The Burnout Effect

We have all been here before. There are countless things still left on the to-do list, deadlines fast approaching, and you have no idea where to begin. We take on as much as we can if it offers a reprieve from another moment inside of your own head. You ride the wave for days, weeks, or months.

And then, it all falls apart.

Suddenly, you don’t have the energy to do a fraction of what you used to do before. The motivation just isn’t there. More than that, you’re exhausted. This is all another symptom of burning out.


Chipping Away At the Problem


Usually, you burn out because of the mounting stress. Perhaps you have just agreed to an inhuman amount of work. Perhaps there are too many events that you had to commit to. Maybe it’s your job. Sometimes, it’s just your need to show the world how much you can do and how valuable you truly are. There is no right answer.

As depression sufferers, we have an added list of reasons for this. Usually it boils down to our own insecurity and self-worth (as is the case with most things). It sounds simple, but it always goes unnoticed.

Take a moment. Tell yourself that you have nothing to prove to anyone. Take a slow, deep breath, really noticing the air filling your lungs; hold it in for a few moments; then, slowly exhale, relaxing every muscle in your body (this includes that brain of yours). Repeat as many times as needed.

Done? Great!

Now, take another look at that to-do list. How much of that is actually important to do right now? Start tackling the most urgent thing first, by breaking it down into tiny little pieces.

For instance: You absolutely have to finish that essay that you’ve been putting off because it looks too complicated, but it’s due tomorrow (cue flashbacks to college days). The essay as a whole is intimidating. Break it down into smaller steps (ex: ensuring that you have done enough research, figuring out the core “sections” of the essay, getting the “easy” paragraphs out of the way, etc.).

Life works in a similar manner. Sometimes, if looking at the bigger picture doesn’t work, you break it down into smaller, manageable steps. Just a hint: there are always smaller steps to tackling a problem.

Someone once told me something important:
“You never look at how tall a mountain is until you reach the top.”

As in, a problem always looks bigger and more intimidating when you are at “the base of the mountain”. It’s only once you get started that you realize how big or small it really is.


Beware the Cycle


Those of us who like to work as hard as possible to escape ourselves face another problem with burnouts – a cycle of behaviour.

Here’s how it looks (roughly speaking):

  1. The sense of accomplishments fuels your self-worth. You feel as if you have a handle on your situation. But, it’s not enough.
  2. You take on more assignments/projects, because after all, you handled the other ones so easily. The rest just have to end up the same way.
  3. Suddenly, you feel exhaustion. You try to take a break, but there’s just too much on your plate right now for that.
  4. The exhaustion continues. The easy tasks become a chore. You feel as if you are a failure because why can’t you just do this one little, simple task?
  5. The awareness creates another opening for depression.
  6. Somehow, you get on your feet, finishing that little task. You are invincible again.
  7. Repeat

The trick is to stop the cycle in its tracks. Realize when you are taking on too much. If you need help, ask for it. It doesn’t make you any less of a person. Every single person needs help with one thing or another. If you no longer can handle a task, so be it. Your well-being is much more important than anything else. People will understand.



Make sure that you are doing something that relaxes you. Add one little item on your to-do list that makes you feel happy. Whether that is singing and dancing around, playing music, drawing, painting, knitting, writing, baking, … whatever it is that brings you joy. This is a high priority item, so make time for it.

No one has that kind of time! I have too much to do! 

You don’t need a lot of time. Even if you manage 10-15 minutes, that’s fine. Even 5 minutes.


Life is stressful. There are many, many obligations that we have. Taking some quality “me-time” makes a world of a difference. Do something good for you. Make yourself a priority in your life!




Reclaiming the Stigma


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 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!


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!


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.


  • 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


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:


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.


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.



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.



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!

Immediate Relief of Anxiety and Panic Attacks

I was surprised to see that there wasn’t much information about this. Concrete tips that you need now.

The Box Breathing Method
Some of you may already be aware of this but it has also been tweaked a bit. This technique has worked on some people that I know as well as myself.

  1. Breathe in – take a deep, deep breath in. It should take a few seconds.
  2. Hold it – hold your breath for a couple seconds
  3. Breathe out – slowly exhale. Resist the temptation to breathe out too quickly.
  4. Rest – wait a few seconds before breathing again
  5. Repeat


While you are doing this, be aware of your surroundings.

  • If you are sitting down, feel the texture of the chair. The way the leather feels, the way each stitch on the fabric intertwines with one another, the way the bumps on the plastic roll over your fingertips.
  • Feel the fabric of your pants. The rough texture of the jeans, where the seams meet, the smoothness of your leggings, etc. Each piece of fabric has its own unique feature that you can use
  • Listen. Pay attention to the gust of the wind. The continuous rhythm of the heater. The sounds of the birds flying somewhere outside. The clacking of the keys as other type. Listen to the noises around you. Familiarize yourself with their beat.

Try to synchronize your breathing to this:



Why am I doing this?

When you are experiencing a panic attack, your heart rate rapidly increases and you begin to hyperventilate. Being aware of your breathing will allow you to normalize your heart rate, causing the panic attack to pass.

By touching the chair or your pants or your top, you are bringing your mind back to the here and now. Allowing yourself to live in this moment. Not the past. Not the future. Now.

Helpful hints:

  • Try to avoid coffee after a panic attack. It usually increases anxiety symptoms.
  • Drink some water. You probably need it.
  • Don’t think back to what you just experienced. It’s gone. You are fine.


And please remember to smile. You are strong and brave. This attack is nothing compared to who you are and what you are capable of. cmDuckN.gif