Stressed? Let's Get it Addressed
It is possible to be less stressed about stress – so let’s get it addressed.
Stress is an uncomfortable, but common experience we can all relate to. Everyone feels stressed from time-to-time, whether we’re facing big life decisions, a busy workload, relationship problems, health concerns, or any number of day-to-day pressures or frustrations. Individuals’ stress levels can also be influenced by events occurring in broader society outside of our control, particularly when we are faced with uncertainty, and managing different emotions.
Stress can bring a range of challenging feelings, physical sensations and reactions when we are facing new and/or ongoing situations.
Stress can also play a helpful role in our daily lives by helping us to make adjustments when new challenges arise – this article will further explain how...
What is stress?
We hear the term ‘stress’ all the time, and many of us use this term on a day-to-day basis to describe a whole range of feelings and reactions, but what do we actually mean when we talk about stress?
Stress is the body’s reaction to challenges or to change. When faced with a difficult, or new situation or ‘stressor’, our body’s nervous system kicks in, readying us to confront the situation. This stress response is often experienced through noticing a range of changes to physical sensations (e.g., heart beat increasing, temperature changes) and emotions (e.g., feelings of fear, sadness and/or frustration). These physical sensations and emotions are our body’s warning signs that we are stressed, and tells us that we would benefit from taking action towards the challenging or novel situation.
What causes stress and its function
Stress generally develops when our demands outweigh our resources; that is, when we’ve got too much on our plate. This normally happens when we’re going through a big change, facing unfixable problems, or juggling more problems than we can comfortably manage.
Stress can be our body’s way of telling us that we have too much going on and that we need to take stock. Or it can be a bit of a ‘wake-up call’ that we might need to learn skills to cope a bit better.
Stress as a motivator
It can be helpful to look at stress in a more realistic and positive light. The Yerkes-Dodson law shows us that a certain degree of stress can actually be helpful for alertness, productivity and motivation. It suggests that you reach your peak level of performance with a degree of stress or arousal. Think of stress as your personal cheerleader or coach who motivates you when you need to get something done!
Stress can push us to work harder, it builds our capacity for future challenges, and it boosts our resilience for when we are faced with new difficulties. In a way, little bouts of stress from time to time can help us to identify that we are facing a challenge, learn how to navigate through it, and increase our readiness for dealing with future stressors .
Stress can also be a positive sign – it signifies to us that we care about things going smoothly, or that things that matter to us.
Although it’s not easy, we can train our brains to be less ‘stressed’ about stress over time.
Reframing stress can help you feel less stressed
Although it may not come naturally, it’s important to acknowledge your negative feelings about stress, and try to balance these with more positive feelings as well.
When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you’re better able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way. One of the ways we can do this is by challenging negative self-talk. Imagine your boss asks you to do a task that you’ve never done before. Does your mind immediately jump to a place of fear and anguish? Or do you pause, and try to think of this as an opportunity to learn something new? Reframing a stressful situation is an effective form of stress management. It can take a lot of practice but incorporating this into your daily life can help break the negative cycle of stress.
Just like trying anything new, a lot of people feel strange practicing this at first. But, with a bit of time and practice, having a more balanced or positive inner voice will come naturally to you.
How much is too much stress?
While some stress is normal and helpful, too much stress can impact our wellbeing. If you look at the right hand side of the Yerkes-Dodson law’s curve, excessive or chronic stress can impair your performance, lead to anxiety and depression, affect your physical health, lead to burnout, and can impact relationships with other people.
What are the signs that we are too stressed?
Our body and mind will give us signals that the stress we are carrying might be overwhelming. These can be:
- Muscle aches and tension
- Change in appetite or weight
- Feeling unusually tired
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep, or over sleeping
- Getting sick more easily than normal
- Feeling restless, agitated or on edge
- Being tearful
- Feeling persistently irritable
- Feeling worried and overwhelmed
- Having a short temper
- Difficulty remembering things
- Procrastinating more than usual
- Having trouble concentrating
- Being unable to enjoy the things you used to.
- Using alcohol or illicit substances to cope
- Withdrawing from others
Recharging when things feel stressful
We often hear, “I’m too busy to take time out to relax.” Unfortunately, this way of thinking can add to the negative cycle of stress.
Although you might not feel that you’ve got time to do the things you need to do (let alone the things you want to do) managing your day to day mood is an important part of managing stress. Taking time to recharge (by relaxing, doing enjoyable things or having fun) will help you manage your demands more effectively, and maintain your mental and physical health. It is important to be proactive in planning and taking breaks, rather than waiting before you become overwhelmed. Remember that time out for yourself is not selfish, and in fact we need to take time to care for ourselves in order to continue to be there for others, whether this is for friends, family, work, or otherwise. We can recharge in small ways each day.
Here are some ways to recharge:
- Regular physical exercise
- Controlled breathing
- Massage and stretching
- Getting enough sleep (we have a free Insomnia Program if you need some help)
- Mindfulness (we have a free Mindfulness Program)
- Immersing yourself in an activity that you love or find meaningful
- Connect socially with others
Switching off is so important for our wellbeing. It’s not about being lazy – in fact it can increase your productivity! Taking time out can make us more alert, creative, better at problem solving, and restores our energy.
Treatment options for stress
Changing your mindset about stress can be one of the first steps to living a happier, healthier and more motivated life, but if you think you need some help in this department…
- Our 4-lesson Stress Management Program is about helping you tackle chronic feelings of stress and overwhelm, by teaching strategies for tackling your problems and managing how you feel.
- If you find that stress occurs in relation to anxiety and/or depression you are already experiencing, you can consider trying one of our Programs for Depression and/or Anxiety.
- Consider taking our free, anonymous online ‘Take a Test Tool’, for recommendations for a THIS WAY UP treatment program that suits your needs or speak with your GP about which one could be most beneficial.
- If you are worried that your stress might have led to or be leading to clinical anxiety or depression, make an appointment with your GP. It’s essential that you access help sooner rather than later.
Not Sure which program is for you?
Take a Test to Help You Choose a Program
If you’re unsure which program to pick, take our anonymous online test to check how you feel and see which program may be suitable. This test will show you your levels of stress, anxiety, or depression and will make suggestions on what you can do next.