking at your skin or twirling your hair
- feeling like you can’t cope
There are plenty of strategies that you can use to reduce stress. When you feel yourself getting stressed, it can help to do relaxation techniques. These include such actions as deep breathing, yoga, meditation, tai chi and exercise.
A psychologist or counsellor can help you with other techniques to problem solve, manage your time and cope with life’s problems. You should first speak to your GP who can refer you to someone best suited to help you overcome your stress.
Removing the causes of stress
Understand that everyone is different. What one person finds stressful, another won’t and we all react to situations in our own way. Your reaction will depend on your personality, cultural background and past experiences. The stage of life you are in and what support you have around you can also determine your reaction.
Some common causes of stress are:
- relationship problems
- death of a family member or friend
- life pressures from work or study
- experiencing a traumatic event, including physical or emotional abuse
- having a baby
- financial problems
- losing a job
Many things that cause stress can be altered yet others are beyond our control. Work out what you can control and take steps to make a change.
An example might be:
If you are one of the many Australians who is stressed out by money issues, setting up a budget or consulting a financial adviser might help.
If your stressor is work, then check to see if it would be possible to make changes to your work hours or job duties. If the problem is relationships, take the time to resolve conflicts.
It can help to talk to a friend, doctor or counsellor about removing the causes of stress. Don’t be afraid to ask for support. A good place to start is with your GP, especially if you have a good relationship with them.
Once you have identified the problems that are leading to stress in your life you can do something about it. Try using this structured problem-solving exercise to help you to find solutions.
- List the problems that are worrying or distressing you and write them down.
- Identify which problem is causing you the most stress and write it down.
- Work out all the options to deal with the problem and write them down.
- List the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
- Identify the best option to deal with the problem.
- List the steps you need to carry out this option.
- Carry out the option. Afterwards, think about whether it worked and whether you would do this again.
Remember, you don’t have to tackle this alone. There is help available, just reach out.