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We have all experienced stress in our lifetimes, but that’s not a bad thing, because on some occasions stress can motivate us and help us perform in high-pressure environments, which can often be useful. But let’s talk about the bad stress.

Debilitating forms of stress affect 35% of us, according to findings from the Australian Psychological Society (APS). A staggering 26% of Australians report above normal levels of anxiety symptoms, and 26% of Australians report having moderate to very severe depression symptoms. Let that sink in. At least one in three of us are feeling significant through to severe manifestations of bad stress, which is an astonishing figure.

APS’s Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 2015 found, unsurprisingly, the number one most common reason why we’re feeling stressed is due to our personal finance issues. The cost of rent, bills, and everyday living expenses seem to keep increasing while our wages can’t catch up. Other reasons include:

• health issues,
• family issues, and
• the pressure to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

While finances, health, and family issues aren’t particularly new reasons for feeling stressed, the pressure to maintain a healthy lifestyle could be attributed to our obsession with social media. More than one in ten Australians (12%) reported keeping up with social media networks has contributed to their overall levels of stress. Social media is a great way to stay in touch and keep up to day but it can create a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out).

These statistics aren’t great but what’s more alarming is the survey found very few people seek any kind of professional help. Currently, the most popular ways Australians manage stress is:

• 85% watch television or movies
• 81% focus on the positives
• 81% spend time with friends and family
• 80% listen to music

The survey also found that Australians over the age of 55 and retirees reported the highest levels of wellbeing, with the unemployed and those living alone reporting the lowest levels.

If 72% of Australians feel that stress impacts their physical health, and for 64% their mental health, why aren’t we comfortable seeking professional assistance for our personal wellbeing?

It is evident that the causes of stress are not only complex, but ever-evolving. Financial issues are clearly a significant part of bad stress and always will be, but digital influences such as social media have a heavy influence on our mental and physical health.

If you or your loved one is needing help overcoming stress, call your GP, a councillor or Lifeline (13 11 14) for some practical stress management techniques.

Data taken from: Australian Psychological Society “One-Third of Australia Stressed Out”, 8 November 2015.

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