Stress can affect anyone. Not to mention, there are complex individual, physiological and emotional factors which determine how each of us respond to stress. Developing self-awareness and knowing what to do if you experience stress are essential to reducing symptoms or avoiding burnout. But what does stress look like?  

It can be different for everyone, however the main symptoms of stress can be psychological, behavioural or physiological. This may include one or more of the following signs that you, or someone you know, is experiencing stress: 

  • Psychological – worrying, self-blame, lack of concentration, poor decision making, confusion, anxiety, sadness, depression, irritability, anger, fear, panic or, at the most extreme, suicidal thoughts. 
  • Behavioural – sleep difficulties, withdrawal, isolation, restlessness, alcohol and drug use, over or under eating, violent behaviour or domestic problems.  
  • Physiologica sweating, tension, headaches, trembling, chest pain, nausea, digestive problems or sexual difficulties.  

We need to understand stress and then develop an awareness of what stress looks like for us as individuals.

An cartoon outline depicting two different faces, one with a storm cloud over its head, and another smiling

Michael Caballero, Senior Psychologist at Achieve Australia, explains that there are several key areas that can help deal with stress. “Firstly, we need to understand stress and then develop an awareness of what stress looks like for us as individuals,” he says. “Next, we need to develop a toolkit for coping to ease any symptoms that we might experience. And finally, we need to understand when to ask for help if it’s becoming overwhelming,” Michael went on to say. 

An Achieve client and her support worker sitting under trees on a bench talking
It’s important to talk about stress and mental health problems with somebody you trust. 

So, what’s in your toolkit?

We looked at eight areas that can help build resilience and alleviate the symptoms of stress and help to restore inner balance.  

  • Lifestyle  look at diet, exercise and sleep routines, take time for relaxation or get a hobby.  
  • Physical  explore gentle exercise such as swimming, tai chi, stretching or yoga, have a massage, learn how to breathe or practice meditation. 
  • Mental  learn to say ‘no’, focus on what you can control instead of what you cannot, prioritise, restructure your beliefs, and develop more optimistic thinking.  
  • Emotional  identify your triggers, develop self-awareness, try responding and not reacting, share your feelings with others, write in a journal, laugh or create a gratitude journal. 
  • Environmental  declutter, clean, separate work from your personal space, personalise your bedroom, get a pet or think about your home in terms of the temperature, lighting and its surroundings.  
  • Social  surround yourself with positive people and create some variety in what you do socially and recreationally, meet new people or join a club.  
  • Sense of purpose  attend a self-development course, find meaning and belonging or get in touch with nature.  
  • Workplace  develop work-life balance, practice time management, take time off, use your weekends wisely, be honest about what you can achieve, set boundaries and collaborate with others, take a five-minute break and talk to your colleagues, learn how to ask for help. 

If you are experiencing stress, know that you are not alone and that help is available. 

Where to get help:  

  • Take a look at who in your life may be able to support you. Family, friends, colleagues or informal support networks can be a good place to start.  
  • Access professional services such as a psychologist or counsellor. You can also see your GP to enquire about Medicare rebates. 
  • Families and people with disability can use Achieve Australia’s My Wellbeing services 

Remember, if you, or someone you know, needs urgent help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or 000 in an emergency.  

If you are interested in attending a stress and coping workshop for families, carers or people with disability, contact the My Wellbeing team to express your interest via the form below, email at mywellbeing@achieveaustralia.org.au or phone 1300 22 44 38. 


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