Stress management

Stress is the impact on our bodies from adjusting to change. Stress creates physical and emotional effects. Stress also creates positive or negative feelings. Some stress is actually helpful but too much stress, or poorly managed stress, can affect your health.

What is the best amount of stress for me?

Instead of trying to get rid of stress, it is more useful to manage stress. Try to find the best level of stress for you to keep you feeling motivated but not overwhelmed.

  • Not enough stress in your life can make you feel depressed or bored
  • Some stress can help you to focus and keep you feeling motivated
  • Too much stress can make you feel overwhelmed and lead to health problems such as headaches, stomach problems, rashes, sleep problems, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even stroke.
  • Different people react differently to the same stressful situations
  • There is no single level of stress that is best for all people

If stress starts to affect your health, you have gone beyond the best level of stress for you. When stress impacts on your health you need to reduce the amount of stress in your life and/or find ways to manage that stress more effectively.

How can I manage stress better?

1. Notice what makes you feel stressed and how you react to that stress

  • Notice if you are feeling distressed. Do not ignore it
  • Notice what you think and feel about the event that stresses you
  • Notice how your body responds to the stress
  • Notice whether you become nervous or physically upset

2. Recognise what you can change

  • Work out if you can avoid the events or situations that trigger your stress
  • Try spreading stressful events out over time so that you do not have to do them daily
  • Try shortening your exposure to stress by taking a break, or leaving early
  • Change your routine and make time to work on goal setting, time management techniques and other things that help you to manage stress

3. Reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions to stress

The stress reaction in your body is a natural response to perceived danger from a physical or emotional threat. Understanding how you are thinking can help you to realise that that you are not in danger.

  • Try not to exaggerate. Avoid thinking about a difficult situation as if it is a disaster
  • Work out if things really are absolutely critical and urgent or if you are overreacting
  • Try to see stress as something you can cope with not something overwhelming
  • Focus on what is really happening now instead of worrying about what might happen

4. Learn to notice and control your physical reactions to stress

  • Practice slow, deep breaths to help slow down your heart rate and your breathing
  • Learn some relaxation techniques to reduce muscle tension
  • Ask your doctor if medication could help you until you get better at these techniques.

5. Look after your physical health

  • Do rhythmic exercise like walking, swimming, cycling, or jogging 3-4 times per week
  • Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals
  • Maintain your ideal weight
  • Avoid nicotine, too much caffeine and other stimulants
  • Get enough sleep. Be as consistent with your sleep schedule as possible

6. Look after your emotional health

  • Develop some mutually supportive friendships/relationships.
  • Pursue realistic goals which are meaningful to you, rather than goals others have for you that you do not share.
  • Expect some frustrations, failures, and sorrows.
  • Always be kind and gentle with yourself. Be a friend to yourself

Monash resources

External resources

Speak to your doctor about whether medication would help in your situation.