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.

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.

Bored young manWhy is boredom so stressful?

It 'messes with your head'

These two states present different kinds of ways boredom is stressful.

  1. Boredom allows your stress brain free reign to invade your head with worries and fears – boredom and depression go hand in hand – I call this 'agitated boredom'
  2. Or it does the opposite and you feel 'brain dead' with no motivation to even think about your goals let alone set them – I call this 'listless boredom'

For example having no action and distraction – that is nothing to focus your attention on to – presents great opportunities for the limbic brain to nag you about worries, negative thoughts, and things you're procrastinating about or should be doing – and in this case the reaction is one of being nervous, twitchy, restless, anxious – i.e. stressed/anxious.

Alternatively, having nothing to focus your attention on to can induce almost a 'fugue' state when the brain, again having nothing to focus its attention on, goes into 'idle' mode – just ticking over – aimless and listless.

Either of these states could be associated with anxiety or depression. Boredom is not trivial.

Stressed girl

Stress is the first defence mechanism the human race ever had (sorry creation theorists, we’ll have to agree to disagree).

Once upon a time when the world was young and humans were Arboreal Fructivores (tree dwelling fruit eaters), the world was paradise.  We had virtually no natural enemies, plenty to eat, and all was well with the world.  Until climate change (remind you of anything?).

The forests and jungles shrunk and were replaced by grassy plains that eventually became deserts, there was overcrowding, something had to give.  So Evolution / God / Mother Nature, whatever you want to call it, was forced to make a choice.  Some species stayed in the trees (our primate relatives the chimpanzee and so on), and some took their luck on the ground.