The most common reason for seeking Open Arms counselling is stress.

Stressful situations

High levels of stress and anxiety are a common problem in modern society. If you or your partner have served, there’s a chance you would have experienced:

  • relocations and postings
  • time away from your partner or family
  • exposure to situations that would be unusual for civilians
  • career pressures
  • eventual transition to civilian life
  • relationship challenges
  • financial issues

Stress affects everyone differently. What’s stressful for you, might not be for someone else. What’s important to acknowledge is that it’s how you feel.

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s reaction to a real or perceived threat.

This can trigger a fight-flight-freeze response in your body. You may experience:

  • tense muscles
  • adrenaline rush
  • faster heart beat
  • increase in blood pressure
  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • stomach and intestinal issues
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • pale or flushed skin

These symptoms can happen within a few seconds, but may take a while to ‘run their course’. While the human stress response is useful in life threatening combat situations, high levels of threat or exposure to repeated threats can lead to:

  • heightened anxiety
  • distrust
  • defensiveness

Problematic stress

We function best at medium levels of stress. Deadlines and a small amount of pressure can bring out our best work.

But, too much stress for too long can make people feel overwhelmed. It can affect quality of life and cause problems with physical and mental health. It can also lead to behaviours that are harmful to our relationships with others.

Posttraumatic stress refers to a group of reactions that can occur after someone has experienced a traumatic event.

Managing stress

Some steps that might help you manage stress are:

  1. Understand your stress. It can be difficult to recognise that stress levels are building up. The stress scale tool can help you to monitor and 'check in' on how stressed you are feeling.
    Monitoring helps increase awareness, so you can apply strategies to reduce your stress.
  2. Look at underlying causes. Identify and list the factors in your life that are causing your stress. Looking at the list with another person can help offer a different perspective.
  3. Identify things you can change. Underline the things you can change and make plans do so. Use our problem solving tool to help focus on one issue at a time.
  4. Adopt strategies for what you can’t change. One of the most effective ways to overcome stress is to change the way you respond to a stressful situation rather than trying to change the situation itself. Our challenge your thoughts tool can help you to think in more helpful and productive ways.
  5. Tell someone you trust. Let someone you trust know how you are feeling and what you need or want. Let them know what your limits are and try to remain respectful and calm. Staying positively connected to others is a critical stress management strategy.
  6. Practice relaxation. Learning relaxation techniques is a life skill which significantly helps to reduce stress and anxiety levels and improve life satisfaction and happiness.
  7. Look after yourself. Daily exercise and a healthy diet are extremely important. Our living well section has a range of suggestions and recipes for good health.

Let us help

Self-help is not for everyone. If you need additional support, Open Arms is here for you. Our counsellors and lived experience peers offer a safe space to talk through how you are feeling. Call Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

See also