This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
In our lives we are often very busy trying to balance different commitments which often leaves little time out for ourselves. Whether you are a parent, working full time, dealing with family, relationships, or financial issues, chances are you have experienced stress in the past week.
Stress is the feeling we have when under pressure and can affect us not just mentally but physically as well. There are many different signs of stress such as headaches, low energy, sleeplessness and feeling irritable.
In general, a bit of stress is not bad. It makes us think faster, puts us under pressure to perform. However, evidence shows that chronic exposure to stress can lead to us developing psychological problems like depression and anxiety. Our bodies aren’t meant to withstand long-term stress.
Gambling is often a coping mechanism for stress or low mood. If you think of your own gambling, perhaps you are more likely to gamble when you’re feeling stressed out.
Gambling provides a temporary escape from those uncomfortable feelings of tension, anxiety and irritation. The addictive nature of gambling also means that what starts to temporarily relieve stress, quickly becomes a source of even more stress!
For some people with gambling problems there is a very clear link between stress in their lives and problem gambling.
For example, some people we talk to admitted stress was a trigger for their gambling:
This caller described feeling stressed with her mother unwell in hospital so gambling was a quick fix for her:
‘I dropped my mum back at the hospital and went straight to the pokies’
Another person we spoke to described how an argument would send her to the pokies:
‘I had a fight with my partner and gambled’
This male caller gambled after work to deal with his days stress:
‘I go to the club after work, especially if it has been a bad day’.
Unfortunately, when people experience stress they are more vulnerable to gamble.
Stress can make people feel overwhelmed where they can’t think clearly. This means a quicksolution to stress such as the excitement of gambling becomes difficult to resist.
Therefore, if you manage your stress effectively you will be less likely to choose a solution that provides only temporary relief, such as gambling.
So how can we manage our stress better? A lot of the gambling research indicates that reducing stress is a big part of managing gambling. Here are some tips:
- Self-care – whether this is a 20-minute walk in the morning or a dinner with friends to unwind. Most people have strategies they know can reduce their stress and help them feel more relaxed.
- Support – research has shown that one of the best things a person can do when they are going through a difficult time, is to access support. This could be friends, neighbours, family members or colleagues. If we have at least one person to talk to about an event or ongoing situation, we fare much better psychologically.
- Counselling – Perhaps the stress in your life is from a difficult relationship or the financial consequences of gambling. Trained counsellors can quickly help you to identify sources of stress and help you developing strategies to recover. You can contact the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 to arrange a free and confidential appointment with a trained gambling counsellor or financial counsellor.