Are you anxious or just worried? How to tell the difference
It’s important to know and recognise which is which
Australians are more stressed than ever before, and our mental health impacts more than just our mood and wellbeing. Here’s how stress hits our nation's bottom line.
A big presentation at work, running late for an important meeting or trying to keep the kids entertained; stress is a relatively unavoidable part of life.
And, it isn’t all bad – in the right dose stress can provide a jolt of motivation to keep us moving along, if not excelling. However, too much stress or when it’s accompanied by unhelpful coping strategies, can cause physical and mental harm, which can in turn render us unproductive or even chronically unwell.
And the results of chronic stress don’t only hit your personal health and hip pocket, it costs the Australian economy billions of dollars every year.
There is a growing body of research showing ongoing exposure to stress contributes to physical illness – from cardiovascular disease (although this link requires further research) and high blood pressure to being more likely to pick up infections and chronic fatigue. Left untreated, stress can also evolve into a mental illness such as an anxiety disorder or depression.
As you can imagine, stress and resulting side effects may in turn impact our relationships and our performance and productivity in the workplace.
Worksafe says stress has been linked with high levels of:
Mental health research organisation the Black Dog Institute estimates mental illness costs the Australian economy more than $12 billion a year in lost productivity and the National Mental Health Commission recently estimated that the cost of services related to mental ill-health in Australia each year clocks in around $4,000 per person, or $60 billion in total in 2016.
The Stress and Wellbeing in Australia survey, conducted by the Australian Psychological Society found lower levels of wellbeing and higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety symptoms in the population. Some important findings include:
It’s not just adults impacted either - a whopping 83.2% of Australian university and TAFE students reported their health and wellbeing was affected by stress, according to research conducted through headspace and the National Union of Students.
Many of us can recognise when we’re under stress, but if you’re not sure, there are warning signs that it’s time to take control.
The Australian Psychological Society says symptoms of chronic stress can be physical or behavioural, and may include:
Likewise, you may notice yourself developing unhealthy coping mechanisms to counteract these symptoms - think excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, a lack of interest in socialising or not getting enough exercise.
While early intervention (like taking time out or cutting back on the things that cause us stress) is best, sometimes chronic stress takes us by surprise, or we aren’t sure what we can do about the causes of our stress. The good news is, there are plenty of resources out there to lend a hand:
If you have concerns about your mental health, or you’ve noticed changes in the way you’re thinking or feeling, the best thing you can initially do is speak to your GP. If seeing a psychologist seems beneficial, your GP can work with you to develop a mental health plan, which includes up to six Medicare rebatable sessions (you can then request four extra sessions if you need them).
If you or someone you know needs help, please call:
For more information on free mental health support, check out our article, 6 ways to get help for mental health – and you won’t have to pay a thing!