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Dealing with Stress
What is Stress?
Stress is a normal part of life and is something that we all
experience. Stress involves having to respond to some kind of
pressure. Dealing with new challenges can often trigger stress but
most people get better at managing stress as they go through life.
It is helpful to think about stress as healthy or unhealthy.
Stress in small doses can actually be helpful. It can keep us motivated and focused, it can prompt us to take action, such as gathering more information, reaching out for support and assistance, or prioritising how we use our time.
Stress can become unhealthy when it interferes with our quality of life. No one enjoys experiencing unhealthy levels of stress. People experiencing unhealthy stress often feel overwhelmed. Managing our stress levels starts with being able to identify how stress affects us. Common signs of stress include:
Feeling restless and agitated
Muscle tension and headaches
Increased blood pressure
Changes in appetite
Rashes or skin break-outs
Increase in worry, anxiety or depression
Irritability, being short-tempered
Feeling like you can't cope
Increase in alcohol or drug use
Less productive at home and work
Triggers of Stress
Stress can be triggered by different things. Clearly identifying
the triggers of stress can help us manage the stress more
effectively. Common triggers of stress include:
Work-related or study-related stress
Relationships with others
Coping with illness, pain, or injury
Life changes - such as starting a new job, unemployment,
retirement, becoming a parent, marriage, or divorce
Juggling many completing roles, responsibilities or tasks
Watching news or social media too often, particularly negative
A Skill To Help Manage Stress Now: Taking a Brain Break
Most people experiencing unhealthy stress say that they feel
‘mentally and physically exhausted’. One way we can offset this is
to take moments to reset throughout the day, that is, we can take
a ‘brain break’.
A brain break is where you stop what you are doing for a short
period of time. Studies have shown that taking short breaks
throughout the day can improve your productivity and reduce
stress. Brain breaks help to recharge, and then re-engage with the
situation with a clearer perspective. Even a break of 5 minutes
can help us regain focus, facilitate motivation, and improve
Your brain break may involve:
Getting up, stretching, walking around
Having a drink of water, preparing a cup of tea or a snack
Tidying your environment, minimising clutter and distraction
Stepping out and taking a few breaths of fresh air
Having a conversation with someone
If your stress response is expressed more physically, you
might find a brief controlled breathing exercise helpful
Controlled breathing exercise: The 3/3/3 rule
Breathe in for 3 second
Breathe out for 3 seconds
Repeat this for 3 minutes
The best way to control your breath is to take deep, slow breaths
with your stomach. To make sure you are doing it properly, you can
keep one hand on your stomach. If your hand rises as you breathe
in and falls when you breathe out, then you are doing it
correctly. If your hand doesn’t move, you should aim to pull the
air in using your stomach as you breathe in.
Another Strategy To Help Manage Stress: Self-Care Planning
Self-care refers to the activities and practices that help us
maintain our health and wellbeing. Often when life becomes busy or
stressful, self-care is the first thing that gets sacrificed.
Making sure to include self-care activities into your regular
routine can help reduce the symptoms of stress and improve your
ability to cope with stressful situations. Self-care activities
can be big (eg. socialising with friends and family), or small
(eg. preparing a healthy meal).
Taking the time to plan your self-care activities and schedule
them in can ensure these activities don’t get missed. You may find
our Self-Care Plan helpful for incorporating self-care into your
Looking For More Support?
We recommend you consult with your GP, who can discuss local
support or treatment options with you. They can prepare a Mental
Health Care Plan, which will enable you to access treatment
services with a Psychologist or Psychiatrist through Medicare, or
a referral to local Community Mental Health Services. Your GP can
also provide a physical check-up, if you haven’t had one recently.
Your physical health can affect your emotional wellbeing.
If you don’t have one already, you can find a GP in your local
Another option is online treatment. The MindSpot Clinic offers
free online and telephone delivered Treatment Courses which help
people manage their symptoms stress, anxiety, low mood and