Stress and depression
Stress is a normal, natural response to difficult circumstances. Everybody feels stress, and it’s part of what helps us cope with life’s challenges. Stress makes your heart beat faster, it makes you feel more anxious and sleep less. It may make you eat more or eat less, and it feels very unpleasant.
Particularly stressful situations include house moves, bereavements, relationship difficulties, holidays and weddings.They are all times when we ask a lot of ourselves and we can all feel the strain. Stress is normal, and generally, if the cause of the stress is removed,the feelings will settled down fairly quickly.
Depression is an illness. It can be caused by stress or it can arrive out of the blue without obvious reason.
Depression causes a low mood, but can also affect sleep, appetite, sex drive,relationships, friendships and the ability to enjoy yourself. If you feel you may be depressed, or if those around you suggest that you seem depressed, please consider booking an appointment with your doctor to talk it through. There are many possible solutions, not all of which involve taking tablets, and you owe it to yourself to seek help.
There are many options, from talking therapies to medication, and sometimes time alone will help.
Post natal depression
This is depression within two years of a baby’s birth. It’s common and nasty, as it can spoil your enjoyment of those early years and make your life miserable.
If you feel you may be depressed, and you have a young child, contact your Health Visitor or GP. There is lots we can do to help, and you owe it to yourself and to your children to do something.
Work stress is the "physical or psychological disturbance you experience as a result of an adverse or challenging situation on the job."
Signs of work stress:
- Physical & psychological exhaustion/fatigue.
- Increased illnesses.
- Loss of sleep or insomnia.
- Increased or decreased appetite.
- Headaches, stomach aches, indigestion - common signs of work stress.
- Diarrhoea or constipation (if decreasing work stress doesn't counter this, perhaps a visit to your doctor is a good idea).
- Lack of focus or ability to concentrate.
- Bad mood or grumpiness; criticizing co-workers and family
Personality factors & stress management
Knowing what works for you in decreasing work stress can be learned, but it's also part of your personality. If you're optimistic, easygoing, and friendly then you're less likely to experience work stress, but if you’re a worrier, a perfectionist and a person who tends to look on the dark side then you are more likely to feel stressed at work.
Though you can’t choose your natural temperament or disposition, you can choose to become more optimistic, patient,easygoing, and generous to help decrease work stress.
Decreasing work stress
Studies show that there are three important differences between workers who handle stress well and those who don't.
- Stress-resistant workers have clear goals, and a strong commitment to those goals. They experience support from colleagues (not isolation or alienation). So, consider your goals and commitment, and colleague support.
- Stress-resistant workers welcome change and challenges. They don't see events as alarming or frightening. Try to see change as healthy and inspiring.
- Stress-resistant workers feel in control of their lives. They feel influential and useful. Consider how much control you really have of how you work.
If you think stress is affecting your work, talk to your line manager or HR department, try to tease out which parts of the job are stressing you, see if they can help you find a solution. If work is making you ill you need to act.
Feeling 'a bit low'- tips for cheering yourself up
If you’re like most people, you experience moments of feeling down, depressed, or blue.
First of all, it’s okay to feel that way. We all do sometimes. Some of us may feel down more often than others, and that’s okay too. If your feelings are preventing you from functioning in your home, work, or social life, you may need some extra help. If this is the case, please contact a mental health professional in your area.
If you’re just having a bad day (or week) and need to cheer up, try some of the following which have worked for others.
1. Make your own CHEER UP book . If you’re experiencing lots of days of feeling down, you might benefit from creating your own “Cheer Up” book. Create a list (like this one) of every activity you can think of that will cheer you up. Type it up, add some pictures, print it out, and have it bound. It sounds silly but it can work very well. Whenever you're feeling low, you pick up the book book and within a few activities, you can start feeling better about life.
2.Breathe. Deep breathing is a relaxation technique that releases tension from the body and clears the mind. You tend to breathe shallowly or even hold your breath when you are feeling anxious. Many people do this and are not even aware of it. Shallow breathing limits your oxygen intake and adds further stress to your body. Breathing exercises can break this cycle.
What to Do:
1. Sit up straight. First exhale completely through your mouth. Place your hands on your stomach, just above your waist. Breathe in slowly through your now, pushing your hands out with your stomach. This ensures that you are breathing deeply. Imagine that you are filling your body with air from the bottom up.
2. Hold your breath to a count of two to five, or whatever you can handle. It is easier to hold your breath if you continue to hold out your stomach. Slowly and steadily breathe out through your mouth, feeling your hands move back in as you slowly contract your stomach,until most of the air is out. Exhalation is a little longer than inhalation.
3. If you feel able combine deep breathing exercises with yoga or meditation. You can get DVDs on how to do this from amazon or most good book stores. Another good breathing exercise is to sing. It's amazing how therapeutic a gentle sing of a song you love can be.
3.Water. Drink some water. Dehydration can make you feel worse. So fill up a glass with that clear liquid and take it down. Don’t stop at that one glass. Be sure to have a few through the rest of the day.
4.Hugs. If a friend or loved one is available, get a hug from them. You have to give a hug to get one. A study by University of North Carolina researchers found that hugs increase the “bonding” hormone oxytocin and decrease the risk of heart disease. Touch also releases two feel-good brain chemicals, serotonin and dopamine.
5.Play with a dog. Could you borrow a friend's dog? This means really play. Get down on the ground, chase her around, throw her a stick or ball. You’ll be exercising, and making both you and the dog feel better and happier.
6.Caffeine. Get a coffee (iced or hot). Caffeine is a natural mood enhancer - it also helps to get out of the house to get some fresh air. This is a cheap and pleasurable pick-me-up (although if you suffer from palpitations or panic attacks stick to decaff coffee and just enjoy the pleasure of getting out and having someone else make a drink for you).
7.Call a friend. Open up your phone, and start going down the contact list. Family members and friends should be available to support one another. A chat will add a new perspective on life in general, and it might provide some distraction from whatever is getting you down.
8.Watch a funny movie. If you have the time, watch a film. And when you get to the funny parts, give yourself permission to laugh. Laughter is very good for you, especially when you don’t think you can.
9.Go for a walk. You know yourself best. Do you feel good around green trees, water, or lots of people? Go for a walk near something that rejuvenates you. Commit to just 15 minutes, and you’ll be surprised how much you’ll want to keep going. The fresh air, rejuvenating surroundings, and exercise are all lifts to mood.
Regular exercise if good for low mood. It boosts levels of 'happy hormones', gets rid of sluggishness, helps night-time sleep and makes you feel you've done something. Everyone should try to walk for at east 15 minutes a day, rain or shine. Over a century ago the poet, Byron, who suffered from severe melancholia, discovered that for him, swimming once a day cured his bouts of lowness.
10.Bath Time. Draw yourself a bath – with candles, music, bubbles, and peace. Time to spoil yourself!
11.Cheap fun. Go to the pound shop and buy 5 fun items. Decorations, cards, games, stickers, ribbons, bags, books, food, glasses, toys, coloring books, and much more!! If you can’t spare £5, allow yourself to spare £2 or £3. Pretend you're a child spending your pocket money. And pick something fun!
12.Music. Do you enjoy music? Most human beings do, and music can produce relaxing and 'happy' hormones in the brain. Slip in your favorite tunes, turn the volume up, and feel the music surround you. Bathe yourself in the songs that makes you feel good.
13.Dance. Along the lines of music – put on some of your favourite
tunes, close the curtains, and dance. If you’re home alone, dance around the whole house. Think Hugh Grant in 'Love Actually.' If you think this is stupid, set the timer for 5 minutes. Commit to only 5 minutes, and see how you feel afterwards. If you don’t feel better, stop. If it works, you don’t have to tell anybody.
14. Online friends.If you're a user of Facebook or any of the other online 'friend' sites, go online for fifteen minutes and have a look what your friends have been doing. Send them hello messages asking if they'd like to meet up sometime for a coffee. Tell them you're planning a cheering yourself up day and see if they'd like one too. It may pay dividends, and you may find you help someone else too.
15. Speak to a stranger.It's very easy to live life in isolation without speaking to another soul. In times past our ancestors would have known everyone in their village and would never have had a day without human contact. Now we can go for days without speaking to anyone.
Make a point of speaking to people. If you're walking a dog say hello to someone else and their dog. If you're shopping exchange pleasantries with the shop assistant.
16. Take something to a charity shop. Everyone can find something to give away. Find something that you think someone else might want. A book you've read, a pile of magazines, an old cup and saucer... anything. Take it to a charity shop, hand it over and chat to the staff. Ask them what sort of things people bring in. Ask them about the charity. If you find you like the company ask them if they'd like any help. Helping others can be a great boost to how well you feel.
These are only 16 ways to Cheer Up. They're simple and may seem trivial and they may not all appeal to you - but they can help give some purpose to a gloomy day. Plenty more activities exist, but the biggest enemy is your own sense of 'can't be bothered.' Don't let it defeat you, your mood is in your hands..
CBT and self help therapies
If you have found any of this helpful there is much more you can do for your mood and your stress levels.
Consider investing in a book - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Dummies. This book is obtainable from bookstores including online ones like Tesco and Amazon. It's easy to dip into and is full of information on managing your mood and on turning negative thoughts into positive ones.
The book will help you manage your own moods and will also help you help others, including your family and friends, if they are low. It - or something like it - is a seriously good investment.
Look at moodgym.
Click on the word above and it will open a new window and a new opportunity.
Moodgym is a free online resource developed in Australia but available to us all through the miracle of the internet. It's aimed at teaching you to manage your low mood.
It takes a little bit of time and a little bit of effort but it just may change your life.
If you find it helps, tell others about it. Spread the word. You don't have to just put up with feeling blue - none of us do. Help is out there.