Have you experienced cruising through life with things going smoothly, and you hit a bump in the road out of nowhere, causing you to slow down or even come to a screeching halt? Of course, I am referring to being confronted with an event that has stretched the limits of your average ability to cope with the unexpected making it hard for you to continue your daily routine.
Loss of a job, loss of a loved one, divorce, serious illness, or experiencing a stressful or traumatic event such as a crime, accident, or natural disaster could all be considered a stressful situation that overwhelms your usual coping mechanisms. The event could even be perceived as being positive (marriage, starting a new job), but the stress associated with the event has exceeded your ability to cope with the unexpected.
The event doesn’t necessarily have to happen to you, it could happen to a loved one, and you are affected by watching them go through it.
We naturally experience emotional and mental responses when we go through these situations. But, of course, every person reacts differently, and there really is no right or wrong way to feel. You might even find yourself saying, “I feel depressed.” But are you experiencing true depression?
Situational depression. What is it?
What you could be experiencing is called Situational Depression which is a short-term condition that occurs when a person has great difficulty coping with or adjusting to a particular source of stress like those mentioned above. It has also been referred to as adjustment disorder rather than true depression. However, that does not mean you should ignore it. If situational depression goes untreated, it could develop into major depression.
So, are you having a hard time coping with the unexpected?
Ask yourself if you have any of these symptoms of situational depression:
- Weight loss or gain — increase or decrease in appetite
- A depressed mood
- Not sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feeling restless or slowed down
- Trouble concentrating or difficulty making decisions
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of excessive guilt
- Recurrent thoughts of death, thoughts of suicide with or without a plan
Have you had a stressful situation occur within the last three months before your symptoms developed?
Do you think your symptoms are worse than expected, or are you having trouble functioning in your job, school, or social relationships?
Suppose you can answer yes to these questions. In that case, you probably are experiencing situational depression. You could benefit from therapy or, at the very least, some self-help efforts to make you feel better. These are all symptoms that both situational and clinical depression share. However, unlike clinical depression, where you are overwhelmed by symptoms for a long time, situational depression should disappear once you have adapted to your new situation.
Tips to cope with the unexpected
Several ways you might find helpful to cope with depression following trauma are:
- Allowing yourself time to grieve. Don’t hide or deny your feelings.
- Talk to friends and family members about how you feel. Ask for support from people you trust.
- Keep to your daily routine. Even if you don’t feel like it, do your best to eat balanced meals and get plenty of rest.
- Stay physically active. Even light exercise, such as walking, can help minimize the physical effects of stress.
- Join a support group.
- Don’t use alcohol or illegal drugs to cope.
- Spend time doing things you enjoy (painting, working in your garden, watching a movie, spending time with friends, listening to music, or reading a book before bed instead of watching the news).
Seek help early on
The healing process after a traumatic event takes time, especially if you have experienced a personal loss.
Frequently, people who could benefit from therapy will not seek it because they think their reactions are normal and that they will pass or are ashamed of their emotions. While depression can be considered normal and experienced by almost everyone at some point in their lives, that does not mean you can’t benefit from help dealing with the situation causing your distress. Your perception and perspective of life and its circumstances often dictate your mood. If you can change your thoughts, you can change your feelings and behavior. That is where therapy can be of great help.
It has been found that people who are depressed because of difficulty adjusting to their new situation are often the ones who respond most quickly and successfully to treatment. Once they can isolate some of the stresses and causes of their depression, they feel relieved. However, sometimes it is the anguish that they are depressed and the feeling of being out of control that can worsen the situation—so knowing why can free them up to examine how they can improve their situational depression by thinking about the stress differently.
“Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take.” ― Angela N. Blount
Everyone, at some time in life, will face unexpected events. And most assuredly, some will be harder to navigate than others. But the above tips can make the whole process more manageable. However, if you want to learn additional skills to cope with the unexpected, working with a coach is a great way to do it. They can help you develop the skills and abilities to deal positively with whatever life puts in your path.
Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. Together, we can work on strategies to help you move forward through any difficult situations you may be going through right now, as well as ones you may encounter in the future.
This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.