When stress shouldn’t be ignored

Most of us experience stress from time to time. Not only is stress a part of everyday life and the challenges we face, but it’s also a normal human reaction.

Stress is our body and mind responding to a threat, demand or danger. It’s related to our innate fight, flight or freeze response. It sets off a chemical response that can cause physical, mental and emotional changes and in turn affect our moods and behaviours.

But, not all stress is bad. Sometimes people even invite stress in because they enjoy it in small doses – think about an intense, scary movie or those who like adrenalin sports like bungee jumping. Others need some stress because they work or perform well with a certain amount of pressure. Stress can help us meet that deadline, reach that target, or overcome an immediate hurdle.

In general though, the concept and experience of ‘stress’ does not make us feel positive. We most often associate it with unpleasant feelings and circumstances. A lot of sudden stress, prolonged stress, or the wrong types of stress, can impact our social, mental and physical wellbeing.

Stress can be caused by our everyday environment, unexpected circumstances or a sudden demand or threat. Things such as stressful job or work environments, family conflict or financial insecurity are common sources of stress. Additionally, the expectations we place on ourselves or that others place on us, and our perceived ability to cope can impact our levels of stress.

It’s important to take action if your stress levels are:

  • overwhelming, uncontrollable or traumatic;
  • persistently and negatively interfering in relationships, family or home life;
  • consistently stopping you from meeting the demands of your job or commitments;
  • feeling serious or causing prolonged physical symptoms such as insomnia, digestion problems, heart palpitations, headaches, or illness;
  • causing you to rely on alcohol, prescription medications, other drugs or practice risky behaviours;
  • presenting a risk to your overall happiness or safety, or a risk to others.

 

Everyone deals differently with stress and has a different coping threshold. It can also be difficult to gauge the level of stress that someone may be under. Someone who is coping on the surface may be struggling. We should be understanding of this when connecting with other people, such as friends or co-workers.

Ways of managing stress 

Stress can often be managed by doing simple things. Doing something to slow down can make a big difference. Studies have shown that simple actions such as getting some fresh air, listening to music, watching a movie, or spending time with friends can provide some relief.

Time away from the causes of stress is also important. This can include:

  • making time for fun;
  • taking time to rest and recuperate;
  • establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries for self and others;
  • maintaining a healthy diet;
  • getting enough exercise;
  • managing time and having realistic schedules;
  • talking to friends, colleagues, employers about their expectations;
  • having constructive conversations about mental health and wellbeing; or
  • seeking help from a professional.

If you are worried about your stress levels then it’s important to talk to your GP or a counsellor. You can also reach out to OzHelp’s wellbeing team for confidential support on 1300 694 357. Lifeline is also available 24/7 by calling 13 11 14.

Stress is just one of the topics we cover during our workplace wellbeing programs. To find out more, or to book a Tradies Tune Up for your team, call 02 6251 4166 or email info@ozhelp.org.au

References:

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/stress

https://www.lifeline.org.au/static/uploads/files/overcoming-stress-wfrisntobpbj.pdf

https://www.psychology.org.au/for-the-public/Psychology-Topics/Stress

https://www.psychology.org.au/About-Us/What-we-do/Research/Stress-wellbeing-how-Australians-are-coping-with-stress