How to beat 5 common stress triggers

Whether it’s lack of time, work or financial pressures, there are common triggers that send our stress levels rising. Here’s how to deal with them.

You’ve missed a work deadline, the kids are sick and those bills are all past payment date.

“Stress is your body’s fight or flight reaction and kicks in when you believe life’s demands outweigh your ability to cope,” psychologist Kim Cullen explains.

“Stress can get a bad rap though. A good level of stress can be motivating and improve focus.

“It’s when it continues to build, it becomes ‘distress’ and can get tricky.”

From brain fog, to difficulty sleeping, headaches, an upset stomach and irritability, stress manifests in many ways.

In 2020-21, 15 per cent of Australians aged 16 to 85 felt stress in high or very high levels.

“I see a lot of clients who believe they manage their stress, but they’re actually containing it, not managing it, which can lead to physical and emotional problems,” Kim says.

Community psychologist Dr Marny Lishman says we all have different stress triggers because as individuals, our brains perceive different things as a threat.

“In general we don’t like being overwhelmed but when you look at things like daily hassles, it’s very individual and what’s one person’s stress, another will do with ease,” Marny says.

Here are some common stress triggers and strategies to deal with them.

1. Lack of time

Statistics show around a third of Aussies are under chronic time stress, feeling rushed for time “often” or “almost always”.

“Telling yourself … ‘all I need is more time’, can trigger a stress response,” Kim says.

“There’s only 24 hours in a day, that’s all we get.

“Instead, do an audit of your tasks across a day or week and prioritise by asking yourself what’s urgent, what’s important, and what can wait?

“Be strict with what you can handle.”

2. Money problems

Money worries are consistently one of the leading causes of stress in Australia.

“Often the thing that is stressful is not only not having enough money, but the uncertainty and lack of control that this causes,” Marny explains.

“Create some certainty and control by knowing your figures.

“Be honest with yourself, create and stick to a budget, talk to a mortgage broker or financial advisor, get the reins back again.”

3. Being a parent

While there’s lots of joy involved in parenting, it can also be confusing, frustrating and stressful.

“My over-riding piece of advice would be, don’t try for perfection and make good use of incidental time,” Kim says.

“There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but good parenting involves connecting with our kids.

“Connection is built on shared moments – long moments and short ones.

“By all means plan weekend activities and holidays, but look for small moments to connect as well.

“Chat in the car, while preparing dinner, or doing chores.

“Sometimes we can only find small bouts of time, the trick is to make good use of it.”

4. Conflicts at work or at home

“While we can’t control other people or their behaviour, we can control the way we interpret that behaviour and the way that we react,” Marny reveals.

“Another key is effective communication, which allows you to resolve conflicts as they arise — this is where a lot of people might reach out to a psychologist for help, to get that communication right.”

5. Death or illness in the family

“There’s no text book way of dealing with these stresses which are imposed on us, often unexpectedly,” Marny says, adding it is here that you need to remember self-care.

“Sometimes we can’t control the situation but we can change the way we feel.

“Look after yourself, talk to your friends, look for relaxing moments and downtime, get support — if you do things to change the way you feel, you’ll be better placed to cope.”

For more advice on stress and wellbeing, tune into House of Wellness TV, Fridays 2pm and Sundays 12 noon, on Channel 7.

Written by Liz McGrath.