Having a brief check-in with yourself can be great – even better when you know what to look for
Jaslynne Gibeault // Contributor
Illustration by Rachel Sanvido
Every year, millions of people struggle with stress and mental health. It can be hard to deal with these things by yourself, but you don’t have to go through it alone. As long as we can understand some of the causes and things we can do to keep ourselves and others happy and healthy, we can learn to navigate these obstacles.
Sadness vs. Depression
There is a significant difference between sadness and depression that people tend to be unaware of.
Sadness is usually triggered by a specific incident, which could be a difficult, harmful or disappointing event. Once that moment disappears or changes, the sadness that you experienced will slowly vanish along with it. Sadness is something everyone feels at many points throughout their life. According to Guy Winch, PhD, from Psychology Today, “Sadness is a normal human emotion,” that eventually disappears. On the other hand, Winch describes depression to be an “abnormal human emotion.”
Depression, unlike sadness, is not triggered by events. Instead, it can often come up out of the blue.
There is a prominent physical aspect to some of depression’s characteristics. People who struggle with their physical health are often prone to depression, which is why it is common for many older people to be dealing with it in their everyday lives. While it may cause some physical symptoms to arise, it can also worsen any physical issues you already deal with or increase your risk of developing them later on.
Depression can cause insomnia, which can lower your immune system making you more prone to other illnesses. Eating habits are also affected, fluctuating between overeating or a total lack of appetite.
Depression can discolour life, making it less enjoyable – it negatively impacts the way you act around others, the way you think as well as the way you feel. It is likely to be irritable and angry when you are prone to depression because even small annoyances can seem amplified and bother you easily. It can make even the smallest problems in the world feel like they are much bigger than they may actually be.
Many people suffering with depression lose interest in the things that they once loved or lose motivation in activities they once enjoyed. They constantly feel down and often develop a feeling of worthlessness or a sense of not being good enough.
Depression is a condition that countless people face. Knowing that you are not alone and that you can reach out for help is a valuable thing to keep in mind if you find yourself struggling. Talking to one of your closest friends, a family member or anyone you feel comfortable with will surprise you at how much it can help.
However, sometimes you may need to speak with someone with more knowledge in the area. Experiences with depression can differ from person to person, and you know yourself best. If you feel like your sadness just won’t go away, or even if you’re not quite sure if what you’re feeling is only sadness- trust yourself and ask someone. Speaking with a counsellor or doctor is a powerful act of self-care, one that may change your life.
Good stress vs. Bad stress
One of the hardest things to deal with is stress. As stress can lead to many other things, it is always good to try and manage it early on by keeping yourself organized. One method is to avoid procrastinating. Instead, plan when you will have time to complete your tasks so that you never have to rush, as rushing can induce stress. If you know you’re not a morning person, or maybe you’re just someone who takes longer to get ready, you should plan ahead and get up earlier to avoid the morning rush.
During the school year, it is difficult not to fall behind on assignments. Having multiple assignments overdue and piling up can cause many to panic and not put in their best effort. One of the biggest causes of stress is overwhelming yourself to the point where you just don’t know where to start. A good strategy is to avoid looking at all of the work you have at once. Instead, pick one thing and try to accomplish that first.
Capilano University counsellor Keith Lam said that “It is a lot better to focus on one task at a time and finish it, rather than working on a bunch of things and stressing yourself out.”
When you begin to understand what stresses you out, you can find activities that can regulate those stresses directly. That might be taking 20 minutes to rest after every hour of studying, listening to music, or drawing – whatever helps you feel more relaxed.
That being said, sometimes a manageable amount of stress can actually be good for you.
Stress can give you a burst of energy that can help you to maintain your goals, motivating you to complete certain challenges. It can also act as a warning system, altering your natural reactions to physical threats by increasing your blood pressure and heart rate.
Good stress can cause excitement, such as when your pulse speeds up but you are not afraid. When someone frightens you, your body releases a certain kind of stress, acute stress, which allows your body to react to the situation and then to recover from it. This type of stress does not take a heavy toll on your body, instead it serves as a natural defence.
Self-care is extremely important – it can determine how you feel and act. Yet, when we are stressed, we often forget about self-care. “What you put into your body is what you will get out of it,” said Lam. If you are skipping meals and exercise while trying to juggle everything that is stressing you, you will find that it might be negatively affecting you both mentally and physically, further adding to your stress. Not eating proper or healthy meals has a direct effect on your mood. People say that the most important meal of the day is breakfast for a reason, as it gives you the fuel you need to start your morning so you can accomplish the things you have planned for the day.
The other thing that is essential in self-care is getting enough rest. If you do not get enough sleep, it reduces your motivation and makes you sluggish. If you tend to skip out on proper meals and rest, you may find that you become counterproductive. After all, it gets harder to complete your tasks when you don’t have the tools you need to keep your body going.
As well as getting enough sleep and eating well, exercise is a key to helping you remain fit and healthy. It might come as walking your dog twice a day, or going to the gym every second day. As long as you are getting some type of constant exercise, you will start to feel better physically and mentally.
Counselling Services are available at Capilano University. Visit Birch 267 at the North Vancouver campus, or call 604-984-1744. More information for the Sunshine Coast campus’ Counselling Services is available on their website, or call 604-885-9310.