Stress and depression –
how to help yourself
Feeling fed up and stressed are common, and most people will experience it in their lives at some point. And at the moment feelings of stress and poor mental health are at high levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the time these feelings are transient and go away with a rest, a moan with friends/family or a good holiday. However, stress can become chronic when the demands on an individual overwhelm their resources and coping mechanisms and can turn into depression if left for long enough.
Symptoms of depression include poor sleep or over sleeping, poor appetite or overeating, lack of libido, feeling low, tearful, snappy and irritable. Often there are feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness and the sufferer feels guilty and blames themselves for the way they feel. Individuals often report a lack of energy and they withdraw from social contact. Sufferers often report that they don’t enjoy or look forward to anything.
This last symptom can be particularly distressing in mothers of new babies who due to the depression get no enjoyment from their children and find it difficult to bond. Health visitors, mid wives and GPs all screen for postnatal depression as this is a particularly high risk time. Sometimes depression becomes severe and sufferers may harm themselves as a means of physically expressing their psychological distress. Suicide is the most extreme consequence and happens very rarely but is devastating when it does.
Depression is a clinical condition like a broken arm or asthma yet many people feel ashamed of admitting to symptoms. It happens to far more people than you would expect and there is lots of help available for stress and depression. Both of these conditions are common and health professionals are very used to helping patients navigate the system in order to feel better. You should never feel ashamed or worried about asking for help from health professionals, we want, and have been trained, to help.
Help broadly falls into four categories:
Try and reduce the demands on yourself. Do you really need to do all that overtime? Can you cut down on anything you do that is stressing you out?
Get some exercise and try and eat healthily
Go to bed at a reasonable time
Take a few days off
Take regular holidays
Enjoy family time plan some nice things to look forward to
Financial concerns – the citizens advice bureau are a great resource with debt management/financial issues
Books – All libraries have a section in them with self-help books for depression
The charity MIND has lots of useful information as well as lists of private psychotherapists/counsellors/therapists in your local area
Antidepressant medications are best used in severe depression. In selected patients these can have a dramatic effect on mood and allow patients to function and recover from depression. Antidepressants are not normally the whole answer and are best used in combination with talking therapies and self-help strategies , they do not stop you feeling sad about normal life and are not used for stress. Occasionally a short course of sleeping tablets may be prescribed. These are not used long term as most sleeping tablets are addictive and lose their effectiveness with time. Most depression and stress resolves using the above strategies with time. If depression particularly is getting worse despite treatment GP‘s can refer to the local community mental health team for assessment by a psychiatrist for further management.
Most depression and stress resolves using the above strategies with time. If depression particularly is getting worse despite treatment GP’s can refer to the local community mental health team for assessment by a psychiatrist for further management.
With thanks to our resident GP, Dr Clare Johnston for this article.
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