The makings of a positive friendship



Work deadlines … a parent suffering from cancer … mortgage repayments … assignment due … kids won’t sleep through the night … conflicts at work … the dog escaped the yard for the tenth time this week!

Is your heart rate up yet? Just thinking about these common situations is enough for anyone to empathise with what we all experience at times: stress. Stress is often described as feeling overloaded, wound-up, tense, and worried and occurs when we face a situation we feel we can’t cope with. Psychologists are trained to help people deal with stress effectively.

Some stress can have a positive effective, such as motivating us to finish a task to deadline. However, when we feel stressed over a long period of time, it can significantly impact our physical and mental health; as well as our relationships, work life, and day-to-day living. Symptoms of chronic stress include: changes in appetite, irritability, depression, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, poor concentration, stomach complaints, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system.

We all cope with stress differently: comfort eating, alcohol, drugs, avoidance, or withdrawing are some examples; and coping mechanisms can change over our lives depending on our circumstances.

Picture this: you’ve had another stressful, hectic day at work, there’s nothing in the fridge to make a decent meal so you grab takeaway again (for the fourth night this week). You promised to call your friend but just don’t have the energy and would rather zone out in front of the tv with several glasses of wine. This may sound like an ideal Friday night ritual; but if it becomes an everyday habit, and you start to find yourself withdrawing from friends, and avoiding completing tasks that would actually make life easier, not to mention the extra stress being put on your health, what is it that gives?

So how can we change some of these habits for more helpful ones, and what are some positive coping mechanisms we might use? Looking at how we are thinking about a situation and adjusting our self-talk to be more positive, accepting, and forgiving is essential. It’s also important to try to keep our thoughts in perspective, and focus more energy on problem solving. Sometimes just talking about it with a loved one, friends, or family is enough to pull us through. Other ways to manage stress are:

  • Mindfulness practices e.g. yoga, meditation, essential oils
  • Exercise
  • Spending quality time with people who enrich our lives and make us feel good
  • Read a good book
  • Take time out and create balance in your life

If you are suffering from chronic (i.e. constant, ongoing) stress, and feel like your coping mechanisms aren’t working or aren’t healthy, talking to a psychologist can help. Psychologists assist you to identify what is causing stress in your life and offer evidence-based techniques to address these issues – and this can often be the difference between feeling completely overwhelmed and in the dark, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

If you would like to see us in person in the Shoalhaven and Wollongong areas or have an online appointment from anywhere to discuss your anxiety then contact us today.

ldwin, C. (2012). Stress and coping across the lifespan. In S. Folkman (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Stress, Health, and Coping: Oxford University Press.

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