Stress is a common response to tough events or situations. Some stress is normal and stress itself is not anxiety or depression. However, severe and ongoing stress may be a risk factor if it persists.
You may be at risk, if for the majority of the last two weeks, you found it hard to relax, felt stressed or overwhelmed, and/or felt panicky or anxious. If this is the case, managing your stress levels should become a priority.
Ways to reduce stress
1. Postpone major life change
Making major changes in your life can be stressful at any time. If you’re already feeling stressed or anxious, it might be best to avoid or delay significant events, such as moving house or changing jobs.
2. Resolve personal conflicts
Stress in personal relationships can be a major contributor to anxiety and depression. Learning how to communicate honestly with people and address problems or conflicts as they arise is important. A counsellor or psychologist can help you find ways to work through your problems.
3. Do the things you enjoy
Take your mind off your worries by making sure you allow plenty of time for enjoyable activities, such as listening to music, reading, gardening, or spending time with family and friends. Try doing something creative or learning a new craft – a project, such as making a gift for a friend, can provide a goal to work towards and give you a great sense of achievement.
4. Control your work
Work plays a big role in our lives, but it’s important to have a sustainable work/life balance. If work is increasing your stress levels, avoid long hours and additional responsibilities, and learn to say ‘no’ more often.
5. Exercise regularly
Physical exercise can help relieve tension and relax your mind. Team sports can be a great way to socialise and connect with others while exercising. Try to do some physical exercise every day, even if it’s just going for a walk.
6. Get support
Simply talking to someone such as a friend, doctor or counsellor can help relieve stress. Don’t be afraid to ask for support at home, at work or in your other activities.
7. Remember to relax
Incorporating breathing and muscle relaxation exercises into your daily routine may be helpful. They can also be used as short-term coping strategies. Some people find meditation or yoga a good way to unwind.
Potential stress triggers
Family or relationship breakdowns
Relationship problems with family or friends can cause you to worry or stress. It is important to address these issues quickly, as well as develop coping strategies for ongoing conflicts. Talk to a professional, such as specialist counsellors/ psychologists and organisations (such as Family Relationships Online and Relationships Australia). For more information see the National health professional directories.
Redundancy or financial problems
Losing your job or getting into financial difficulty, like being late with mortgage or credit card repayments, are common triggers for anxiety and depression. It’s important to find out what your options are. Useful resources include job websites (Seek, MyCareer and Australian JobSearch), support services (Centrelink) and free financial counsellors (such as Financial Counselling Australia). For more information, see Beyond Blue's Taking care of yourself after losing your job booklet.
Health concerns for yourself or a loved one
Being diagnosed with a serious illness can be extremely distressing. It is important that you immediately discuss your feelings with someone you trust (such as your GP or a close friend). Counselling is often beneficial in these situations. Bottling up your emotions will only make you feel worse and can lead to anxiety and depression. For more information see Beyond Blue's Coping with a serious health event brochure.
Caring for a newborn baby
Life can change dramatically when you bring home a newborn baby. While it is normal for new mothers and fathers to experience a range of emotions, persistent feelings of sadness and an inability to cope may be signs of postnatal depression. Contact your GP, Beyond Blue or PANDA for more information. You can also download Beyond Blue's Emotional health and wellbeing guides for pregnant women, mums and other carers and new dads, partners and other carers.
Traumatic events, including physical or emotional abuse
These can be particularly difficult situations to deal with – victims may have feelings of guilt, shame and anger, and concerns about social stigma. Support from a specialist counsellor or psychologist is essential to address or prevent long-term mental health conditions, including anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Your GP can help you access the right services.