Mental Health Support

What is stress?

Stress is a natural human response from our body’s automatic nervous system and is a helpful and useful response if our lives were in danger or at risk- stress is what helps the appropriate actions follow. It is often described as a feeling of:

  • overloaded
  • pressure
  • wound up tight
  • tense and worried

How does stress affect us?

Although stress is helpful at helping us out of danger, excessive, ongoing, reoccurring or constant stress is harmful to the body and the mind and can cause us to experience the below symptoms:

  • Emotionally – anxiety, depression, tension, anger
  • Thought patterns – poor concentration, forgetfulness, indecisiveness, apathy, hopelessness
  • Physiology – neck pain, headaches, migraines, sciatica, back pain, infertility, digestive issues (IBS – constipation & diarrhoea)
  • Behaviourally – increased drinking and smoking, insomnia, accident proneness, weight problems, obsessive-compulsive behaviour, nervousness, gambling

Tips on how to manage stress

There will be a number of triggers that will raise our stress levels and it helps if we can identify these as they arise. Recognising the triggers can be like the body warning sign much like a car’s petrol light letting the driver know they are low in petrol. Some triggers could present as late nights, over or under eating, teeth grinding, tight jaw or feeling irritable or short tempered.

Australia's Psychology Organisation suggests establishing the following can be highly beneficial towards stress.

  • Established routines: having predictable rhythms and routines in your day, or over a week, can be very calming and reassuring, and can help you to manage your stress. Routines can include regular exercise and relaxation, regular meal times, consistent waking and bed times
  • Planning ahead: allocating time to make school lunches or ensure work clothes are ironed can prevent stress of rushing
  • Spending time with people who care: Spending time with friends and family who uplift rather than people who place demands on you
  • Sharing thoughts and feelings in a safe space whether with a close friend or health practitioner rather than ‘bottling up’ feelings
  • A healthy diet and regular exercise
  • Taking time for activities or hobbies that give you joy such as walking, dancing, listening to music or a creative hobby or sport
  • Avoid using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs to cope
  • Notice your self-talk: A stressed mind can get in the habit of using unhelpful self- talk, such as ‘I can’t cope’, or ‘I’m too busy’, or ‘I’m so tired’ which is not productive

What is Anxiety?

Feelings of Anxiety can sometimes be hard to identify. In today’s society, it is not uncommon to lead a busy or stressful life with our daily schedules full of work, family and social commitments. In this fast-paced society, it is not uncommon for people to feel like they are over reacting when in fact they could be suffering from anxiety and need support.

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, one in four people – one in three women and one in five men – will experience anxiety at some stage in their life.

The following are a number of different types of anxiety disorders:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder – excessive worry
  • Specific phobia – fear of particular objects or situations
  • Panic Disorder – sudden surges of panic, chest pain and breathlessness
  • Agoraphobia – intense anxiety due to public spaces, crowds or being home alone
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – recurring persistent distressing thoughts, images or impulses, known as obsessions, such as fear of catching germs or feeling the need to carry out a certain behaviour a certain number of times
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – severe anxiety about being criticised or negatively viewed by others leading to avoiding social situations in fear of embarrassment or humiliation
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – symptoms occurring after exposure to a frightening or traumatic event leaving nightmares, avoidance of places or people and a negative view of oneself and the world.

Symptoms of Anxiety?

  • Feeling of being on edge or nervous
  • Persistent and irrational fears
  • Excessive worry
  • Difficulty concentrating and remembering things
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Avoidance of situations, places, people, activities, thoughts or feelings that trigger anxiety

Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety?

  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in chest
  • Sweating, trembling, tingling or numbness
  • Dry mouth
  • People who experience anxiety over long periods of time can also develop muscle tension and headaches

People suffering with anxiety are likely to experience symptoms of more than one type of anxiety condition and many may experience depression as well. Symptoms may not go away on their own and if they are left untreated, they can start to impact your life and well-being.