Stress and Anxiety
Stress is the body’s automatic response to any physical or mental demand placed on it that causes mental tension.
Adrenaline is a chemical naturally produced in our body as a response to stress. Stress comes from a situation or a thought that makes you feel frustrated, nervous, anxious or angry. The fight or flight response is elicited from stress.
Situations, activities, and relationships that cause ‘trauma’ to one’s physical, emotional, or psychological self include;
- Life long anxiety and/or depression
- Relationship conflict
- Worry about family, children and grandchildren
- Academic performance
- Burden of caring for frail parents or spouse
- Worry: ageing, illness, dementia, fitness, finances
- Difficulty adjusting to retirement, loss of purpose
- Isolation, loss of social networks
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Continuous worry
- Racing thoughts
- Feeling Down
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability (short temper)
- Inability to relax
- Excessive Perspiration
- Chest pains/ elevated heart
- Frequent colds/illness
- Nausea, dizziness or headaches
- Increase /decrease appetite
- Nervous habits
- Difficulty/irregular sleeping
- Excessive use of alcohol, cigarettes or drugs
- Eat a well- balanced diet; drink fluids low in sugar, calories, and caffeine; have healthy snacks; and drink water!
- Sleep well
- Exercise: any activity that you find enjoyable
- Create time each day to decompress
- Write in a journal
- Pair enjoyable activities or tasks with less enjoyable activities or tasks
- Reward yourself for a job well done
- Set goals to achieve throughout the day
- Stick to your routine – avoid staying in bed all day, try and keep to your daily routine as much as possible.
- Take time out for yourself, go for a walk.
- Get social support – Call a friend, send an email or be available to catch up on a video call.
Helps identify and understand your stress experiences
Builds awareness of how you react to stress
Reveals common themes or circumstances associated with your experience of and reaction to stress
Informs your next steps in learning how to manage stress based on your strengths and challenges
Simple, but effective! Can be done any time anywhere.
Controlled breathing helps us to calm down.
To keep thoughts calm and relaxed while breathing, introduce the words “calm” or “relax” while breathing out.
Imagine your other thoughts floating away in a balloon
Useful for relaxing the muscles when they feel tight because of emotional stress
Progressive Muscle Relaxation provides the most optimal relaxation
Key: tensing a group of muscles, hold in a state of extreme tension for a few seconds, relax the muscles
Helps break the cognitive distortion cycle
Gets you back on track
Key: Notice your thoughts, use a trigger word to stop the thought
Replace with a more helpful thought
Example: “There is no point in trying” STOP! “ This situation could be easier if I first talked with ….
Introduce repetitive positive and motivating statements into your day and in reaction to your thoughts
Examples of positive statements:
I am smart! I work hard! I always do my best.
Examples of positive thought replacements:
Instead of: “ I need to be perfect, or I fail.”
Replace with: “ I did a great job learning this new concept!”
Resources for coping include our social connections, community, GP, professional counsellors etc
Professional counsellors include psychologist, mental health social workers, counsellors, psychotherapists, therapists, coaches, well-being officers.
Recent research suggests that stress is a key element in developing mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Stress can also affect your mood, as anxiety and irritability are both common responses to stress. When a stressor causes you to feel anxious, the anxiety may result in more negative feelings or frustration, even if the stressor is only temporary.
When we get into a pattern of worrying about things that have happened, or about the future, we can develop an Anxiety Disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder– continuously worrying (about finances, children, relationships) causing continuous heightened arousal.
- Social anxiety disorder – worrying about negative judgements by others.
- Panic disorder – this is relatively rare but involves frequent sensations of not being able to breathe and chest pain.
- Worry about relationships, health, finances, family
- Restlessness or agitation
- Difficulty sleeping
- Chest pain
- Not being able to breath
- Avoiding situations
- Trouble focusing
- Jaw clenching
- Substance use
- Overeating or overindulging
Other anxiety is less common (post traumatic stress, social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder)
- Slow breathing. When you’re anxious, your breathing becomes faster and shallower. Try deliberately slowing down your breathing. Count to three as you breathe in slowly – then count to three as you breathe out slowly.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. Find a quiet location. Close your eyes and slowly tense and then relax each of your muscle groups from your toes to your head. Hold the tension for three seconds and then release quickly. This can help reduce the feelings of muscle tension that often comes with anxiety.
- Stay present. Anxiety can make your thoughts live in a terrible future that hasn’t happened yet. Try to bring yourself back to where you are. Practising meditation can help.
- Healthy lifestyle. Keeping active, eating well, going out into nature, spending time with family and friends, reducing stress and doing the activities you enjoy are all effective in reducing anxiety and improving your wellbeing.
- Challenge your self-talk. How you think affects how you feel. Anxiety can make you overestimate the danger in a situation and underestimate your ability to handle it. Try to think of different interpretations to a situation that’s making you anxious, rather than jumping to the worst-case scenario. Look at the facts for and against your thought being true.
- Get to know your anxiety. Keep a diary of when it’s at it’s best – and worst. Find the patterns and plan your week – or day – to proactively manage your anxiety.
- Learn from others. Talking with others who also experience anxiety – or are going through something similar – can help you feel less alone. Visit our Online Forums to connect with others.
- Be kind to yourself. Remember that you are not your anxiety. You are not weak. You are not inferior. You have a mental health condition. It’s called anxiety.