We’re more stressed than ever

Stress levels tend to rise for many people in the weeks before Christmas. There is probably shopping to do, presents to buy, budget worries, concerns about family gatherings, dishes to cook.

Medibank research shows that we are more stressed than ever before, with the number of Australians affected rising from 3.7 million in 2007–08 to more than 4.9 million in 2016–17.

The main culprit is a lack of sleep – reported by 44 per cent of respondents. Other leading factors include juggling too many things (36 per cent) and pressures at work (39 per cent). Wider economic, societal and political issues were also common, with housing affordability (17 per cent), pressures from social media (12 per cent) and the global political climate (11 per cent) causing stress for many.

A majority of those surveyed reported that stress not only affected their sleep (62 per cent), but also their social relationships. Fifty two per cent admitted they became irritable with loved ones and colleagues, 36 per cent felt reluctant to take part in social activities and 18 per cent felt they were unable to be ‘there’ for family members, due to the stress they were experiencing.

The research found that those affected by stress were more likely to suffer from mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and panic attacks, when compared with the general population.

And while there’s still much to learn about the link between stress and the immune system, reports suggest the body’s ability to fight off infection may be lowered by ongoing stress, and that the incidence of headaches may be higher among those experiencing stress.

Medibank Chief Medical Officer Dr Linda Swan said: “It’s essential we do everything we can to take care of our mental wellbeing, and continue to look out for one another as we enter a new year.

“While stress in some circumstances can be normal, we know that if left untreated, persistent stress can contribute to the onset of certain mental health conditions, or exacerbate them.

“And while the findings do indicate a potential link between stress and some physical health conditions, external studies have not identified a causal relationship here, and therefore more research is required to determine whether stress could be having an impact on certain physical health conditions.”

The Medibank report suggests the following tips for a less stressful year:

1. Get moving
Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve mood. Aim for around 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day – this could be anything from walking to going to the gym.

2. Connect with others
Talking and connecting with people with similar experiences can help you get into a good headspace.

3. Practice mindfulness
Breathing exercises, meditation and other relaxation techniques can help to manage some of the symptoms of stress. You can also practise mindfulness with the help of handy meditation apps.

4. Get support
If you’re struggling to manage your stress, it’s important to seek support, whether it’s from a friend, loved one or medical professional.

If you need help, contact the beyondblue Support Service on 1300 22 4636 or speak to your GP.

Are you able to manage your stress? Do you find that your stress levels jump during the Christmas and/or New Year period?

Related articles:
Not all stress is bad for you
Stress less with exercise
Does stress kill?

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Janelle Ward

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