Wellbeing News

Stress and its signs

It’s about this time when students undertaking their VCE start to realise the amount of work required and effort that needs to be put into it. It’s also about this time when the end seems to start looming… Ominously! Some people seem to breeze through it with little or no change to their routine. Others, well… not so much.

We know that stress and anxiety in moderation can be a really useful tool. Sports psychology in particular is all about managing and channelling stress into performance. VCE is not that dissimilar!

When we view stress and anxiety (and they’re not exactly the same thing) as something that is useful and that helps us get ready for action, it enhances our performance. When we become overwhelmed by it, it can be quite disabling.

Stress is better when it doesn’t sneak up on us. When we are able to manage it through rituals and routines and NOT foregoing activities that keep us healthy, it doesn’t impact on us as much.

A weekly stocktake is a useful activity and some of the key signs that we may be becoming stressed, at least from my professional experience are as follows:

Sleep disruption
Stressed people tend to have patterns to their sleep disruption:

  • They can fall asleep quickly after being exhausted from managing their stress;
  • They stay awake for roughly 90 minutes (one sleep cycle) and are unable to sleep;
  • They wake in the middle of the night…again for roughly 90 minutes; or
  • They wake about 90 minutes early and can’t get back to sleep.

Cravings for fatty, salty, sugary sorts of foods – the body wants to replace the fat it metabolises into sugar when under stress.

Ruminating – going over and over things in your head…imagining every possible negative outcome.

Memory issues – when stressed, our higher brain functions or inner resources become less available to us. This includes things like problem solving, concentration, creativity and the like. Don’t worry, they’re still there, we just can’t access them as well as we normally can.

Everyone has different symptoms of being stressed, but these ones are the most common. Coupled with a lack of sleep, you can see how it may get problematic pretty quickly.

So, what to do about it? Here’s some more dot points!

List the sources of stress

  • Get yourself a pen and paper and be as specific as possible – then be more specific!
  • Don’t say it’s the subject – say it’s that topic in the subject;
  • Don’t say it’s lack of time – list the commitments that you have and see where some changes can be made; and
  • Generate a specific solution to a specific stress. For example: I need to learn how to do simultaneous equations – Pete had a tutor, I’ll get their name and ring them on Tuesday before I go to footy training and I’ll put a reminder on my phone so that I remember.


  • Most people feel better after they make a list and come up with some solutions but then fail to act. Guess what happens. Yep.

Review and revise

  • That solution didn’t quite work but if I also asked Mum to remind me, then I’d get it done”.
  • They can’t tutor me because our schedules don’t match but they gave me the number of another person”.


  • The current stress needs to be managed.
  • EXERCISE is the best. Stress is priming our bodies to fight/flight/freeze. We can trick it and manage the stress by moving!
  • Yoga, meditation, movies, being social. Whatever works for you — as long as you don’t get the “guilts” about it. If reading the paper for 30 minutes makes you more efficient for the rest of the day then don’t say “I should have been cleaning/studying/laundry” etc.

Stress is going to happen, this year or another. Do a regular stocktake, ask for help, come in and see one of the Student Counsellors and DO SOMETHING. Stress is compounded by inaction. Even if the thing you try doesn’t work, you will still be less stressed than if you did nothing, and you help get your internal resources to come back on-line!

Have a look at this TED talk from Kelly McGonigal on ‘How to Make Stress your Friend’ — https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend.

Be well.

Mr Anthony Freeman
Student Counsellor / Psychologist

Kids HelpLine

Worried? Sad? Hurt? Upset? Tips that could help…

Children and young people have access to lots of social media, TV, movies and games. While the wonderful array of content available offers many positive learning opportunities, there is some content that may have potentially harmful effects on young people.

Keeping an eye on what media children and young people are accessing, and any changes in their behaviour, is a good way to help avoid any long-term worries down the track.

Kids Helpline (KHL) has put together Tip Sheets that suggest ways to help manage worry and concerns some may experience due to exposure to some media content. The three sheets are audience specific for:

  • children
  • teenagers and young adults, and
  • teachers and parents.

They include tips about managing individual worries and about how to help others. We encourage you to distribute these to children, young people, teachers and parents who might find these helpful.

KHL is Australia’s only free, private and confidential 247 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.

Talking with KHL can help. Counsellors are available 247. Any time. Any reason.

Free call 1800 55 1800 or visit www.kidshelpline.com.au.

Back to The Duce Issue 2017 06 - 11 May 2017