"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
October 12, 2012
Stress Affect Symptoms
by Sarah Hancock

As my academic semester continues, I've had an increasing amount of papers due and presentations to give. On top of that, I now have the opportunity to work as an intern. That on top of family and church responsibilities ó well, you get the picture.

Life is a great and moving along at a swift pace. The stress can be heavy. I tell you that, not so that you'll worry, but to let you know that stress can really affect your mood and mental state. The key is to recognize the effect and know your limits.

People experience stress in different ways. Some people get ulcers. Some people get rashes or hives and some people (who have a mental illness) get a stronger influx of brain chemicals. This can affect a number of things including, but not limited to the following:

a) Anxiety will be kicked up a notch (or four).

b) There may be difficulty sleeping or feeling like sleeping till the cows come home wouldnít be long enough.

c) Some may lose the desire to eat. Others canít seem to stuff enough in their mouths.

d) Textures of clothing, socks, blankets or even a couch become so annoying that it occupies a personís entire focus.

e) It's harder to breathe.

f) A person may become hypersensitive to noise ó even the ticking of watches.

g) There may be hyper emotional sensitivity. (Things that usually roll easily off a personís back, donít. In fact, it may appear heís getting skinned alive!)

Stress causes a countless variety of symptoms among people with mental illness. Oddly enough, many people are unaware of how their body reacts to stress. Some of these reactions to stress catch innocent bystanders off guard. However, and this may surprise you, but often times these stress reactions catch the person diagnosed with the illness off guard, too.

Iím not kidding. Brain chemicals can make things turn weird fast. Iím not going to excuse behavior, but I will tell you that your ability to adapt is crucial to not only to those living with mental illness. It is just as crucial to those who love, work and serve someone with a mental illness.

Adapting is important for those who love, work and serve someone with a mental illness because expecting the normal, standard reaction to stress (if there is one) simply isnít an option. Things can change at a momentís notice because unless you know the person is stressed, his reaction may be out of left field. Let me take that back. Even if you know he is stressed, the reaction may be out of left field. Adapting to stress is crucial for a person with mental illness.

Recognizing stress and how it affects your body and mind is the first step in adapting. Without this recognition you canít do anything.

We could all learn a little more about lowering our stress. There are a lot of things we cannot change in our lives. Having stress is one of them. However, if you can't lower the stress in your life, you really need to do whatever you need to do to help your body properly process it.

Maybe helping yourself or your loved one includes forcing yourself to turn off the TV, computer, radio, games, and just finding a quiet spot to breathe. Maybe it means asking others to step in for an afternoon or day to help with responsibilities. Maybe it means calling into work and asking for the day off.

Perhaps it means calling your doctor, nurse, counselor, parents or friends, simply to let them know you are starting to unravel and need someone with whom to talk. Maybe it means calling an emergency hotline. Maybe stress overload requires hospitalization to rein in the symptoms.

People can't read our minds, and unless we share with others what's happening, they can't know how to help. In some cases, speaking up will help someone else find help of their own.

Whatever it means, unless you advocate for yourself, others wonít know what you need. Maybe you donít know what you need! It's hard because sometimes we don't know how to help ourselves.

Sometimes what works for me wonít work for you; and what works for you won't work for me. However, you really need to be persistent and find out what does work for you. If you want to get better, itís up to you to find help. Make up your mind. Take care of yourself.

Eat well. Sleep well. Be well. To do so, you have to speak up and do it. You can do it. I know you can.

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About Sarah Hancock

Sarah Price Hancock, a graduate of San Diego State University's rehabilitation counseling Masters of Science program with a certificate psychiatric rehabilitation.

Having embarked on her own journey with a mental health diagnosis, she is passionate about psychiatric recovery. She enjoys working as a lector for universities, training upcoming mental health professionals. Sarah also enjoys sharing insights with peers working to strengthen their "recovery toolbox." With proper support, Sarah knows psychiatric recovery isnít just possible ó itís probable.

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Sarah served a Spanish-speaking and ASL mission for the LDS Church in the Texas Dallas Mission. She was graduated from Ricks College and BYU. Sarah currently resides in San Diego and inherited four amazing children when she married the man of her dreams in 2011. She loves writing, public speaking, ceramics, jewelry-making and kite-flying ó not necessarily in that order.

NAMI San Diego's Fall Keynote Address: Living in Recovery with Schizoaffective Disorder

Having recently moved into a new ward, she currently serves as a visiting teacher.

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