Stress – what it is, and what you can do about it

As human beings, we can feel stressed about many things. It is helpful to try to identify what is it that is making us stressed. The ‘stressor’ could be work related, school related, an event, a person, a situation, a financial concern, or many other things. 

There are actually two kinds of stress: Eustress and Distress.

  • Eustress is a positive psychological response to a stressor and indicates the presence of positive psychological states for example enthusiasm and excitement.
  • Distress is a negative psychological response to a stressor and indicates the presence of negative psychological states for example anxiety, nervousness, irritability and tension.

In both cases, our body will experience a rise in cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline in order to combat the stressor.  

The stress response is also referred to as the ‘fight, flight, freeze’ response. When we become aware of the stressor the stress hormones are released. This happens to help us avert danger by energising us to act, stopping us or helping us escape from the stressor.

When the stressor has gone, our body systems should slowly return to normal. However, sometimes our body can remain highly stressed and this can sometimes lead to anxiety. It is important to understand stress and have ways of helping the whole body calm down. 

Stress facts:

  • it is normal to feel stressed from time to time
  • our body recognises this as ‘fight, flight, freeze’ and this is normal
  • the stress hormones help us tackle a stressor
  • we need these hormones to help us manage the stressor
  • we need them to stop when the stressor has passed
  • once the stressor has passed we should start to feel better

 

To help ‘turn off’ the stress responses these ideas may help, tell yourself:   

  • I can find ways to cope
  • I can speak to someone to come up with a plan
  • I can calm my body down by going for a walk or by doing slow deep breathing ‘in for 4 hold for 2 out for 6’,
  • I can look at images of my family, my friends, my dog, animals, or an area of interest
  • I can distract myself by immersing myself in a project, e.g., painting, colouring.
  • I can make a list of some helpful ways that I could manage this stressor and tick them off one by one

 

There are many ways to tackle stress and a psychologist is very skilled at helping a person of any age identify what works best for them. If you would like some support with stress management, why not give us a call today? Our team of highly skilled and well-experienced psychologists are here to help. 

 

 Di Mawby close photo

This blog was written by Dianne Mawby, Psychologist at Your Mind Matters Psychology Services. Di works with us 2 evenings per week and is enjoys working with older children, adolescents, families and adults.  

To learn more about Dianne, head here: https://yourmindmatters.net.au/our-team/

 

 

References: 

Frydenberg, E. (2014). Coping research: Historical background, links with emotion, and new research directions on adaptive processes. Australian Journal of Psychology. vol. 66, no. 2, pp. 82-92.  https://doi.org/10.1111/ajpy.12051

Grohol, John. “What’s the purpose of the fight or flight response?”. Retrieved 16 February 2019. https://psychcentral.com/blog/whats-the-purpose-of-the-fight-or-flight-response/

Maldonado, E.F., Fernandez, F.J., Trianes, M.V., Wesnes, K., Petrini, O., Zangara, A., Enguix, A. & Ambrosetti, L. (2008). Cognitive Performance and Morning Levels of Salivary Cortisol and [alpha]-Amylase in Children Reporting High vs. Low Daily Stress Perception. The Spanish Journal of Psychology. vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 3-15.

Waldemar, F. (1984). Physiological changes during physical and psychological stress. Australian Journal of Psychology. vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 317-326. https://doi/epdf/10.1080/00049538408255313