This module will assist you in dealing with the typical pressures experienced in the workplace.
STRESS IS NOT ALWAYS BAD
No matter where we work, study or play we will all encounter some stress, it is part of normal life. Not all stress that you experience is necessarily harmful or bad. Positive forms of stress – known as eustress – can be motivators and energisers. Your performance can increase, however, only to a certain point before it begins to decrease. If your stress level is too high or prolonged, medical and social problems can result, affecting your well-being. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression (Martinak, 2012).
Individuals faced with the same challenges may experience or perceive different levels of stress as positive or negative. You will handle stress better if you: have good problem-solving skills; high self-efficacy; are able to take control of the situation and effect change; and if you feel there is help and support for you.
FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE
With a perceived shock, stressful event or situation, most individuals are faced with a ‘fight or flight’ response. Our bodies secrete hormones which increase blood pressure, the heart rate and blood sugar to allow us to move faster to survive the threat. Our muscles use more oxygen, leaving us with a lack of oxygen to the brain, and mental clarity is usually impaired by this process. Unfortunately, it is usually these events within the workplace which require mental clarity.
Elevated stress levels usually subside after the event. Therefore it is worth noting what strategy works to help you prepare for the next situation.
‘Switching off’ and relaxing are important to stop stress levels from remaining elevated for a prolonged period of time. We will discuss these strategies in further topics.
RECOGNISING SYMPTOMS OF STRESS
While pressure can raise our performance, it’s sometimes to the detriment of other factors such as relationships, well-being or health. In the workplace under pressure you may become highly task-oriented, focusing on immediate areas or being very short-term oriented. Explore what happens to you, and seek feedback. Evaluate whether you believe there is an issue or not. The earlier you seek feedback, and evaluate whether you believe there is an issue or not. The earlier you recognise it, the easier it is to ensure that the negative impact of pressure is alleviated.
Some people do not even recognise they are stressed until symptoms start to appear. The following table lists some common warning signs and symptoms of stress. If you recognise these you may have crossed the line between healthy pressure and harmful stress.
BEHAVIOURAL SYMPTOMS OF STRESS
- Inability to finish a task before rushing to another
- Eating more or less
- Sleeping too much or little, or broken sleep
- Nervous habits
- Using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
- Isolating yourself from others
- Speaking quickly, finishing other’s sentences, walking quickly
- Relationship problems
- Loss of sense of humour
- Suppressed anger
- Irritability towards people
- Feeling unable to cope
- Crying easily and feeling emotional
- Lacking motivation or interest in general
PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF STRESS
- Loss of appetite
- Food cravings
- Racing heart
- Accelerated breathing, breathlessness without exertion
- Shaking, twitching or nail biting
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea
- Headaches and back pain
- Lapses in concentration
- Feelings hot and sweaty or cold and clammy
- Frequent colds and flus
- Reduced immunity
- Constant tiredness
OTHER SYMPTOMS OF STRESS
- Feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to cope
- Cognitive difficulties, such as a reduced ability to concentrate or make decisions
Psychologists and counsellors within the JCU Counselling Service can help you to understand and manage your stress levels.
As you work through this module you will become aware of how to identify stress early and put in place strategies to deal with these situations or avoid the situations becoming unhealthy.
Please complete Activity 1 in your Activity Book.
Click on the Activity Books icon at the top of the screen, find the Managing Stress and Pressures Activity Book and click on the blue download icon.
Organisational and Personal Pressures
Identifying the type and source of stress can help you to put strategies in place to reduce it. You may need to make organisational changes at work, or changes that are more personal.
As addressed in the module ‘Thriving in the Workplace’, a new job or placement is filled with excitement, but it can also be quite a stressful time and filled with a fear of the unknown, raising questions such as:
- Will I have the skills they require?
- Will I be accepted?
- Will I fit in?
- What will my day at work look like?
- Who will I ask for direction?
- What if I make a mistake?
Not everyone will experience stress in their workplace. However, with busy lives and work environments some of us will inevitably encounter stress in a variety of situations.
What are the Main Work-Related Stressors?
All the following issues have been identified as potential stressors in the workplace:
- Organisation culture
- Bad management practices
- Job content and demands
- Physical work environment
- Relationships at work
- Change management
- Lack of support
- Role conflict
Sources of Work-Related Stress
Some of the factors that commonly cause work-related stress include:
- Long hours
- Heavy workload
- Changes within the organisation
- Tight deadlines
- Changes to duties
- Job insecurity
- Lack of autonomy
- Boring work
- Insufficient skills for the job
- Inadequate working environment
- Lack of proper resources
- Lack of equipment
- Few promotional opportunities
- Poor relationships with colleagues or bosses
- Crisis incidents, such as an armed hold-up or workplace death.
(Better Health Channel, 2012)
As discussed above, pressure can be a result of the nature of the job, the work environment or of how your role fits in with the rest of the business.
To alleviate this kind of pressure, your role or job may need to be renegotiated with different boundaries instituted. Clearer lines of responsibility as well as better delegation and prioritisation can help reduce pressure on individuals, teams and departments.
Better organisational planning and anticipation of pressure points can help ensure that resources are in the right place at the right time. Sometimes pressure is unavoidable, but it is certainly more bearable when the duration is minimised.
Sometimes these external factors cannot be changed as it may be the culture of the organisation. In this case you need to explore your internal stress responses or rethink your employment options.
Sources of Personal Pressure in Your Life
Gaining an awareness of where you are experiencing stress in your life can help you manage it effectively. Read through the information below and identify any which are relevant to you and that you have experienced WITHIN THE PAST YEAR.
- Relationship breakdown
- Death of someone close to you
- Minor violations of the law (traffic tickets, jaywalking, disturbing the peace, etc.)
- Loss of driving licence
- Major personal injury/illness
- Getting married
- Losing your job
- Reconciliation with friend or partner
- Major change in health of a family member or someone close to you
- Group work
- Gaining new family members (birth, adoption, foster family, another adult moving in, etc.)
- Major change in financial state (a lot worse or better off than usual)
- Change to a different line of work or commencing a new job
- Taking on a loan or mortgage
- Foreclosure on a mortgage or loan
- Major change in responsibilities at work (promotion, demotion, lack of confidence in work abilities etc.)
- Outstanding personal achievement
- Change in residence or environment
- Change in personal habits (the way you dress, alcohol consumption, addictions, etc.)
- Trouble with a supervisor or boss
Prolonged and heightened stress levels reduce your capacity to function at optimal levels. It also raises your chances of becoming seriously ill. If you have ticked a few of the boxes above, consider making an appointment to talk to a JCU Counsellor. JCU offers free Counselling Services for students, available on campus or by telephone or Skype.
Good self-awareness and a solid understanding of your own particular personality style, your needs and your strengths and weaknesses – along with your preferences – are essential for managing pressures effectively. (Explore your self-awareness by completing the ‘Self Understanding’ and ‘Thriving in the Workplace’ modules from this program).
When assessing potential changes on a personal level, be aware of how you respond to pressure. As discussed in Topic 1, there are positive and negative stressors. Some symptoms you exhibit may be positive and motivating, others may not. Know your balance and at the same time be aware of pressure in others. No two people respond to pressure in the same way.
Please complete Activity 2 in your Activity Book.
Develop Coping Strategies Within The Workplace
When we start a new job or placement it is normal to feel some anxiety. As our responsibilities change or grow in a workplace we may experience pressure with deadlines, resources, delegation or other demands. By knowing and practicing some coping strategies, such as those outlined below, you can increase your sense of control and manage your stress more effectively.
TEN TIPS TO DEAL WITH WORK PRESSURES
TIP 1: PRIORITISE – TIME MANAGEMENT
Time management techniques can help us to be more efficient and effective in the workplace. Try to:
- Manage your tasks in order of priority. Consider writing a daily list of ‘to dos’ and cross each task off once completed. Remember to be realistic when compiling your list
- Reserve your prime working time (when energy levels are high) for complex tasks, and save trivial, routine tasks for non-prime time
- When planning your work schedule, attempt to balance routine tasks with more enjoyable responsibilities
- Try to handle each piece of paper that comes across your desk only once – not easy, but at least try
Stop Procrastinating! The inability to make a decision and get started adds considerable pressure to our daily life. We often procrastinate because our language is not motivating or because we are overwhelmed by the size of the tasks ahead.
Not motivated? If you often say, ‘I must get into that…’, ’I should start this task…’, ’I might get a coffee before I start…’, you are trying to force yourself to do something. Not all tasks are exciting, but your language will significantly impact on your attitude and energy towards such tasks. Try saying instead: ‘I really want to. . . ‘, or ’I am going to. . . .’, or even ’I am starting … .’
Overwhelmed? If you feel your heart race a little when looking at a task, and you don’t know where to start, your task needs to be broken down into bite-sized pieces.
- Setting aside a time to brainstorm all aspects of the task
- Asking for support for components of the task
- Creating a timeline with the smaller tasks in order of priority
- online time management and productivity tools such as Habitica – Gamify Your Life, The Pomodoro Technique — Why It Works & How To Do It (todoist.com)
- See this information sheet for more tips: Information-Sheet-Procrastination-and-Motivation.pdf (jcu.edu.au)
TIP 2: CONFIDENCE AND COMMUNICATION
Another key to managing pressures is to be confident and communicate.
- Ask for support: if you feel the pressure rising and can’t foresee the task being completed within the time frame, ask your peers or your boss for support.
- Communicate your progress: let your peers, employer, and/or stakeholders know where the project/task is at. The sooner people are alerted to the situation, the sooner you can collaborate on contingencies.
- Ask for assistance: learn to say ’I don’t know‘ or ’I don’t understand‘ when necessary. Nobody knows everything!
- Manage technology rather than allowing technology to manage you. For example, with telephone conversations, plan what you’re going to say and/or ask in advance; prioritise email messages according to their importance to your objectives; turn off your mobile phone when it could interrupt an important meeting or activity.
- Be kind to yourself: even though you may not be the best at what you are doing right now, remember that you are a graduate and you are still learning.
- Compare yourself to yourself: the only comparison that counts is the comparison between where you were and where you are now. Admire others and be proud of their achievements by all means, but remind yourself that only you can determine the standard you want to set for yourself.
TIP 3: STRETCH YOUR TOLERANCE AND AVOID BEING JUDGEMENTAL
- Practice tolerance and try not to be judgemental. If you haven’t given this much thought before, think how often you find people getting stressed and agitated by the judgements they make about others.
- In a meeting, how much is your tolerance tested if your ideas aren’t carried out? Are you heated up and boiling mad when a colleague forgets to meet you at the appointed time? Consider whether you have ever forgotten an appointment!
- If we think that people are ‘unreliable’, ‘lazy’, ‘always late’, and so forth, be aware these are judgements we set on our own, and not necessarily those others choose to live by.
TIP 4: LEARN TO DELEGATE AND TO SAY ‘NO’
- People sometimes take on too much at work, thinking that they can cope without additional support. Often the one thing employees fail to do well under pressure is to delegate work appropriately.
- How many times have you found yourself taking on a commitment that you really didn’t want? You just have to learn to say ‘No’ politely.
- Perhaps you are capable of sustaining high levels of activity over a long period of time, and it has become expected that you will always perform at that pace. In fact, additional work may be delegated to you because of your intensity. The solution is to be assertive and to say no or push back when the pressure keeps building.
- Just as it isn’t practical or productive to keep a car in overdrive at all times you, too, must vary your speed and occasionally make a ‘pit stop’.
TIP 5: INFORMATION IS IMPERATIVE
- Research and explore your situation with an expert within your organisation to ease your fears.
- Seek information from financial experts who can help you plan your way out of financial trouble if needed.
- Be informed about the economic situation of your company and how you can contribute positively to it.
TIP 6: MAINTAIN AND SET STANDARDS
- Ensure your performance at work consistently meets requirements. If this is difficult make sure that you seek timely assistance such as further training, finding a mentor or letting your supervisor know.
TIP 7: TAKE A SHORT BREAK AND RELAX
- As with most intense tasks, you need a break to re-energize. Use your discretion and common sense, depending on your deadlines or scheduled activities.
- Physical strategies can help you manage pressure. Exercise is good from a health standpoint, and often relieves pent-up frustration. In the office, simple things like stretching in your chair, going for a quick walk, closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths, or talking to a friend can be good remedies for relieving pressure. Take a short walk around the block if possible, for a change of scenery.
- Take occasional breaks from work using holidays or vacation time. In more serious cases, consider moving further away from the situation through a sabbatical, job rotation, or study leave.
TIP 8: TURN OFF YOUR MOBILE PHONE FOR A SHORT WHILE
- We have become a society that posts, tweets, texts and responds instantly. Technology has made us extremely impatient.
- Turn off your mobile phone for a couple of hours before getting back to some issues. Again, use your common sense – don’t do it if a response is important and needed urgently.
TIP 9: ACCEPT IMPERMANENCE
- The reality is that not many employees have job security any more, or can expect to be with the same employer for life. Changes in the work market, technology, and society means that you need to be prepared to adapt to shifts in the work environment through ongoing personal and professional development to develop skills and knowledge to maintain your employability.
TIP 10: HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOUR!
- A sense of humour can help reduce pressure, and help to remind you that you are not alone in feeling pressure or attempting to better manage it.
- Humour can help create an environment where it’s easier to confide in a friend, colleague or professional.
- Some causes of pressure are much more overwhelming than others. Talking to someone who you know will listen and who has a good sense of humour may help you see things from a broader perspective and help you take the first step toward a solution.
WHAT TO AVOID
Succumbing to a ‘Long Hours’ Culture
- In some organisations, the tendency to work long hours has become part of the corporate culture. In this context, pressure creates status; putting yourself under pressure is interpreted as accomplishment. Many people put in long hours, hoping that their hard work will be noticed and rewarded, but secretly resent that they have to do this.
- Resist succumbing to this influence. Focus on outputs rather than inputs to define your success. Working hard and working long hours are not the same thing.
- Refer to the ‘Life Balance’ module for tips on finding balance in your life.
Taking It Out On Others
- Pressure respects no boundaries. Pressure from one aspect of your life will eventually affect the other parts of your life as well.
- It’s not fair to transfer pressure to co-workers or anyone who is not part of the problem.
- ‘Reinforce your values’, Relationships Australia (NSW) chief executive Anne Hollonds says. ’If you can rise above and demonstrate what a professional response is, then maybe this is your time to shine.’
THERE YOU HAVE IT!
By now, having read through Topic 3: Developing Coping Strategies within the Workplace you have a good idea about ways to exercise better control over the pressures at work. Next time you feel confronted with a stressful situation, these tips might just be what you need. It is one thing to know the strategies, but it is another to implement them!
Stress Management Outside Your Immediate Job
Stress is common in daily life and may be associated with work, family or personal relationships. Whatever the cause, there are some simple steps which can help to reduce stress. In addition to the tips provided in ‘Managing work pressures’, try to include social activities, sports and hobbies to help maintain a healthy work/life balance. Don’t worry about things out of your control. Look at things positively, as a challenge instead of a threat, resolve conflicts with others and set realistic goals.
BE GENTLE ON YOURSELF
- Are there times when you are not fair to yourself? If you think you judge others, the same can be applied to yourself. Often you are harsher on yourself than you are of other people, including people you love and close friends. You have the tendency to measure yourself constantly with others, for example, how good you are at work, your status in your community, as a friend, as a colleague, a brother or sister. The list continues.
- If you can learn to accept yourself just the way you are, especially unconditionally, this would reduce the pressure you apply to yourself.
EXPAND YOUR IDENTITY
- Remember you are not your job. Studies show men in particular define their identity almost exclusively in terms of work and the level of competency they achieve
- It is beneficial to acknowledge your personal qualities such as: Your capacity to be a good friend to others; your willingness to help out; your enjoyment of sport, theatre, the surf or the mountains. How do you relax and enjoy your weekends? How strong is your social network and can you comfortably talk to these people in times of stress?
- It can be helpful to learn more about how your personal values shape your identity, and the strengths that you can lean on during times of stress. Learn more about your values here: Living Into Our Values – Brené Brown (brenebrown.com)
TAKE A REALITY CHECK
- Confront the scenarios that may be haunting your thoughts.
- The worst that can happen is …?
- What are my priorities?
- What do I need to take the next positive step?
- Do I need to consider my finances, health, spirituality, identity?
- If you find you need help coping with stressful situations or developing proactive strategies seek help from appropriate professionals such as a JCU Counsellor, doctor or psychologist. One way therapists can help you with this is by utilising thought diaries. You can find examples of thought diaries here: What is a Thought Diary in CBT? 5 Templates and Examples (positivepsychology.com)
EAT HEALTHY FOOD
- How many times have you substituted sweets and chocolates for fruit and vegetables, junk food instead of main meals or filled up on coffee for that temporary ‘feel good’ remedy? Studies show we do not function at full potential on an empty stomach nor do we think clearly having quickly consumed coffee and donuts! It’s fine to treat yourself occasionally, but remember moderation! Fresh fruit and whole grain cereals provide real energy!
- A healthy breakfast containing whole grain cereals, nuts, fresh fruit, yoghurt and protein will give you a great start to the day. Fried foods containing saturated fats can weigh you down. Low GI foods will help keep you going longer.
KEEP ACTIVE AND SLEEP WELL
- Physical activity aids in alleviating the ramifications of stress and is essential for good mental health. Try some form of daily exercise; take a walk, join a gym (with a friend who encourages participation), play a game of tennis, swimming, walking, dancing, golf or any form of activity. Exercise helps to focus this pent-up energy into a constructive activity.
- Maintain healthy eating patterns and try for 8 hours of regular sleep. If sleeping well is a problem seek professional help.
- Avoid excess alcohol as you need to be physically and mentally alert to perform efficiently. Try alternatives to caffeine and excess sugar and fats – these can exacerbate nervousness and weigh you down.
- Deep breathing, body balance classes and yoga all help to get more oxygen into the blood stream. Stretching exercises aid in relieving aching, tight muscles. Meditation is also effective in relieving stress, anxiety and improving sleep patterns.
- Give up cigarettes as they restrict blood circulation and negatively affect the stress response.
- Plan activities to keep active and maintain social contact.
- You can find out more about sleep and relaxation in our information sheet here: Information-Sheet-Relaxation-Mindfulness-and-Meditation.pdf (jcu.edu.au)
- You can also consider trying a sleep app such as Pzizz | Sleep at the push of a button or Sleep – Headspace
TRY TO REDUCE YOUR ANXIETY
- Stress covers a broad range of symptoms and while these situations are not necessarily dangerous, if these symptoms heighten or are prolonged or extreme then it is possible that this has progressed to anxiety. These feelings can then be debilitating and cause panic attacks or avoidance of certain situations rather than facing them.
- Seeking the advice of friends, family or psychological counselling may be advisable.
- Visiting a counsellor may help you reframe the way you see your position in a more positive way.
- If the problem is becoming significant, think about seeing a JCU counsellor or GP for referral to a registered psychologist who offers therapy where clients are taught to reorganise their thinking.
Other Factors That Can Exacerbate Your Stress Levels
Many factors can increase your stress levels, including perfectionism, anger and depression. This topic addresses these and provides some useful tips to manage them.
Perfectionist thinking is relatively common, particularly in a competitive university environment. For most people, perfectionist struggles are manageable, minor difficulties. More pronounced difficulties with perfectionism can show up in a number of forms.
- Extensive procrastination: because the person cannot free themselves from perfectionist demands long enough to begin writing, studying etc.
- Heightened anxiety: caused by perfectionist ’what if-ing’ about upcoming events (tests, speeches, dates etc), which can lead to high stress levels and fatigue from incessant worrying about performance and adequacy.
- Depressed mood: due to perfectionist beating up on oneself when performance falls beneath rigid expectations
- Lack of enjoyment in life: perfectionism prevents one from enjoying rewards and leisure when there are any un-jumped hurdles to contemplate (and there always are).
What Can Help?
If this sounds like you, the first step is to assess your level of perfectionist tendencies by considering the following:
- Do you engage in right-wrong thinking?
- Do you see your goals as necessities for feeling good about yourself more than as achievements that would be desirable but not necessary?
- Do you tend to worry about incomplete tasks in the future without giving yourself credit for feeling relief for tasks you have completed?
- Do you selectively attend to your mistakes and overlook your successes?
- Do your feelings of self-worth go up and down with your judgement?
If you answered ’yes’ to several of these questions, undesirable perfectionism is a relatively strong trait for you.
What Can I Do to Prevent Perfectionism From Becoming a Problem?
- Begin a conscious campaign to tune into and moderate your perfectionist thinking
- Monitor your ‘internal dialogue’ – the phrases you mutter or videos you run in your mind
- Cultivate a more soothing, self-nurturing dialogue that enables you to be a good friend to yourself. (‘I can’t do everything perfectly. It’s OK for me to set priorities and then do the best I can.’)
- Challenge your perfectionist thought system by purposely deviating from it such as resisting your tendency to engage in overkill the night before an exam to see how things work out
- Affirm your ‘humanness’ by recognising that your self-worth is independent of any single performance
Further resources are available at the end of this topic.
Anger is a completely normal human emotion, and although it is often framed as a negative emotion, it can also act as a beacon towards an unmet need. Anger is a heightened state of emotional arousal normally occurring in response to some sense of frustration, hurt or disappointment. Frustration occurs when we don’t get something that we want such as a good grade, a supportive comment or when we get something negative that we don’t want such as a critical comment, a flat tyre etc.
The degree of anger we experience in response to these events may range from mild annoyance to rage, depending on many factors including:
- Our current emotional state;
- The context of the event;
- The history of events;
- Our cognitive interpretation of the event.
Memories of traumatic or enraging events can also trigger angry feelings.
- A sense of rising bodily tension including an increase in heart rate and blood pressure and certain hormones;
- An increase in volume and rate of speech (shouting);
- Passive-aggressive behaviour (getting back at people indirectly);
- Continual criticising or being cynical or sarcastic;
- Physical or verbal abuse.
What Can Help?
- Deep breathing, calming visual imagery
- Non-strenuous exercise like yoga, tai-chi or meditation
- Slowing down, taking time to think
- Challenging negative thinking
- Using logic to examine the situation rationally
- Expressing your feelings in an assertive not aggressive way
- Trying not to fight back if criticised
- Trying to find a solution to the problem
- Using a humorous response to defuse the situation
Further resources are available at the end of this topic.
Is Depression Common?
Yes, it is very common. Around one million Australian adults and 100,000 young people live with depression each year. On average, one in five people will experience depression in their lifetime – one in four females and one in six males.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
If you notice any behavioural changes that last for more than two weeks in family members or friends, then it is worth asking if the person may be feeling depressed.
Common behaviour associated with depression includes:
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Low energy or fatigue
- Increased pain
- Sleep disturbances-being awake throughout the night
- Increased alcohol and drug use
- Slowing down of thoughts and actions
- Feeling hopeless
- Low self-esteem
- Self-critical thoughts
- Feeling that no one values you
- Feeling no purpose to existence
- Recurring thoughts of death
- Feeling sad, empty, alone, or hopeless
- Excessive crying
- Excessive worrying
- Feeling more tense or anxious than usual
- Overreacting to situations
- Moodiness that is out of character
- Increased irritability and frustration
- Loss of interest in sex, exercise or other pleasurable activities
- Finding it hard to take minor personal criticisms
- Decreased motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty retaining information
- Decreased interest in activities you enjoy
- Decreased trust in others
- Easily irritated
- Wanting to spend time alone
- Difficulty relating to people
Check-List To Identify Depression
There are questions, tools and checklists on the Beyond Blue website that are designed to help you reflect on your situation or that of someone close to you. They will not provide a diagnosis – for that you need to see a professional. However, they will tell you if you have symptoms that are common in people with depression. If you think that you or someone you know has depression, please consult a doctor or book a free confidential appointment with the JCU Counselling Service.
HELPING YOURSELF TIPS
The following ‘every day’ strategies have proven helpful for dealing with prolonged stress or, in extreme cases, depression:
- Get enough sleep
- Reduce your use of alcohol and other drugs
- Find ways to deal with a bad day, for example
- Don’t stay in bed
- Catch up with friends
- Keep active and exercise
- Learn to manage stress
For more information and tips on dealing with these concerns, please visit Beyond Blue.
DEPRESSION AND EXERCISE
Keeping active can be a great way of helping to manage depression and anxiety.
How Do We Know This?
Research shows that regular physical activity significantly reduces the risk of people developing depression. People who do not take part in physical activity are more likely to have depressive symptoms compared to people who exercised regularly.
Regular aerobic and strength-training activities of light or moderate intensity can result in up to a 50 per cent reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety, especially for women and older people.
In older people, exercise has been found to be just as beneficial as antidepressant medication or social contact in the treatment of depression.*
The cycle of depression can be broken by participating in pleasurable activities, including keeping fit (riding a bike, jogging, playing football or going for a 20 minute walk).
The effects of exercise in those under 20 with mild to moderate depression is not as well researched, but the evidence suggests some benefits. **
(Singh, Clements & Fiatarone Singh, 2001)
How Can Physical Exercise Help Mental Health?
Keeping active can help in a number of ways, including:
- lifting mood
- helping people get a good night’s sleep
- helping people feel more energetic and less tired
- blocking negative thoughts and/or distracting people from daily worries
- increasing social contact
WHERE TO GET HELP
While exercise can help manage depression, when people become depressed they often have no energy or motivation and can become less active. Enlisting some help can be a good idea; below is a list of professionals and organisations you may wish to contact.
A doctor who is a General Practitioner (GP) will be able to provide advice and information about depression and exercise. He/she will also be able make a referral to a qualified exercise physiologist.
Exercise physiologists are health professionals who have graduated from a certified university course in exercise science and provide services relating to health, fitness and exercise. People who have ongoing health conditions are now able to access services from exercise physiologists at reduced rates. For more information visit the Department of Human Services website.
To find an exercise physiologist near you, see the Exercise and Sports Science Australia’s online national database at www.essa.org.au
Council Recreation Centres
While each council differs slightly, many offer free or cheap sport and recreational facilities such as swimming pools, walking circuits, tennis courts and skating ramps.
Like recreation centres, gyms range in their facilities, but often offer a range of classes including aerobics and Pilates as well as having equipment such as rowing and walking machines and swimming pools.
Neighbourhood centres or houses offer a variety of low-cost group activities, many of which focus on staying active. These may include aerobics, yoga, dancing, gardening and walking groups. For information about your nearest neighbourhood house, contact your local council.
Family and Friends
People with depression often feel like spending less time around people, increasing their sense of isolation and making it harder for them to recover from depression. It’s important for people with depression to continue to take part in activities with family and close friends and to accept social invitations, even though they may not feel like it. Planning to do things with other people can also help someone with depression to stay motivated.
LEARN MORE ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH WELL-BEING:
These websites could provide you with useful information:
- Talk to a counsellor at the JCU Counselling Services
- Workshops on managing stress are conducted by the JCU Counselling Service.
- Beyond Blue has information on managing stress
- View Mind Tools resources on how to master stress.
- Beyond Blue
- The Desk
Please complete Activity 3 in your Activity Book.
Better Health Channel. (2012). Work-related stress. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/work-related-stress
Cannon, W.B. (1929). Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage. Boston, MA: D.Appleton and Company
Cochrane. (2013). Exercise for depression. Retrieved from http://www.cochrane.org/CD004366/DEPRESSN_exercise-for-depression
Martinak, M.L. 2012. Virtually Stress Free: Keeping Online Graduate Management Students Healthy From Afar. The Journal of Continuing Higher Education. Volume 60-Issue 3
Singh, N.A, Clements, K.M, Fiatarone Singh, M.A. (2001); The Efficacy of Exercise as a Long-term Antidepressant in Elderly Subjects: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A.Volume 56, Issue 8, Pages M497–M504, doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.8.M497
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