Society has become increasingly obsessed with putting labels on almost everything these days, and not least of all when it comes to Mental Health! If you suffer from anxiety and/or depression there’s no need for me to tell you that these are life altering issues and is a subject that we could spend hours discussing – but on this page I wanted to bring a little more clarity and a fresh perspective around the subject of Stress, Anxiety and Depression.
Many of us go through it at some point in our life – and for many and varying reasons! The sad part is that because of our incessant need to “label” everything and everyone these days, more often than not it’s the labels themselves that lead to UNNECESSARY feelings of inadequacy, a feeling that there is “something wrong” with them, and that they’re fundamentally flawed in some way!
The one thing that I find so utterly RIDICULOUS when talking about Anxiety, Depression and PTSD (and to some degree Grief) is the notion that many “experts” seem to have that lack of resilience is the problem. The person is simply not strong enough to cope with the external stressors of life. If they had been, this would not have happened in the first place – and their solution is? That sufferers of Anxiety, Depression and PTSD need to become more resilient! I’m sorry, but WHAT A CROCK OF….!
A wise man once said…”All the things you must do to recover from depression are made more difficult by the symptoms of the depression itself.” ~ Unknown
Truer words were never spoken! For example, you should eat well, sleep well, be active, and think realistically. Yet the typical symptoms of depression include poor appetite, insomnia, lethargy, and negative thinking. Above all, you should maintain hope, but depression also brings feelings of hopelessness. How does one get through the day this – let alone learn resilience – and to be brutally honest…who’s to say they were not already quite resilient before this silent beast took hold?
Chances are you are NOT flawed or have something “wrong” with you! Chances are you’ve been through (or are going through) something in your life which has brought these feelings on – the death of a loved one, a relationship break-down, a child custody dispute. You may have been the victim of a violent crime, or lost a job – or you could just be struggling to cope with the daily balancing act that is life these days!
If you’re one of these people, I HAVE GOOD NEWS for you! The root of the problem may NOT be so much a “mental health” issue per se – and it definitely does NOT have to be a life sentence!
Clearly there needs to be some type of intervention. You cannot cure anxiety or depression just by wishing it away or hoping for it to pass. It’s not just going away by itself – but in saying that, in many cases there are things you can do for yourself to alleviate symptoms and start taking back control of your life!
This is where I want to bring a little more clarity and a fresh perspective around the subject of Stress, Anxiety and Depression. Let’s take a look at 2 very common causes of these problems, how they impact and what can be done!
As if anxiety and depression aren’t already complex enough – it’s even possible for them to be the cause of hormonal imbalances that then lead to further stress and anxiety. Hormonal imbalances are an issue that can be physical and natural, or caused by stress, or both, and no matter what causes it, can lead to anxiety and depression.
“Hormonal Imbalance” can be an incredibly broad term – one that in some ways doesn’t have a specific meaning. For example, it’s possible that your body releases too much thyroid hormone which may trigger panic attacks. It’s also possible that stress is causing too much or too little cortisol production, which leads to further anxiety symptoms.
The key thing to understand about your hormones is that they are responsible for nearly every process in your body. Your body gets used to a very specific amount of each hormone, and any changes in these amounts may create anxiety and/or depression, for example:
- Menstrual Cycle/Birth Control Pills
- Thyroid Health Issues
- General Stress
Anxiety, Depression and Hormones – the Chicken or the Egg Argument
So which one is it – the Chicken or the Egg? Is it your hormones that are causing your anxiety, or is your anxiety that is causing a hormone imbalance? But rest assured, whichever one it is, trying to get your hormones a little more balanced is likely to help your anxiety! This is because when you have anxiety AND a hormone imbalance (which is quite likely) it can become a downward spiral – ie your hormones cause your anxiety/depression, which in turns creates more stress, thus throwing your hormones even further “out of whack” and increasing your anxiety/depression, and so it continues!
By taking small actionable steps towards resolving this, it is possible to reverse the downward spiral to an upwards one. When your hormones are better balanced, this often reduces your anxiety/depression, and as the symptoms lessen, your hormones slowly but surely start to act the way they were supposed to in the first place.
Reversing the Cycle!
There is no “quick fix” to a hormone imbalance, and in some cases professional medical care may be necessary, but in general terms here are 5 things you can do at home to get the ball rolling –
- Watch your diet
- Get enough of the RIGHT kind of exercise
- Get plenty of sleep
- Get plenty of R & R (rest and relaxation)
- Spend time in nature and breathe
LIFESTYLE & ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS
In many, many cases, Stress, Anxiety and Depression are the direct result of Lifestyle and/or Environmental factors! So let’s take a look at just a few of the things that would make almost anyone stressed, depressed and anxious –
Of all the research out there, social connection is one of the most proven ways to prevent and cure depression. However, the problem is that depression will often tell us we’re no fun and nobody wants to hang out with us, leading us back to isolation. Acknowledge that the thought does not serve you and, given your current state, and reach out. Join a Meetup group, a team, or call an old friend.
2. Narcissistic Victim Disorder
This is a form of abuse or bullying that has been caused by someone with this Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and victims tend to only seek help when they feel like they can no longer cope. They are unaware that they have been living or working in a war zone, and no one has mentioned Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Victims of this narcissistic abuse and bullying often display a set, or cluster of symptoms due to the unrelenting physical, mental, emotional and sometimes spiritual abuse that often present as stress, anxiety and/or depression.
3. Missing Meaning
From an existential perspective, we require meaning in our lives for happiness. According to Viktor Frankl, we can find this meaning through work, relationships (romantic and otherwise), helping others, learning, creative endeavors (e.g. writing, music, art/design), and spirituality, to name a few. If you’re in a career you despise, or feel “lost” in life, depression has likely come about to tell you that the way you’re living your life does not align with your values and desires. Take it as a positive sign that change needs to happen, and consider how your life would look if you felt fulfilled in some (or all) of the aforementioned areas.
4. A Critical Inner Voice
Imagine how worthless you’d feel if you had a verbally-abusive friend, partner, or parent beside you at all times. Well, this is how it is for many people who are highly self-critical. Pay attention to your internal voice. What’s its flavor? If you find you’re saying things to yourself that you would never say to a friend, it’s time to make a change. Several studies have shown that learning self-compassion can be an effective intervention in treating depression. Therapy can be a wonderful place to learn this language of healthy striving.
5. All Work & No Play
Many people are under the (false) impression that once we reach adulthood we no longer need or deserve “fun.” Or that we’re only allowed to have “fun” once our work is done. Well, given the fact that there will ALWAYS be something more to do—another bill to pay, another project to complete, or another load of laundry to do—chances are you’re setting yourself up for a life that’s not very enjoyable. Allow yourself to carve some time out of your daily schedule to do something you enjoy. This could be an activity, or it could be lying on the couch watching Netflix.
After reading this, how many of the boxes did you tick, or are there perhaps some other lifestyle factors that may be affecting your anxiety/depression? If so, making some relatively simple Lifestyle and Environmental shifts may save you a whole lot more anxiety, and give you back your life and sanity!
If you’re interested in how to apply this information to your life and start to manage your stress, anxiety and/or depression, please understand that it is not ALL about diet and exercise (as some experts might have you believe).
I offer a more holistic approach focusing on the 3 main areas of life – mind, body and soul (spirit) fitness and using the same tools and strategies I used have used myself will help to alleviate your symptoms and take back control of your life.