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More than half of the people in Australia are living with stress in varying degrees in their lives.
And believe it or not, 80 to 90% of all of today’s illnesses are stress related. That is why it is imperative for us all to know what levels of stress we are under, and what we can do to prevent it or reduce it.
Because when we are a good manager of our stress levels, we feel more alive, vibrant, energetic, creative, and also more strong and calm.
Even though these qualities seem opposing, they are actually a sign of someone who is physically and psychologically healthy and happy.
But, if we are approaching life from a stress mode, it’s creating worry and anxiety which then produce irritability, impatience, frustration and depression.
And these chronic expressions of stress then open the flood gates to migraine headaches, asthma, insomnia, backaches, diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases along with many others.
What is stress?
Stress is the response of our body to any demand made upon it. The amount of stress depends on the intensity of the demand, and our ability to cope with the demand will determine whether we have a good or a bad outcome.
Stress is “the spice of life” when it motivates us to achieve. (A certain amount of stress is actually good for us for this reason).
However stress can defeat us and cause “distress” when we are overcome by it. Stress as distress is subtle, constant and unrelenting experience of anxiety due to an almost unconscious perception of threat or danger.
When we are under repeated and unrelenting stress, we lose the ability to DOWNSHIFT.
Our autonomic nervous system and endocrine system get stuck in overdrive, which inhibits our immune system. Research has also shown that prolonged emotional stress and anxiety produces actual tissue and organ damage in our body.
A Quick Stress Level Test
(The following test has been adapted from the DASS21 Test, and will give you a guide as to your current level of stress)
Read each statement and indicate 0 - never, 1 - sometimes, 2 - often or 3 - almost always about how this refers to you over the last week. There are no right or wrong answers.
I found it hard to wind down 0 1 2 3
I tended to over-react to situations 0 1 2 3
I felt that I was using a lot of nervous energy 0 1 2 3
I found myself getting agitated 0 1 2 3
I found it difficult to relax 0 1 2 3
I was intolerant of anything that kept me getting on with what I was doing 0 1 2 3
I felt that I was rather touchy 0 1 2 3
Now add up your totals and check yourself against the Scoring key:
NORMAL level of stress 0 – 7
MILD Stress 8 – 9
MODERATE Stress 10 – 12
SEVERE Stress 13 – 16
EXTREMELY SEVERE Stress 17+
If you find that you are showing up with anything more than Moderate stress, it would be a good idea to do something about it.
For a more thorough test on your stress levels, you can take the Sturt Stress Inventory.
Where is your stress coming from? Identifying the Stressors in your Life:
Here are the usual arenas that you can be experiencing stress: Where you notice you are experiencing stress, also note how extreme this stress is for you.
1. Problems with relationship and family – (marriage discord, divorce, chronic illness, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, sibling rivalry, other)
2. Relationship Issues outside your family – (friend moving out of town, friend diagnosed terminally ill, other)
3. Work related Stress – (deadline pressures, discordant relationship with boss or co-worker, no voice in the decision making process, other)
4. Financial Stress – (cut in pay, unexpected bills, bankruptcy, large credit card debt, other)
5. Other Stressors – (Legal problems, health problems, housing problems, other)
Having personal counselling for your stress is the most effective way to identify your particular stressors and resolve these issues, as well as learn effective ways to overcome and even prevent stress from taking over your life.
Often when you are feeling extremely stressed, it can seem like there are no other options than just to "tough it out" and continue with what you are doing. In reality, when you start talking to someone who specialises in stress reduction, you may be amazed at what solutions you can find to substantially reduce your stress levels. (Phone our friendly receptionists on 1300830552 to find the best Psychologist for you in your area)
How do we respond to stress?
The 2 most common psychological responses to stress are anxiety and depression. (Anxiety and depression make up 80 % of all mental and addictive disorders). So if you are anxious or depressed, you need to take your stress levels very seriously.
Stress is also translated into a host of physical responses (this is called somatisation of stress).
The most frequent symptoms are neuro-dermatitis, heat palpitations, backaches, chronic headaches, sleep disturbance, abdominal pain, gastro-intestinal distress, decreased concentration, hyperventilation, low blood sugar, urination problems, fatigue, chronic pain, appetite or weight fluctuations and unusual allergies.
What can I do to help reduce my stress levels?
Here are 9 ways that you can help yourself when you know you are stressed, or to prevent yourself getting too stressed.
1. Reframe how you see the situation. That means changing your thoughts from “awfulising or catastrophising” to a more neutral perception. For example changing your thoughts from “I can’t stand it” to “This is not my preference, but…”
2. Building your resilience to stress by maintaining good health habits, such a regular exercise and healthy eating
3. Learning meditation and /or relaxation skills, and about quiet time
4. Having a strong support system of friends and relatives
5. Keeping creative time and fun as part of your life (very important)
6. Stretching and cardio exercise to help release your stress
7. Improving your self esteem
8. Working on your communication skills
Whatever works for you personally: Some people love star gazing, a picnic, playing with a pet, sipping tea by the fire, watching a sunset. I love dancing tango
Regularly see your friendly Psychologist to help you individually resolve and manage your stress
Just a note about physical exercise:
Research has shown time and time again that exercise has an enormously positive impact on stress for us, as well as many other health benefits. A mere 10 minutes of vigorous exercise doubles your body’s level of epinephrine, which gives you those feelings of euphoria.
Your Stress Management Bank Account
It can help to think about managing your stress as a bank account where your stressors are on one side (taking away your psychological wellbeing) and then you have your credits on the other side (boosting your wellbeing).
So you can be more aware of these, I suggest you draw up a chart of a piece of paper like this:
(Which of the 10 Destressing skills I practice) (The stressors in your Life + the severity)
This way, you can see what you are doing to be proactive in managing your stress and eventually get to the stage where you are preventing stress from being a part of your life at all.
If you'd like help managing and taking back control of your stress, our psychologists across Australia specialise in this field. We have psychologists that can help with Stress Counselling in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Canberra, Townsville, Sunshine Coast, Perth, and Adelaide.
Please get in contact today by using our Contact page, or calling us on 1300 830 552.