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Stress alert: am I healthy?

November 12, 2012

Australians stressed out by trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Sound like a paradox?  It certainly is, but according to this year’s Stress and Wellbeing Survey conducted by the Australian Psychological Society (APS), it’s:

a source of stress for 40% of Australians, with one in seven (14%) reporting it as a substantial source of stress.

The first thing you need to get clear is that you’re not going to be able to maintain good health, either mentally or physically, if you’re in a constant state of stress – particularly about your health!  It’s a vicious circle.

If you feel you’re struggling to maintain a healthy lifestyle, try our STOP For a Minute technique to do a bit of self-examination:

Slow down: Have you got time in your day that’s scheduled just for you, to do absolutely nothing?  Even if it’s just for fifteen minutes?  If not, there’s your first job.  And make that fifteen minutes non-negotiable.

Take a breath: Either during that fifteen minutes, or when you feel stress come on throughout the day, take a minute to do some slow, deep breaths.  If you have a desk-bound job, it is good to stop every hour for a quick break to avoid getting physically uncomfortable and stretch.  This is a perfect time to practice your breathing techniques.

Observe: OK, so you’re stressed that you’re not keeping a healthy lifestyle…what evidence do you actually have?  Are you eating three meals a day?  Are you constantly tired?  Are you finding time for exercise?  When was the last time you saw a doctor?

Pull back: Get some perspective.  Is your stress actually in proportion with the evidence in front of you?  Now that you have some clarity over some areas you’d like to improve in, you can start to make changes.  If you’re skipping breakfast, for example, and feeling hungry by 10am at work, then start to think about how you can readjust your morning schedule.

Sometimes stress in our lives can actually be coming from a number of sources, and it’s unclear where it’s all coming from.  Talking to a psychologist is a great way to help you get some perspective, particularly if you’re part of that 14% that is feeling “substantially” under stress about your lifestyle.

You can make positive changes, and it’s ok to ask for help.

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