How you deal with everyday stress can have aling term effect on your mental health

August 4, 2014

There has been a growing amount of research to indicate that how you respond to small irritants or stresses can affect whether you later develop depression or anxiety.

Life’s small problems may be small but they are common if not daily occurrences.

In my clinical practice it striking how often people reach their limit not through one major problem, such as death or divorce, but more often through lots of smaller problems coming along at the same time, like buses.

If the stresses had been more spread out the person would probably have coped with each problem but by coming together their coping skills were overwhelmed.

How we deal with small matters may be more important that how we deal with the bigger problems of life in whether we develop depression.

In 2013 Susan Charles and her team [1] asked their 711 research participants to record their level of stress and the effect it had on their mood over eight consecutive days.

Those with increased levels of negative emotion on days which were not massively stressful, but contained life’s smaller irritants, suffered from greater levels of mood problems when they were reviewed 10 years later.

Susan Wenze and her team [2] asked her subjects to rate their mood using a PDA regarding the events of everyday life. Those who showed a stronger momentary negative mood and negative thoughts to these events were more likely to be depressed 6 months later.

This aligns with earlier research from Suzanne O’Neill and others [3] who in 2004 studied college students and found that mood reactivity to daily interpersonal stress predicted later depressive symptoms .

These and other research papers show the benefit of learning to cope with a variety of events that occur in life.

One needs to learn how to deal with them effectively, efficiently and without due distress. This can come about through CBT, ACT and or meditation.

[1] Susan T Charles et al
Psychological Science May 2013 vol. 24 no. 5 733-741

[2] Susan J Wenze et al Dec 2010
Cognitive Therapy and Research Vol. 34, no. 6, pp 554-562

[3] Suzanne C. O’Neill et al April 2004.Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology: Vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 172-194