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.
Finding creative activities that you enjoy can be an excellent way of keeping on track when you are making a change to your gambling. This is Audrey’s* story, whose renewed love of making things has helped get her back on track.
Some of the creative pieces Audrey has made: Source - Supplied
Audrey had been gambling for just over 15 years on the pokies, and came to see that it was impacting on not only her finances, but her relationship with her family, and also caused her anxiety.
The financial impact of her gambling started to become apparent, a lot of her and her husbands savings had been spent on the on pokies after work.
“Over a period of time it had become a routine to go and gamble after work, on top of the financial impact it had also pulled me away from spending quality time with my son, and hobbies that I used to love.” says Audrey
Making a change
Once Audrey realised the impact gambling was having on her she sought help. Slowly but surely, Audrey and her counsellor worked at identifying what triggered to gamble, her motivations and how to break the cycle.
One thing that really helped Audrey is her willingness to try and incorporate new activities, and restart old ones that provided a sense of fulfilment that gambling wasn’t giving her.
Furniture that Audrey reupholstered to brighten up the garden: Source - Supplied
Audrey rediscovered her passion in making things, and joined a glass making group and refurbishing furniture.
Within two months of working with a counsellor Audrey has ceased gambling, and has remained abstinent. She says “I feel more in control, and am spending more time with family and friends.”
Interested in finding an creative alternative to gambling? Speak to one of our counselors today.
It’s normal for people to feel down about themselves from time to time. When these feelings became part of a person’s daily routine it can be an indication of low self-esteem. People with low self-esteem are often critical and focus on their negatives and disregard any positives or accomplishments. Comparing yourself to others also affects self-esteem potentially causing depression.
But remember you can build on your self esteem - here is an example of someone who has struggled with their self esteem while struggling with their gambling and how they built it back up!
Those with gambling problems can have low self-esteem, when they act out of character to obtain money or waste money in the quest of an unattainable financial dream.
Initially gambling can feel like it eases the burden of low self-esteem, allowing people to engage in a fantasy world of imagined wins, financial success and social acceptance. But once the money is gone the persons self-esteem takes a tumble and they feel more ashamed.
Sam* described how disappointed he felt with himself and his ongoing gambling:
I just could not stop gambling it was a really strong compulsion. I really believed I would win big one day and fix all the problems and debts I had caused my family. I just had to keep trying I did this for years but it was terrible with ups and downs constantly draining me of all my energy.
Eventually I let go of this hope. I finally realised gambling was not the answer but it took a long time. Letting go of this dream meant I had no way of getting out of my troubles. I thought I was a bad person, these thoughts caused me much shame and my self-esteem was minimal. I could not imagine I could ever get my life back and provide for my family like my friends.
Sam admits this was a very dark time in his life. However, when he sought help from a gambling counsellor, he started to challenge his negative thinking and realised he was not a bad man. He could see he just wanted to provide a good life for his family.
Eventually he found that the pokies no longer had a hold on him. He began to feel pride when he walked past his old gambling venue and did not gamble. With help from his financial counsellor, his money began to have value again, he started to pay off his bills and his savings eventually grew.
With support Sam worked hard and eventually got his life back. He is glad he challenged the voice inside him that said “you will never get on top of this problem”
Imagine if you could walk past your gambling venue and keep walking without gambling. Each time your self-esteem increases and your determination becomes stronger. People would be proud of you, and you will be proud of yourself.
With work this can be a reality – why not chat with one of our counsellors on how to do this – you can get started.
Addressing your self-esteem is just one component of effective long-term recovery – but it’s a very important one. Continually build on our small successes increase our self-esteem in the process.
Here are some tips and strategies to try:
- Connect with people who give you a sense of acceptance, don’t associate with people who make you feel bad about yourself.
- Beware of negative thoughts and challenge them. If you keep telling yourself that you’re no good, you might just start to believe it even though it’s not true.
- Don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake, be kind to yourself and learn from it .
- Focus on the things you can change ……why not ask for help?
- Start exercising it helps to improve your mood.
- Everyone is great at something - what are your strengths?
- Schedule some fun time every day, you could do a puzzle or watch a TV show you enjoy.
- Surround yourself with supportive people who don’t gamble.
- It’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust, like a friend or family member.
Developing your self-esteem can be the foundation for your recovery. Chat to one of our Gambling counsellors today it’s easy to get started.
Peer pressure can come in many forms and may cause you to engage in behaviour that goes against your wishes, best judgement or plans. For example when a friend, colleague or family member who encourages you to gamble when you have made a promise to yourself that you will not.
Peer pressure can be subtle or not so subtle. It can be a constant niggle “come on, one more bet won’t break the bank” to words that can feel more threatening to your sense of self or to your membership of a group.
Giving in to peer pressure can initially relieve the immediate discomfort of feeling pressured but cause you further problems which are even harder to overcome.
What does it feel like?
Many people call us describing having given in to peer pressure and gambled against their better judgement. One of our counsellors recounted the following experience:
One caller was dismayed that after 10 months of being strong and not gambling he succumbed to peer pressure when he joined his colleagues for a get together after work, which turned into a session of gambling on the races.
This lapse unfortunately resulted in a period of continued gambling, plus financial and relationship problems. Trying to regain control by himself proved difficult, especially because he wanted to continue to be able to have drink with work colleagues. So he sought help from one of the counsellors at the helpline and he got the help he needed to get back on track.
How to manage
Managing peer pressure can be difficult and it is important to have some strategies to help you not be tempted. These strategies also let the “urgers” know want to maintain your resolutions – to not gamble for instance.
Some strategies you could try:
- Recognising it can be difficult to say no to peer pressure especially when in a social situation. If you start to find the pressure to gamble difficult to resist, it may be better to excuse yourself and leave.
- Learn how to say no, have a plan about how you will respond if people encouraging you to gamble. Responses like “Nah it’s a waste of money” “Not tonight I am a bit short” “Promised the wife/husband I wouldn’t”. Are some good examples. For some more inspiration check out this article about 50 ways to say no
- Be firm and clear about your decision not to gamble and explain your reasons if you feel able and if this helps support your decision. Most people just want to fit in. Sometimes people put pressure on themselves to fit into their social group. Don’t feel like you must change your mind or feel guilty about doing what is best for you.
- Consider if putting yourself in a certain situation is the right thing to do at the moment. If you are constantly feel pressured, maybe you need to consider a new social network with people who have similar values and interests as you if the pressure to gamble does not cease
- Reading about other peoples experiences and sharing your own experience can really help. You could join an in-person support group or an online community and see how others have managed peer pressure. Why not join our forum find out more
- Chat or talk to a counsellor, you can chat to one of our counsellors online by signing up or you can speak to someone on the Helpline 1800 858 858.
Lots of people are joining free service and enjoying the daily support
Each SMS is a micro intervention that aims to give you strategies to help you with the process of change.
Lot’s of people have already signed up and have been telling us that they find them helpful.
“Having a message sent to me every day every feels personal I really like it and look forward to it every morning. I don’t feel so alone!!” said one anonymous subscriber.
What will the messages be like?
Each message is crafted to be a small motivating sentence sent to your mobile each day to help provide you with a little extra support. The messages are written by people who understand how hard it can be struggling with a gambling addiction every day.
How does it work?
It is easy to sign up for the messages. All you need to do is select which program you would like to sign up to and whether you would prefer to receive them in the morning or afternoon.
From here you will start receiving messages from the next scheduled time for that program. They come from an automated system which is completely confidential.
If you aren’t finding it helpful, or would like to sign up to a different program, you can easily opt out at any time.
Each program runs on a cycle of 28 days at the end of the 28 days you will start to see repeating messages, at this point it may be a good idea to change to a different program. If you subscribe to more than one program at a time you will receive multiple messages each day.
We are developing different themed messages and special messages to help you when we know it may be difficult. For example, over the festive season we sent people lots of supportive messages so they did not feel alone.
We will be launching new programs soon including Maintaining Change and Urge Surfing. Sign up today.
We often hear from clients that the most stressful part of Christmas is how to manage their money during this potentially expensive time of year. However there are some ways that you can look after yourself, so that you don’t get caught up in the spending cycle during the holidays.
Being prepared and limiting your access to money may help you keep control of any temptation to gamble and reduces the likelihood of gambling at the spur of the moment.
Try and follow some of these simple tricks to keep you on track these holidays:
- Track Your spending by creating a budget and revisit it often, to make sure you’re spending within your means over the holidays
- Think about what you need and what you can afford
- Make a little extra room for things that may come out of the blue, hold some money in an emergency fund.
- Make sure you pay all your bills and necessities before you spend extra money on the festive season, this will help you make sure you haven’t overstretched.
- Before you buy the little treat or “extra” for yourself, be sure it’s really worth the price. Be careful of holiday sales this can be an opportunity to save money on something you really need, but would you have bought it in the first place? Be a bit careful.
The use of gift vouchers can help provide some independence for you so you go shopping and buy the necessities without the risk of having access to your money and gambling. Sometimes you can even get gift vouchers with a percentage off which gives you a small saving before you have even started your shopping.
If you are concerned about your willpower, you may ask someone you can trust to look after your cash or credit card. Especially if you know you’re going into a high risk situation over the festive season such as Christmas lunch in a gambling venue.
Remember is not about what you spend, but the time you spend together. If you need a hand we are here 24/7, 365 days a year!
People who gamble regularly rarely take the time to stop and consider whether they have a problem. To a point where it can become a normal part of their routine.
By reading this blog you may have already identified that you need to consider whether your gambling, or the gambling of someone close to you, is a problem.
The best thing to do is take a moment and think about where you are at.
Some indicators could be:
- Has gambling become a routine and not just a social outing for fun?
- Are you spending more money or time than you plan gambling?
- Could I stop gambling today?
- Can I stay away this pay day?
- How do these questions make me feel?
If these thoughts make you feel anxious, distressed or give you an overwhelming feeling that you need to gamble, then it may be time to consider some options.
You could speak to one of our counsellors straight away – by signing up to get started.
Defining moments you may identify with
As gambling increases money can begin to lose its value and the amount you regularly spend can slowly increase without realising.
A bank statement or declined card may flag that something isn’t right and suddenly you realise the reality of your gambling. This can be a difficult moment in your journey but, can be an important turning point in your recovery.
Understanding that your gambling may be getting out of control and making a conscious decision to make a change is key.
Don* described how he was shocked when he sat down and looked at his monthly bank statement and realised how much he had gambled over the week.
“Gambling was fun and I enjoyed it, I had no idea my gambling was getting out of hand.
My wife showed me the monthly bank statement and I was shocked. Each pay day there were up to 10 transactions where I took out money to gamble. Over a month that added up.”
It’s normal to feel surprised and upset when you realise that gambling is beginning to take over your life.
Still not sure whether you could do with a hand? Why not take a self-assessment which will give you an indication of where you are at and some strategies to help.
If you have decided you would like to make some changes – check out our making a change section for some tips and strategies to get you started.
If you are concerned about someone else you can get some help in our helping others section.
Keep in mind - Life without gambling is possible and there is free and confidential support available to help you begin the process of recovery.
With Spring Racing Carnivals in full swing across the land, you may be feeling the pull of the punt more keenly than usual. But there are ways to curb your gambling, or even completely abstain depending on your goals.
Remember if things do get out of hand there is plenty of support available, here are some tips to keep on track.
Keeping it under control
If you want to gamble, but are concerned about keeping it within your budget here are some ways to manage you gambling:
Manage your money - only take the amount of cash you can afford to gamble, Leave your cards at home so that you can’t impulsively spend more.
Understand the odds - the odds of winning are stacked against you, gambling companies are always set up so that they come out ahead – read more about the odds.
If you are trying to keep away from gambling completely there are a few strategies available to keep you on track:
Get some support – enlist the help of a person or people who understand why you are staying away from gambling and contact them whenever you need a hand.
Money management – When you leave the house just take enough money to get where you are going and to buy some food, leave your cards at home so you can’t gamble even if the urge strikes.
Self exclusion – There are a number of ways to exclude yourself from gambling both online and at venues. This is a great tool for stopping your gambling even if an urge strikes. Read more about self exclusion.
Plan other activities – Being busy can help on track. Organise to meet some friends or
The Race that Stops a Nation – (sort of)
Victorian’s even have a day off tomorrow for a horse race, the Melbourne Cup. This may make avoiding or curbing your gambling extra difficult as it will feature heavily on television and in advertising.
If possible try avoiding media and social media for the day, to help with some of the potential temptations. If you don’t encounter something that triggers you, you are less likely to feel an urge.
Go somewhere that doesn’t include gambling like a park, the beach, a café or even the shops.
Going to a Melbourne Cup event
If you are planning on going to one of the many family and friends gatherings happening across Victoria tomorrow, prepare ahead to make the day as easy as possible,
If you feel really comfortable with the person holding the event you could call ahead and let them know that you are avoiding gambling and that you don’t want to take part in any betting.
To limit the impact only take a small amount of money, or don’t take any money at all with you, this way that you can control your money.
If they have the racing on position yourself away from it, hanging out with the kids can be great as they aren’t really interested and will keep you busy.
Why not read a bit more about making a change.
Do you suspect that gambling has become a problem for yourself or someone you are close to?
Gambling for many people is a social pastime, but when it consumes someone’s time and/or money to a point where other parts of life are being adversely affected then it has probably become a problem.
But how can I know if I, or someone I know, really had a gambling problem? Here are some simple questions to consider.
If you are concerned about yourself, do you:
- think about gambling all the time?
- spend more time or money than you plan to?
- chase your losses?
- feel like gambling has taken over?
- neglect other areas of your life?
- struggle with relationships?
- have trouble meeting work or study commitments?
- use gambling as an escape from problems?
If you are concerned about someone else, are they:
- spending a lot of time gambling?
- being secretive about unexplained absences?
- often turning up late for commitments?
- taking an unusual amount of time to complete simple tasks, such as going to the local shops?
- borrowing money on a regular basis?
- being secretive about financial records or payslips?
- withdrawing from others?
- changing sleeping and eating patterns?
- worried, agitated or upset for no obvious reason?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then gambling may be a problem for you or the person you are concerned about.
What does this mean and what can I do?
It can be difficult finding out you, or someone you know, has a gambling problem and you may even feel distressed. If you feel this way keep in mind there are lots of things you can do to help get the situation under control.
A great first step is talking to someone. The old saying “A problem shared is a problem halved” really is true!
Who could I talk to:
- One of our Counsellors – you can start chatting to them straight away – just click on “Get Started”
- Your GP – they are very friendly and have access to lots of resources
- A close friend or family member
- A trusted member of your community ie. a spiritual leader or elder
If you would like to know more about the signs of a gambling problem check out:
About our service
Our services are free, confidential and available 24/7, regardless of how you have been affected by gambling we can help you every step of the way.
If you want to speak to someone you can start a chat session at any time at the top of the page or call 1800 858 858 and you can speak to a local service.
If you are having suicidal thoughts call the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.