Dark clouds of recession are leaving us feeling stressed about our futures
SOCIETY: Expert warns Irish people are worn out from all the bad news
THE length of the recession along with job uncertainty are among the factors driving up our stress levels.
Dr Abbie Lane, a consultant psychiatrist who specialises in stress and occupational stress, told the Herald that "what you are seeing at the moment is people just worn out from it (the recession)".
"It's been going on now so long, that there is so much bad news around, that it seems never to be ending, and the uncertainty of what's going to be next.
"It is affecting so many people," she said. "Stress is everywhere, and we all have degrees of it. But it becomes problematic when we are exposed to prolonged stress, and when we don't have an opportunity to recover between stressful events.
"Chronic stress or insecurity affects our health."
Dr Lane said it can affect a "whole range of physical and mental wellbeing".
The consultant said: "Years ago, I was seeing stressed people because they were overloaded – far too much going on.
"Now I am seeing stressed people for different reasons.
"The levels of people that I would be seeing would be somewhat similar, but the reasons are very different."
The issue of loss is a concern for some of the patients seen by Dr Lane. This would include people who have seen what they worked for years for being wiped out.
Loss in terms of emigration is another issue affecting people, according to the expert.
Insecurity and fear and apprehension, also contributes to stress as people wonder about "what bad news will come next".
"They wonder will they have a job, will they be able to provide for their family, will they be able to pay the next bill.
"I think what's happening in more recent times is that people are getting worn out by at all.
"They are getting depleted, feeling hopeless and helpless and very angry and, of course ,hope or lack of hope is one of the main factors in depression, and in suicide and self-harm," said Dr Lane. "When people become fearful, they become worried and anxious.
"However, there are lots of preventative measures that people can do to make ourselves more resilient and be able to withstand stress.
"At the end of the day, we can only control ourselves, our thoughts and our habits."
The things that help in these situations include maintaining contact with others, she said.
"Move away from the computers and the texts and all of that, and have face-to-face contact with somebody. Watch out for others who have a tendency to withdraw, to involve them.
"It's important to keep up routine. If you have lost your job, that at least you stay in a routine in your day and that you have an activity, something you are passionate about.
"That can be training a local team, voluntary work, or painting classes," she said.
She added that exercise including cycling, swimming or brisk walking is good. Diet is also important – eating regularly and staying away from too much processed food, and staying away from too much alcohol.
But Dr Lane urged that people "need to be vigilant for themselves and for others, as to when it gets beyond the point of self-help, when it gets into an illness that requires professional input".
Physically, stress can affect our immune system so that we are more likely to get more infections and be unable to shake them off.
"It is associated with a range of conditions from high blood pressure, to cardiac illness, to irritable bowel, inflammation of the bowel, and gastric ulcers.
"There is a probable association with some forms of cancer, and stressed people are more likely to consume alcohol.
"From a mental health point of view, it affects our sleep, our energy, it makes us lethargic, tired, it affects our anxiety levels, panic, depression and then at the end of the scale, suicide, self harm and loss of hope," said Dr Lane.