Do you ever get to the point where you feel you just can’t take any more? Sometimes the smallest thing happens and you are overwhelmed with stress. Stress and anxiety are often triggers for depression. What causes this meltdown when other people seem to go through life confident and carefree?
If you have too many stressful events happen in quick succession, this can cause anxiety and depression. Examples of stressful situations are; relationship problems, financial difficulties, bullying, bereavement, illness or problems at work.
Each time you are stressed there are a number of biological changes in the brain including the release of hormones. This can be self- defeating because the more these hormones are released the more stressed you can be! Therefore the stress can snowball until even small things can cause anger, depression and anxiety. It is really important then to try to limit your exposure to stress and to find opportunities to relax. Avoiding bad stress is not cowardly or weak, it is about taking care of yourself.
But it’s not just big events that cause stress, sometimes small things just build up and even the most easy going people can snap. This week I have been talking to a lady (who I will call Karen) who was happy at work until a new person started. Soon after this new lady started Karen felt her previously friendly colleagues had cooled towards her. When Karen walked into a room, her colleagues often stopped talking and she often felt people were whispering about her. Sometimes this new lady would make unpleasant comments under her breath which no one else seemed to hear. Karen put up with this for almost a year until she finally lost her temper, causing her to look like the guilty party from the managers point of view.
Of course colleagues and acquaintances might not realise the different stresses you are suffering and may not even be interested. Some people’s personalities are such that they always seem laid back, they see problems as a challenge and they always seem to be positive. Sometimes these ‘super people’ can’t understand why you are not as buoyant and mentally strong as they are. They may see you as angry, irritable, needy or miserable without understanding how you got to that point.
It is harder to deal with stress if you are very sensitive, have a need to be in control, want to please others and to fit in, are emotional or quick to anger, care too much, are inflexible or have rigid views. For example sometimes stress can occur when you get too involved in other people’s problems and even start to feel that other people’s problems are your responsibility. You might get annoyed because others don’t do something the way you like to do it. You may over-think as to whether people like you by comments they make or because they don’t reply to a text. Some people are naturally anxious and fearful, it is the way they are made.
Stressful situations are harder to deal with if you don’t feel in control. For example, your car goes wrong but you don’t have the money to fix it, your partner is bullying you but you are too scared to leave him, your manager doesn’t think you are performing well enough however hard you try and you keep getting turned down for jobs. This can cause you to feel like giving up, and then trigger depression.
Research suggests that those who suffered high levels of stress as a child when their brain structures were growing, are more likely to get stressed as adults. This is particularly so in cases of child abuse. (Perry et al 1995). A friend of mine who suffers from anxiety and depression told me how as a child, not only was his dad violent but his parents were not often around. When he came out of school, he never knew whose house he would have to go to and was ‘passed around’ family and friends.
Try to learn the triggers that cause you stress and when you start to feel anxious or angry, accept the feelings and then take steps to relax and care for yourself. Explain to people why you are stressed but don’t necessarily look to others for sympathy! Be firm if people are putting on you. Avoid people who wind you up. Consider if what you are stressed about really matters and if it does then come up with a plan to try to solve the problem. Believe in yourself because even the most successful people have problems. Don’t let it build up to the stage when a tiny thing causes you to crash.
Stress hormones are damaging to brain neurons if they are present for long periods. (Hirschfeld & Shea 1992)