We’ve all been through difficult times. It may be the death of someone we love or suffering abuse with no one to help. In life, many events fly at us that are hard to manage. Many of us just suffer silently through the pain, not allowing anyone in. And even while we do that, we also know that is not the healthiest response.
Many patients come to me struggling with anxiety and depression. Most of them want to continue working and maintain the events in their personal life. No one truly wants to crawl under a rock and hide. We may feel like that at times, but truthfully, people want to feel better.
What can we do to cope with hardships?
Acknowledge them. If someone is treating you poorly, recognize it for what it is. Stop making excuses for other people. This only allows the bad behavior to continue. If you’re in danger, get help. Don’t become another statistic.
Speak up. If it is safe to do so, speak out. I see many people tormented by their workplaces. If you feel that your boss is truly evil, other people think so too. Discussing your concerns with others can help you make a plan as a group to deal with it, rather than everyone going home at the end of the day frustrated and spending your free time miserable.
Examine what is causing your feelings. Are you putting too much at one time on yourself? As a mother, I know how hard it can be to juggle work and kids. Work needs you, the kids need you, and no one else is taking care of the dog except you. Is there anyone that can help? Maybe it is time to stop being the super-parent and feeling you must be strong enough to do it all by yourself. Everything has a breaking point.
Make time for yourself. Find something you enjoy just for yourself. We all need outlets for our strength. It is OK to feel that we need breaks from our loved ones. Having a hobby or happy place can help make you less frazzled trying to meet the demands that are constantly being hurled at you.
Exercise. Many studies now show that physical activity can actually reduce depression, anxiety, and even chronic pain. This can be your do alone thing or it can be a family event.
Eat right. Many people like to drown their sorrows in junk food. Creating another problem (obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc.) is not going to help us deal with our current troubles any better. In fact, over time, it will only add to them.
Get enough sleep. When we are stressed out, sleep is often the first thing that gets sacrificed. We stay awake trying to solve our problems, or we’re just unable to sleep because our minds keep going. I see many patients coming for help because of symptoms caused by chronic sleep deprivation: fatigue, memory problems, headaches and many more. Being a life-long insomniac, I know this is much easier said than done. But, we need to take steps to try to sleep better. One intervention that seems to work for many people is simply putting away the electronics close to bedtime. Do we really need to see what people are posting on Facebook when we have to wake up for work in five hours?
Ask for help. Anxiety and depression affect millions of people in the U.S., and a great many of those do not seek treatment. Many more are stressed or burned out. Mental health is just as important as physical health. As a country, we must acknowledge that because many people are not getting the help they need. People are often left to feel stigmatized admitting they have a problem.
Stress is not just a fact of life; it can be down-right dangerous. More attention must be given to coping with hardships in our lives. And we must be careful not to be the burden others are dealing with. We’re all on this journey of life together.
Linda Girgis is a family physician who blogs at Dr. Linda.
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