Muriel Cooper
Psychologist in Mornington

Stress, anxiety and depression


Stress, anxiety and depression

Articles about the Stress - Anxiety - Depression cycle, and how to avoid and cope with these problems.


Too many people leave it too late to take action on their stress. They miss the warning signs and as a result stress can get out of control – possibly turning into anxiety and/or depression (remember the S.A.D. cycle – Stress overflows into anxiety and/or depression). Some would say in the majority of cases anxiety and depression begins with stress.

Getting in early right at the start of stress makes it much easier to make an intervention and reduce your level of arousal. Some of the early warning signs I'm telling you here are not commonly identified, which is why I'm telling you about them. They're signs I notice in myself and that many of my clients identify with; "Yes – absolutely, that happens to me!" Other symptoms (rather than signs) are described elsewhere on this site.

But what are the early signs that aren't described so often and what do you do about them?

I'm going to invent a term for the early warning signs of stress – it's 'FITCHI' (let's pronounce it 'fit‐chy').

I am not only inventing this word for you, but for myself because everyone gets stressed and these are the things I notice in myself that make me pull back and take either short term or longer term action to address my stress levels. So from now on when I notice these things – I will mindfully notice that I'm getting 'Fitchi' and take action to immediately adjust my attitude or do something to reduce my arousal.

Depressed overweight womanFear of Relapse

You've been through a pretty tough time with S.A.D. and finally you feel like you're getting on top of it. You've been feeling much better – pretty 'normal' in fact. You've been mindful, using your coping skills and (hopefully) been pro-active using daily practices like Mindfulness, exercise, re-focusing, and so on.

Then you wake up one morning feeling bad.

Now everyone has good and bad days, but when you've been through a bad period of S.A.D. – a day that just might seem a bit 'blagh' to someone else – feels catastrophic to you, and that question starts going through your head.

What if my Anxiety or Depression comes back?

What if I go right back to the beginning and I have to go through this all over again?

Suddenly you start to feel worse, you start to ruminate and worry – and before you know it – you're on the 'slippery slope' again.


First aid kit10 things to do when nothing's working

You were going OK, feeling pretty good, the coping methods were working – and suddenly, you feel like you're going backwards.

This can last a day or two, or a week or two, but when you're feeling 'blagh' a day can seem like forever.

So here are some tips to get you through when nothing seems to be working ...

Exhausted businessmanWhether it's S (stress), A (anxiety) or D (depression), worry thoughts are often the direct cause, as well as a symptom. It's rare to have a worrying thought only once (that's just a thought).

A worry is a repetitive thought – an actual 'loop' of neurons in your brain between the emotional brain and the smart brain that goes round and round (for more on our two brains see my article on What causes stress and anxiety and why we have two brains).

In the mental health profession we call them 'Ruminations'. This is what a cow does with grass – chews it over, swallows it, throws it up and then chews it over and over again.

In the mental health profession, a lot of our time is taken up by helping you NOT to worry.

But sometimes, the thought of NOT worrying (believe it or not), causes people to worry. For example ...

"If I don't worry about things doesn't that mean I don't care?"

"If I don't worry about things maybe I won't do anything about them."

"If I don't worry about things doesn't that make me a shallow person?"

"If I worry about people doesn't that make me a good person?"

You could think of this as secondary worry – that is worrying about worrying, which only equals more stress.