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.

This is not a list of stress management techniques (you'll find that here), this is about how to plan a strategy to manage your stress and how to implement it.

Having a strategy means more than meditating or doing a relaxation exercise. It sets out your intentions – what you intend to do about your stress, including some of the things on those lists of techniques.

When you are stressed, your ability to think, remember, make decisions and concentrate are compromised, so having a plan keeps you on track.

Stressed couple arguing over their budget

Stress affects us all from individuals to towns/suburbs to cities to countries.

In Australia there are any number of statistics indicating the cost of excessive stress to individuals, the community, the workplace and the economy. They are brain-boggling. Here are just a few ...

  • 35 percent of Australians report having a significant level of distress in their lives (over one third).
  • Just over seven in ten Australians (72%) reported that current stress was having at least some impact on physical health, with almost one in five (17%) reporting that current stress was having a strong to very strong impact on physical health.
  • Over three in four (78%) young adults reported that current stress was having at least some impact on mental health with 26% reporting that their current stress was having a strong to very strong impact on mental health.
  • Financial issues (49%) and family issues (45%) remain the leading causes of stress amongst Australians.

-- Australian Psychological Society

  • Workplace stress is costing the economy 14.81 billion dollars a year.
  • Stress related presentation and absenteeism are costing Australian employers 10.11 billion dollars a year.
  • 3.2 days per year per worker are lost each year through workplace stress.

-- Medibank

Stressed accountant

There's good stress and bad stress. Good stress is called Eustress and bad stress is called Dystress. We need Eustress to give us purpose, vitality and spark. It helps us to enjoy life and keep us motivated. It's the Dystress, or bad stress, that is the problem.

Our survival brain reacts to a stressor in the same way today as it did when we were tribal hunter/gatherers, when there were very big things to Dystress about; there really was a tiger or a bear in the mouth of the cave – the fire had gone out – the strange tribe was coming over the hill – you get my meaning. Otherwise our ancient ancestors were pretty much in a state of Eustress. Life was simple. Problems were few.

This is not the case today. In Western society we exist in a seething cauldron of stress; financial stress, job stress, relationship stress.

There's travel stress (our inner caveperson must be in a state of panic hurtling down the freeway at 100 kilometres an hour or flying in a plane 30 thousand feet above the earth) – and yet on a rational level we mostly take these things for granted; on top of that there is the adjustment to suddenly being In a totally different place and environment – another thing we think we should just 'get over' (although we at least do believe in jet lag).

Our ancient ancestors were travellers, but it took them a very long time to get to their destination, with plenty of time to adapt along the way.

There is also the stress of ill health; our ancient ancestors would have either recovered or died –not been subjected to a very long life full of invasive medical treatment often away from family and friends. Life was short but lived to the full and mostly in the present moment. Being unwell was very stressful for them.

Worried woman

Many of us are so used to being on a treadmill year that it's often hard to get off, even during a supposedly relaxing holiday.

You've had a couple of weeks off and yet you still feel uptight/wound up. You dread the thought of returning to work and when you get there you feel like you've never been away. You feel:

  • Unhappy
  • Anxious
  • Moody (irritable, angry)
  • Overwhelmed
  • Just want it all to go away and stay in bed

If this is you, you might want to re-think your whole life - seriously. This kind of stress can be due to recent life events and if they rate highly enough, you could be at significant risk of having a health breakdown (according to the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory).

You might think you don't deserve to be stressed since nothing major is happening to you (like a death in the family for example) but that doesn't mean you aren't still significantly stressed.

In our complex society a lifetime of striving to be successful, financially comfortable and socially acceptable (or even merely survive) can take an enormous toll on the mind, brain and body.

Holidays are supposed to be a remedy or a buffer against the stress of living and sometimes they are. Often though, holidays are spent trying to relax and not succeeding.

Often our mind and brain is not present and enjoying the holiday, but rather thinking and feeling about the unpleasant prospect of being back on the treadmill. Also there might be financial stress (perhaps self-employed people worry about not earning while on holiday and there is also the cost of the holiday itself).