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Sport, Health & Wellbeing

Let’s talk about stress

As students and staff across the University of Canberra engage in Stress Less Week activities, we delve into the topic of stress – what it is, how to spot it and what to do if you have high stress levels.

To help us understand the importance of stress and its impact, we spoke to Assistant Professor in Clinical Psychology at the University of Canberra, Dr Vivienne Lewis.

“Stress affects everyone. It’s a perception of our ability to cope with the demands of life. When we perceive there are more demands than our ability to cope, our stress can be high,” Dr Lewis said.

“We know that stress affects our body and mind. For example, stress can increase perceptions of pain in the body, make us feel ill, affect our sleeping and eating, our mood, our concentration, memory, as well as contributing to anxiety and depression.”

While some amounts of stress are normal and can even be helpful, as Dr Lewis says “a little bit of stress actually motivates us. For example, when we know there is a deadline, this often motivates us to get the task done”. But when stress levels become too high, the outcome can be debilitating.

“Extreme stress can cause ill health, loss of the ability to relax and enjoy life, make people feel constantly on edge, affect sleep and quality of life, relationships, family life, job satisfaction, and energy to look after one’s self including exercise and time out.”

Keeping an eye out for signs of stress is important so that early action can be taken. Dr Lewis explains that there are a few signs that we should be aware of.

“Signs of stress are usually where there is a change in our sleep, eating, sense of pleasure, ability to concentrate, ability to relax, getting short tempered, being tearful, not wanting to do things such as going to work or enjoying our hobbies.”

So what should you do if you notice these changes in your life? This will depend on the cause of your stress.

“If you can eliminate the cause then do that. During stressful times the most important thing is to look after your basic needs for sleep, healthy eating, some physical activity, doing more relaxation, or talk to someone for problem solving (i.e., a friend, colleague, counsellor, or your GP),” Dr Lewis said.

The UC Medical and Counselling Centre can be reached on 02 6201 2351. You can find out more about the centre here and more about the team here.

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