Facts & tips about stress

What is stress?

Stress is a reaction in our minds and bodies which we experience when we feel overwhelmed by problems and difficulties. Too much stress can be bad for you.

Living in a state of stress over a long period of time has been shown to damage our health, relationships, quality of life and our ability to work effectively.

Dealing with stress

1. Recognise when you are stressed

The first thing we need to do is to be able to recognise signs of stress in ourselves. Although everyone reacts slightly differently under stress there are a number of tell-tale signs to look for in our thinking, feelings, bodies and behaviour.

What signs do you have that tell you when you are under stress? (Note: always have any unusual symptoms checked out by your family doctor)

2. Identify the reasons for your stress

Stress can come from anywhere. But because for most of us the two main areas of our life are home and work these are the most common. The more important something is to us, the more stressful it is when it goes wrong. Some examples are:


  • relationship with spouse or partner
  • relationships with children
  • financial problems


  • relationships with co-workers
  • relationship with supervisor/manager
  • being unclear about the job
3. Stress busters

There are a number of ways to manage stress. There is no one right way. People and circumstances are different. It’s a case of picking the stress busters that fit the problem.

Stress Buster One - Tackle the problem

Sometimes we need to tackle the problem head on. This approach is often best when we are able to change the situation in front of us. For example, establish a budget and stick to it.

Stress Buster Two - Acquire more resources

Sometimes we need extra resources to deal with stressful events and issues. The resources we need depend on the problem. The key question is: What do I need to deal with this issue?

A few examples may be:

  • Your doctor
  • A baby sitter
  • Council home help
  • Financial counselling
  • Relationship counselling
  • Respite care

Stress Buster Three - Gain a new perspective

Instead of tackling the problem this is about changing the meaning of the problem either by changing either the way we look at it or the way we look at ourselves. Examples of seeing the problem differently include:

  • “It’s not the end of the world”
  • “It will pass”
  • “I’ve coped with worse.”
  • It’s not really all that important in the scheme of things”

Examples of seeing ourselves differently:

  • “It’s only really a problem because of my need to please everyone”
  • “It’s only really a problem because of my need to be perfect”
  • “I need to let go and allow them to live their own lives”

A good way of gaining a new perspective can be to talk things over with a trusted friend or a counsellor. Often when we talk we relieve the emotional pressure and our perspective changes.

Stress Buster Four - Avoid black holes

When we are stressed most of us have a tendency to make matters worse by thinking negatively and irrationally. Examples include:

  • “That’s typical of me I never do anything right”
  • “This has ruined my life for good”

Thinking like this makes us feel worse and makes it harder to deal with our problems. The way out is to change your thinking. If you have problems with black holes ask your AVA Telephone Counselling Service counsellor to teach you methods and tools for getting out and staying out.

Stress Buster Five - Stress buffers

Stress buffers are simple things which make us more resistant to stress. Examples include:

  • take regular exercise (appropriate to your age and health)
  • practice relaxation or meditation
  • a healthy diet
  • talk regularly about your thoughts and feelings
  • make moderate use of alcohol
  • taking holidays
  • hobbies and interests
  • friendships
  • fun
  • a good balance between home and work
  • rest

How the AVA can help

Source: Converge International, provider of the AVA Telephone Counselling Service

In need of emergency help?

Help is available at any time, day or night on Lifeline 13 11 14 and the AVA Counselling Service 1300 687 327.

Further resources and factsheets about stress

A comprehensive collection of free, downloadable resources.