The first thing to think about is why, at Silver Oak, we use the term ‘stress’ to relate to problems such as ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’.
Well, the books would tell us that these are different problems and, on the face of it, that seems to be true – anxiety is surely when you can’t relax; when you worry about so many things you know you shouldn’t really worry about but can’t stop; when you can’t sit at peace; when your heart is racing, when you sweat, run to the toilet, get headaches; when you are constantly uptight about the future – the ‘what if’s’.
Depression, on the other hand, is surely all about feeling down or flat; when the colour has drained out your life; when you have no energy and no motivation; when you feel the future is black and hopeless and when you find yourself brooding about the past – the ‘if only’s’.
However, far from being opposites, anxiety and depression are often simply two sides of the same coin. Two-thirds of people diagnosed as being depressed will also have significant problems with anxiety and vice versa. When depression outweighs the anxiety, we would call this essentially a depression problem with associated anxiety and, when the anxiety causes more distress, an anxiety problem with associated depression. However, much more common is when the anxiety and depression live side-by-side with both having a more-or-less equal impact on you. This we call ‘mixed anxiety-depression’. The 14 most common signs of mixed anxiety-depression are:
- Feeling on the edge
- Expect the worst to happen
- Poor sleep/ tiredness
- Poor concentration
- Irritable/ angry
- Unable to switch off
- Brooding about the past
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling bad about yourself
- Low self – confidence/ esteem
How many people do you know would not answer ‘yes’ to, at least, a few of these? I don’t know anyone and that takes up to the next point – stress isn’t something you either have or don’t have.
We all have it – we all worry, we all feel down, we all get irritable; we all find it hard to relax from time to time. So when does stress become a problem? I suggest when the answer to these three questions is ‘yes’:
When you can’t get rid of it even when you try hard to do so
Say you have a bad day at work and you get home feeling really stressed. If you watch some TV, Facebook some friends or go for a run and the stress clears up then you are fine – you have ways to control your stress. However, if it isn’t as easy as this, think about Stress Control.
When it comes and goes for no good reason
It is perfectly okay to feel stressed if, e.g. the boss gives you a hard time; if you fall out with a friend or loved one or if you are about to sit for your driving test. But, if, e.g. you wake up on your day off and, in seconds, your mind fills with worry, your body tenses or you feel down for no great reason then think about Stress Control.
When it starts to be at the centre of your life
Maybe a friend texts you and invites you out on Friday evening to see a film and you think – yes, sounds good but I’ll wait to see how I feel on Friday. When stress starts to affect your decision-making, it is time to think about Stress Control.
Maybe, more than anything, it comes down to a simple question – do you feel that your stress is beginning to overwhelm you? If so, would it be useful to learn some skills that will let you get back on top again?
Check out Stress Control Online for a scientific approach towards dealing with your stress related issues.
Dr White has also written two books on stress management –StressPac (1997) and Treating Anxiety and Stress (2000).