Stress does not discriminate on age or gender, with both men and women of any age feeling the effects of stress in some point in their life. However, what is stressful for one person may not be for another, as everyone reacts to stress in different ways. In fact, stress can be so engrained in your daily life, that is may feel ‘normal’. Nevertheless, it is important not to underestimate the impact that stress may have on your physical and mental wellbeing. 

What drives stress?

Stress acts to motivate and sharpen your focus in situations where immediate action is required. The greater the intensity or urgency of the situation, the greater your stress response will be. For example, if you are faced with danger, your body switches on your acute stress response (the fight or flight response), to give you a burst of energy and to help you deal with the danger by either running away or fighting back. However, in the modern world, with emotional triggers seemingly around every corner, many people are faced with ongoing stressors, such as work deadlines, being stuck in traffic, endless emails and negative news stories. In response to stress, your body releases the hormone cortisol – a chemical that allows you to stay in an active, attentive state for long periods of time in order to handle the stress at hand. Chronic stress strongly affects every system in your body, with ongoing or poorly managed stress increasing the risk of experiencing potential health consequences.

Stress may affect:

  • Mental wellbeing and mood
  • Digestive function
  • Sleeping patterns (eg. your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep)
  • Cardiovascular function, such as your heart rate and blood pressure
  • Energy levels
  • Reproductive hormones

Just how stressed do you feel? Take our Mood & Stress Questionnaire to
determine your current level of stress.

A man is shown holding his back in pain. This image can be used to illustrate concepts related to back pain, injury, healthcare, or physical discomfort.

What does stress feel like to you?

Stress can manifest in many ways and is different for each individual. You may identify with one or a combination of these different presentations.

  • Nervous tension and anxiety: Frequent and persistent tension and anxiety may manifest as excessive fear and worry, restlessness, tightening of the chest, racing heartbeat, and in extreme cases, panic attacks. This negatively impacts quality of life and normal day-to-day functioning.

  • Wired and tired: When stress is ongoing, your brain may perceive this as an ongoing threat, mounting a stress response to keep you alert or ‘wired’. This can reduce your ability to relax and wind-down, resulting in not only feeling wired but tired too – a sensation of being unable to switch off despite being exhausted.

  • Exhausted and flat: In some individuals, exposure to ongoing stress may physically change the way their brain is able to respond. In these circumstances, the person is left both physically and mentally exhausted, affecting performance at work and in everyday life.

  • Low mood and lethargic: Ongoing stress can lead to structural changes to brain tissue, changing the way the brain functions. Ongoing stress can also impact a person’s resilience. This can affect the activity of brain chemicals leading to feelings of poor mood and may manifest as feelings of overwhelm, vulnerability and lead to teary, weepy moments.

  • Insomnia: Stress can negatively impact sleep quality and quantity. This may manifest as an inability to unwind and fall asleep due to ruminating thoughts about your day, frequent waking and/or feeling unrefreshed upon waking. 

Symptoms of stress


Inflammation can be an invisible, but very active process, impacting your brain and nervous system. Left unmanaged and the molecules it produces can become chronic and cause changes in mood and behaviour, by negatively influencing nervous system function and brain health.

Oxidative stress

Oxidative stress can cause damage to cells – leading to fatigue and poor concentration. Brain cells and membranes are rich in fat, which is particularly susceptible to stress and damage.

Gut disturbances

An imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, otherwise known as dysbiosis, can contribute to both inflammation and oxidative stress. In addition, gastrointestinal disturbances, such as food intolerances, may be linked to mood disorders.

Sex hormone and thyroid imbalance

Thyroid and sex hormones help to create balance in your body. If either, or both are out of balance, this will impact your ability to handle stress. 

Weight management

Weight management and being worried about your weight can lock you in a vicious cycle, with an unbalanced mood often leading to poor eating and exercise habits. Our expert weight loss naturopath will consider all health aspects that may be contributing to making it hard to lose weight and will create a customised program to facilitate balance in all areas.

Poor sleep

Many people suffer from sleep disturbances, finding it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Without restorative sleep, your body is unable to recover each
night from the previous day and you won’t be functioning at your best. Try our Sleep & Anxiety Questionnaire to check on your sleep quality

Support your mental health and wellbeing

Experiencing stress, worry and mood changes are not uncommon. What this means is that you are not alone. Working with our qualified and experienced Adelaide naturopath will allow you to increase your tolerance to everyday stressors, manage any mood imbalance you may be experiencing, and give you the tools to put you back in the driver’s seat to live your life.

Recognise your resilience

You are more resilient than you know! Those facing adversities often report multiple silver linings that come from a traumatic experience, including a renewed appreciation for life, realisation of true priorities and friendships and recognition of strength. If you are experiencing a stressful situation or have recently, what is your silver lining? When life challenges you, you have been ‘planted’. Use it as an opportunity to flourish and grow. 

Move your body to help your mind

Exercise boosts production of your body’s feel-good neurotransmitters, known as endorphins, which have a positive impact on your mood and stress levels. Cardio exercise is proven to decrease stress hormones. These forms of exercise may include running, swimming, walking, cycling or joining a sporting team (such as football, basketball, cricket, golf or tennis). A successful exercise regime can involve any kind of physical activity, anything that moves your body for at least 3-5 hours per week. Start by easing yourself into a few shorter sessions first and then plan some time in your schedule to make exercise a consistent habit. Though you might not always have time to hit the gym, a brisk walk, yoga at home or a ride around the block on your bike can be an excellent way to unwind. Don’t underestimate the power of exercising in a group or with a friend. You will keep each other honest and commit to a regular exercise routine. This social connection and relationship building can be a powerful tool for improving mental wellbeing. 

Practice gratitude

Feeling grateful just happens sometimes; however, the act of intentionally and regularly expressing gratitude has a multitude of benefits, including improvements in self-esteem and overall mental wellbeing, reduced aggression and enhanced empathy. Engage in a daily practice where you record what you are grateful for each day or just write a list of things that make you happy and notice how your perspective changes.

Get back to nature and step outside

Spending time in natural environments can benefit health and wellbeing. It can be as simple as taking time to water your plants, gardening for half an hour, or walking barefoot in the grass for five minutes. Choose a nature activity, big or small, to do every day or week to help induce a sense of calm

Pay attention on purpose

Mindfulness is the act of focusing on the present moment, drawing your attention away from mental chatter and anxious thoughts by tuning in to your physical senses. Focus on what you can see, touch, hear, smell or even taste. Widespread research now shows that people, who regularly practice mindfulness, report less stress, improved physical and emotional health and better sleep. When practiced over decades on a regular basis, the research shows that these people are less likely to get dementia as they age. Becoming more mindful gets easier with time and practice, and can help you remain calm, regulate your thoughts, emotions and reactions, and stay present even in the midst of stressful events.


Be mindful of your breathing

We spend all day and night breathing, but how often do we stop and notice how we are breathing? Becoming more mindful of your breath simply requires you to start paying attention on a regular basis. Notice how the rhythm varies as your mood or emotions change. It’s possible to calm yourself simply by slowing your breathing rate and taking a few deep breaths. This is a proven stress-reducing strategy you can take anywhere to help you fell more centred and relaxed.

Quick tips to help reduce stress

  • Laughter really is the best medicine. Whether you prefer to watch a funny movie, listen to a favourite comedian, watch a funny video or share a funny story with a friend. Laughter has been shown to reduce the physical effects of stress.
  • Schedule time for yourself. Don’t feel that this time has to be an hour or a full day. Make it manageable for you and your lifestyle. Just as you recharge your phone battery, you have to recharge your personal battery too
  • Take a break. If you find yourself in an unexpected stressful situation, wherever possible try to take a break and remove yourself from the event. Go for a five-minute walk or make a cup of tea. Take a few deep breaths and create a space where you can gather your thoughts for a few moments and restore calm.
  • Use your phone to your advantage. Spend less time on social media and more time using a meditation app. There are many free meditation or relaxation apps available for smart phones. Find one that works for you.
  • Do things you love. Hobbies are not just activities you did as a child. You are never too old to pick up a childhood hobby or involve yourself in a new one. Make time to play and be creative every day or week.

Try this simple breathing technique

While standing or sitting, draw your elbows back slightly to allow your chest to expand. Take a deep inhalation through your nose. Hold your breath for a count of 5. Slowly release your breath by exhaling through your nose for about 8-10 seconds. Repeat.

Nutritionally an appropriate anti-inflammatory diet can support and assist in reducing stress. A well-balanced, high fibre, protein enriched diet with some good fat included, goes a long way towards supporting optimal mental health.