Are you a single parent trying to juggle work and family, going through a divorce or caring for a sick family member? Have you noticed that you are worrying more than usual, having trouble sleeping or finding it difficult to cope with everyday tasks? If so you may be over-stressed.
Stress is a natural human response to challenging and sometimes dangerous situations. In small doses stress can be helpful. For example, it can help motivate you to reach your goals, accomplish tasks more efficiently and even help you act quickly in dangerous situations such as slamming on the car breaks to avoid hitting the car in front of you.
Stress activates the 'fight or flight' response, preparing your body to take action. Hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine are released which causes your heart rate, breathing and metabolism to speed up and provide you with a boost of energy which enables you to focus your attention so you can respond quickly to the situation. This stress response works well in the short term, but if it becomes constantly activated it can have damaging effects on your health and well-being causing issues such as headaches, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety.
Stress doesn’t have to control your life. Everyone has different stress triggers and identifying yours is the first step in effective stress management. If you know what your stress triggers are you can prepare for them or find ways of reducing or removing them.
Some of the biggest causes of stress include:
Work stress: being unhappy in your job, taking on too many responsibilities, working long hours and workplace bullying
Life stressors: divorce, loss of a loved one or chronic illness
Change: moving to a new house, changing jobs or getting married
Attitude and perception: How you view a situation can determine whether it causes you stress. For example, if your bus to work is late and you adopt the attitude, “It will be okay, I will just call the office to let them know I will be late,” you will be far less stressed than if you think, “This is terrible, my boss is going to be so angry and I will get fired.”
Unrealistic expectations: No one is perfect, if you expect to get it right every time you are likely to feel stressed when at some point you inevitably fail.
Helpful Techniques to Managing Stress:
Managing your stress in healthy ways can make a significant difference to your mind, body and even your relationships. A few simple techniques to help you manage everyday stress:
Establish routines: Creating a daily or weekly routine can help provide predictability, reduce uncertainty and increase calmness and reassurance. It may be helpful to develop regular times for exercise, relaxation, meal times and bedtimes. Scheduling specific jobs on set days of the week can minimise stress.
Look after your health: Eating healthy, drinking enough water and exercising are often the first things to slip when feeling stressed. Looking after yourself physically can improve your mental well-being.
Do something you enjoy: When life gets busy you may feel like you don’t have time for fun but, enjoyable activities provide us with positive stress that has a beneficial effect on your health, motivation, performance and well-being. You may like to spend time with family and friends or doing a hobby.
Challenge unhelpful thinking: Sometimes when we are stressed we lose perspective and our self-talk becomes negative which can make it difficult to deal with everyday tasks. Unhelpful self-talk may include things like “I can’t cope”, “I’m too busy” or “What’s wrong with me?” If you notice these types of unhelpful thoughts try replacing them with more balanced, realistic thoughts such as “I’m coping just as well as anyone would in my current situation”, “I can get through this” or “Breathe easy.”
Practice relaxation: We can’t avoid all stress but we can counteract its damaging effects by learning how to activate our body’s natural relaxation response. We can do this by practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, guided imagery and yoga.
Australian Psychological Society (2012). Understanding and Managing Stress. Melbourne: APS
Lifeline Australia (2016). Overcoming Stress. Retrieved from
The Stress Management Society (2017). What is Stress? Retrieved from
Author: Melanie Green - Registered Psychologist with Michelle Barratt Psychology. Brisbane and Redland Bay based Clinical Psychology Practice - Promoting the Therapeutic Care and Therapy for mental health issues.