• Phoebe Henry

Stress Less! How to de-stress

Updated: Nov 21, 2019

I’m sure at one point you’ve been told to ‘stress less’ – whether because of work problems, study pressure, or as a backseat driver! But how exactly can you do this?

Stress isn’t always a bad thing and can actually help us deal with things in the short term. However, chronic stress or dealing with increased stressors over a prolonged period can result in continuous, or heightened activation of the nervous system. This increased nervous system function influences various systems in our body and along with psychological tension, can manifest as different body reactions; such as increased muscle tension, shortness of breath, memory difficulty, increased blood pressure and gastrointestinal problems 1. Dealing with stress in the long-term increases the demands placed on our body, so it’s important that each of us learn strategies to help de-stress!

If you’re feeling stressed right now, you’re not alone – around one quarter of us are experiencing above average levels of stress and anxiety, with another quarter of us reporting moderate to severe symptoms of stress and anxiety, including depression. The five most popular ways that Aussies cope with stress include 2:

  1. Watching TV

  2. Focusing on the positives

  3. Spending time with friends/family

  4. Listening to music

  5. Reading

Interestingly, even though watching TV was the most popular way of managing stress, it is NOT the most effective way to manage stress. In fact, spending time with friends and family has been reported as being one of the most effective ways of dealing with stress 2.


Another great way to help reduce stress and boost our mental health is to get moving! Exercise triggers a chemical response that helps us to feel positive, improves our mood and parts of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Additionally, research shows the added benefit of exercising outdoors (also known as ‘green exercise’). A 2010 study 3 showed that by spending just 5 minutes doing green exercise, participant’s self-esteem and mood instantly increased. This finding was further boosted if green exercise was near (or in) a river or waterfront 3.

"Green" exercise has added health benefits

So, we know that exercise is one recommended strategy to deal with stress, but even if you’re exercising regularly it doesn’t mean you’re protected from becoming stressed. Additionally, stress has been shown to be detrimental to athletic performance, and even increase injury risk 4. Teaching athletes stress management techniques has been shown to reduce injury rates over a season of participation, and a growing number of Australia’s high-profile athletes are now using mindfulness and meditation to help them deal with life on and off the field.

Stress has been shown to be detrimental to athletic performance, and even increase injury risk

Research suggests that mindfulness can help you become calmer, be more productive and improve mood. Mindfulness involves becoming more aware of things happening around us and gain a greater sense of presence. Headspace outlines 6 great tips to help you practice mindfulness:

  1. Observe your breathing

  2. Observe nature

  3. Take mini mindful breaks

  4. Avoid doing too many things at once

  5. Create a journal

  6. Use of mindfulness apps (such as Smiling Mind or Headspace)


So, if you’re feeling stressed out why not give green exercise, mindfulness and socialising a go!



If you require further help, chat to your trusted health professional or check out:

  • https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/topics/stress

  • https://headspace.org.au/blog/6-ways-to-practise-mindfulness/

  • https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/staying-well/reducing-stress

References

  1. Mariotti A. (2015). The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain-body communication. Future science OA, 1(3), FSO23. doi:10.4155/fso.15.21

  2. Australian Psychological Society Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2015. Retrieved from: https://www.headsup.org.au/docs/default-source/default-document-library/stress-and-wellbeing-in-australia-report.pdf?sfvrsn=7f08274d_4

  3. Barton J, Pretty J. What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A multi-Study Analysis. Environment Science & Technology. 2010;44(10):3947-3955.

  4. Psychological issues related to injury in athletes and the team physician: A Consensus Statement. Retrieved from: https://www.sportsmed.org/AOSSMIMIS/members/downloads/education/Consensus Statements/PsychologicalIssues.pdf

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