By Rhonda Stanton, Clinical Psychologist Registrar
The human species has evolved since prehistoric times and one system that has enabled this is the fight or flight response. In times of stress or danger, this inbuilt alarm system is triggered which releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin within our body. This prepares our body to respond to the situation by either running away (flight) or if this is not possible to stay and defend ourself (fight). Today, many of our modern day stressors are psychological in origin and are often chronic, lasting from weeks to years.
What is stress?
Stress is a reaction to the demands of life. It refers to the physical, mental and emotional reactions of people when the demands of a situation are perceived to outweigh a person’s ability to cope and/or their resources. As well as having an effect on our body, stress also affects our thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
What causes stress?
Stress can be triggered by environmental stressors ie external pressures that occur from sources outside of ourself. Examples include high workloads, the death of friend or financial problems. Other stressors are internal to our self and about how a person responds to situations in their life. Examples include thoughts such as “I can’t cope” or “”Can’t they see I’m busy”.
It is important to note that triggers can be both positive and negative. Getting married, having a baby, or starting a new job are usually experienced as positive whereas experiencing financial problems or work stress would be considered negative. Both types of triggers can be experienced as stressful.
How to recognize stress
Recognising stress can be difficult because it often sneaks up on us. Although there are many symptoms of stress, how it manifests is individual. Some people become irritable and for others muscle pain is the first sign. Stress can be recognized across four areas – physical, thinking, feeling and behaviours. By learning your unique stress symptoms, you can intervene earlier.
|Muscle stiffness||Difficulty concentrating||Hopeless||Procrastinating|
|Tight chest||“I can’t do this…it’s too much”||Numb||Increased smoking/alcohol use|
|Nausea||“I don’t have time”||On edge||Clenching jaw|
|Weight gain/loss||“I should be able to sort this out”||Stressed||Snapping at people|
|Tiredness||“Do I have to do everything around here?”||Desperate||Staying in bed|
|Skin conditions||“I don’t want to talk to anyone”||Vulnerable||Avoiding people|
When does stress become problematic?
Short periods of stress or low level stress are unlikely to lead to harm. Some stress helps to motivate us and achieve goals. However, when stressful situations continue the body is kept in a constant state of arousal which can lead to a range of negative consequences for physical health and also for our mental health and wellbeing.
What can you do?
There are a number of things that can reduce life stress. Learning how to respond differently to stressful situations, taking time to relax, adding some physical activity and eating well, and having some fun are helpful strategies.Other strategies include time management and improving communication skills.
If you think you may need additional help to manage life stress, ask your GP about a Mental Health Care Plan and referral to a psychologist. This provides a Medicare rebate for psychological treatment. Alternatively, you can make an appointment directly with Psychology Consultants as a private client.
Juggling ActBy Clinical Psychologist Kylie Layton
Today it seems that parents and particularly mothers are expected to be super heroes, their superpower is multi-tasking. The question is what is a working mother’s kryptonite and how do we sustain the juggling act?
The decision to go back to work after having a baby can be a difficult one for many women, provoking a complex web of emotions, from liberation and pleasure to guilt and anxiety.
Today it seems that parents and particularly mothers are expected to be super heroes, their superpower is multi-tasking. The question is what is a working motherʼs kryptonite and how do we sustain the juggling act?
The stress of modern technology
Gerard, a sales executive in an international IT company, first came to Psychology Consultants because he felt stressed. After discussing his current situation, we quickly became perplexed. He had a good relationship with his wife, a busy, fulfilling job, he exercised regularly, found time for hobbies on the weekends, and his diet was impeccable. Why was he stressed?
After a couple of weeks of monitoring his stress levels and trying to identify his stress “hot spots”, the source of his stress became very clear – he was suffering from email stress.
We find that email is often a source of stress for people, and we think we know some of the reasons why.
Firstly, emails are written, so they do not have the benefit of the verbal and nonverbal behaviours that usually help us decipher the sender’s message. Thus, emails are often misinterpreted.
Secondly, emails are very often written badly, without proper punctuation, grammar, and spelling, making the message even more likely to be misinterpreted.
Assisting employees through programsBy Dr Stan Steindl
In any one year, one in four Australians experience psychological symptoms that would meet criteria for clinical diagnosis.
A significant percentage of these are likely to be in the workforce and their symptoms may, to a greater and lesser degree and for varying periods of time, impact on their personal and work functioning.
In response, more and more organisations are choosing to implement employee assistance programs (EAPs) for their staff.
EAPs are designed to identify, treat and, if necessary, refer on, employees whose personal problems affect their performance at work.