What is the difference between depression, anxiety and stress?
We are being told that mental illness is on the increase this year, more now than ever before and is there any wonder? There are a million and one questions whizzing around our brains: will we have a job to go back to? Will there be a third wave? Are our kids safe at school? How can we keep our elderly relatives safe? What happens if we get the virus? When can we give our loved ones a cuddle? There are so many things to get our head around right.
Perhaps you are experiencing low moods, anxiety, depression and stress, maybe you don’t know that you are, you just know that you are struggling to cope this year and you’re not sure what it is you’re feeling? Perhaps your confused with how you feel? OK one minute and then, down the next?
First of all, it’s OK to feel like this, it’s understandable. It really is. We all get low moods, now and again, the problem starts when the low moods take over and you cannot shake them off and your quality of life suffers.
Depression is like a black cloud hanging over you, you have no interest and an inability to find enjoyment in ordinary things anymore. You may be struggling to get out of bed but also having problems sleeping, you don’t want to eat or you are over-eating. you’re not taking pride in your appearance or, you don’t want to speak to anyone. These are common signs for depression. If you recognise these then you should speak to your GP.
Anxiety can be described as a feeling of unease, worry or fear, this can be mild or so severe it interferes with peoples’ lives; they may suffer from debilitating anxiety attacks which can be mistaken for a heart attack. Anxiety can present it’s self as having poor concentration, not sleeping well, sweating, dry mouth, palpitations and tummy upsets. The present situation has led to more people experiencing anxiety, some who have never had this before.
Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine are common comforts for people to reach for at times of anxiety but in actual fact, they can make it worse as they are stimulants, so try to cut down on these if you can.
Stress is different to anxiety and depression, it’s generally thought of as a normal part of life; we experience stress when we are in some situations which are out of our comfort zone, perhaps the dentist or an exam, spiders will do it for me! At the moment it could be money or employment worries, relationship problems or Covid 19 concerns.
We need a certain amount of stress in our lives so that we perform at our optimal best and are aware of danger; stress becomes a problem when we can’t switch it off. Hormones are released into the body, mainly cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. They try to boost the body’s ability to deal with the situation; this goes back to our ‘fight or flight’ response from our ancestors when faced with a sabre tooth tiger! Overtime, these hormones have a detrimental effect on our health, clogging arteries which can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
What can you do?
- Learn to relax and switch off
Relaxation helps with depression, anxiety and stress; this doesn’t come easy for many people, they fidget and wriggle about but it is something that you can learn to do. Relaxation comes in many forms, perhaps a lovely bubble bath with candles, losing yourself in a good book, listening to music, watching a box set or there are many mindfulness courses available on line and activities like Tai Chi and Hatha yoga teach breathing techniques to help calm the mind and body. Try anything that takes you away from the real world for a while
- Get active!
The best thing you can do if you’re new to exercise is to walk. Getting out in the fresh air, even if the weather is bad will do you the power of good; It really gets your body and circulation moving and clears your mind. You will also release ‘feel good’ hormones which help to improve your mood.
If you enjoy music put on your favourite tracks and have a dance around the house, there’s no one watching! Music is a great motivator.
I cannot tell you how many people I have seen over my years as a fitness instructor who have told me that exercise has kept them sane.
If you are feeling really low, tearful, have anxiety or stress symptoms please call your GP and talk to a professional. If your feelings are mild to moderate, get your walking shoes or trainers on and get that body moving!
We are living through a very peculiar time people, each of us has a concern or two, we have to support each other and know that life goes on and we adapt to new situations. It’s OK to have a wobble but if you feel it is more than that, contact your GP or give your local Mind a call.
We can do this!
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