The latest study done by the American Institute of Stress shows that a whopping 77 percent of respondents in the US regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress, and that 48 percent of respondents feel that their stress has increased over the last five years. Money and work were cited as the leading cause of stress by 76 percent of respondents, with 30 percent claiming they were ‘always’ or ‘often’ stressed at work. But did you know that chronic stress can often cause the same sorts of symptoms attributed to depression? In fact, according to many scientific studies, depression and anxiety-type symptoms are actually just part of a ‘stress spectrum’ of disorders that includes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and even some personality disorders. Being able to figure out the difference between chronic stress, which can make anyone occasionally feel down, moody, lethargic and a bit ‘blue’, and true feelings of depression, which are normally rooted in difficult childhoods, is key to working out the best way of dealing with the problem, and getting your mojo back. So how can you know if you’re stressed, or depressed? Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following questions, to find out:
1) Are you having trouble sleeping? 2)
Do you feel sad and hopeless?
3) Are you having difficulties remembering what you ate for supper yesterday, or where you put your car keys?
4) Is it really hard for you to make a decision?
5) Do you feel completely overwhelmed by life, and all the things you have to do, and all the responsibility you have to carry?
6) Are you spending more and more time by yourself?
7) Do you feel burned-out?
8) Have you run out of energy?
9) Do you feel anxious or nervous about what’s coming next?
10) Are you beating yourself up about all the things you can’t seem to be getting on with, or doing right?
11) Feeling angry about your external circumstances, frustrated and tense?
12) Feeling angry about your internal, personal challenges and difficulties?
13) Do you feel like you can’t overcome the difficulties in your life?
14) Do you feel like YOU are the difficulty in your life?
15) Are you waiting for the tough time to pass?
16) Have you given up on ever seeing the good times roll again?
17) Are you experiencing troubles functioning on the job, in class, or when doing your regular chores?
18) Are you finding it hard to get out of bed?
19) Do you sometimes find it hard to breathe, or catch your breath?
20) Do you sometimes just wish it would all end?
If you answered mostly ‘yes’ to the even numbers: then you’re probably more stressed than depressed, and once you improve or change your stressful circumstances, the chances are good that you’ll bounce right back. You need to concentrate on finding out what’s stressing you out, and start thinking about how you can do things a bit differently. Maybe, you need to consider switching jobs, getting more sleep, or finding ways to cut your costs. If you answered mostly ‘yes’ to the odd numbers then you’re probably more depressed than stressed.
Depression hangs around for much longer than ‘stress spells’, and it can also feel like it just lands on you out of nowhere, even if life is going swimmingly. But really? Depression is always triggered by something, and the ‘something’ that usually flips the depression switch is hanging out with people who make you feel unimportant, unloved and invisible. If you answered mostly ‘yes’ to everything then you really need a holiday, ASAP! Getting to grips with the real, underlying causes of depression can be pretty challenging, especially if you’re also experiencing a lot of chronic stress at the same time. But the following things will help you start to turn things around, regardless of whether you’re depressed, or just stressed:
1. Make sure you eat right, sleep enough and exercise regularly.
2. Build some R+R time into your daily routine: sit and watch a beautiful sunset; take a few minutes to talk to God; take a walk with a good friend; watch some funny videos on Youtube.
3. Check to see why you’re getting down and depressed: is it because you’re dealing with difficult circumstances (stress) or because you’re dealing with difficult people (depression), or both?
4. And last but not least take your problems back to God, and ask Him to help you find the solutions.
All of us get stressed from time to time, but take heart: whether you’re stressed or actually depressed, the ‘down’ times don’t last forever. Once we figure out why we’re getting down, and take steps to start making the necessary changes to our lives, we usually find that hard as it was to go through all that black stuff, there were actually some very big presents waiting for us on the other side.