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From the Counselling Suite

05.07.17

Some Ideas to Combat the Stress and Anxiety of Life
I am unsure of whether it is simply that winter seems to be colder than usual, and it is nearing the end of term, but there seems to be an epidemic of stress and depressive symptoms in the school community at the moment. Boys are stressed, parents are stressed and teachers are stressed. No doubt the holidays will help, but there are also some very simple remedies to stress that we overlook – sometimes we are more comfortable talking about our stress levels and anxiety rather than taking positive actions to remedy the situation.  

So, what is it that is going to contribute to making us feel more at peace, more able to cope and to rid ourselves of that constant state of hypersensitivity that often results from feelings of stress and anxiety? There is nothing new in the following list, but we all need to be reminded from time to time of what we should be doing.

Eat well, exercise regularly and get a good night’s sleep.    There is considerable research indicating that our diet impacts on our mood and energy levels, and eating wisely is an important first step in decreasing anxiety and stress levels. Foods which are rich in omega-3 such as oily fish and B vitamins such legumes, wholegrains, nuts, vegetables and milk etc are recommended by many researchers as foods that promote good mental health. I think we are all aware that too much processed and sugary ‘junk’ food leaves us feeling sluggish and depressed. Unfortunately, though for many of our boys, this ‘junk’ food features high in their diets. 

Exercise is also an important factor in our mental health; exercise boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine which is likely to improve our mood and buffer some of the effects of stress. Regular exercise is more important than a once a week visit to the gym – walking is something that we can all do every day at no cost. 

Sleep is so important to good mental health, and unfortunately many of our young people do not get a good night’s sleep. Often this is the result of addiction to social media and gaming, but often it is linked to feelings of stress where they simply replay past negative events in their heads or worry about the future. It takes time to develop good sleep habits, but a proper night’s sleep is essential for good mental health.  

Don’t stress about what is outside of our control, and don’t procrastinate rather than doing something about what we can control. Too often we worry about what has happened in the past – the test we didn’t study for, or the assignment that we completed in too much of a hurry; worrying about things that we can’t change is such a waste of energy. In the same way, worrying about things that we can do rather than doing is also a waste of energy and a guarantee of high stress levels. So, let go of what you cannot control and do what you can control – accept what cannot be changed and put your energy into changing what you do control.  

Learn to forgive and to let go of grudges. When we hold on to resentment, anger and hurt we leave little room in our hearts for positive feelings, and we are more likely to be stressed and anxious about little things that don’t matter – we are less happy and more anxious. To minimise the opportunities for stress and depression, we need to maximise our opportunities of being happy – we are not likely to experience happiness when we are consumed by resentment and anger. 

Don’t compare yourself to others. So often we compare ourselves, our performance to others and forget that each of us is a unique human being. Comparing ourselves to our peers, either seeing ourselves as better or worse than others is detrimental to good mental health. Rather than be judgemental of others or of ourselves, we need to concentrate on just being the best we can. We all have different gifts and talents, and to avoid being stressed and anxious we need to be content with those talents and to know that we are all doing the best we can.  

It is awful to feel stressed and anxious; we don’t achieve our best, and not only our mental health but our physical health suffers. But rather than talking about being stressed we need to take active steps to combat the stress and anxiety we feel. The ideas expressed above are a good starting point.    

Feel free to contact the Counselling Team for more ideas and for support in implementing them counselling@bps.sa.edu.au

Ms Cathie Oswald
Dr Lucinda Clifford