Understanding and managing stress

What is stress?

Stress is the emotional, mental and physical response we have in challenging situations we feel ill-equipped to deal with. Stress tends to arise when we feel threatened, fearful, overwhelmed or uncertain. It can also be thought of as a fight, flight or freeze response to a real or imagined circumstance in which we feel a lack of control or an inability to cope.

What causes stress?

It can sometimes be difficult to predict what will provoke a stress response, as it varies widely depending upon the individual. Each person will also respond differently to potentially stressful situations depending on other life circumstances. Conditions which might provoke a stress response include:

  • Changes in life circumstances
  • Limited social support network
  • Work/life imbalance
  • Relationship difficulties or breakdown
  • Financial strain or unemployment
  • Excessive levels of activity
  • Abuse, overuse or misuse of drugs, including alcohol or prescription medication
  • Ineffective coping strategies


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What are the symptoms of stress, and how do I know if I am suffering from stress?

Temporary or mild stress can be helpful – it can help you feel active and alert when you are in a demanding situation. A moderate level of stress can improve performance during high pressure circumstances such as sporting events, exams and job interviews. However, if you are excessively stressed for long periods of time, it may impact you in the following ways:

  • Constant worrying or racing thoughts
  • Irritability and anger
  • Issues with memory or concentration
  • Feeling lonely, isolated or unhappy
  • Rapid heartbeat, nausea
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Inability to relax or wind down
  • Changes to appetite, sleeping patterns or sex drive
  • Nervous tics and behaviours
  • Social avoidance or withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities

Stress has both biological and psychological aspects, which everyone experiences and copes with differently. Some people attempt to block or ignore their feelings, others relieve stress through physical exertion and some cope by talking about it with another person. However, these coping methods are not always sufficient, particularly if you are stressed for long periods of time. Ongoing feelings of stress can become a very serious long-term health issue that can intensify rapidly.

Don’t ignore the symptoms of long-term stress

If you leave stress unresolved, it can lead to anger, depression, severe anxiety and physical health complications. Research has found that mental or emotional distress is closely linked with poor physical health. People who are highly stressed are more vulnerable to illness. Poor physical health is also a maintaining factor for increased levels of stress. It underlies many other mental health issues and maladaptive mood states, such as depression, anxiety, panic, fear and anger. Ongoing stress can affect your relationships with friends and family, and also negatively impact their health and wellbeing.

Strategies to reduce stress

  • Achieve deeper relaxation
    • Calming breathing exercises, mindfulness or other meditation practice
  • Improve your diet and exercise routine
    • eat a healthy, balanced diet and maintain a regular sleep cycle
  • Reduce your coffee intake
    • Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and exacerbates anxiety
  • Talk to someone
    • internalising feelings of distress and anxiety is likely to cause further distress

What are the treatment options for stress reduction?

At Seed Psychology, our highly trained and experienced psychologists can help you learn new coping strategies to deal with life’s inevitable stressors. We will work with you to understand the origins, underlying causes and patterns of thinking and behaviour which contribute to your stress. Our psychologists will use client-focussed, evidence-based psychological treatments to reduce stress and restore your health and wellbeing.

Contact us now to book an appointment.