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Managing Stress

Published on 13th May 2020

Stress has a bad reputation and rightly so. 

Chronic stress can increase the risk of illness, depression and even cause early mortality amongst lots of other things. Our relationship with stress can also be a huge factor, with most of us experiencing stress as either a challenge or a threat. Viewing stress as a threat actually creates more negative emotions, and lower performance when compared to viewing stress as a challenge. Stress is most likely to be harmful when it feels against your will, out of your control and without meaning. Unfortunately, today most of us are working from home full time when we’d much rather be in the office, and we don’t know when we’ll be able to return to how things were before COVID-19. So how do you change your perception of stress, especially at this time?
 

Here are 3 of the most protective beliefs around stress:

  1. View your body's stress response as helpful, viewing stress as energy you can use
  2. Have self-belief that you can handle, and even learn and grow from the stress in your life
  3. Accepting stress is something that everyone deals with
     

There are many ways to manage stress, and it's all individual.

For some mediation works best, others a run, and some just like to have a good chat with a friend. Here's a few tools to try if you're are feeling stressed at the moment.

 

 

Meditation

Meditation can be a helpful tool. it’s about training awareness and a healthy perspective. Through meditation you can learn to observe your emotions without judgement and even maybe start to understand them better. Meditation can improve your focus, help manage anxiety, give you a creativity boost as well as becoming more compassionate and improve your memory. 
 
A useful form of mediation can be visualisation. You can practice visualisation on your own, with an app or audio download to guide you through the imagery. Most mediation apps will offer some visualization as well. Visualisation works best when incorporating as many sensory details as possible. For example, if you are thinking about a sunny beach: see the blue sky with white fluffy clouds rolling by, hear the waves crashing on the shore, smell the salt form the ocean, feel the hot sun on your skin, and the sand in your toes, taste the fresh clean air. Visualisation can produce a deep state of relaxation which can declutter your thoughts and relieve stress. 
 
Being mindful is also another great tool which you can find on many meditation apps. Mindfulness is about being present, not losing control by stressing about the future or holding onto emotions from the past. It’s all about the here and now. When we apply mindfulness to our everyday lives it can relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, and improve sleep.
Here are some great meditation apps to get you started: Headspace, Calm, Insight, Timer, Aura.

Relaxation

Relaxation is a bit personal. It all depends on your individual preferences, for some people it’s a walk in nature, reading, for others it’s a good chat with a friends. Find something that works for you. There are also helpful techniques like deep breathing. 
 
Deep breathing is a technique to help you feel grounded and let go of stress. To practice deep breathing sit comfortably with your back straight. Breathe in through your nose. If you put one hand on your stomach and one on your chest, you are aiming for your hand on your stomach to move as your stomach expands when breathing in and not your chest. Then exhale through your mouth pushing out as much air as possible, counting slowly as you release the breath and repeat. 

Problem solving

Problem solving can help you overcome stressful events. When you can find actionable points to overcome your stress, you regain control of your circumstances that can significantly improve your mental wellbeing. It’s important to first identify all aspects of the stressful event, including behaviour, thoughts and feelings. For example, if you have just been laid off from your job, you need to identify:
  • Behaviours - such as the need to look for another job, earn money for your family, and other adjustments you now may need to make in your in your life
  • Negative thoughts - "I'll never get another job."
  • Negative feelings - anger and depression
  • How your body responds - fatigue or difficulty sleeping
You can then find coping strategies such as talking with others about your feelings of anger or depression.
Once you have identified all aspects of your stress, you should brainstorm as many solutions as you can, even if they seem impossible. Don't be critical of your solutions, you can combine them and evaluate the best options for you moving forward. When selecting your best solution or plan make sure to keep in mind how realistic, efficient, and effective the solution is. 

Thinking in helpful ways

Gain control

Focusing your thoughts can help you manage stress differently. If you concerntrate on what you can control, like finding accurate infomation from trusted sources and create a plan that can be actioned easily if you do need to self isolate completely, or what your options are if you do lose your job. Taking control from a uncertain time will help ease any anxiety. 

Avoid  unhelpful information

Avoiding unhelpful information and social media can be helpful. If you’re watching the news morning, noon and night, and reading further updates on social media chances are you’re not getting any more information than from that singular morning or evening news report. Instead of spending your time caught up in the media, go for a walk or do something you enjoy. The news will still be there when you get back, but you might be a bit more grounded.If you let a problem become all consuming, the chances are you'll no longer be able to think objectively. 

Focus on the here and now

Try to ensure you are living in the present, not lost in the past or worrying about the future. Take each day as it comes and allow yourself a bit of flexibility.

Be kind and compassionate

You are not alone in this, we are all in this together. Helping others not only benefits them and the community but it also makes us feel better. Compassion and kindness are never in short supply and we can all give a little.

Ask for help

You’re not alone reach out for a chat or seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed. 

If you need support call one of the following numbers:

Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14
Lifeline New Zealand – 0800 543 354
MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
Open Arms - Veterans & Families Counselling – 1800 011 046

 

For official updates on COVID-19, please refer to the Federal Department of Health and your state or territory Health Department

Download our document on ' Protecting your mental wellbeing while working from home' or reach out to one of our supportive team here