Stress is the mental and physical response to challenging situations. Stress can be a source of motivation, and can even help improve our performance if it’s managed well. But when stress builds up or isn’t managed properly, it can be harmful to our health.
Being in a challenging situation can trigger a physical stress response in our bodies, causing a surge of hormones that make us feel alert and focussed so that we can manage the situation effectively. This can be a good thing when the stress is short-lived and there’s a chance to relax afterwards. But if the stress goes on for a long time and we don’t get a chance to ‘unwind’ when it’s over, we can become anxious, exhausted and depressed.
The signs and symptoms of stress often develop slowly over time – so slowly that we may not be fully aware of them until they become severe. You may start going through each day ‘mindlessly’, living on autopilot and doing things by force of habit, with no real motivation. Or you may experience physical symptoms like poor sleep or stomach pains. It’s important to be familiar with your own ‘stress signature’ (the unique set of symptoms that you experience in times of stress) so that you can recognise when outside help is needed.
Asking for help
Mental health is a complex issue, and it can be difficult to know where to turn in times of crisis. On this page you can find information about a variety of military and civilian services that offer help and advice or signpost you to the most appropriate source of help. Don’t forget, you can always speak to your mates, friends or family, talk to your boss or padre, chat to your unit welfare staff, medical officer or GP.
When times get tough, it can help to speak with people you trust: your mates, friends and family; your boss or padre; your unit welfare staff; or your medical officer or GP.
Put simply, mindfulness is the art of living in the present moment – not worrying about the past or future, but instead paying attention to your thoughts and feelings and the surrounding environment. Associated with many health benefits, mindfulness can help combat anxiety, depression and sleep problems.
The Army’s Mindfulness Course is available to all serving personnel. Although the course is eight weeks long, it has been designed so that you can go at your own pace.