Showcase

Mental Health: Dealing with Stress

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-1-44-53-pm
Written by Tito Ambyo

Mental Health:
Dealing with Stress

Enter

Mental Health:
Dealing with Stress


Kicker

This is a kicker.

Australians are getting more and more stressed. According to a study by the Australian Psychological Society, which surveyed the stress of Australians in 2015, our sense of wellbeing is down while our symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety are up.

The study lists money, family issues, and health as common stressors for Australians, with over half of people seeking no help with their stress symptoms.

People around Melbourne are utilising new and varied techniques to manage their stress, with many seeking help from alternative therapies outside the parameters of traditional psychology. Psychologist Adrian Furnham says people who use alternative therapies felt they were actively taking control of regaining their health.

Dr Craig Hassed, Coordinator of Mindfulness programs at Monash University says that stress is a natural response in the body to challenging or dangerous situations. But he says, in dealing with the pressure of everyday life and work, stress is being created where it is not needed, leading to harmful repercussions in the mind and body.

LAUGHTER
/’l:ft/
_noun_
The action or sound of laughing

Synonyms: laughing, chuckling, chortling, guffawing, giggling, tittering, sniggering, howling, convulsions, fits

I find my lungs work much better from regular laughter, says Jim who is a group facilitator and Vice President of Laughter Club, a group that meets on weekends around Melbourne City to practice laughter together.

Jim says the exercises increase aerobic capacity and also allow for social bonding through the shared activity.

After attending a conference where a laughter session was held, Jim says he enjoyed it so he decided to learn how to be a laughter instructor.

While most people are used to laughing for humour, Laughter Club encouraged people to laugh at everything. Participants laugh about something that makes them happy, laugh about doing a chore they dislike, or laugh about opening a credit card statement.

The group turns laughter into an exercise, repeating different sounds and stretches to improve their capacity. While most of the laughter starts out forced during the sessions, by the end the laughter seems to come naturally.

SILENCE
/’salns/
_noun_
Complete absence of sound.

Synonyms: quietness, quiet, quietude, still, stillness, hush, tranquillity, noiselessness, soundlessness, peacefulness, peace and quiet

I met people who were Buddhists and I was really impressed by how they lived their lives, you know they just seemed so happy what it said just made so much sense, says Judith, who became interested in meditation following a trip to Sri Lanka.

Judith, a retired academic, now teaches an intense form of meditation called Vipassana, which calls for participants to abstain from communication, down to making eye contact. Teachers of the course, which is taught over ten days at retreats around Australia, says the course is constantly booked out and is frequented by people of all ages and professions, from primary school teachers to lawyers.

The APS study stated adults are using social media more, leading to an increased sense of FOMO or fear of missing out. Vipassana retreats require participants to give up all forms of technology and entertainment.

“Some people struggle with the non\-talking. They cant use their phones. Some people struggle with sitting for ten hours a day,” says Judith.

However, by the end of the course many participants report the technique allows them to manage stress and increase their sense of wellbeing, in line with what Monash’s Dr Craig Hassed says about meditation and mindfulness; that it could help reduce the harms associated with stress.

DESTRUCTION
/d’strkn/
_noun_
Cause of ruin or means of destroying

Synonyms: demolition, knocking down, tearing down, dismantling, breaking up, wrecking, ruination, smashing, shattering

Working a stressful job, only coming home to eat and sleep, Ed says he needed a break.

There was no real way for me to take my time out couple that with the fantasy of always wanting to take my phone and launch it against a wall, Ed says.

That led him to start his business, The Breakroom, which invites people to indulge their frustrations by smashing pottery in a reinforced room.

Ed says around 70% of his customers are women, whom he believes enjoy breaking the social taboos associated with female anger. He says the room has also been popular with companies for their staff outings, couples on date night and the recently single.

The Breakroom, according to Ed, is not meant to replace therapy, but rather provide a way to express emotions and urges that arent usually socially permitted \- and have fun.

Giving people the opportunity to do that guilt free is why so many people come here.

SELF \- EXPRESSION
/’self/ /k’spren/
_noun_
The expression of one’s feelings, thoughts, or ideas, especially in writing, art, music, or dance.

“they create art primarily for their own enjoyment and self\-expression”

The calming experience Nicole has when she paints led her to become an art therapist.

It can be a great distraction if you spend an hour doing a creative activity it can really take you away from everyday life.

Nicole now teaches people to express themselves and explore their inner emotions through painting. Nicole says art is a way to deal with stress and pain, where individuals can paint their emotions and leave them on the page. She also says her studio fosters a sense of community.

Nicole teaches a variety of students from children to the elderly and people with a variety of mental health conditions.

Being in flow, that self care for yourself, just really nurturing yourself to reflect and understand, perhaps parts of yourself that are creating stress, even drawing that stress out and leaving it on the page.

DE\-STRESS
distrs/
verb
relax after a period of work or tension.

People around Melbourne are seeking out new and diverse ways to de\-stress and increase their sense of wellbeing. From committing ten days of their lives to silence, to smashing a box of old ceramics against a wall, to forcing themselves to laugh and to painting their stress out on a page.

While Dr Craig Hassed says useful therapeutic methods have come from grassroots groups, he says mental health professionals should be involved in the treatment of mental health conditions.

Sometimes if a person has significant mental health issues, significant anxiety or depression for example, then maybe some of the things theyre being told, the things theyre adopting are not going to be so helpful There may be a problem when somebody really does need professional assessment and they may actually be foregoing that and might be adopting strategies that wont have the desired effect, he says.

However, throughout these alternative methods, the common theme of the pressure of daily life has arisen. While Dr Hassed says people will try to find a way to extricate themselves from the discomfort caused by stress, the root causes in daily life seem to remain.

_Story and graphics by_ _Zara Hastie, Rachel Sherlock and Belynda Kennedy_
_Photography by Isabella Faull_

About the author

Tito Ambyo