Life has a way of turning upside down when you least expect it. Everything could be travelling along smoothly, then all of a sudden you are hit with the unexpected and find yourself struggling to stay afloat. It happens to all of us from time to time, no matter how good your stress management skills are.
Sometimes it’s loss of a loved one or serious illness that catch us off guard, or it can be something a little more ongoing and long term building up, such as financial trouble, job satisfaction or relationship stresses. It can be anything really.
But what do you have in place for when things turn sour?
Most people don’t think about it until after it happens and even then, it is often a case of not knowing what is available, where to go or who to seek advice from. This means the negative emotions and stress can build up and leave us struggling to cope with our every day life and responsibilities.
The stuff that we used to be able to brush off suddenly feels like lead weight on our shoulders as we attempt to push through. Each little thing becomes a huge thing and it can become really difficult to see the positives that lie ahead. In fact, we often end up losing motivation even for the things we would normally love, because the stress/grief/emotion is eating us up.
As a psychologist, I have seen this first hand in my professional experiences, but also I think we can all relate to these feelings in personal life. For me I recall the extreme stress I felt when my workplace became somewhere I dreaded. The weight was lifted off my shoulders when I finished up, but for many situations, the solution is not that easy. Especially in the case of loss or illness. The loss one I can relate to all too well too sadly.
Signs of Stress
The signs of stress are huge and varied, many quite similar to the symptoms of depression or anxiety. The main thing is a change from the norm for the worse, but you may not even realise most of the signs are there. Sometimes someone else will notice them before you. But these are a few of the things to keep an eye out for:
- Tired or can’t sleep
- Lack patience
- Changed appetite
- Lack of interest in normally enjoyable interests
- Dread at the thought of doing certain things i.e. attending work, visiting a certain place
- Arguments with loved ones
- Impulsive behaviour
- Physical tension – tight shoulders, headaches, neck pain
- Dry mouth
But where do you go for help?
Seeking professional support is not something that is restricted to someone with a diagnosed mental illness. It is there for everyone who needs some extra support or tools to help them through a difficult period in life or to work through negative emotions and stress. This is something many people fail to realise.
A great starting point is often your GP. They can provide referrals to more specialised services and also know of options that may best suit your budget.
You can also seek counselling services through local community services or public health care. Here in Australia there are many free services available, including online and phone counselling providers, which are easy to access. Similar services exist in most other western countries also.
If budget is not a concern, you can make an appointment with a local psychologist or counsellor who offers private services. This can be quite expensive but it means you have greater flexibility with who you see and how often, without the restrictions of public waitlists or limited availability.
In some cases, if you have private health insurance, you may even find that psychology and counselling services are included as part of your policy, either as part of your hospital cover or as an extras component. If you already have private health insurance or health and/or life insurance for elderly, this may be a great way to save money while still having the benefit of fast private services. If your policy does not include this, you can use Compare the Market to find a policy that does, to help you work out whether a switch is beneficial.
Seeking professional support is not a sign of weakness. It does not mean you are ‘crazy’ and it can be beneficial for anyone, no matter your situation, your background, your socio economic status or any other individual difference. Stress, anxiety, depression, grief… they are huge, sometimes debilitating experiences that we do not have to live with long term.
Put your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your family as a top priority in your household as happy people are healthy, productive people too!