Did you know stress, anxiety and depression can come together?

Do you find yourself feeling stressed, overwhelmed, thinking about worst case scenarios? Does the fear feel so paralyzing that you are unable to show up for yourself? Do you feeling stuck?

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These might be the initial feelings we notice in ourselves that indicate the need to reach out to someone. These could be the symptoms of a much deeper conflict or distress that we might be feeling. It could come from a place of repeated patterns or the lack of  awareness of some need that results in causing a conflict within ourselves.

How do stress, anxiety and depression overlap?

Stress, anxiety and depression go hand in hand. You might experience predominantly anxiety and some bouts of depression or predominantly depression leading to feelings of anxiety. Stress is everyday pressures of life. Our body has an in built ability to regulate itself. All  we have to do is listen to it when it communicates. When we choose not to listen to it or are unaware of its presence is when stress leads to feeling anxious which could lead to feeling stuck or helpless.

Anxiety about a certain exam or a project or any life transition is natural. As soon as the situation is over the feeling of anxiety also goes away. Anxiety becomes a problem when the feeling continues even after the situation is over. Anxiety is an emotion we experience whenever we perceive something as threatening and there is a strong intrinsic need to protect ourselves. Anxiety triggers the stress response resulting in fight, flight or freeze which affects  productivity as a result causes the feeling of helplessness and lack of self worth leading to depression. It is a vicious cycle, depression has the potential of making everyday life very difficult. It can occur independent of stress, but always comes with anxiety. The feeling of being stuck, hopeless, worthless and lonely leads to the feeling of anxiety.

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Help for anxiety and depression?

Anxiety is very close to my heart. I have had my fair share of experience with Anxiety. Our first response to feeling anxious is usually to fight it. My approach to anxiety is that our body is trying to communicate to us that we are not safe. Even though we might feel like there is no reason for us to feel that way. It’s important to pay attention to our body and listen to it. The more we fight anxiety the worse it gets.

Depression is different from anxiety so the approach is also different. I have always see depression as Dementors in Harry Potter, they suck your soul out of you. All you feel after is empty. One approach I use a lot is externalization in which depression is separated from the person. Rather than saying “I am depressed” it becomes “I am currently experiencing depression”. The focus is on changing our relationship with depression.

There are some modalities that work well for both anxiety and depression. For example, Psychodynamic approach helps us understand how our past might be influencing our present. This gives an insight into the core reason for worrying excessively or feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless. Both for anxiety and depression, mindfulness is another approach used to keep us out of our thoughts and in the present. This prevents us from being hijacked by our scary thoughts. The thoughts don’t go away but we learn to not get consumed by it and believe it to be the absolute truth. We develop skills to accept and face the physical symptoms of anxiety not fight them or avoid them. We also develop coping skills to calm our body and our mind. CBT is used to help understand the connection between thoughts and feelings. Different techniques are used to challenge thoughts, which helps in identifying irrational thoughts.

 

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