Finding strategies to reduce stress should be part of our everyday lives.
Lifeline’s annual fundraiser ‘Stress Down Day’ is set down for 24 July. It’s helpful to have a day when we can have some fun going to work in our dressing gown and slippers, while being a reminder of the urgent need for us all to address stress.
Currently we have higher rates of stress than ever before. The statistics are so alarming you would be forgiven for wondering why lowering stress levels isn’t a priority, especially since 35% of Australians are suffering significant distress in their lives. And in most cases, stress is the immediate precursor to anxiety and depression.
Perhaps it is because our stress temperature has been slowly rising higher and higher without us noticing or recognising the enormous impact of it on our lives.
Another answer to our placid acceptance of our outrageous stress levels might be that in general societies focus on the impacts of the stress (depression, anxiety, absenteeism) rather than addressing the causes of the stress itself (financial worries, family problems, work issues, insomnia and health issues). Recent discoveries regarding the role of poor nutrition/gut health on our mental health and the impact of the alarming stories and images we get every day in the media only add to the toll.
The effects of stress on the body and brain are well-known, but not so often discussed are the effects on our mind.
We can suffer from a lack of ‘sense of self’; mindlessness (a lack of ability to be self-observant); a lack of connectedness; and a ‘loss of spirit’. These effects require us to nurture the spirit by quiet time, reflection and a feeling of connectedness that is often missing in modern-day living, with its accent on the mundane. Involvement in the Church and spirituality are ways to nurture our spiritual health and in times of stress it pays to remember the calming effects of prayer and meditation.
In the past our focus on finding strategies to cope with stress has been poor. Hopefully that is changing now, with programs in schools to address this, although these programs, such as mindfulness, are often electives and not part of the core curriculum.
Having a ‘Stress Down Day’ is useful but finding ways to de-stress every day is vital.
Developing our own stress management plan and making sure we carry it out on an ongoing basis can make a huge difference on an individual level and can make a contribution to the health of our whole society. A simple, sample plan can include making sure you have timely breaks, take regular deep breaths, clear your weekends for some quiet time or family time and take steps to get a better night’s sleep.
Muriel Cooper is a psychologist in a private practice. Find out more about her on www.talkingroom.com.au.