This has been a big year for celebrations; commemorating all that is quintessentially British with the pageantry pomp and ceremony of the Queens Diamond Jubilee. Street parties up and down the land, Diamond Jubilee branding appearing on everything from washing powder to tea bags, and bunting festooning homes and businesses as far as the eye can see, meant that we could not forget the celebration in our midst.
Turning our eyes momentarily away from monarchic matters, we find ourselves drawn to the preparations for, and countdown to, the Olympics; being hosted by Great Britain in London for the third time. What a contrast from the post war austerity of the 1948 London Olympics. We can track, moment by moment the torchbearers carrying the Olympic flame around our nation as we sit in watchful anticipation of events to unfold in our midst.
As if this celebratory atmosphere was not enough, we lay in the grip of feverish anticipation of the first British men’s singles final win at Wimbledon since 1936. Our very own Andy Murray the first ‘Brit’ to play in the men’s singles final since 1938. Why would we not be happy, whatever the outcome?
Were we sad at the outcome, or fiercely proud; as Andy held the Runners Up plate aloft and fought to hold back the disappointment spreading across his face? I leave that to you to decide although I am certain that we were all very proud, when, through his tears, he was so very gracious in the face of defeat.
Why would we not be happy? Why indeed? When we are in the grips of depression, or struggling with feelings of anxiety or stress, we can end up feeling like a spectator; existing in the margins of our lives. We find it hard to relate to, or even to understand, the exuberance, and the exhortations to celebrate leave us feeling even more isolated and lonely inside. We yearn to participate, to feel connected, and alive, yet we are held back; weighed down by a multiplicity of fears.
Depression, stress and anxiety are commonplace, and can be caused by many everyday events or experiences. Particular life experiences can create a sense of vulnerability that may predispose us to have feelings of depression. A significant life change, such as redundancy, bereavement or other loss, or a multiplicity of life events, can leave us at risk of stress or anxiety.
Maggie Cork and Elaine Smith, in their article ‘How to Handle Change with Confidence’ (Health Service Journal 30th June 2011) illustrate how teaching individuals to approach change in a different light can drastically reduce stress and ultimately prevent it from occurring in the first place. They offer insights into ways to approach change with confidence; turning it around from being a major stressor into a positive catalyst; creating opportunities for development; a creative force for positive change.
In ‘The Mindful Way through Depression’ (Guildford Press, 2007) Mark Williams et al illustrate the forces at play when depression takes hold; the mental habits that hold us in depression, and offer well researched approaches to break this cycle. Known as mindfulness based cognitive therapy, this offers a powerful blend of meditation and therapy, and is taught to individuals while they are well, so that the approaches become well-learnt and ready to be deployed when depression takes hold. Williams et al have found that learning these approaches can, over time, help individuals to catch depressive symptoms earlier and earlier in the depressive cycle and, ultimately prevent depression from reoccurring.
When feelings of stress, anxiety or depression start to interfere with your daily life, then it is time to seek out help. Clinical psychologists can help in finding a way through this maze, by working with you to help understand what caused the depression or anxiety in the first place, and enabling you to develop strategies to deal with it, and to prevent it from recurring. Over time you will become adept at spotting the patterns, navigating around or through the pitfalls, and developing approaches that help you to change your perspective and to keep you well. Thus you can move from the role of a spectator to an active participant, in your life, and in the world around you – Truly a cause for celebration!