The Relapse

 

Here you are, finally breathing after months and years of depression. Everything is fine for a while and you are granted the chance to make the changes that you have been dreaming about for so long. Then, it happens. That same, disembodied fog wrapping around you, forcing you back down the hole you just came out of.

You don’t always know where it came from. What triggered it this time. What you did or forgot to do. You wake up, and recognize the symptoms of depression.

Before we go any further, I want you to know that this is just something that happens. No one is at fault. You will be okay again.

 

Moods

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Some people know what their triggers are. This is just a fancy way of saying that you know what it is that makes you feel depressed. What the underlying issues are. Even if you say you don’t, you may already have some inclination. Usually they involve things like being excluded, failing/doing poorly in something, loneliness, issues with weight, self-esteem, … etc., etc.

Sometimes, you can tell when your symptoms flare up again. Sometimes you can’t. In either case, most people don’t recognize depression until much later on, once it has already taken hold.

Why?

The simple reason is that it often happens gradually. Something upsetting happens. You believe that you’ve dealt with it (or ignored it). The emotions usually go unresolved and fester. But you know that you’ve conquered this all before. So, you ignore it. Again. But then, something happens that calls to your attention. And you recognize that depression has settled in. And it feels hopeless all over again.

 

How is this different from just a “bad day”?

Moods are like waves. You have days when you feel happy and days when you feel sad. Usually there is a “normal zone” that most people fall under. Anything higher can fall under manic happiness (or mania) and anything lower can be classified as depression (note: it’s not always one or the other. There are many, many factors that are involved with mood. Only a doctor can accurately diagnose whether you fall outside of the normal spectrum).

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Yes, I did this in Paint.

Being sad is not the same as being depressed. Sadness is usually more temporary, and about one specific thing that happened. It is like a reaction to an event/circumstance. But, it isn’t lasting.

Depression, on the other hand, doesn’t need anything specific. It is just … there. It colours your whole world in a dark cloud. Nothing feels the same. There is no joy. There is just … nothing. Endless nothingness. This is why it’s often hard to detect it. You aren’t upset, you just aren’t being. You withdraw from hobbies, from friends, from family, from everything.  Depression will last for months and years.

 

The Monster and the Pit

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Depression tends to lull you into submission. It feeds off of every single criticism that you have, amplifying words that people may have said in a fit of anger. The worse you feel, the happier it is. The words fill you like a siren song, luring you back into the depths of depression.

Don’t listen to it. Just like the sirens in mythology, they only want to lure you to destroy your spirits.

That’s easier said than done.

When the monster echoes words that are in your head, it’s easy to believe them. It reinforces a negative and gives it power over you. Of course it’s difficult not to listen.

I find it helpful to externalize the voice. Give the faceless whispers an image. It doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be scary (actually it’s better that it’s not scary). If you can remember to externalize the voice, it may help to get rid of it. You can tell it to shut up, yell it, call it names, and whatever else you want to do. Why? Because now you aren’t putting yourself down (thereby adding to your symptoms), you are silencing the voice. Once it finally mutes itself, even if it’s for a moment, you can begin to stabilize your mood.

Depression can be like a deep pit. You can see the sun far up in the sky, always out of reach, always reminding you of the darkness you live in. That sun represents all you want your life to be and what you think your normal should be.

Climbing out of the pit is difficult. The rocks could be jagged, it could be muddy down there, and the edges are too steep to climb. But you know you need to climb out. After all, digging deeper into it just makes things worse.

Remember that “normal” you want your life to be is just subjective. It doesn’t guarantee things will be better, it’s just another ideal. You have to remember that you are fighting through this, and with each victory over depression makes you stronger, wiser, and more capable than ever before.

You define your life. In order to feel happiness, you must remain flexible. Because what you know to be true today, could be proven false tomorrow. Focus on the end goal, whatever it may be. The path to the goal is irrelevant. It always was.

 

I want to remind you of one important fact: just because you have one or two “bad days” where you feel depression-like symptoms, it doesn’t mean that you have lost. Moods are always static. There will be ups and there will be downs.

 

Now, go forth and continue to vanquish your monsters.

 

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Picking Up Where You Left Off

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I know, I know. I said I wasn’t going to add cheesy quotes…

Sometimes, we wake up and realize that we are no longer doing something that we once set out to do. You may have had everything ready for you to succeed, and yet, here you are. It’s been months since you stepped foot in a gym. Or, it’s been weeks since you’ve focused on your personal projects. Perhaps you haven’t been giving your personal life much attention.  

If no one tells you this today, I want you to know that this is perfectly normal. It is okay to take a breather every now and then. Don’t punish yourself. 

Now, you may be in a position where you don’t know how to pick up the habit once again.

How do you motivate yourself again? 

It’s not all that difficult.  

 

Just try it 

Yes, you’ve probably heard this one many times. So many times that it has become cliché. However, this cliché happens to be truthful. Just try. Take that step but be patient. That first line of the page, the first stroke of the brush, the first major meeting, and whatever else you find to be your first stepping stone may appear to be a monstrosity.  

Each and every day that you choose to meet the monster, that you choose to stay and fight, you will be rewarded. Once you take that first plunge into the old habit, things have a way of being slightly easier. Don’t worry, I’m not here to tell you that life will be full of sunshine and rainbows and bunnies after the first step. However, by taking the first step into this old habit once more, you have proven that you have will. You will meet the obstacles you have faced once when you first started on your journey. Now, you have all the resources to beat them. And you will be victorious. If not, that’s fine. Small defeats are nothing compared to the end goal.  

 

Remind yourself Why 

We’ve all been here. You’re staring at yourself in the mirror and wondering, “why the hell am I doing this”. That is an important question. Try to answer it. Why are you doing this hobby or doing this specific thing? Once you have the answer, it becomes your weapon. Those tiny little reasons why you shouldn’t do this will dissipate because now you have a purpose.  

Failures are a part of life. Procrastination is human nature. The difference is what you choose to do once the fogginess and weariness drift away.  

It is also important to understand why you stopped. No, the answer isn’t that you are lazy or that you don’t care. There was a specific reason. Something happened. Knowing that allows you to understand what to expect when attempting this again.  

 

Facing the Criticisms  

Yes, we are all our own worst enemies. You slip and fall and you laugh at yourself. However, sometimes the opinions come from elsewhere. It’s difficult facing others when they seem to reiterate what you are thinking.  

First, understand that everyone is entitled to their way of thinking. None of us can change that. You will always meet people who will disagree with you and what you want to do. There will always be reasons why you should not do something.

How do you combat that? 

Just think of your reasons why you are doing whatever it is that you are doing. The ultimate goal is to achieve a sense of fullness and happiness in your life. If this is something that will grant you that, then the rest does not matter.

That’s easier said than done. 

The most important piece of advice that I can offer you is that your happiness should be a priority in your life. That does not mean you have to push people away. On the contrary, have a conversation! Your loved ones will support you once they realize how invested you are. It may take some time. It may not be easy. But, it will happen. Also, once you figure out why you are doing this, it will be that much easier to explain to others. Your words will carry the confidence of knowing what you expect to be the end result. Who can argue that?

 

So, go out there with your head held high. Small victories add up. Overtime, this will be easier.

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Depression and Weight

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Depression manifests itself in many ways. There are countless side-effects that fall under this balloon term. One side-effect is our relationship with food. Some overeat to compensate, and others cut food out of their lives. It’s not something that people understand or even acknowledge. But it is very real for so many of us. Including myself.

A little backstory

One morning, I found myself, staring at the numbers on the scale in disbelief. It read 250lbs. This was scary. More than that, I was angry. Angry at myself for letting it get this far. How could I not see that it was this bad? The reason was simple: I wasn’t paying attention to what I was eating. It was never a concern. How could it be with everything going on? My self-esteem took another hit, sending it spiraling to someplace lower that I thought possible.

After that, I stuck to a strict diet plan and exercise. I am happy to report that so far I have already dropped 60 lbs. Yes, there is still a long way to go, but the point in me telling you this is that it is possible. I am no one special. I don’t have a team of nutritionists or personal trainers. I’m just a girl who’s fighting to get her life back. You can do it. I believe in you.

And believe me, this fight is absolutely worth it.

Weight and Self-Image

Weight is always something that is a weak point for us. We strive to look a certain way, act a certain way, because somehow, it would solve all of our problems. No, weight cannot solve all of your problems. It’s just another aspect of you.

I know it’s hard to accept. After all, people always assume that an overweight person is lazy and stupid. They also assume that an anorexic person isn’t suffering. Be comfortable in your own skin. You define your own beauty. Beauty is more about the way you carry yourself. If you are confident, hold your head up high, and have fun, you will appear beautiful.

Don’t believe me? People are naturally drawn to someone who confidently strides into the room, unashamed of themselves. Try it one day.

Making Changes

              I know the question that you are asking. If everyone can be beautiful, why make changes? When do you make changes? How do you know you are doing this for the right reasons?

              Yes, these questions are harder to answer. It is different for each and every person. Ultimately, you should be making changes for you. No one else. Accept yourself and focus on your health and your life. No one else matters in this decision.  

 

So, go out there into the world and show them all how beautiful you truly are.

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Accepting our Uniqueness

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I too am hoping that I will ease up on these quotes

No one is the same. Every single person you see has a story about who they are, where they come from, and what made them do the things they do. It’s quite fascinating to witness what decisions someone else comes up with given the same situations. It’s all based on what lessons that person has learned along the way.

In a similar way, depression is not the same for everyone. Each person feels differently, understands things differently, and thus each person has to vanquish their demons uniquely. Sure, the symptoms can be the same – the lack of focus, the fatigue, the lack of motivation. Our bodies also experience similar things – the reduced serotonin or the low norepinephrine (for instance). However, each person goes through it differently. For some the cause is one specific trauma. For others, it’s a series of complications.

So, this is just a friendly reminder that just because one person does something, it doesn’t mean that same thing is right for you. You are you. No one else can be you. No one else can live through what you have lived through. Your bravery and perseverance has led you to stand here today. It was a hard road to get to today but you are here nonetheless. Take a moment and appreciate all of the hard work that you have put to pick yourself up. Not everyone can do this. Seriously.

 

The Problems with Wanting Another’s Life

Truth moment. We have all seen (or heard) about someone’s life and wondered “why don’t I have that?”. You see or hear about their accomplishments – especially through social media. It gets worse if they are younger than you. That 23 year-old with a nice apartment and a fancy car?? How did that happen???

First, it’s okay to feel jealous. We are human after all. However, we cannot let it consume us. Let the thought pop in your head and then let it go. Why? Because it’s never easy. Perhaps that 23 year-old has worked night and day, studying hard, and getting that amazing GPA. They probably invested in tutors to help. Perhaps the same person has had years of understanding about investments through a parent or relative. They just know because that’s what they grew up hearing about.

These are all external things. On the inside, perhaps they are unhappy. They were forced to give up something they truly love to follow something else. Point being, no one has an easy life.

Now, think about it for a moment. Do you really want that life? I’m not talking about wanting the material possessions because I’m sure everyone will say “hell yes!”. I’m talking about what they go through every day. The stress, the bad neighbors, the controlling boss, the lack of free time.

For example, I know that I can’t be a model. Do I want to? No! Sometimes, it makes me wonder why I can’t look like them. Yet, their lives are incredibly difficult. The pressures that exist in the industry to look a certain way, to be a certain way, is tough. It requires someone who can withstand all of that.

Sure, it’s good to learn from others. Get diet advice, investment advice, or whatever else that person can impart on to you, but don’t try to emulate their life. It’s a recipe for disaster.

 

Happiness is Subjective

Here’s the thing. What one person likes, another person hates. Just look at any YouTube video. No matter how amazing something is, you will always find at least one person who hates it.

It’s good to try new things, but if you hate it, you hate it. There’s not much that you or I could do about that. Be selfish in this case and say “nope, not for me!”. But do try.

If you like to do something, don’t worry about how good you are at it. Everyone has to start somewhere. No one starts something as a masterful genius. Just do it for you and the joy it brings you. Who knows, maybe through one of your tries you find something that you really like to do! As Mr. Rogers says:

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Accept that you like something, don’t deny it. This is a part of you and it yearns to be expressed. So, if someone says you are a nerd, then accept it! You are a nerd! It’s liberating. It no longer becomes an insult. Words are only as powerful as you allow them to be.

 

Accepting your Limits

Let’s face it. There are things that we can’t do no matter how hard we try. For example, someone can be bad at math while someone else can be a human calculator. Now the person who is bad at math has to work harder to get through the various everyday problems we encounter (like calculating how much to tip at a restaurant). It is what it is. You can’t change that unless you work really hard and practice every day.

If we hate something, why would we waste our time? Therefore, maybe the person who is bad at math shouldn’t become a Mathematician. It is an overly simplified explanation, granted, but the core point is true. If you can’t do something, you can’t. No one but you is going to make a fuss. The rest of us will laugh it up.

Don’t worry about all the little things you have yet to master. If you want to learn how to do it, you will learn. If not, then we have apps and people to take care of it for us.

This is not the same as giving up. There are so many things to worry about so why worry about something you can’t do? I doubt Albert Einstein could have won a gold medal in an Olympic event. Yet, he is a genius. The point is, focus on what you like to do and what makes you eager to learn. Don’t define yourself by what you lack. You are much, much more than that.

 

Okay, I believe that I have droned on for long enough now. I wish you all the strength to accept yourself fully. For those of us Canadians out there, Happy Thanksgiving! Keep your head held high, no matter what circumstance you find yourselves in.

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The Importance of Forgiving Yourself

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Your cheesy quote of the day.

Another common trait of most sufferers of depression is the way that the past seems to haunt over us, shrouding the present. We are reminded about the things we have not yet accomplished, the things that we shouldn’t have done, and the things that have been said. The guilt and regret are debilitating.

So, why are you doing this?

Simple. This is the first step that you must take in order to fully accept yourself.

 

The Failures

The “failures” play an interesting role. The first thing I would do is to assign a different word to the things that go wrong. Most of the time they just impede your progress. They give you an opportunity to figure out what isn’t working. Things that you perhaps didn’t really want to do. They are more like harbingers of opportunity (yes I know, that was very optimistic even for me, but just hear me out).

Real World Example: I was a straight “A” student who ended up going to college to become something that would allow me to make money. The goal was to make enough to live a comfortable life and then figure out what to do. However, when I got to college, I starting doing poorly. Eventually, I gave up trying. It was hard. My family didn’t understand or approve. This was my moment of choice – stay with the career path I had decided on or discover what it is I want.

That’s all life is in the end – just soaking up lessons so that you can live the life you want. Sure, the example I gave may sound trivial, but it shook me to my foundation. In the end, that’s what these turning points do. Please, take a step back and truly analyze the thing that has been haunting you. Is there a lesson buried in there? What is it? What changes can you make?

 

The Casual Mistakes

Have you ever gone through a day and realized that you said something that you weren’t supposed to? Gotten someone’s name wrong? Tripped or spilled something on yourself? These are pretty universal experiences, I assure you. However, when you are plagued by depression, they eat away at you more than they ought to. They are on replay in your mind.

Take a moment after these blunders occur and take a deep breath. It happens to everyone. We are all human and being human is a messy process. Smile, even if you don’t feel like it. In your mind, take that moment and imagine that the moment is tangible. Crumple it up and toss it away.

Learning to laugh at these small mistakes helps. Truly, it does. Don’t laugh at your “stupidity”, laugh at the action itself. Think about it this way: if a friend was to do the same thing, you would probably make a joke (if not, then you are a much kinder friend than I am and kudos to you). Also, anyone in the vicinity can no longer make fun of you because you are making jokes about it yourself. You strip the onlookers of their powers to bring you down. This situation is now under your control.

 

So, How Do You Forgive Yourself?

Write it out on paper or talk about it (especially if they are larger concerns). Tell yourself that it could happen to anyone. Tell yourself the truth – you reacted that particular way because of your circumstances and the limited knowledge that you possessed at that time. You only know better now because you have more information. Don’t worry about looking crazy. This is for you and you alone.

If it helps, talk to someone, especially if you feel as if you victimized them somehow. You may be surprised to learn that it didn’t really affect them that much. We are all social creatures. Conversations keep us all together. They have the power to heal relationships. If you don’t believe me, give it a shot. Sure, at first there may be raised voices and hurtful things that are said. However, that’s just a temporary reaction that our biases bring out. After they pass, things become better. Just stick with it if you value the relationship.

Work towards your better future. This is the best way to allow solutions to present themselves.

And most importantly, grab onto that slim sliver of hope and never let it go.

 

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Life on the Sidelines

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Most of us are familiar with the feeling – feeling left out of a group, always observing things from what feels like a distance. Being shut out. So, what do you do? You probably try to ignore the glares, suppress the old wounds, and keep your head down.

This is harder to combat than others. Especially those of us who are of ethnic backgrounds and different sexual orientations. Basically, anyone who is not amongst the “status quo”, you have probably experienced this.

The Depression Factor

Depression skews our world-view (yes, I have stated this numerous times before too). It gets to the point that we perceive ourselves to be shut out even if we are ignored unintentionally. By keeping silent for the remainder of the interaction, we shut ourselves out. The other person cannot possibly understand what we are thinking. They don’t know why we’re quiet or why we have decide to walk away. This is not to say that people never intentionally ignore people. That happens too.

We have a decision to make in moments such as these. We can succumb to our own insecurity, allow our depression to take hold, and retreat. Or, we can take a moment to gather our wits, and see if the situation can be resuscitated.

Speaking from experience, the latter is much, much better. Yes, it takes courage and it takes all your will-power. However, your efforts will be rewarded. Maybe not in the way that you intend, but nonetheless, you can gain peace of mind. At least you won’t subject yourself to future regret.

 

The Loneliness Factor

Yes, being on the outside sucks. You are in a group of people and you feel alone. Maybe, you walked into this feeling alone to begin with. Maybe you walked into this knowing that you don’t know anyone. Seeing a sea of unknown faces is daunting to anyone.

I am not trying to undermine anyone here. I know we are all capable adults and we all know how to talk to people should push come to shove. However, we forget that these people may also be nervous or anxious. Just because someone emits a confident exterior, does not mean that they are natural social people.

Take a moment to speak to someone. Start with a greeting or small talk. Yes, yes, you know how to do this. So, why am I saying it? Because you need to actually try it! What’s the worst that can happen? They walk away? I’m sure you can handle one person walking away. They were probably a jerk anyways. Nice people don’t do things like that.

 

The Lasting Effect

Usually, we are not aware of this, but when we leave a social situation, feeling invisible, we may find that we have buried some of the residual feeling. If left unattended, these emotions build up. They grow and grow and grow. After a while, it takes longer to recuperate because partially we want people to look at us and think that we are strong, partially because we don’t know how to deal with it.

So how do you deal with it?

The answer is so simple that it sounds stupid. Talk. Start a light conversation, casually mentioning that you felt left out. Frame it in a way that it doesn’t sound accusatory. In confrontational settings, most people will defend themselves to no end and they may even show aggression. To avoid this, try to practice what you are going to say. Make sure you use words that are ensure that you are not blaming the other person.

You may just find out that the other person had no idea. They may apologize or they may not. Either way, it’s out in the open and now you know that their intentions were not malicious. And isn’t that worth it?

 

Happy conversations, everyone! I’ve got your back!

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Confronting Our Fears

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Yes, that’s a black hole. Cliché? Perhaps.

 

Let’s face it. We all fear something. It could be something small and tangible or something large and subjective. Sometimes we are unaware of it (or choose to ignore it). Either way, fear plays a major role in what we do and how we think.

 

Identify the Fear

This step is not as simple as it sounds. What is that one thing that acting as your barrier? What is the thing that you are lacking?

Here is a list of fears and possible consequences of living with them (the following are just examples. If you can’t identify with the examples, it does not necessarily mean that this isn’t your misconception):

  • Love – something happened where you fear intimacy from another human being. You are not in a relationship and every time you get to the point to go on a date (or a blind date), you consciously or subconsciously do something to push this person away. OR, you go on dates and realizes that no one is good enough to officially date
  • Success – the limelight is daunting. You are forced to be in the center of attention. Things are going well … too well. Sound familiar? This usually causes people to purposely work less than stellar. You avoid opportunities.
  • Failure – something happened where now you no longer feel that you can fail. You probably take on more than you can humanly do. Anything that helps. Every time that you do something wrong, you are faced with debilitating anxiety.
  • People – I know what you’re thinking – what??? This means that you fear being around too many people, their judgement, their eyes. You isolate yourself. Meeting someone in real life gives you anxiety.

 

Now What?

So, now you know what it is that makes you tick. What do you do now? Confront it.

This is subjective. There’s no way that’s possible. 

Actually, there is. You have to force yourself in situations gradually to react better and better each time. Notice that word in red? This is me telling you that if it does not happen right away, it’s okay!! You are doing something major here. Be patient and stay with the baby steps. Learn to accept failure, try to put yourself out there, ask for more in your current life!

Here’s a little moment of truth. Just like depression, fear is a strong thing. The shadows of both things may follow you. However, if you know what to look out for, you know what you can do to overcome it.

How?

It’s difficult to say specifically what to do because it is different for everyone. This is why it may be a good idea to just force yourself into the situation and do what you can to move forward. This could be a slew of ways:

  • Meditation
  • Being your own cheerleader in the mirror
  • Practicing what you are going to do and what to say
  • Expect the worst (or expect nothing) and surprise yourself
  • Carrying a token to remind you to be brave

I can go on but I know that we all have things to do.

 

Fear and Depression

Fear and depression go hand in hand. I know, so shocking. I’ll wait for all of you to gather the pieces of your mind back together (I wish there was a sarcasm font). Here’s how it works. Depression’s job is to keep you down, prevent you from flying high. Fear acts as a barrier, keeping you from moving further. Together, they are a dangerous combination. And people wonder why it’s so hard to overcome depression.

Tackling fear allows you to push the barrier back. The more you tackle it head on, the further back it goes. Take risks. Do something that you wouldn’t ever think of doing. In the end of the day, experiences like these make the best stories. So, if anything, do it for the memories.

 

Real World Example

One of my debilitating fears is failure. I had to be the best. I had to be unique. I had to be successful. Why? I was afraid of finding myself in the same situation that my parents were in (sorry, mom). Speaking of parents, they forced high standards upon me. Then, life happened.

I started doing poorly in school. My friends were slipping away. My finances were a joke. It all summed up to my greatest fear coming true.

So, I redefined my expectations and my definition of “failure”. Failure no longer means some strange situation that circumstance had brought upon in the past. To me, failing at life means ignoring every opportunity and not at least attempting to do what I want. Failing means not working towards my dreams.

That’s just me. This definition can, and probably is, different for you.

 

So, go out there. Conquer your demons. Show them who’s boss! I believe in you.

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I love the expression on this kid.

Reclaiming the Stigma

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As we move through our lives, we are left with a stark reminder of the way we felt and what we went through. Misunderstandings don’t always end when our depression symptoms ease. Having an open and honest discussion about it today still causes people to feel uncomfortable. No one knows what to say. We are exposed to sideways glances, confused looks, denial of, and avoidance of discussing what it that’s right in front of them.

It shouldn’t be difficult to accept. The number of people that go through this is staggering. It only makes sense that everyone is informed about what to look out for.

 

For Depression Sufferers

Keep the discussion alive. This is how we all learn. Remember that the more we can share about our experiences, the more it can benefit others who may be going through similar situations. It may also help non-depression sufferers to fully understand what is happening to us. Having someone – even just one person – listen to you makes all the difference.

Remember another thing as well. Not many are given the opportunity to confront their lives and actively change it. For some, they wake up years and years later, realizing that the path that they have chosen is unfulfilling. Many follow through with change later in life. I applaud those who do. It takes courage. They are fighting for their happiness. This is your chance to work towards that goal as well. Reclaim what you want. Now that you are facing your worst enemy (yourselves), you can brush off the opinions of everyone else.

 

For those who know someone going through this

First, we still wish to be respected. Silencing and downplaying our unhappiness will not help us at all. The best that I can advise you to do is offer support. Ask the person what they need from you. Opening up to someone is a difficult thing to do. This person has amassed all of their courage to come to you. Don’t dismiss it. Listen. Most of the time, we aren’t really seeking solutions.

Be aware of the following warning signs:

  • Self-isolation – the person no longer has the desire to socialize, spend time with friends, or leave the home
  • Decreased motivation – jokingly or not, the person constantly says how they are too tired to do anything. They don’t want to do anything requiring an exertion of energy (of any kind). They are exhausted by performing at the bare minimum levels, unable to focus on anything.
  • Changes in mood (mood swings) – they are quick to anger or get irritated, often without warning (as far as the other person is concerned. Internally, there are reasons aplenty)
  • Changes in diet – so this is harder to detect. Basically, watch for overeating or undereating
  • Insomnia – if someone complains about prolonged restless nights, it may be a sign of depression
  • Jokes about suicide – several jokes about this could be an indication that the person is trying to gauge your reaction. I know that this is becoming more common-place (which, for the record, I believe harms actual depression sufferers) but it is still worthwhile to start a discussion.
  • Self-harm – this goes beyond your common wrist-slashing. There are so many ways to inflict harm upon oneself. If you notice peculiar scratches, cuts, or bruises talk about it. For instance, I used to keep a safety pin tied to an elastic band that I wore around my wrist. I would use the safety pin to inflict harm (it was a stepping stone into actual cutting). Something like this could be prevented by questioning it.

 

P.S.:  I would like to sincerely apologize for the lack of posts as of late. I am actually still on vacation! The opportunities to sit down and just write something are so scarce. I will try to make more time and get the information out as best as I can. Thank you all for your patience!

 

The Expectations that Define Us

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We have all had to listen to advice about who or what we should be. We are taught how to act, how to think, when to speak, what to do. For some, this has been ingrained in our very being, shaping us into who we are today. It’s embedded into our subconscious minds. We take into account what these people’s opinions would be in every action that we take, losing our independence of thought.

Sometimes, the expectations can act as a motivator.
Example: “I can’t stay at this job for too long because there is no upward growth. My spouse/friends/parents know that I have potential and I need to do something more to prove them right.”

Sometimes, however, it’s more harmful.
Example: “I can’t quit my job and start my own business because I have a good job now. My spouse/friends/parents may think of me as a failure who wasted all of my money on a pipe dream.”

 

Letting Go

Learning to let go of what other people think of us is not always easy to do. We place so much importance on some of them and for some, we would do whatever it takes to keep them in our lives. It’s understandable why we listen. We forget that we don’t have to. They’ll still be here … at least those who are actually there for you will still be here.

Take a moment to understand what you want. What you desire. What your dreams are. Understand them without prejudice and without restraint.

So how do I ignore them? I can’t hide what I want forever.

Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best one. In this case, talk about it. I would also advise you to take a step towards achieving your dream and then starting the discussion. Why? You won’t be as easily deterred. Now, when I say “take a step” towards this dream, I mean research. Investigate. Plan as much as you can. Act as if you are already on your way. What can you do now to get going without tarnishing what you currently have?

 So, I plan. But, they may still think less of me! They say I’m wrong. What then?

That does happen. Hear what they’re saying but take the advice with a grain of salt. If it doesn’t work for you, thank them, but disregard it. You are in charge here. You know what’s best for you. The rest of us are just doing what we can for you with the information we have.

The Lesser Known Truths

Fact #1: people will talk regardless of what you do. That’s just the way we are. We gossip. Someone could be a saint, supporting numerous causes, but did you hear about the rumour of their drinking problem? Wasting charity money on something like that.

You can’t change people. All you can do is change yourself (yes, another cliché, I apologize).

Fact #2: people get bored. If you stand by your actions in their entirety, people will eventually leave you be. Something that has their interest today, will be forgotten tomorrow. So, who cares if you took a chance on yourself for a change? What if your risk was rewarded? What if you could have the life that you can proudly call your own? This is about you, not them.

Fact #3: our loved ones will support us in their own time. If they disagree with you now, give them time. If they truly love you, truly care about you, they will come to accept your decisions. Patience is key. 

Fact #4: sometimes, it pays to be a bit selfish. Fight for what you want. Determination is vital when trying to achieve success (I use success here as a term not to define monetary wealth but in terms of your overall happiness). Yes, sometimes it may seem difficult to do this especially if you have a family of your own. However, the dynamic changes when you are happier. Things come together. 

 

The Difference Between Positive and Negative Opinions 
We all have to have to be able to handle criticisms, but we have to be able to distinguish the helpful and harmful ones. 

Helpful criticisms allow you to grow. They shine a light onto things you may be lacking or other problem areas in your life. They contain information on what to do next. Harmful criticisms, on the other hand, do nothing more than attacking your person. They just lower your spirits by saying what is wrong but not offering anything that you can learn from.

Evaluate them. Ignore the harmful comments and save the helpful ones. Most of the time, the purveyors of the negative opinions are the ones who may need to be removed from your life. It’s just not worth the energy it takes to keep them around.

Either way, listen to what is being said and then determine whether it’s useful to you or not. Regain control. Rise above the expectations and be your own person.
So go out there and live for your better tomorrow!

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!