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Stress is the body’s way of responding to demands or pressures put on it. Stress occurs when the demands being made on a person are greater than and their ability to cope with those demands. 

There are many reasons why someone might experience stress. Here are some of the more common ones: 

  • Interpersonal relationship problems
  • Personal or family illness
  • Conflict such as bullying or harassment
  • Death of a spouse, relative or friend
  • Work or study pressures
  • Traumatic events
  • Financial problems
  • Job loss/insecurity

In many cases, stress is a healthy reaction, helping a person to cope with the challenges of life. Some stress helps increase our alertness and energy to meet challenging situations. But too much stress, or prolonged stress, can affect our physical and mental health, causing; 

  • Negative emotional reactions such as depression, anxiety, anger
  • Disrupted thinking; poor concentration, forgetfulness, indecisiveness, apathy, lack of motivation
  • Destructive behaviour such as increased drinking and smoking, insomnia, accident proneness, weight problems, obsessive-compulsive behaviour, and gambling.

Stress can also result in or worsen or complicate medical conditions such as heart disease, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma.

How to deal with stress

People responds in different way to stress, depending on the make-up of their personality, their cultural background, social circumstances, their past experiences, stage of life, support networks and the particulars of the stressful situation. So, what one person finds stressful, another might consider normal.

Experts now believe that the most effective way to relieve stress is to change the way you view the situation(s) so you no longer see them as stressful in the first place. In other words, taking control of the situation, so you no longer view these situations as a threat. 

For example, it the cause of stress is financial issues, setting up a budget or consulting a financial adviser may help.

Or if it is a work-related problem, then changes to your work hours or job duties may help, and you should discuss these with your supervisor/boss. 

If the problem is relationships, then take steps to resolve these interpersonal conflicts.

Here is a proven technique you can take to identify and solve particular problem(s) causing the stress:

  • Write down the problem(s) that are worrying or distressing you 
  • Work out all the options to deal with the problem and write them down.
  • List the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
  • Identify the best option to deal with the problem.
  • List the steps you need to carry out this option.
  • Carry out the option. Afterwards, think about whether it worked and whether you would use this solution again.

I’s a good idea to talk to others about the issues. The very act of communicating the problem to others helps release negative feelings. There is an old saying; ‘a problem shared is a  problem halved.’ Other people may have some useful advice. 

It may help to seek professional advice from a psychologist or experience trained psychotherapist. Proven therapeutic techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural therapy  (CBT) or mindfulness training can be very helpful. 

Another important point is to take care of your body. Exercise is very helpful because it causes the body to release endorphins which produce feelings of relaxation. Relaxation techniques and activities such as meditation and yoga can also help. Limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine as they can increase anxiousness and sleeplessness. Avoid the use of sleeping pills or antianxiety medications (unless advised to by your doctor) as they may have unwanted side effects, and will not address the underlying issues that cause the stress. 

More info

What is stress and how to deal with it – Black Dog Institute

Reducing stress – Beyond Blue

Stress – Psychology Today

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