Most people in today’s society are subjected to stressful situations on a regular basis and are constantly advised in magazines or current affairs programs to avoid stress or face a raft of harmful side effects.
As long as we continue to live and work in this environment, avoiding all stress is an unrealistic goal. Rather, our challenge should be to recognise our harmful stressors, and develop skills and techniques to manage them. While there is no doubt that some occupations and activities are stressful, e.g. emergency services, defence, mining, construction, corrections and medical to name only a few, it is also recognised that other low-risk activities like teaching and business management can be equally stressful.
The trigger is not necessarily the activity itself, but they way the individual reacts to the situation. Every person’s circumstance is different which makes the diagnosis and treatment of stress-related conditions difficult.
There are also a myriad of symptoms associated with stress that can affect a person long after the particular situation that triggered it, so long in fact, that the association is often not recognised for some time.
Many people don’t realise that stress can present itself as a physical condition such as frequently recurring colds, headaches, bowel irregularities, nausea, weight gain or loss just to mention a few.
Going along to the GP to address the symptom adds to the problem as frequent changes of medication provide only temporary relief. Cognitive symptoms can also occur such as inability to concentrate, memory loss, poor judgement, an overload of anxious thoughts and a pessimistic attitude to life in general.
Patients undergoing treatment for stress often report behavioural or emotional problems like uncharacteristic aggression, loneliness and a sense of isolation, irritability, irrational responses to normal situations, procrastination, increased dependence on drugs or alcohol, feeling agitated and unable to relax and others too numerous to list.
It is true to state that stress has hundreds of causes and triggers hundreds of symptoms in the people it targets. There are some general suggestions for stress relief that are made regularly, and many people have found relief in regular exercise, yoga, meditation, making the effort to socialise with friends and family, keeping a pet, learning a new skill, taking up a hobby or becoming involved with a group or charity of interest. Of course, this only happens when the person concerned recognises that stress is the cause of their problems, and is self-directed enough to take action themselves.
A number of the most successful methods of treating stress involve knowledge of psychology and many sufferers have found their answer in sessions with a trained psychologist who has helped them identify their stressors.
Once this is known, then strategies can be developed around those situations or steps taken to remove them completely from the person’s life, if possible. Stress is an insidious condition that creeps into a person’s life and changes their behaviour which in turn leads to health and emotional problems that can debilitate and destroy. No-one is immune, but with education and proactive management, it can be beaten.
If you need support in this area feels free to contact our psychologists now.
Delaney is a senior registered psychologist working with people of all backgrounds and with a special interest in LGBTI+ people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and Indigenous people.