* * *What a great discussion we had yesterday, and I would like thank everyone who participated. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I am finding The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook by Martha Davis, Ph.D., Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, MSW, and Matthew McKay, Ph.D., to be a wonderful resource.
While I have finally realized that the initial triggering event for my first depressive episode 40 years ago was stress, others agree that this is what happened to them as well. And Naturalgal wrote something that confirmed a central hypothesis of mine, which is that labeling people is far less helpful than providing support. What follows is taken from her comment.
"If someone had said, 'Hon, you are perfectly normal. It's just that your body and mind can only handle so much stress. Here we will show you how to get back to health.'The authors of The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook write that stress comes from four sources: your environment, social stressors, physiological problems, and thoughts. They write: "How you interpret and label your present experience and what you predict for the future can serve either to relax or to stress you...
"I was told this but I was also told I had a chronic mental illness. No. I was a normal person with too much stress."
"Stress researcher Richard Lazarus has argued that stress begins with your appraisal of a situation. You first ask how dangerous or difficult the situation is and what resources you have to help you with with it. Anxious, stressed people often decide that (1) an event is dangerous, difficult, or painful, and (2) they don't have the resources to cope with it."
What's ironic to me is that if many of us believe our symptoms are stress-related, then how much more stress do we feel when our doctors say, "You're bipolar--which is a form of mental illness--and the only thing I can do for you is give you medication."
Following Naturalgal's lead, think of how much better we'd feel if our doctors said, "You seem to have difficulty dealing with stress, but that's okay because it's a learned skilled, and we have great resources to help you."
Tomorrow, I'll describe some of the tools these authors recommend for dealing effectively with stress. I'd also recommend that you read the comments from yesterday's post because a lot of people provided great examples of the methods they're already using to to promote relaxation and reduce stress.