Sep 07

Easy Wins, Small Steps To Redesign Your Life

By Vickie | Uncategorised

Changing your thinking about the type of life you want, the adventures you’d like to have, the achievements you’d like to share with the world, the legacy you want to leave behind, is absolutely critical to designing and creating your future without depression.

This might all sound very grand – adventures, achievements, legacy – but there are many ways you can redesign your life that needn’t be earth-shattering.

There are lots of ways you can participate, contribute and redesign your life which are small and easy to implement: 

Contributing to your local community by joining an environmental protection group, doing volunteer work with the elderly, fostering a child in need, baking for your neighbour who can’t get out much, or mowing their lawn once in a while, researching your family history, travelling to Spain, learning to take good photos and selling them online, writing poetry or that novel, doing that course in antique furniture restoration…

The possibilities for creating a meaningful life are endless…

You just need to find your thing…

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Joining a community choir is an amazing mood lifting activity…

Take 20 or 30 minutes to think back over your life, focussing on times when you felt reasonably happy and contented. Do this fairly rapidly. 

Do not dwell on unpleasant times and remember that if you have been experiencing low mood for some years, you may no longer believe that there have been any happy periods in your life. 

But There will have been times when you feel even marginally better than you do today, otherwise you would not be feeling depressed. 

So look back now, through your childhood, young adult hood, your 30s, your mid-life…think about the times when you did feel happier. 

Did you love riding your bike as a kid, but stop riding when you started commuting to work? Did you love camping when you were at college, but have left your tent mouldering in the garage for decades? Was living by the beach, in the mountains, in the city where you’ve felt most comfortable, but now you are living in an environment which makes you profoundly unhappy? 

Did you always want to study art history but ended up an accountant instead, and haven’t stepped inside an art gallery for years? 

Have you always wanted to ride a motor cycle but gave up that idea long ago because someone told you it was too dangerous? 

Redesign your life www.depressionrecoveryschool.com

Reconnect with activities that used to make you feel good.

Did you volunteer with guide dogs once and loved it, but for some reason have never had your own dog? 

Think about your life in stages and try to determine when you were happiest (and conversely, when you were most unhappy). 

Did you discover some patterns in your life? Times when you felt happier and times when you felt lower in mood? What was going on during those times? Where were you working? Who was around you? Where were you living? What brought joy and what brought you down?

The answers to these questions will help you start changing your thinking and designing your life without chronic low mood. There are clues here to what makes you tick.

Designing a life free of chronic low mood takes some time. Not years, but some time to reflect and try new things.

But here is one activity you can do today or this week to start lifting your mood and reconnecting with activities which have enjoyment and meaning for you.

The purpose of this exercise is to identify small activities which you can do right now to lift your mood. You can do this course much better if you can regularly engage in simple, easy-to-do activities that will start to reconnect you with who you were before depression.

The key words here are: small wins, easy activities, no stress.

Write a list of 8-10 enjoyable activities that you used to do regularly before you started feeling depressed. Don’t censor yourself. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t done these things for months. Just write them down.

Now, next to each activity, write a rating of between one and ten (10 being the highest) for how rewarding those activities would be for you if you did them this week. Do not get caught up in thoughts such as ‘Yes buts…I have no energy…I don’t want to…’

Just give them a rating. It’s best if you do this fairly quickly. Don’t get caught up in your thoughts.

Now, for each activity, give a rating of between 1 and 10 (10 being the highest) of how difficult it might be to do each activity today.

Finally, subtract the difficulty rating from the reward rating.

The activity with the highest number is the activity which will give you the greatest pleasure for the least amount of effort.

For example:

Activity

Enjoyment rating

Difficulty rating

Pleasure Value

Meet John for squash

3

9

-6

Get a massage/my hair styled/a manicure

7

2

5

Attend local environmental-care group meetings

2

7

-5

Coffee and the papers at my local café on the weekend

8

1

7

Try new recipes

7

3

4

Go on weekend camping and fishing trips

2

10

-8

Enrol in art classes

10

3

7

For this person, they used to enjoy all the activities above but due to a lack of energy, motivation or optimism, many of these activities now seem too hard. However, there are three which scored quite highly – self-care activities, art class and reading the papers at a local café on the weekend – and these are activities which the person has not participated in for a while, due to their low mood.

These are the activities which will help them reconnect with what once had meaning and pleasure for them and help them understand that it is possible to enjoy life again.

Do this activity for yourself. Find the highest scoring activity and schedule it in your diary for this week.

It is important not to listen to whispers like ‘But I don’t have time…’ or ‘I’m no good at that any more…’ or ‘What’s the point’? Ignoring these voices and changing your thinking about these types of excuses will help you build and maintain motivation.

The answers are…a balanced life without chronic low mood requires you to find the time to relax and feed your soul. Having a hair cut, while it might seem whimsical and pathetic in the face of major life problems, is a chance for you to see yourself as attractive, worthy of being cared for and a chance to just sit and do nothing for a while.

If, in your heart of hearts you’d love to take up a hobby you once

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Get involved in a hobby, a project with other people and regular physical activity will go far in recovering from depression.

loved, like art, but there’s a little voice telling you that you are no good at it, it’s time to find a way to silence that voice and the best way to silence the voice is to do the activity anyway and prove it wrong. Go do the activity anyway! But leave your judging voice at home. If you enjoy art, go paint a nice picture. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. Enjoy the process. The outcome is not the important thing here. The important thing is getting back in the flow of activities you once loved and which fed your soul.

‘What’s the point? What’s the point of wasting a Saturday morning at the café reading the papers?’

The point is that you used to enjoy it and getting pleasure back in your life is what is needed. It’s a chance to unwind and relax after a busy week. It’s ‘you-time’!

The other important benefits of this particular activity is that it gets you out of your house, into the real world where you need to interact with others and out of your head. Focusing on events in the wider world (take care not to read all the negative stories. Maybe you should read a magazine focussed on a special subject which interests you, like needlework, camping, sport or photography) gets you out of your own worries and reconnects you with what’s going on outside.

Do this mood-lifting activity and feel the benefits immediately.

Fill your life with mood-lifting activities – activities that connect with the real you – and you’ll be on your way to a depression-free future. 

 

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Aug 28

How Rumination Keeps You Depressed and What To Do About It

By Vickie | Sleep Better

Do you ever find yourself lost in rumination?

When I was depressed I often did something which is very dangerous because it allows depression to be maintained.

Ruminating.

I spent hours wallowing in my thoughts and feelings.

Day after day I moped and brooded, languished in my own misery, pined, grieved and generally felt very, very bad.

“Why didn’t I have any money? Why did I live in such a crap house? Why couldn’t I get more clients? Why was I always feeling just a bit panicked? Why was I always dissolving in tears? Why wasn’t I married? Why couldn’t I get a grip? Why was life so bad? What’s wrong with me? Why am I such a loser?

Why couldn’t I just feel better?”

On and on and on.

Rumination.

So what is rumination exactly?

It’s a nasty, nasty habit which can lead to depression and can maintain our experience of depression over a long period of time. It’s a vicious cycle.

Let’s say you’re not depressed, but something has happened, an unpleasant conversation at work, the stress of an illness, an unexpected accident of some kind. You’re feeling bad.

You begin to go over and over in your mind how this could have happened.

“I should have spoken up about it…I should have said…why did this happen to me?  What did I do to cause this? Why is he so horrible to me? What if ….doesn’t get better?”

Your mood drops. You begin to feel consumed by this issue and it spreads to the way you feel about aspects of your life and yourself.

Is Rumination Normal?

Doesn’t everyone think about things that are going on in their life? Isn’t it normal?

Yes, it’s absolutely normal to think through problems.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/brain-2029363_1280.png benefits of taking antidepressants

Nope, no brain chemical imbalances here!

Our marvellous brains use thinking processes to help us sort through problems and find solutions. We use our cognitive abilities to consider different aspects of a difficult situation and decide on different methods and approaches which we believe might help.

In non-depressed people, thinking is used to find solutions, or to work towards solutions which for complex problems may take weeks or months, but we use our cognitive skills to set goals and set action plans to move towards those solutions.

In depressed people, the amount of value generated through rumination is quite low. Rumination does not push us to identify solutions. Rumination is fixation on the problem as a problem, not as a challenge which needs a solution.

Rumination is quite disempowering. We flounder, lost and drowning in our own thoughts. Our thinking is not clear, logical or solution-focussed. We are lost in the emotion of the situation, unable calm our feelings so that we can concentrate to finding a way out.

What Do We Ruminate About?

Rumination is quite generalised and abstract.

1. We ruminate on the Past.

We may ruminate on past events and conversations, going over and over not only what happened or what was said, but also on what we believed was meant by the other person or event.

For example, a colleague did not spend the usual few minutes chatting with you in the tea room. You decide it means they no longer like you, that you are not worth knowing, that they are horrible, that maybe nobody likes you at work, that you are doing a bad job, that maybe they are going to sack you, and so on.

Rumination (and other depressive thinking styles) don’t allow us to see alternatives to the situation. We are so caught up in our emotional response to the situation that we cannot calm ourselves long enough to wonder ‘what if’ the situation is not what it seems.

Maybe your colleague was just running late for a meeting and intended to chat with you at lunch time.

2. We may ruminate on being depressed.

How did I get like this? Why can’t I get moving in the morning? Why don’t I have any energy? Why do I cry so much? Why do I get angry so much? Why do I feel pressure in my face muscles, tension around my eyes, a sick feeling in my stomach? What’s wrong with me?

2. We Ruminate About What kind of Person We Are

We may ruminate about our Selves, our character and our perceived flaws. Why am I such a loser? I’m hopeless, pathetic, no-good, useless, waste of space.

So what’s happening in the brain when we ruminate?

Parts of the brain which are involved in rumination are parts of the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and the anterior cingulate. Studies have shown that these regions of the brain are active when we ruminate.

The prefrontal cortex is the centre of brain’s planning and decision-making circuit and is a large region that sits behind the forehead. Our motivation and decision-making originate in the prefrontal cortex.

However, when we are depressed, it is also a source of problematic thinking such as worrying, guilt, shame, indecisiveness and ‘fuzzy-headedness’.

The amygdala and anterior cingulate are part of the limbic system and are located deep in the brain. This is the brain’s emotional centre and is where feelings such as excitement, fear, anxiety, memory and desire emerge. In particular, the amygdala is responsible for anxiety and the anterior cingulate is concerned with focus and our ability to pay attention.

You can see how, in depression, an overly active amygdala will createhttp://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/sad-623848_1920.jpg sources of stress a very emotional reaction to a situation, and overactivity in certain parts of the prefrontal cortex affect how clearly you can make decisions.

In 2010, researchers at Stanford University looked at the difference in activity in the brains of people who had been diagnosed with depression and those who were not depressed. The participants were asked to think about different topics, such as ‘What people notice about my personality’, ‘a row of shampoo bottles on display at the supermarket’.

The first question was designed to cause rumination. Pondering this question produced greater activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, amygdala, and parts of the prefrontal cortex of the depressed people than in the non-depressed participants.

What that means is that the rumination of depressed people is quite an emotional activity rather than logical or solutions-focussed. Also, the increased activity in amygdala mean that those emotions tend to be negative. Finally, activity in certain parts of the prefrontal cortex means that decisions around problems are difficult to reach.

How To Stop rumination

The regions of the brain need to be exercised to maintain their effectiveness.

To engage the prefrontal cortex in a positive way, we need to practice decision-making, which of course is quite difficult in depression because rumination gets in the way.

“What’s the right thing to do? I can’t even think straight let alone make decisions”.

Depending on the subject of your rumination, make a decision to find out if what you’re thinking is actually true or not. We have already looked at ways of finding evidence that the negative thoughts you have about yourself are true. No evidence? Then you’re thoughts are just lies that somehow you’ve come to believe are the truth.

Ruminating is a dangerous downward spiral into depression. It can keep you depressed.

Start to notice when you fall into rumination so that you can steps to avoid it in the future.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/composition-1837242_1920.jpg changing your thinking

Make a note of when you notice yourself ruminating.

Rumination Diary

Set two or three pages aside in your note book for your rumination diary.

Set the alarm on your clock or your mobile phone for 30 or 45 minute intervals through the day.

Each time the alarm goes off, open your journal and make a note of what you were doing for the previous 30 minutes and what you were thinking about at the time the alarm went off.

Were you ruminating? What were you ruminating about? What were you doing while you were ruminating?

What could you do to avoid the rumination?

You might write something like:

10.30am         Ruminating about that situation at work last week. What was I doing when I was ruminating – trying to file some old documents. Felt bored and couldn’t concentrate. Next time I need to file documents I’ll put my earphones on and listen to some dance music. That should stop me ruminating and probably get the filing done much faster!

Or:

3pm Ruminating about that back ache I’ve recently developed. What was I doing when I was ruminating? Waiting to see the doctor. Feeling a bit worried about it. What if I need an operation? Next time I’m at the doctor’s I’ll take a really good book or interesting magazine.

Rumination often happens when we are not actively engaged. It can happen when we are watching TV if the program is not engaging enough, or something that happens on TV triggers ruminative thoughts. It can happen when we hear a sad song or waiting at a red traffic light or sitting in the train or bus. 

Noticing when you are beginning to ruminate gives you the opportunity to do something to distract yourself which will calm you if you are feeling agitated or emotionally upset. Even just taking a few deep breaths will help cut the rumination in that moment. 

Of course, the best way to deal with rumination once and for all is to find solutions to the problems you are ruminating about. This may mean learning to think differently about situations, more effective coping strategies for when you are faced with a problem or challenge and learning how to make decisions that will start to solve some of the issues that are causing your rumination.

But that might be for another blog post!

 

Aug 27

How To Start Imagining A Future Without Depression

By Vickie | Uncategorised

“Vickie”, I hear you say, “I want to get rid of depression because that will make my life better.  Being depressed is a painful, horrible, bleak way to live. Of course I want to be well”.

OK, good. Where should we start? Do you know where to start?

The desire to be well might be there, but it is defeated constantly by negative thoughts that are telling you ‘it’s too hard, too much of a struggle, too confusing’. It may also be defeated by the physical symptoms of depression, drowsiness, lethargy, the lack of the physical energy to get up and get this done.

Believe me, I understand.

I was where you are now. Exhausted, filled with fear and hopelessness, unable to know which direction to turn in or what actions to take.

I slept so badly, lying awake in the wee small hours tossing and turning, never able to switch my mind off.

I finally fell asleep, just before I needed to be up and getting ready for work. Feeling groggy and fatigued. Just putting one foot in front of the other to get myself there.

Weekends were spent alone, in my messy house, weepy and frustrated. The only good thing in my life was my dog, who forced me out of the house and down to the park and was by my side as I wept and trudged through another day.

They were horrible, horrible years and you have my every sympathy if this is your experience right now.

I understand. I really do.

The answer is…and this is the first step on the road to living without depression, is that you need concrete motivation to defeat depression because this is a very hard journey.

Who would you be without depression? What would you do? What would you have in your life without depression?

Answering these questions will give you a framework around which to free yourself from depression.

You need to know what that depression-free life will do for you. You need to know why living without depression will make you feel better. I know that sounds strange, but please bear with me.

Stating your reasons for letting go of your depression in more concrete terms is more likely to provide you with the motivation to follow through.

Let me give you an example from teaching English to international students.

I always do goal setting with my students at the beginning of the course. I ask them what their goals are and they usually reply, ‘to pass the course’ or ‘to get an A grade’.

But of course they want to pass! That’s a given.

Just like you want to live without depression. That’s a given.

What we need are more concrete reasons. I ask my students to dig deeper and come up with more detailed reasons.

‘I want to learn English so that I can pass this course and have the confidence to hold conversations with local students once I reach university’.

Much more solid and clear, don’t you think? Having the confidence to hold conversations with local students once at university is a much stronger and more tangible goal that is easier to commit to.

Why is it easier to commit to?

Because it is centred on the reward that the student will receive when they pass the course. They are not aiming at passing because they want to pass, they are aiming to pass for the skills and experiences that passing will give them in the future.

This is a goal they can emotionally, as well as rationally or logically, connect to.

Reaching this goal is up to them.

There is no ‘speak better English now’ pill they can take. It just takes effort. As their teacher, it is my job to guide them to find the knowledge they need to reach that goal. It’s all within them. It’s up to them to access the ability I know they have, motivated and energised by the future they envisage for themselves. 

I read once a quote which says something like, ‘Depression is the lack of imagining the future’. Remind me if you know the quote! Not being able to imagine that life could be anything other than the misery you are currently experiencing will keep you in depression. 

So how to start imagining a different future? 

1/ Start being more open-minded in general. Be aware when you are applying ‘black and white thinking’ to any situation. Do you find yourself saying, ‘I’ll never…’ Or ‘She always…’ Or ‘They hate me…’ Or ‘Nothing ever goes right for me’.

Try exploring the reasons why the situation happened. There could be any number of reasons why your friend didn’t call you back or that person was rude to you at work. Are you sure missing the bus means you are a total loser? Are you quite certain that failing one assignment means your entire life is ruined?

Be aware when you are thinking like this and try to find other explanations. The point is to open your mind to the possibility of other reasons/outcomes/alternatives. 

2/ Start finding good things about yourself. Yes, there are many. We’re not looking for deep-and-meaningful things about your innermost soul. Keep it light. 

I reckon I’ve got pretty good feet! Nicely shaped toes, good strong feet that get me where I need to be every day.

How about you? What parts of yourself can you really appreciate, truthfully and authentically? Good elbows? Excellent knees? Fabulous shoulders? 

Then think about yourself as a person. 

Are you helpful, kind, generous, friendly? Find the evidence. You helped a friend out with something? That was kind. You gave some money to a charity or a busker? That was generous. You phoned your Gran when she was in hospital? That was a loving gesture. 

Try to be kinder to yourself and recognise your good qualities. 

The point of these exercises is to try to change some of the negative, depressive thinking patterns and to open the possibility of change. When we are depressed, we feel that nothing can help us. There’s no way out. We’re stuck being depressed for the rest of our lives. Life is horrible, we are horrible, it’s hopeless. 

Changing your thinking and being more open-minded and curious about what happens during your day and how you react to those events, situations and conversations will help train your brain to accept the possibility of there being more than one explanation. This will lead you to the realisation that there may also be more than one kind of future. Starting to believe that depression is not all there is for you in your future, will help you start to dream, to imagine something different, something more hopeful than you can right now. 

It is possible to shift out of negative thinking patterns and create new, positive and self-affirming ones. 

From there, You can start to develop a firmer picture of what your future could be like without depression. 

 

 

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Jul 17

The 5 Cruelest Myths About Depression

By Vickie | Resilience , Uncategorised

  1. “It’s an illness”

“I’m so frustrated that people don’t understand how I feel. I’m always trying to defend that I have a real illness”.

  1. “It’s chemical and you need medications”

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/horizontal-2071305_1920.jpg myths about depression“…antidepressants are designed to sort the chemical imbalance which is usually the cause of depression and anxiety. But the doctor can’t measure which chemical is out of balance so it can be a bit tricky getting the medication right.”

“Every so often my brain chemistry just goes wrong and I need a chemical “tune-up” so I can remember how it feels to be happy”.

  1. It’s genetic

“My psychiatrist told me that I have a ‘genetic propensity’ mental illness. On of my uncles, one grandmother, and one great grandfather with schizophrenia. Both my parents have undiagnosed anxiety disorders. Both of my siblings are hypochondriacs.”

“I think it’s hereditary”.

“Who’s had the Genesight test?”

  1. …and therefore…it’s you, your character or personality style

“I was born this way”

  1. It descends from nowhere and there’s nothing you can do about it

“I’m having a bad day, a down day. I’ve had a few good days this week but I am frustrated, because I don’t know how get rid of the bad feelings when they come”.

“I’m feeling ok and then suddenly I’m not. I can only hope to survive until the better days come”.

Why are these myths about depression so cruel?

Can you identify with any of those ideas?

Do you think that you were born depressed because of your genes or that somehow your brain chemistry has got out of balance and that’s why you’re depressed? Do you think that you have good days and bad days and there’s nothing you can do but manage the ‘symptoms’ of your ‘illness’?

We get these ideas from doctors, things we read and from other people.

When we are depressed, it’s very hard to know what to believe.

That was my experience anyway.

I felt dreadful, but not exactly sick.

I hated that I had no motivation or energy, but I knew I wasn’t a lazy person. I wondered if my family history had something to do with it, but many in my family were productive and happy. I wondered if it was my personality or emotions, but that didn’t seem quite right either.

If the doctor tells you you’re sick and you need medication, you feel like you’ve got an explanation for

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/labelled.jpg myths about depression

You don’t have to accept your diagnostic label…

your experience and finally you’re taking action. But in diagnosing you with an illness and giving you a prescription, it’s possible that the doctor may also have given you a label which limits you and taken away all hope for ever living without depression.

And that’s why these ideas are so cruel.

It is undeniable that depression is a real experience and a very, very unpleasant one at that. Depression affects the way we think about ourselves, our lives and our futures. It can disrupt our sleep and our appetite. It sucks the joy out of life. It sucked the joy out of mine for over two decades.

But it’s not like diabetes. Or cancer. Or Alzheimer’s Disease.

Diabetics take insulin because their pancreases have stopped producing it. People with underactive thyroids take artificial thyroxine because their glands have stopped producing it.

There has been a malfunction in a bodily system which prevents it from working as it should.

Like diabetics, so the idea goes, people with depression need to take medication to keep their brain chemicals ‘topped up’ and ‘in balance’ because they cannot produce these chemicals themselves.

This is a myth.

All brain cells (neurons) produce neurotransmitters when they are in an active or excitable state.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/error-102075_1920.jpg myths about depression It’s completely unproven that a lack of neurotransmitters causes depression. This was a very clever theory which suited all sorts of agendas but has now been discarded by most in the psychiatric profession.

There is evidence that some regions of the brains of depressed people are less active than in the brains of non-depressed people but this is correlated with the experience of depression; there is no known malfunctioning of the brain which causes depression.

Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, a tragically common brain disease in older people. Although the explicit cause of Alzheimer’s is not known, there are observable, irreversible changes in the brain structure which rob the person incrementally of their ability to remember, speak, walk and even swallow as different regions of the brain atrophy and die.

Unlike Alzheimer’s, depression has no observable brain malfunctions. On the contrary, the brain on depression is working quite normally, if not helpfully!

How about genetics? Haven’t scientists discovered something about making people susceptible to depression?

“We don’t yet know how many genes are involved in depression, but it is very doubtful that any one gene causes depression in any large number of people…no one simply “inherits” depression from their mother or father.  Each person inherits a unique combination of genes from their mother and father, and certain combinations can predispose to a particular illness”.[1]

But we simply don’t know. Yet.

The greatest tragedy of the idea that depression is a sickness which needs medical treatment is that it leaves you with no hope, especially if you are told that you are sick for life.

Along with the ‘relief’ that you might feel getting medical care for you depression, you might also be getting a side-effect of hopelessness and helplessness.

This is the cruellest effect of these ideas.

Holding these kinds of beliefs about depression holds you back from the possibility of ever living without depression. How?

Here are three ways:

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/photo-1749325_1920.jpg myths about depression

Are your ideas about depression keeping you chained up?

  1. These ideas are disempowering
  • The doctor or other health care provider becomes the expert in your experience of depression
  • You need to follow their instructions
  • All you can hope for is that some days are better than others; you’re at the mercy of ‘the depression’.
  1. The underlying reasons for the depression are never investigated
  • Nothing changes in your life; only the surface effects of the depression are being considered
  • You may get referred for counselling, but this is still serves to keep you stuck, because while it may teach you new ways to respond, it still doesn’t get to the origin of the depression
  • You may only believe in depression as a bunch of ‘symptoms’, rather than looking for a deeper cause, often stress and trauma
  1. Pills are problems
  • Taking antidepressants can be unhelpful in many ways; with horrendous side effects, numbing of emotions, withdrawal problems, ceasing to be effective, never being effective in the first place
  • The long-term effects of taking psychiatric medication are not known but there is some evidence they may keep the depression going
  • They keep you in a holding pattern, without the opportunity for investigating any other ways of relieving the misery of depression

These ideas keep you stuck in depression and that’s just cruel when there is ample evidence that there are actions you can take to move yourself from the pit of despair to a joyful life.

You see, that’s all they are, just ideas. Not universal truths set in stone for all time.

Moods: why you can have better days and worse days with depression

“Depression comes over me in distinct waves, which last from a couple of days to a few weeks.”

“Whenever I feel better, I start counting down to the next time the depression comes to pay a visit.”

“The last few days I’ve actually been feeling better. I’m really hoping that the depression is going away.”

When the depression ‘feels worse’, what’s really going on is that we feel worse.

We feel a drop in our mood that seems to come from nowhere.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/person-409127_1920.jpg myths about depression

An incident, a conversation, a thought…our moods change with our experiences.

If we believe we are sick, we will believe that our changing mood is because the depression is ‘doing that to us’.

We seem to have no control over why we feel worse some days and slightly better on others. On days we feel bad, we hope for a brighter tomorrow. We tell ourselves to ‘keep fighting, keep struggling on. Don’t let the depression win’.

Here are two final cruel ideas.

  1. Depression comes and goes without warning

In fact, our moods are controlled by our thoughts.

Even when we wake up the morning feeling ‘blue’ (and I have many times), and there doesn’t seem to be any reason, something will have triggered it.

Could it be because the thought of what the day might bring fills you with dread?

Sometimes our mood drops in the evening when it’s getting close to bedtime. Why is this? Are you ruminating on your worries? Concerned that you didn’t achieve enough during the day? Worried that tomorrow will be more of the same/

Sometimes our mood drops for ‘no apparent reason’ during the day.

But if you look closely, you will always find a reason. And because there is a reason, there is an opportunity to change your mood.

  1. We have to fight, struggle, be a warrior in the battle against the enemy, depression

Constantly pushing away your bad mood just makes you feel worse because it’s really hard to force yourself to feel something different through sheer will power.

This is why most depressed people hate the idea of ‘just thinking happy thoughts’. It’s impossible to think yourself into happiness.

So why try to think yourself out of a low mood? Why fight the mood?

Accept your mood. This doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it or you’re giving up.

This means you’re observing it like a scientist, wondering, asking questions, trying something new. Take some small action, like making a cup of tea. This will calm you if you are having an emotional reaction because it is distracting. Then sit down and take a moment to relax and gently think through what may have happened to cause your mood change.

Track your mood changes through the day.

Ask what might have caused that mood change. Did you have a certain thought? An emotional reaction to something that happened? What external and internal triggers can you identify that might have brought on the change in mood? A conversation or comment? Something you saw or heard? A person or incident?

Tracking your moods will show you that depression does not come and go without apparent cause or reason. Knowing why our moods change will help us take action in the moment and help us to be aware when such mood changes may be likely.

Refusing to believe the five cruelest ideas about depression – that we are ill due to a chemical imbalance, or that it’s our personality, genes or destiny – is crucial for depression recovery.

 

 

[1] http://depressiongenetics.stanford.edu/mddandgenes.html

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http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Stress-post-.jpg Stress and depression
Jul 16

What The 5 Most Common Sources of Stress Really Mean About Your Life

By Vickie | Purpose , Uncategorised

When you think about it, stress doesn’t really exist.

Stress only exists if we make it so.

What do I mean by that?

Well, things happen to us – events, relationships, conversations – and that’s what makes up life. Some things that we experience bring us happiness, others make us sad, angry, bored and so on.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/faces-2092070_1280.jpg sources of stressHow an event, say, a person’s wedding, makes us feel depends on our past experiences. If we have experienced that person as a close, supportive friend that we love dearly, attending the wedding is likely to fill us with joy for our friend’s happiness.

If the person is a distant relative of our partner, whom he or she doesn’t really know very well, the wedding might be a fun occasion and we feel happy for the couple, but it’s not going to fill us with the same degree of joy.

Yet another guest might find the wedding incredibly stressful if it brings up memories of her own beautiful wedding day, yet the marriage ended in bitter divorce.

How we respond to life’s challenges depends on the way we think about the world and ourselves, and our practical skills and resources.

When a company closes down and there is widespread job loss, each person will react differently.

Some may become bitter, angry and unable to move on, their stress is overwhelming, while others accept the situation, go home, start work on their resumes and begin the job hunt, knowing that they will find another job and that that new job might just be better than the one they lost.

Events that cause us stress are known as stressors and how we respond to those events are what makes them stressors (or not).  Our response to the everyday challenges that life throws our way determines our level of tension and pressure and our overall well-being. How we respond depends on a number of factors, including our emotional style and practical skills but most importantly, our awareness of our stress.

Stress is about loss.

Loss of a great love, loss of a job, loss of health, loss of a loved one, loss of money, loss of a deeply held dream.

What losses have caused you stress over the years?

Top 5 Common Stressors

We all need some stress to get us moving through our day. A little stress, such as completing a goal or meeting a deadline can actually be quite helpful. A small amount of stress helps us to be alert, energetic and productive. A complete lack of stress results in low motivation and a desire to do anything at all, which in itself, oddly, can also be very stressful! 

While experiences that trigger stress responses vary from person to person, there are some life events that are shared sources of stress for most of us. To make the necessary lifestyle changes that this reduce our stress levels, we first need to know where our stress comes from.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/people-1316292_1920.jpg sources of stress

What is stressing you out right now?

  1. Loss of Family Harmony / Loss of Work-Life Balance

Having children and building a family can be a joyful and rewarding experience but sometimes demands placed by spouses, children, aging parents and siblings can be draining. Add a demanding job to the mix and juggling a peaceful home life, maintaining the household and finances and still finding time to relax and enjoy the family can be tricky.

  1. Loss of Work Satisfaction / Loss of Expectations Around Money

Money worries are a source of great stress to many people. Not having enough income to pay monthly bills, finding it hard to pay off loans, educational and health expenses, let alone building a nest egg for retirement or a rainy day, is a constant source of stress and anxiety.

Demands for Workplace demands are placed on all employees, and expectations must be met. Jobs can become stressful when a person feels unable to meet these demands, is overworked or even becomes bored with the job. Fears of being fired often prevent workers from speaking up or requesting changes that would decrease their stress levels.

  1. Loss of Relationships and Loss of Loved Ones

Divorce is known to be one of the most stressful life events you can experience. If acrimonious, it can be bitter, unpleasant and severely stressful as decisions about jointly owned property, finances and childcare are debated. Divorce is a loss of a future imagined during the development of the relationship and into the marriage. It’s a deep loss and incredibly stressful.

Loss of loved ones and a long and happy future also occurs when that loved one dies. Grief over a spouse, or a child, or a dear friend can be very stressful. The loss of a beloved parent is also very stressful, even if it is expected. If it comes after a long illness, such as Alzheimer’s, it is equally stressful because it means not only the loss of that person, but also a change in how you fill your day. You may be relieved that the loved parent is no longer suffering and that you now have time to spend on your own health, but not having the usual tasks involved in care giving can also feel like a kind of loss; a loss of contribution, of a worthy and loving task.

  1. Loss of Purpose/Dream/Self

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/face-66317_1920.jpg sources of stress

Do you feel you’ve lost your real self?

Being extremely busy, having lots of responsibilities and a hectic schedule can be very stressful because there is not enough time to relax and recharge.

The opposite extreme – not having enough activity in your week – can also be stressful. Lack of purpose, goals, work, involvement and achievement is also stressful. Having no reason to get up in the morning and nothing much to fill the day leads to feelings of unworthiness and low self-esteem.

Disappointment in a job or a course of study may cause us to give up and do any old work that comes our way, no matter how purposeless it seems to us. We give up on what makes us truly happy, lose sight of our true selves and forget that we are important members of our family and community.

  1. Loss of Physical Health

Loss of physical ability through illness, pain or injury can be frightening and stressful. Chronic pain, is a daily burden, limiting enjoyment of life. A diagnosis, either expected or unexpected, can cause a great deal of stress. Suddenly having to cope with cancer or diabetes or heart disease in your life causes stress because it requires a lifestyle change and/or treatments which might be a stressful as the disease itself. Injuries can impact normal daily activities and even after they’ve healed, there can be ongoing aches and other challenges which only serve to remind the person that they have never quite recovered.

My Story: Loss of Certainty

For much of my life, my own stress has been around loss of certainty.

As a young person, I could see friends all round me starting into their lives, careers and relationships with confidence and certainty. At least that’s how it looked to me.

For me, however, I seemed to be dogged by uncertainty.

Not knowing what career path to take, not knowing how to create a life for myself out of a dream occupation, not being able to maintain romantic relationships, not being able to look after my financial future…

Uncertainty, self-doubt and fear characterised the first 15 years of my working life. I constantly compared myself to others.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/sad-623848_1920.jpg sources of stressYet I wanted for nothing. I had a supportive family, a good education behind me, an inner resourcefulness that had kept me going. But despite my advantages, I got myself into financial debt, lived in a draughty cold house, my car was a second-hand wreck and I just  couldn’t pull myself together to create a life I could actually be proud of.

I felt like a loser. I felt like I let everyone down. I spent years talking down to myself, calling myself bad names and hating myself.

Stress and depression were my friends for a very long time.

Loss of A Dream

When I was a teenager I read a book by Jane Goodall recounting her experiences with chimpanzees in Africa. I was fascinated by her story and her research with the communities of chimps she got to know and love. I began thinking about anthropology as a possible university course, but with my great love of the past, I enrolled in archaeology instead.

I loved it. My mind was constantly somewhere 5000 BC around the warm Mediterranean, and when I finally joined a research team from the University of Melbourne excavating by the Euphrates River in North Syria, I knew I had found my bliss.

It was an extraordinary experience; those five seasons of excavation. I worked as a temporary receptionist for the remainder of the year and then spent summers working on the dig. I was invited to research the baked clay human and animal figurines we found for my doctorate. I wasn’t sure that I wanted a career in academia, but I loved archaeology so I embarked on five stressful and rewarding years, working in admin jobs throughout that time.

At the end of those five years, I was exhausted, in debt and still facing uncertainty. I simply didn’t know how to go about establishing myself as an archaeologist and there was no mentorship or support from my university and so I just…gave it all away.

I gave away my dream.

For years I regretted it.

For years that decision caused me the greatest depression I had yet known.

I retrained as a para-legal, doing immigration work for migrants and refugees and it was rewarding reuniting families torn apart by war, but it wasn’t archaeology.

I lost my job twice.

I was desperately and profoundly unhappy.

I set up a business, not a particularly wise move when experiencing overwhelming financial stress and personal unhappiness.

I thought in my befuddled way that if only I could make some money on my own terms that the world would leave me alone. I was isolating, sleep deprived, my house was in a chaotic condition and there was days I stopped showering or changing my clothes. I hurt myself.

Yet the thought of a lifestyle where I was free to do my own thing was appealing.  

Working independently suited me but I had no business experience. I made stupid financial decisions. My clients frightened me. I couldn’t focus on the work.  I plunged into the deepest despair I had yet experienced.

The Solution: Dreaming Again

Oddly enough, the beginning of my journey towards regaining control over my life came with another loss, the death of my beloved dog.

When Franny succumbed to the lung cancer, I ceased to care about anything. I finished up my legal matters and closed the business. I cleared my stuff into storage and went back to my parent’s house. I went to bed and didn’t get up for a fortnight.

And then something happened.

I began to think.

I began to wonder.

And an idea formed.

I had to keep going. I had to get up and start again. I had done it before. I just had to pick myself up,

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/face-372101_1920.jpg sources of stress

I began to dream again…

dust myself off and start again. As I had so many times before.

Life had to go on. And I wanted to live.

I got a longer-term temporary job as a receptionist on a rather quiet switchboard in a room off the main reception area. I was left alone most of the time and had plenty of time to think.

For the first time in many years, I let myself dream.

I made lists. What kind of job did I want? What was I good at? Where did I want to work? Who did I want to work with? I did a lot of internet research. I weighed up the pros and cons. I gathered information, analysed it and made decisions based solely on what would make me happy.

Not comparing my decision with anyone else’s decision, not judging myself for the ‘mistakes’ of the past, but instead acting with certainty and confidence.

My main source of stress and depression was loss of connection with what gave me joy.

My way back to a joyful, rewarding life was reconnection with value-driven living.

Reflection:

How do you know when you are under stress?

What physical changes do you notice in your body? Do you notice more headaches or colds? Do you find it harder to concentrate, worry more, find good habits (like getting enough sleep and exercise) starting to slip?

How about emotional changes: what emotional changes or mood shifts do you notice? Crying or yelling? Feeling upset or irritated more often? Things frustrating you that wouldn’t normally?

 Can you identify the cause of your stress? Did something specific happen, or is there an ongoing situation in your life which is causing tension and stress?  Keeping a record of when you feel stress will let you look back and help identify any patterns. What are your most typical stressors? Is stress a continuous part of your family life or work? Or is it connected to particular events or circumstances? 

What do you do to cope with stress? What are your usual ways of dealing with stress? Punching your pillow or hitting a pub? Going for a run or running away?

How you cope with stress is crucial to whether it continually buffets you around or you are able to build resilience to it. Because one thing’s for sure, life is always going to throw stressful challenges your way.

So how exactly has stress got to do with depression? Pretty much everything.

Click here to find out more…

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