The Body and the Mind

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There is a direct correlation between our mental and physical health. Stress, anxiety, and depression can have a direct effect on your immune system, sleep patterns, and much more. Those of us with depression can tell you that physical health is usually just put on the back burner. However, by paying attention to your body, you might be able to give yourself just enough of a boost to begin picking yourself back up again.

 

The Foods We Eat

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Yes, junk food is convenient. Yes, cooking requires some effort. It’s not that hard though! All you have to do is wake up 15 minutes earlier in order to enjoy a healthy breakfast. That’s it.

Processed foods contain a lot of sodium and sugar, causing us to feel spikes in energy and mood. We feel drowsy. Snack a little. Feel better. Then crash. You will notice that this doesn’t happen when you opt for healthier snacks, rich in vitamins, fibre, and protein.

We can go on and on and on about the recipes you can choose. There’s hundreds all over the internet, grouped by dietary restrictions, preferences, etc.

Do you feel hungry a lot? Ask yourself if you are getting enough protein. Do you feel drowsy? See if you are getting enough vitamins D and B12. As vegetarians, we usually have a bit of deficiency in these vitamins as well as iron.

A good way to keep track of your diet is logging the foods you eat. The app that I would recommend to do this is: My Fitness Pal. It gives you a goal caloric intake amount for the day as well as a recommended macronutrient amount. You can easily see if you have had too much sodium, fat, or sugar in one day.

Just to clarify, the goal is not to eat less but eat better.

 

Physical Activity/Exercise

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Going old-school with clipart!

I know that I have touched upon this one before. Living a sedentary lifestyle affects both your mental well-being as well as your physical health. I know there are a million reasons that you could give me about not adding activities to your day: you are tired, you have too much to do, you’re too stressed, there’s no time, etc etc.

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to work out  for an hour a day for seven days a week. That’s just not practical. Do whatever you can. However little it may be. Start with half an hour, three days a week. You can even split that into two 15 minute sessions. Go for a brief walk, ride a bicycle around your neighbourhood, join a sports team.

This movement allows you to have more energy, increases your mood, and allows you to unwind for a moment. Give it a try. What do you have to lose?

 

The Importance of Water

Many of us who have tried to lose weight find that we aren’t losing as much as we would have thought. Sometimes, the culprit is water retention. If you don’t drink enough water per day, your body will think it’s being dehydrated and will store the water for future use.

Dehydration is another cause for feeling tired. Especially in the mornings. You have just spent roughly 7-8 in bed, without a drop of water. Yes, you are thirsty. It’s such a simple solution that it almost sounds ridiculous, but drinking a glass of water in the morning will help you feel a bit more alert.

 

Time to Unwind

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Above all else, make sure you give yourself some time to unwind. Do something that eases your mind. It could be something as simple as listening to music, reading a book, or taking a bath. In the pursuit of juggling a healthy lifestyle, your career, your family, and whatever else you have going on in your life, make sure you do this to avoid feeling burnt out. Take a break. Breathe for a moment. Then, tackle everything once again.

 

The Bigger Picture

These little, tiny things may actually improve your mood over time, but it does take time. Understand that some days will be easier than others. Forgive yourself for not following through on everything and strive to do your best. I know that some of you may be thinking that this is stupid or that this will not help you. It does. Just have patience.

 

Above all, be the best that you can be!

Understanding the Endless Cycle

Many liken depression to a disease or an illness. The only difference is that unlike a medical disease, the “cure” for depression is subjective. It requires constant work. As I have stated before, the only way to “beat” depression is to change the way you think. With a little bit of effort, this should be somewhat achievable.

Have you ever had a day that started out so well, only to have it fall apart within the following few hours? You were feeling okay; great even. Then, something suddenly happens. You hear a passing comment that reminds you of all that is wrong or see something that sends your mood tumbling down again. It happens so easily. So quickly.

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This is where you must step in to break the pattern.

 

Understand the Emotion

The first thing that you must do is to recognize what you are feeling in that moment. Is it loneliness? Anger? Guilt? Fear? Whatever it is, make a note of it. Describe it. Add as many details as you can.

Why? 

By unleashing the emotion out on paper (or on your phone or computer), you make it tangible. It’s no longer something lurking in the back of your mind. You can see it there in black and white. It has now become easier to deal with.

 

Stopping the Downward Spiral

There are a few things that you can do to prevent yourself from sinking. Here are some of the tried and tested methods that have worked for me in the past.

  1. Talk to Yourself – this gets as easier with practice. Just have a simple discussion of why you feel this way. Try to see if there is something that you can say to make yourself feel better. If it helps, imagine that you are talking to a friend instead. What would you say to them if they were in your position? After all, it is generally easier to give advice to someone else.
  2. Create some Affirmations – This is just a fancy way of saying “be your own cheerleader”. Repeat things that you need to hear. It will seem silly at first but stick with it. It can be something simple like, “I am strong”, “I am loved”, “I am better than this”, “Everything is fine”. Repeat them. Say them in front of a mirror if you can.
  3. Take a Step Back – We normally get so caught up with the future, wondering why we don’t have a million dollars or a fancy house or a better life (this is just an exaggeration). Look back. What have you overcome? What steps are you taking now? Are you doing anything to help yourself? If yes, then now is the time to appreciate that effort. Reward yourself. You are not the same person that you were a year ago.
  4. Talk to Someone – because after all, we all need to vent every now and then.
  5. Surround Yourself with Positivity – okay, that was cringe-worthy. I agree with you. Basically, try to see if you can plant these little reminders around your everyday life. Get a poster with a motivating quote, set your desktop background to something that makes you feel inspired. The possibilities are endless. When you feel down, use it as a mood boost.

For instance, here are two things that I own with

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I have a daily planner with this right on the front. It’s a basic quote, but sometimes it can be a helpful reminder. I happened to find this at Hallmark while searching for a birthday card.

 

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It reads “A certain darkness is needed to see the brightest stars”. Yes, it may be a bit of a cliche, but the galaxy background in the back with this quote seems to work! For all of you Canadians out there, I got it from Chapters.

Over time, it will be easier to prevent yourself from entering another depressive cycle. These are little things are doing something even greater – training your mind.

 

Going Forward 

Take a look at the list of emotions/situations that are causing you to slip further down. Is there something that you can do today to ease their power? Make a plan for yourself. Tackle it by slowly chipping away at the feeling.

What the hell are you talking about?

The goal is to give your positivity some fuel. If you are working on tackling the problem areas, you are able to appease the little voice in your head that is telling you that everything is wrong. You now have proof of your achievements.

For instance, if the emotion is loneliness, think about what you can do to add social activities to your calendar. Take a class, start a hobby, see if there are events in your area. Just try to put yourself out there. When that nagging feeling returns, you can tell yourself that you have made strides to have a richer social life. You may not be where you want, but you are getting there.

 

We are taking this one baby step at a time. There is no need to rush into anything.

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The Self-Harm Addiction

Many have been down this road. Maybe out of curiosity, out of need, or even out of desperation. There are many ways to harm yourself and all of them leave ugly reminders on your skin of what you felt. The common misconception is that this act is only performed by moody teenagers as a way to draw attention to themselves. This is not true at all.

For those of you who have never self-harmed, I implore you not to try.

 

The Function of Self-Harm

So why do people harm themselves? The main reason is that at the time, the person is going through emotional distress. It serves as a temporary means to alleviate some of the pain that you are feeling, bottling it up for another day. For some, it allows you to get on with the rest of the day, unburdened by our feelings. Anything to feel a sense of calm. Even if it is short-lived.

 

The Addiction 

When you injure yourself, you release endorphins that allow the pain to be temporarily subdued. It’s a simple reaction. This “high” is addictive. What starts out as a last resort becomes a primary instinct. It becomes a ritual of sorts. Further down the road, you will find that you are not satisfied until you see the sight of your own blood. It’s maddening.

The worst part is that it reminds you of your grief constantly. You see the damage that you have inflicted upon yourself which reminds you that things are not okay.

No one wants to continue to cut themselves or harm themselves in any way. Yet, we allow ourselves to succumb to the vicious cycle.

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Taken years after my last self-harm incident, these are the less dramatic scars that I carry. They now serve as a battle I conquered

 

Stopping the Cycle

There are some methods out there about what to do. Some are practical and others … not so much. I’ll list them all anyways and include my observations when testing them. Please test them for yourself as your experience may differ.

  1. Draw on your skin in red – The theory is that the red ink will convince your mind that it is blood. By witnessing the ink (and mimicking the act of cutting), the need to self-harm will pass.
    My experience – This didn’t work for me. I needed to feel the pain component associated with the act. Plus, I felt silly covered in red ink.
  2. Holding ice cubes in your hands – Go to the freezer and pick up some ice cubes and squeeze them. It should allow you feel pain without actually harming yourself.
    My experience – This too did not work for me. The primary reason was that a freezer was not easily accessible during the times when I did self-harm.
  3. Breathing Exercises – Take a few deep breaths and try to calm yourself. Try to centre yourself back into the present moment. This is supposed to allow the urge to self-harm to pass.
    My experience – this was partially successful. I was still left with feelings of anger and grief that lingered. It was also dependent on the severity of the urge.
  4. Remove the Usual Tools Used – If there is a typical instrument that you normally use to self-harm, get rid of it. Ensure that it is nowhere near you. The inconvenience should prevent you from causing injury.
    My experience – It was partially successful. I was good at replacing tools, though.
  5. Write it Out – Grab a piece of paper and describe how you are feeling. Go into as much detail as you can. Once this is done, throw the page out.
    My experience – It was successful (the times that I could do this). It allowed me to release the emotion and physically (and emotionally) attempt to discard it.
  6. Listen to Music or Distract Yourself – Pretty straightforward. Listen to something that you know calms you down. You could also take a moment and browse a website, or preoccupy your mind. If the distraction is successful, you should have forgotten about the urge.
    My experience – This was not too successful, but it depended on the severity of the urge. Sometimes, I found myself too distraught to focus on a new distraction (if that makes sense at all)
  7. Go for a Walk or Exercise – Being physically active is another way to release the pent up frustration and sadness that you feel. Exercising also another way to release those endorphins that you may experience while cutting.
    My experience – the times that I could do this, it was very successful. I recommend going for a walk in a scenic area (if there is one near you). Being around nature tends to be calming for me anyhow.
  8. Punch a Pillow or Scream into a Pillow – This is another method to release the anger and frustration that you may have bottled up.
    My experience – this didn’t work. It made me feel childish.

 

These are just some of the methods that I have come across. If there are others, please feel free to let me know! If you have tried any of the above methods and have had different experiences, you can go ahead leave a comment.

Or, if you prefer to remain anonymous, just send me an email. I will update the post with the information you provide.

Please remember that this moment will not last forever. The effort you put in now will be well-rewarded in the future. It takes some time, but you will feel better.

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Redefining Belief and Reigniting Hope

Belief is a powerful tool. It has the ability to shape your actions, mold your words, and reshape your life. It allows you to breathe when you need it most.

Before we continue, I just want to make it clear that I am not referring to religious belief. 

Even if you are a religious person, please consider the alternative view that I am presenting.

So what are you talking about?

I am referring to belief in yourself. Just hear me out because believing that you will change, that things will get better and that you will be stronger is more important than any other advice that I (or anyone else) can give you. After all, only you can make change happen.

You may be at a point in your life where you believe that this is an impossibility. There has been a string of poor decisions, insecurity, and doubt. This is the past you. The actions that have been taken cannot be undone. It is in the past, where it belongs. We are now looking onward.

We are constantly evolving by nature. We are required to adapt, to change, to grow. I want you to ignore all that you may have said or done because that person is no longer you. What you experience today may not endure into the future.

In the words of Ms. Lauryn Hill from the song, “Everything is Everything”:

“What is meant to be will be.
After winter, must come spring
Change, it comes eventually”

I apologize for quoting a song, but it’s Lauryn Hill.

 

How do you instill belief in yourself?

One thing that works is having a conversation with yourself. It doesn’t have to be in public. Just tell yourself that where you are today is not where you want to be in the future. Talk through your goals (if you don’t have any, try to come up with a few). Imagine a happier life.

Every now and then, talk to yourself in the mirror. Tell yourself that you are going to be strong today. Nothing is going to bring you down today. Today, you feel great. Tell yourself anything that you need to hear.

Think of it this way, if your child is in pain, what would you say to them to make them feel better (no, it doesn’t have to be your child, it could be your friend, a close loved one, etc.). You wouldn’t let them suffer.

A funny thing will happen. You will begin to believe your words. It doesn’t happen right away and you will still have bad days, but, you will see just a bit more positivity shining down on you. And isn’t that worth the effort?

I dare you: Go to the bathroom. Right now. Stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself that you feel great and that you are strong. Add in any bit of encouragement that you need. You aren’t fat. You aren’t stupid. You aren’t too thin. You are beautiful.

Did you do it? If so, good job!

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Taking Charge

You must learn to take responsibility for your part in whatever happened in your past. This is a vital step. Whatever happened in your past, whatever caused you to be where you are, there are actions that you have taken to aid your current predicament.

Wait. How does this help me? This is just making me feel worse! 

By taking responsibility for your part in whatever happened in the past, allows you to gain control. You are back in the driver’s seat. What could you do differently now? What did you learn? Are there things that you are doing now that you can change?

Don’t use this to assign more guilt to yourself. Analyze the actions as if they were done by another person. Always remember to be kind to yourself while you do this.

Example:
This is a situation that many of us may find ourselves in. My parents had a vested interest in the career path that I should take. I felt compelled to listen to them and alter my plans to make them happy. This went on for a long time – sacrificing my happiness for their expectations of me. 
I blamed them for putting me in that position. I blamed them for my failures because after all, it wasn’t what wanted to do. It fostered a feeling of resentment. 
Looking back, I realize that I never truly had a long, open, discussion of what I wanted to do. I just went with their plans because it was what I thought was expected of me. I could have changed that. 
That action was taken because I was naïve. I didn’t think that I had the power to change the situation. Now, I do. I can speak to anyone who has expectations of me so that I don’t fall victim to their plans. 

In a similar manner, you are in charge of you. Try to retake control.

 

The Function of Hope

Hope allows us to carry on. It paints dreams of the future. Endless ideas of what can be. What is possible to be.

Once you have instilled some semblance of belief in yourself, hope will naturally enter your life. Hope is a by-product. You will be able to shift your mind ever so slightly so that you can welcome positivity. You may even be able to look at life with new eyes. See the beauty before you.

I apologize again. I realize that I am getting carried away. But I have faith that you too can experience the joy that this brings. Even if it is momentary.

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Reaching Out and Seeking Help – The Basics

 

At some point during the course of a particularly bad depression spell, we get the notion that perhaps we are not able to handle this on our own. I want to tell you that you are right. Don’t handle this on your own. You don’t have to.

Yes, yes, I understand that you are independent and that you have handled it thus far. I also understand that maybe you don’t have a strong network of people to lean on. You may also think that you are the pillar that must be strong for the others. Every person is allowed to feel vulnerable. Everyone needs a shoulder from time to time.

 

Understanding the Professional Options

There are two types of professionals who deal with depression – psychiatrists and psychologists. A psychiatrist is able to prescribe medication to help alleviate some symptoms while a psychologist focuses more on behavioural changes. Both serve their purposes. Feel free to speak to a family doctor to determine which option is best for you (based off of budgetary concerns, insurance coverage, etc.).

BE CAREFUL! Not all therapists are built the same, but sometimes the cheaper therapist may not be the right one for you. Understand that it happens. You are baring your soul to someone that you don’t know well. The relationship is based off of trust. Trust that they can help you. Trust that they will not judge. Trust that things take time. Just because one person doesn’t work, doesn’t mean the others won’t either.

There are also other psychologists that subscribe to alternative methods. They may ask to analyze dreams, hypnotherapy, and other non-traditional treatments. The end result should be that you are now better-equipped to handle everything. If this works for you then it works. I am just stating that there are these type of people out there too.

A lot of the suggestions they give sound silly at first (at least that’s what I found), but there is a point to it all. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be yourself. With the first psychologist I saw, I withheld a lot of information. I was guarded. I didn’t question what they were telling me. In turn, I became frustrated and my symptoms became worse. The psychologist/psychiatrist will not know what to treat if you do not tell them what is wrong! It’s difficult, but, push through it. Talk to them about your concerns if it helps.

Turning to Family and Friends

This option can be a double-edged sword. Some people are amazing and they may be able to offer the support that you seek. Some … not so much. I know that some of you out there don’t wish to burden a loved one, but they are there for you. Your true family and friends are always with you in their own way.

Note: I use the word “Family” to describe people that you have welcomed in your life that are the closest to you. This does not have to mean blood-relatives.

Things that may happen:

  • They may become concerned about your well-being. That’s normal! Besides, you may need someone in your corner ensuring that you are taking care of yourself.
  • Some (the negative influences) will switch this situation and make it about themselves. What they did wrong. What they would have done. Why did this happen to them? (You are now imaging someone who will behave like this. I advise not to turn to this person … at least not right away).
  • Some will then open up about what they are feeling. That’s okay too. Just remember that it is okay to think selfishly every now and then. You don’t always want to be reminded of all the bad things in the world.
  • You realize that maybe having someone listen is enough (sometimes).

Sometimes an unlikely person may become someone a trusted confidante. You never know until you find a way to trust another person.

 

Support Groups

Yes, these things still exist! Sometimes, this can be beneficial but it depends on you. What you tend to do in these types of situations.

Some people can share their experiences and find comfort through the small community environment. They are able to offer you suggestions on what you can do and share information about what works for them.

Some people remain more closed off. It may seem overwhelming at first, opening up to new people. Sometimes you hear stories that make you feel worse because they may be going through something worse (in your opinion).

Personally, I try avoiding this. BUT that’s just me. In these situations, I don’t voice my issues, rather I try to listen to everyone and help them out.

The experiences are different for everyone. There are so many factors involved with this option. Feel free to try this out and as stated before, if one doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean that the others will not work as well.

 

With all the options available to you, you do not have to suffer alone. Try them out. You never know until you try.

If you feel as if no one is available, feel free to drop me a line. You can email me directly at: a.harkness002@gmail.com.

Have a lovely weekend! We are nearing the end of the summer so go out and enjoy it!

The Question of Identity

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Sometimes, we are so consumed by our depression that it begins to take over our personality and sense of identity. This, in turn, exacerbates the symptoms. We begin to feel lost and trapped. Most who have not been through something like this, do not realize that this part also affects us.

There’s no wonder why this happens. If you feel a loss of energy, low self-esteem, and the inability to focus on a consistent basis, it is only natural that things in your life begin to feel out of balance. Old interests begin to feel bland. Everything around you begins to seem monotonous.

Breaking the Spell 

I like to think that depression works as a horribly-crafted alarm that acts as a call to change. Something is preventing you from being who you are meant to be. Could it be your job? Your living situation? A career path you’re working towards? Dropping out of school? Keep this in the back of your mind. Don’t answer this just yet.

Identity is a funny thing. You are not meant to answer the question of who you are. If you are in search of this, understand that you will never fully know. It’s a constantly evolving answer. Therefore, it makes no sense to stress about not knowing what you like, who you are, and who you are meant to be. These questions are just too big.

So are you trying to tell me that I’m supposed to ignore my life?

Not necessarily. Stressing about who you are doesn’t help you understand you. All it does is give you another source of anxiety. The only way you can begin to rediscover yourself is by trying new things. It may sound cliché. I would have thought so when I was in your shoes. Just bear with me for a moment and pretend like this thought doesn’t make you want to roll your eyes.

Rediscovering You

Think back to your past. What things made you happy? Do you remember a hobby that you used to enjoy? Were you ever a part of a group that you thought was fun? Try getting involved in that once again. Don’t worry about looking silly or feeling out of place. Most people don’t even notice.

A good website to look into for this is Meetup.com. This site lists groups for like-minded people within a certain distance of your city. There’s so much variety on here that at times it begins to seem overwhelming. This website also does something important: allowing you to try new things without worrying about what your friends say or do. This is for you and you alone.

Learn to play an instrument (more and more adults are beginning to do this so you are not alone)! Begin writing again! Start experimenting in the kitchen! The possibilities are endless!

Hopefully, you will begin to feel a slight twinge of … dare I say, excitement?

This sounds a bit too good to be true. How does this help me?

One thing that you have to keep in mind is that you will feel boredom while immersed in your new-found hobby. That happens every now and then. I mean, we are human after all. Just think of how this new hobby/sport/interest makes you feel. What are you getting from it?

This is supposed to serve as a means to pick at the broader question of what you are missing in your life. Maybe you find a new career path. Maybe you realize that the people that you live with are detrimental to your mental health. Maybe you find new friends to lift your spirits.

 

Here is something that I heard that has always stuck with me. If you are afraid of doing something, whether it be going back to school or putting yourself out there when trying something new, it usually means that this is important to you. You do not want to risk failure or losing something. Let this fear guide you by taking the leap.

For example: I knew that the degree I chose was not what I wanted to do. I needed to find something new. I had so many fears about going back. Will I be too old? What about my financial situation? These questions still bugged me but I knew that this served as an investment for my future (not speaking in monetary terms but in overall well-being).

You are worth the risk.

So, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself. Dare yourself if you have to. More importantly, have some fun!!!!

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And now I leave you with this cheesy quote ☺

The Power of the Little Things

Do you remember something specific that made you smile or made you happy five days ago? Three days ago?

If yes, fantastic! If not, there’s not need to worry. Memory can be a funny thing. We tend to focus on certain biases that we hold when reflecting back on past moments. It’s just the way we’re wired. This is one method to re-wire your brain.

The Journal

Throughout the course day – the entire 16-18 hours of it that you’re awake for – there are things that go on that may cause us to experience a mild sensation of joy. Usually, the thing that made you smile is small and easily forgotten. Keeping track of these small, fleeting moments, allows us to appreciate them for what they are – a reprieve from our troubles.

Every night (or throughout the day, depending on how much time is available to you), keep track of something that made you smile. It could be something as silly as the scent of fresh coffee brewing in the kitchen. There are endless possibilities!

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A page from my own personal journal.

 

What if nothing made me smile today?

That’s fine. We are entitled to bad days. No one is going to blame you if a day doesn’t go your way. It happens. Just remind yourself to keep an eye out for those small moments for another day.

 

The Point of It All

You may be asking yourself what the point of all of this is. If you’re not asking now, you probably will at some time or another. It does get tedious after a while.

What I would like you to get out of this is a reminder that sometimes things are not so bad. Sometimes, when you feel as if you are stagnating in life and nothing good has ever happened to you, this will serve as some justification that you can be happy. Life is a balancing act of good and bad. When you are depressed, the bad seems to always outweigh the good. This is just one way to balance the scale.

Then, at the end of the month or the year, you can look back at all of those little, tiny moments. It may help you see that maybe, just maybe, the month or the year wasn’t that bad.

 

We can hoard these moments and use them when we feel down to pick ourselves back up again. Positivity does take some work. The effort that you put into it will only serve to help your future.

These tiny things don’t solve my depression.

That’s not the intention of this exercise. It’s not to cure the depression symptoms, just gradually lessen them. You are forced to look at the present again, not reflect on past mistakes or uncertainties about the future. You give yourself a chance to just … be. Sometimes we get so caught up in the grand scheme that we forget about the tiny details, the tiny steps, that are edging us along. It’s a tough road to recovery and you need all the tools that you can get to pull yourself back up again.

 

 

Here’s to the little things!

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The Relationships We Keep

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Happy Friday! Now that we are heading into the weekend, we usually have to spend more time with friends and family. This poses a lot of difficulty for those of us who suffer from depression. I’ll briefly go over some techniques used to circumvent any unwanted animosity.

The Negative Relationships

There are a few people in our lives that seem to relish every moment that you fall, and stop at nothing to bring you down. A name or a face probably just popped in your head. When you are trying to better yourselves, this type of relationship will do nothing other than harm your progress. Progress is fragile.

What do I do?

If the person is a friend, slowly fade them out of your lives. Spend time away from one another. I know, I know. Why am I asking you to distance yourself from people? This negative energy will only remind you of the things that are going wrong in your life. You don’t have to ignore the person for the rest of your life, just spend less time with them until you are back on your feet.

What if this person is a close family member?

This gets trickier. We may not always find ourselves in situations where we can separate ourselves from relatives. There are things that you can still do to “distance” yourself.

Close your eyes. Imagine that there are strings emerging from your chest, connecting you to all of your friends and family. I want you to focus on those people that are bringing you down. Picture their faces. Now, cut the string.

Don’t waste a thought on them. Don’t worry about their well-being. Don’t care about what they have to say. They are just a person. A stranger. Nothing more. It’s hard to think like this, but give yourself a chance to let that lesson sink in.

 

Reaching Out to Someone

Sometimes, we overlook certain people in our lives, assuming that they would not want to hear what you have to say. Sometimes, we have tried talking to someone and they haven’t heard. This does not mean you don’t try again. Talk to a more distant friend or acquaintance if it helps. Anyone.

But I don’t want to do that. They might judge me. 

People, generally, aren’t that cruel. They won’t always judge you. Besides, your well-being is more important than what someone may think of you at that moment. If things are getting overwhelming, talking to someone may help you put things in perspective – something that so many of us need.

This is coming from someone who used to believe that if they spoke out, it would open the floodgates of suppressed emotions.

YOU ARE IN CONTROL! Your mind works for you. You don’t work for it.

 

Understanding Your Impact

It is hard work to be nice all the time. To smile when you are in pain. These efforts are sometimes overlooked because people do not know what is going on in your head. However, it is worth it.

When we are constantly in distress, we lash out. We can’t help it. It is just another symptom of this illness that’s weighing you down. Despite this, the other person (the friend or family member) does not understand this. They get confused and worried. Confusion is a strange thing in human beings. Confusion leads to frustration which leads to anger. It’s a horrible cycle.

Do not overlook those who are frustrated with you for those who are negative people. There is usually an underlying reason.

But if they knew me, if they are worried, they shouldn’t be mad at me! Of course, I’m going to be upset with them!

Absolutely you will! You have every right! But, take a moment to also be kind. Not only to yourself, but to others.

That’s easier said than done. 

This is another question of understanding perspectives (which I will discuss in another post). Take a deep breath when you are overcome with emotions. Leave the area if you must. Remember to smile (fake it until you make it). Our minds are a strange computer. Sometimes, faking a smile eases the tension we feel. This in turn placates the other person. Peace is restored.

 

I have not mentioned this as of yet, but if anyone wishes to reach out to me, you can do so. Send me a message.
Visit the contact page.

Have a wonderful weekend! Keep smiling, you beautiful soul. I wish you find your happiness.

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The Benefits of a Reward System

So, we have made it to the middle of the week. Congratulations! This is the perfect opportunity to talk about rewarding yourself.

Why am I doing this?

Now, I know that some of you may be thinking that rewarding yourself for trivial things is pointless. It’s really not. What we want to accomplish is a boost in your self-esteem. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just enough to motivate you. On days like today – the middle of the week – we need some sort of a reminder of what we have accomplished in order to continue pushing forward. After all, rewards are not just for kids.

People with depression have a tendency to focus on the negative. It’s not our fault, it’s just the way that we are programmed. This is just one tool to reprogram our mind and keep track of the positive. Be warned: reprogramming your thinking is a difficult thing to do. Give yourself time and patience. It will all work out in the end.

Your Goals

The first step is to identify simple, achievable goals. This is for you so it can be whatever you want.

Examples:

  • To work out 4 times a week
  • Go out more during the month – at least two times this month
  • Leave the house at least twice a week
  • Meet new people through new activities

The Calendar

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I highly recommend that you get yourself a wall calendar (if you prefer a bullet journal, that’s fine too). Again, it doesn’t have to be fancy, just something that you can see everyday. Why?

You can track your accomplishments on here and keep track of your goals. I also recommend that you get yourself some stickers or coloured markers for this.

For instance, if your goal is to work out more, you can give yourself a sticker or mark a symbol on each day that you worked out. If you managed to work out for the full four days, you can give yourself a nicer sticker. At the end of the month, you get a visual representation of what you have accomplished.

I also like to add comments for myself for each day as a motivator (you can do this on your bullet journal as well!).
Example: “Planked for 45 seconds!” or “Went to a new event!” or “Spoke to three new people!”

You have full control over what you put on there. For inspiration, feel free to search on Pinterest. There are so many examples.

What if I didn’t reach my goal?

That’s fine! This happens. All you have to do is ensure that you are working towards it. Be kind to yourself. This is all a process. You will have good days and bad days. Just keep track of all your activities. The idea is that at the end of the month, you will have a calendar full of random marks and stickers to outline your progress. At the end of the year, you can remind yourself that you are making strides in bettering yourself.

 

Types of Rewards

Examples include:

  • The sticker system. Give yourself a cheap sticker for each small accomplishment, then a nicer sticker for larger successes (for example: going out at least once every week for that month)
  • Buy yourself something that you want (a book, an accessory, a trip, etc.)
  • Give yourself a day off to do nothing but relax.
  • Dance or do karaoke by yourself (this may not work if you are living with other people)
  • Do something that you enjoy doing (ex: go watch a movie, go for a walk, etc.)

What this doesn’t include:

  • Alcohol – alcohol is a depressant and for our purposes, counter-intuitive
  • Junk food – you will be introducing bad habits that are harder to break
  • Smoking – this is an addictive habit that you don’t want to associate with improvements

 

Go forth everyone, and:

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The Insomnia Effect

Combating Insomnia 

Sleep is a vital part of mental and physical health. You will notice fewer “bad days” if you have had a good night’s rest. Never underestimate the power of sleep. That being said, those who suffer from anxiety and depression usually seem to lack in the number of hours they get.

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You’re probably thinking at this point that you have tried all that you can to get some sleep. That’s fair. I’m just going to talk about some of the things that have worked for me in the hopes that you try it out as well.

Listening to Music

There are so many playlists and songs out there that claim to help lull you to sleep. However, the one that I find that works – for about 70% of the time – is an eight-hour song by Marconi Union called Weightless.

This song is designed to slow your heart rate down and reduce anxiety. Not convinced? Try it out yourself!

Stopping the Phone Addiction

So, this is pretty straight-forward. Try an experiment for yourself. Put down your phone, laptop, tablet, or other technological gadget you may have and do something that your teachers bug you about in school. Read. Try it out for a week and see if that makes a difference.

Another tool that I highly recommend is the blue light filter. There are several apps out there that help you filter out blue light. You can customize the brightness, the level of redness you see, and the time that it activates itself. I was a skeptic about this one, but it does seem to help. The blue light emitted from your device tricks your brain into thinking that it isn’t time to sleep yet and inhibits melatonin production. This is why you stay awake longer.

Meditation

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Okay, now bear with me on this one. Meditation works. Just take 5 minutes for yourself before going to bed. That’s it. The method that has worked for me to help me meditate is this: imagine that a white light is shining down on your head. As you breathe in and out, imagine it flowing down, covering you from head to toe.

The key element in meditation is forgiveness. You will be distracted. You will be thinking constantly. That’s okay. Don’t be rude to yourself while you do this. Be kind. Be gentle. Meditation requires a lot of discipline and control, so don’t worry if you don’t make it to the full 5 minutes right away. You will get there eventually.

The meditation helper that I use is a part of an app called: Fabulous: Motivate Me. This is an amazing app and I highly recommend it. I will be talking about this in greater detail at another time.

Consistency

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We usually fall victims to the altered sleep schedule on weekends and holidays. I am not asking you to wake up at 6 in the morning every day. Instead, just be mindful of the time you go to sleep and when you get up. For example: if you wake up at 6:30 am during the weekdays, try not to fall asleep so late on the weekends that cause you to get up after 12pm. It’s harder for your body to adjust.

 

 

And, as always, be kind to yourself. Remember: take care of the little things, and the larger issues will begin to dissolve.

Sleep well everyone!