I have found through my work that there is a pattern to anxiety and stress. If it is not dealt with it can lead to depression and mental health problems. Sadly, I often see people when they have got to breaking point and are barely functioning day to day. It can take longer to recover when you are completely broken. Being better informed, there is a good chance you can alleviate the agony of being signed off work, retreating to your bed or falling into the pattern of harmful addictions which damage health and family relationships. So what are the signs?
The beginnings of ANXIETY: It could be shouting at the kids, your partner, yourself or the traffic. These are warning signs that something in your life is not feeling right and you are finding it hard to cope. Physically your heart might be banging in your chest and you might feel an adrenaline surge in your body. Thoughts like “I don’t feel good, I’ll try and force myself to do this thing that I can’t or don’t want to do right now”. If we deny these feelings and sensations for a long time, then we can feel panicky and totally out of control. Often as result we experience anger, panic attacks or mystery bouts of illness which have no logical explanation. If we don’t assess, regroup, take stock and get support in place then the situation intensifies.
DENIAL: “Okay I’ll pretend this isn’t happening. It’s someone else’s problem, not my fault. I don’t have any control. I will just sit here and bury my head in the sand and hopefully it will all just go away’ or ‘I’ve just got to get on with this, I have to do this, there is no choice. I’m lucky, someone else’s situation is much worse than mine’. We push ourselves to keep going. We stuff our emotional feelings down with our ‘get a grip’ mentality at the expense of our mental and physical health. Of course this seldom works as the problem gets bigger and the situation becomes even more difficult to cope with. It can be really hard to admit that we’re finding it difficult to cope and a sign of strength when we reach out for help from family, friends or an impartial person like a counsellor who can offer support.
RUNNING AWAY: You try to do something, anything in the hope it will make the situation, the feelings disappear. Often people find ways to sooth the anxiety and stress by running towards something else, whether it be having an affair, excessive drinking, taking drugs, sexual addictions, gambling, angry outbursts, and violence towards ourselves or others. In extreme cases people can retreat within their minds, shutting people out, putting duvets over their heads in the hope that they can control the situation and keep themselves safe. “I’ll lay in my bed, it’s the safest place and then nothing can happen to me”. With all these behaviours, life is becoming really impossible and the things you are doing to try and help yourself are actually preventing you making sense of and managing the situation.
DEPRESSION: At this point the black dog of depression has descended and in extreme cases the motivation to live is being extremely tested; you may have suicidal thoughts or have attempted to end your life. It can be really, really hard to motivate oneself and you may feel ashamed that you are not coping with life. It can be difficult to ask for help and yet life changing if you do.
HELP AND SUPPORT
Asking for help is the very first step, then it gets easier. It takes courage to admit when you’re not coping and an impartial counsellor can support you as you find the impetus to deal with your situation, your feelings, the anxiety, depression, anger and shame. Seeking help always demonstrates your strength and commitment to yourself and counselling can really support you as you get your life back on track. The big question is, are you ready to admit you might need a little help?