Stress is a big factor in my depression, and it is something I have to watch. Since being diagnosed with depression, I have learnt to listen to my body as far as stress is concerned. It escalates, first I feel my breathing quicken, the next step is ringing in my ears, which turns to the sound of cicada’s when it is seriously stressful. The final stage before a potential panic attack is feeling light headed and like I’m going to pass out.
My husband has a contracting business and he was recently diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. It was brought on by lack of sleep and stress. It is a highly stressful industry that he works in, and often he gets dropped in it by co-workers, whether intentionally or not, that isn’t for me to discuss, but we have had to learn new ways to cope with stress together. Because of his illness, I’ve started working for the company, doing Annual Fire Alarm Surveys – which involves testing fire alarms to make sure they work. It isn’t a quick process, a simple job can take an hour to do. The stress comes from the fact that if I don’t flick the right switches, I could accidentally call the Fire Brigade and evacuate an entire building! Big stress when I only have 5 minutes with my husband to quickly go over the board and I know which buttons to push before he heads off to do his own work.
Breathing is the first option, deep even breathing – breathe in for the count of five, hold for the count of five, and then release for five. Finding a quiet spot to do this in helps too. Listening to my favourite music helps, but not as much as going for a walk, to help burn off the anxiety. But if I’m working, that isn’t always possible. The piece of advice my husband has given me, and that is really useful – is to stop, open up the panel and just study it for five minutes. Five minutes when you’re stressed is a long time, but it is a long enough time to carefully study the panel, learn the buttons and know which ones to push to reset the system, and which ones to push to deactivate the call to the Fire Brigade.
Busting stress doesn’t have to be all about running until your heart is pounding in your chest, sometimes just switching your focus can help, along with a few deep breaths. So next time you’re at the supermarket, and the ques are five people / trolley’s deep, change your focus. Think about what else you have to do after you have successfully navigated the checkout – look at what other people have in their trolley’s and try to work out what sort of person they are, or grab a magazine and start reading it. Of course, only if you intend to purchase it and read it again later!
I also find art is a great release for me. When my husband was home from work for two weeks, I would head to my art classes and really enjoy my time there, coming home feeling refreshed and revitalised and less stressed. Reading a novel may be an option, or meditation. There are lots of useful tips on the internet for dealing with stress, and each person will find something different works for them. So study them up, and find one that works for you, and practice it, because it is the practice that helps to change a habit.