STRESS - we all feel it, we all want to get rid of it.
While we hate feeling stressed, there is actually more to it than meets the eye
Paul Grant, of Gladstone Psychology Services, says stress can be a bad thing or a good thing depending on the circumstances.
"Some stress can actually improve our performance on tasks, but we can get to a point where we have passed our optimal performance levels, and additional stress then can cause a decline in our performance."
Mr Grant said stress can also be a survival mechanism.
"Very stressful events can trigger a 'fight or flight' reaction in most animals including humans," he said.
"A large range of physiological changes occur in the body, and these changes can help the animal to survive some sort of physical threat such as an attack by a predator."
"Adrenalin is released in large quantities, physical strength actually increases, metabolism is increased and more energy is made available to the muscles in the body, more blood is made available to the areas that need it the most, pupils dilate, blood clotting ability is increased (in case of being bitten or scratched), pain perception is decreased, and breathing efficiency is improved."
But times change and it has been a long time since humans consistently fought off sabre tooth tigers or a rogue woolly mammoth. While that "fight or flight" reaction is useful we are faced with a physical threat, Mr Grant says it is not so useful when we are dealing with psychological threats such as losing our job, not being able to pay our bills, relationship problems and everything else modern life throws at us.
In those circumstances, stress can hold us back.
He also said the "fight or flight" response was never designed to deal with long-term or ongoing threats and could cause problems for our bodies if maintained for more than a few minutes or hours.
Paul Grant says there are a number of simple strategies to help us to manage stress.
- Do some physical exercise, aim for three times a week for at least 30 minutes at a time.
- Learn and practise some specific relaxation techniques
- Organise yourself better and prioritise what you want to do
- Get better at delegating tasks to others at work and in the family
- Have a healthy diet including eating regular meals
- Step back periodically and try to keep little things in perspective
- Make a point of setting aside time to do some things you enjoy.