Stress is a natural part of life. It occurs when we are required to adapt to new or challenging situations and to manage every day hassles. At its best it helps us to meet our challenges and cope and function when we have a number of things to do.

We can experience stress in the body, mind and emotions. Stress is the emotional and physical response you experience when you perceive an imbalance between demands placed on you and your resources at a time when coping is important (New South Wales Nurses' Association 2006). Your perception of how negative an outcome could be, will signifi cantly determine how you experience stress. Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal, explains this in her 2013 TED talk.

It is not just the situation which causes stress. Stress can be significantly increased when we habitually worry about about possible negative outcomes. If you can't change the situation that is causing you stress, then you need to change how you think about that situation. Two people can experience a similar situation however one will get stressed and the other won't depending on how they think about it. Some people have negative ways of thinking whilst others are more positive in their approaches.

Worrying about negative aspects of situations can also trigger periods of intense fear or extreme anxiety. It means that when your brain thinks it is in danger, your body gets ready to fight or run away. These include symptoms of panic attack where the body will react like you are in a dangerous situation even though you are not.

Most of us need to actively seek out ways to manage stress, such as thoses listed below. Two effective means avialble on this website include being aware of our mind and senses (mindfulness) and calming our body (progressive muscle relaxation).

Stress Management Strategies

  • Get enough sleep, good food and exercise. This is essential for good physical, mental and emotional functioning.
  • Organise your time. Are you simply doing too much? Double booking, wasting time, getting frazzled? Reduce your commitments.
  • Pay attention to your body. Watch for headaches, irritability, low energy, mild depression, feeling strung out.
  • Take one thing at a time. Rather than trying to get first class honours, have the world’s best relationship, go trekking in Nepal and win the Nobel Prize all by your next birthday, get real about what is really a priority, what can wait, and what may be a pleasant fantasy.
  • Talk out your worries with someone who’s really on your side. Talk to a friend or a family member who understands where you are coming from. If the issues are more complex, talk to a professional counsellor.
  • Accept your limitations Learn to live with things that you can’t change, and do what you can calmly and steadily, rather than follow every impulse or suggestion.
  • Give yourself credit. Are you really so hopeless? Maybe you’re doing better than you think. Sure, there’s a couple of things you might have let slide, but you’re doing most things okay, aren’t you? Start to see yourself as someone who can handle most things that come your way.
  • Seek balance in your life. Have you lost touch with simple pleasures that sustain and fulfill you? Try not to let your aims make you too driven and narrow.

This video from the Australian Psychological Society outlines some of these strategies

External links and resources

  1. Better Health Channel's Stress management quiz
  2. TED talk: How to make stress your friend
  3. TED talk: Flow, the secret to happiness