How to tell if you're stressed

When we are stressed our bodies respond with physical changes- your heart beats faster, your breathing getting faster, your muscles tense up and you start to sweat. Sound familiar? These changes usually go away as soon as the stress is removed, but if the stress sticks around (e.g. an ongoing financial problem) you may develop stress-related symptoms that can later lead to certain health conditions.

Here are the signs of too much stress:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Poor sleep
  • Tiredness and irritability
  • Finding it hard to concentrate
  • Using caffeine, energy drinks or sugar to keep going

If you are experiencing any of these signs on a regular basis, speak to your doctor for further advice.

What you can do to deal with stress

Stress is a part of life and learning to manage it is a life skill. It is an important part of keeping yourself in good physical and mental health. The key to managing stress is to wind down before you get wound up. Here are some anti-stress tips that can help you get started today!

  • Exercise - be active every day by doing an activity you enjoy, for example, walking, swimming or playing a team sport in your local community.
  • Sleep - build good sleep habits into your daily routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding stimulants before bed like caffeine, alcohol and screen time, and making your bedroom dark, cool and quiet.
  • Diet - take care with how you fuel your body. Think lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish and small portions of lean meat and dairy. Limit foods that are processed or high in fat and sugar. This will help manage your stress levels and even improve your mood and mental wellbeing.
  • Self-care – listen to soothing music or find a relaxing hobby to calm you such as gardening, knitting or painting. You might also like to try complimentary therapies like massage or mindful-based activities like yoga, tai chi and meditation. These activities have all been shown to calm the mind and reduce stress. Practising positive self-talk, taking frequent breaks at work and learning to say ‘no’ when you need to is also important and will help keep stress at bay.
  • Social connection – remember to connect regularly with family and friends. They can support you through a problem or give you a breather from a stressful situation at home or work. Writing down what’s on your mind will also ease the stress you feel and help you talk to someone you can trust. You may want to also consider the calming effects of owning a pet!

Where to find support and someone to talk to

If you are finding it difficult to manage your stress, remember you are not alone. Reach out to your doctor or find a therapist or counsellor.

In situations of distress, support from a trained counsellor is available free by phoning:

Mental Health Foundation NZ call or text 1737
Depression Helpline 0800 111 757 
Lifeline 0800 543 354
Healthline 0800 611 116 
Samaritans 0800 726 666
Youthline 0800 376 633

If it is a medical emergency, be sure to phone 111 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.