Dealing With Stress - MindSpot Clinic

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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.

Healthy Stress

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.

Unhealthy Stress

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:

Physical Signs

  • Feeling restless and agitated
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Muscle tension and headaches
  • Nausea
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Changes in appetite
  • Rashes or skin break-outs
  • Chest pains

Cognitive and
Emotional Signs

  • Increase in worry, anxiety or depression
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Irritability, being short-tempered
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling like you can't cope

Behavioural Signs

  • Procrastination
  • Increase in alcohol or drug use
  • Less productive at home and work
  • Relationship strain

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
  • Financial difficulties
  • 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 news topics

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 concentration.

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
  1. Breathe in for 3 second
  2. Breathe out for 3 seconds
  3. 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 week:

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 area at Beyond Blue.

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 depression.

Additional Resources