Stress and overwhelming feelings

When faced with a challenging situation or stressful event, our bodies respond by bringing about physical changes that often help us to react to the challenge presented. However, if the stress is ongoing and the physical changes do not subside, we may feel overwhelmed and unable to cope.

What are the signs of stress?

While everyone will be impacted by and respond to stress differently, there are some common signs to look out for that our stress is impacting our mental health and wellbeing. Not everyone will experience the same level of stress in the same situation, with responses to stress being impacted upon by the situation faced, past experiences, personality, social supports, cultural background, and access to supports and strategies.

There are some signs which indicate our stress levels are affecting us in a negative way:

  • Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
  • Feeling ‘on edge’ or unable to stop worrying
  • Difficulty sleep, fatigue, and exhaustion
  • Changes in appetite
  • Physical reactions such as headaches, muscle tension, upset stomach, and difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in mood and irritability
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Reliance on alcohol or other substances to cope

Here are some practical strategies for managing stress when feeling overwhelmed and finding it difficult to cope:

  • Identify the cause of your stress and review your current coping mechanisms
  • Talk to someone you trust (eg. friend, family member, religious or community leader or GP)
  • Remind yourself of your skills and strengths, achievements and effort made during this difficult time
  • Make a positive plan on how to address the situation
  • Take care of yourself (eat well, exercise, and rest)
  • Find time for activities you enjoy
  • Access local supports services (GP, counselling services)

By seeking support, it is possible to manage stress levels and feel more equipped to cope.


For Crisis Support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24/7) or via text (12pm-midnight AEST) on 0477 13 11 14

Graeme's Story

Graeme Holdsworth was a hugely successful project manager, responsible for building some of Australia’s most iconic buildings from Melbourne’s Crown to Sydney’s 1 Martin Place.  He was renowned for his building and management skills.

However, with all the stress, he realised his behaviours were starting to change.  He yelled at everyone from staff to a client and ended up unemployed and divorced.  Eventually, he decided it would be better for everyone if he was no longer around.

Today, Graeme speaks of his experience and recovery.  As 80,000 Australians a year attempt or plan suicide and eight a day tragically take their own lives, he shares the many strategies he has put in place to keep himself alive and happy.