Christmas depression
Jan 03

Feeling Deflated: Christmas In Depression

By Vickie | Uncategorised

Christmas is over, we’ve waved goodbye to 2016 and 2017 is upon us.

How are you feeling?

I was walking the dog just before Christmas and I came across two houses, each with an inflatable Santa Clause by the front door. Christmas depression

Ho, Ho, Ho and a Merry Christmas!

The first stood tall and impressive; he was big and round and jolly in his red suit and enormous beard. He carried a bright green sack and waved joyfully at passers-by.

The second was a deflated pile of plastic by the front door. Christmas depression

Oh, Oh, Oh what a heavy Christmas…

It was such a contrast, I couldn’t help having a chuckle!

The end of the year is a busy time. We frantically try to get those projects completed, stock up on festive goodies, last-minute Christmas shopping and holiday planning. If you’re in Australia, it’s the end of the academic year as well, with children and teenagers pouring out of school and into the shops, cinemas, restaurants and onto the playgrounds and beaches. It’s a fun, energetic and exciting time of year.

But if you’re depressed, it can be miserable.

You may be finding it hard to get the energy to go to all the social occasions of the Silly Season and be longing for the invitations (and expectations of your presence) to stop. Or you may be wondering why you never seem to get invited to anything…

You may find it hard facing your family on Christmas Day because you have this illness which sucks all the fun out of life. It’s hard to keep that ‘happy face’ in place when you’d rather just sneak away somewhere and hide.

You may find it even harder facing your family if they have little understanding of your feelings and just want you to ‘snap out of it’ and ‘don’t bring the mood down’.

Are you a deflated Santa this Christmas?

I remember Christmasses when I felt really miserable and couldn’t see that changing…ever…

I always gave meaningless gifts I picked up last minute because I could never make decisions about what to buy for people. I wanted to give nice things, useful and pretty things, but ended up with cheap hand lotion or a box of chocolates. Nobody ever, ever said anything, but I was always ashamed. I had little money and absolutely no energy to make anything.

I used to weep on and off throughout the day and found myself hiding my tears in the bathroom behind face powder and eye drops. Christmas depression

Do you find yourself weeping for no particular reason?

I cried often when depressed and usually there was no reason (hey, when you’ve experienced low mood for years do you need a reason?) but on Christmas Day I’d think irrational thoughts like ‘What if all my family died and I had to have Christmas Day on my own?’ or ‘What if this is the last Christmas with Mum?’

Then I’d weep with shame at having such a lovely supportive family that I never saw. I never had the energy to catch up with them during the year. I became angry at myself for not keeping in contact.

I’d cry in church at the fact that Jesus was born in a stable. I’d cry because millions of other people around the world have no homes either. I’d cry because I didn’t think I deserved all the goodness that was in my life.

I’d cry for young me, when the emotional dysregulation hadn’t surfaced. The young me who looked forward with happy anticipation to the bulging stocking at the end of my bed, carols and the Christmas Story, the parcels under the tree, the silly jokes in the crackers, Mum’s wonderful roast turkey with all the trimmings, playing games with my brother and cousins.

What happened to all those happy feelings?

Yes, Christmas with low mood was a weepy, deflating time for me.

You see, it doesn’t matter about what you have…low mood isn’t about not having family, food or gifts around Christmas. I had all those things in abundance and yet I felt unworthy, guilty, ashamed and pathetic.

And then I’d feel unworthy, guilty, ashamed and pathetic about feeling unworthy, guilty, ashamed and pathetic!

The thing about emotional dysregulation is that it hijacks your sense of reason, logic and sound judgement.

These are functions of the prefrontal cortex, that ‘thinking’ part of the brain which is typically less active in depression.

Instead, our emotional circuits – thalamus, amygdala and hippocampus (among others) – work overtime to exaggerate our feelings and disable our ability to think clearly.

Hence my Christmas bouts of weepiness over situations which were entirely improbable and entirely of my own imagination.  Hence my focus on the troubles of the world and my lack of ability to do anything about it.

If this was you during Christmas just gone, you’ll be feeling a bit deflated too.

A new year brings new opportunities. A new year can fill you with hope, that maybe next Christmas you’ll be able to stand above your depression and fill your sack with great gifts and greet your family joyfully. Christmas depression

For now, if you’re feeling frazzled and deflated, give yourself a break.

What gifts can you give yourself to make yourself feel a little better?

Here are some of my favourite instant mood-lifters:

  • A cup of tea or coffee in the morning sunshine. Relax and notice what’s around you. Can you hear birds, cars, people talking? What does the air feel like? Is there a slight breeze? What can you smell? Just notice what’s around you and how your body reacts.
  • A walk in dog park. Watching dogs happily run about – chasing balls, playing, rolling in the grass – never fails to make me smile.
  • A bath or shower. Use some delicious-smelling soap or body lotion to pamper yourself.
  • Put on some classical music (slow but not mournful) and do some stretches. Follow this with some upbeat music and dance about the living room for a while.
  • Grab a favourite book and go to a nearby café. Greet the staff with a friendly smile and ‘Happy New Year!’ and order your favourite coffee. Even better, leave the book and take a friend!

Listen, your past is not your future. Yes, not very original but still very true. Last Christmas might have been a nightmare, next Christmas need not be.

This year, take baby steps to lift your mood.

Make 2017 your year for moving away from feeling deflated, hopeless and exhausted to resilient, optimistic and energetic.

If you’re not sure where to start, I can help.

Let’s do this thing. You deserve it. Life is precious.

Let’s make 2017 your depression-free year!


Jan 01

Will the Mediterranean Diet Treat Depression?

By Vickie | Mediterranean Diet , Uncategorised

Ahh, the Mediterranean! Have you ever been there? Do you long to visit its sunny shores, to swim in its warm water, visit its ancient places or try its delicious and varied cuisines?

Do you see this when you look out of your window?

The beautiful Greek island of Santorini…essential Mediterranean!

No? Well, not to worry. You can still enjoy the wonderful cuisine of this part of the world no matter where you live!

It was after the Second World War, when life was pretty tough for southern Mediterranean countries, that an interesting phenomenon was discovered. People living in this region, particularly Greece, Crete and Southern Italy, appeared to be enjoying longer and healthier lives than those in affluent North America.

What could account for this? Greece, Crete and Italy had been ravaged by war, homes and farms destroyed, shops were empty and medical treatments rare.

People had to ‘’make do’’ to get by. There were no processed foods (except perhaps some home-cured meats); everything that was consumed had to be grown by themselves, arduous and back-breaking work.

And here we have a clue.

The Mediterranean Diet is based on the basic, home-cooking of people who found themselves in poverty after the War, based on the fruits of their labours on their own land, without the (dubious) convenience of ready-made meals with all their accompanying fat, sugar and salt contents. They were an active people who ate simple but delicious meals – and their health thanked them for it.

The word diet today has come to be so closely connected with weight loss that we have lost our understanding of its true meaning. The word ‘diet’ really refers to the food choices we make.  Nowadays, when people think of ‘diets’ they automatically think of strict eating regimes to help them lose (or sometimes gain) body mass.

On the contrary, the Mediterranean Diet is making choices about what to eat in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It includes cooking methods as well as the foods found around the Mediterranean Sea; Greece, Spain, southern France and Italy, North African countries such as Morocco and Egypt as well as Lebanon and coastal Turkey. Though there are regional differences and traditions, olive oil is the one main ingredient which connects them all.  

The Mediterranean Diet is beneficial in so many ways. It is high in fruits, vegetables and legumes, fish, nuts and olive oil, and low in fat. Eating this way can assist in heart and brain health, lower your cholesterol and risk of disease such as diabetes.

Simple the Mediterranean Diet may be, boring it is not.

With this wonderful diet you can enjoy the fresh flavours of herbs such as basil, oregano and thyme along with the sensational spices of North Africa including cumin, turmeric and cinnamon are an. Garlic, lemon and freshly ground black pepper enhance the natural flavours of vegetables, seafood and staples such as legumes and whole grains. Mediterrean Diet

Enjoy a wide variety of fruit and vegetables with the Mediterranean Diet.

The Mediterranean Diet is particularly good for brain health as it is high in fish, providing protective Omega 3. salmon-Mediterranean Diet

Enjoy salmon for brain health with the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean Diet is not just about what you eat; it’s also about what you do. Take time to move everyday. Go for a jog, a bike ride, play sport or just take the dog for a walk! Living an active lifestyle with a reasonable amount of exercise will bring even more benefits to your health, both mental and physical. Mediterranean Diet

A simple pleasure like going for a walk with the dog is part of the Mediterranean lifestyle.

Don’t forget that part of the reason that the people of the southern Greece and Italy were so healthy was because of their active lifestyle. Include at least 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. You’ll be astounded at how much energy you’ll have!

The Mediterranean Diet is delicious, nutritious and surprisingly easy to incorporate in your daily routine. Mediterranean diet

Beautiful flowers, sunshine, perfume…how could these things not make you happy?

Take time out for yourself…to smell the roses, enjoy some music, read a good book, see a movie, start a new hobby.

As important as it is to spend time alone recharging your batteries, people in traditional cultures are very family and community focused. In fact, human beings are hard-wired to require time in each others’ company. Catch up with friends and loved ones often, especially around meal times.

Spending time with friends and loved ones is important for mental health,

Epicurus, the 3rd century BC philosopher who was born and lived most of his life on the island of Samos, had a number of criteria for a happy life. Three fit nicely into the lifestyle and philosophy of the Mediterranean Diet.

The first is to grow and enjoy your own food (you can do this with a small veggie or herb garden). Second, eat with others and relish their company (invite friends and family to enjoy the fruits of your kitchen). Finally,  live a simple, self-reliant life, as free as possible from the cares of the world.

So you can see that the Mediterranean Diet not really a diet at all. It’s a  simple and mindful way of living that offers a great deal to a depression-free life!

Dec 27

The House of Depression: Are You Worth Renovating?

By Vickie | Uncategorised

Not long ago I was visiting my aunt who lives in an old part of inner Melbourne. There are many beautiful old houses in the streets round about and as I left to walk back to the train station, I took a roundabout way as the weather was fine and walking is a great way to lift my mood.

I headed down a very familiar street and came across a house from the late 1890s and stopped in surprise.

Instead of being overgrown with trees and bushes, the front of the house had been cleared and was now covered with gravel. The whole thing was fenced in. renovating

Do you feel a bit like this? Burned out, neglected, hopeless?

This dilapidated old house had not been occupied for a very long time and the owners had let it go to rack and ruin. It had cracked windows and was absolutely covered in a jungle of a garden.

A few years back the house had caught fire and the roof was badly damaged. Thick wooden posts had been put up against the outer walls, supporting them against collapse. The place was a shell.

As I was staring at the old place, which still had some of the heritage features – a tiled porch with wrought iron columns, tall brick chimneys and long sash windows – a man walked by and stopped with me.

“Wow”, I began. “I remember when it was so overgrown you could barely see the house!”

“The owners have sold…you’ll never guess how much…”

I waited.

“Over 2.8 million dollars”.

“What?” I yelled. “For that?”

“It’s the location, close to town. That’s probably why it sold at such a high price. But the new owners like these old heritage homes. They’re renovating it and there’s lots of space at the back. Lots of opportunities to expand.”

He was right but honestly, the place was a wreck.

I continued my walk, passing many beautiful old buildings, lovingly kept up or restored. I also passed a vacant block of land, unoccupied and empty.

It made me think. renovating

Can you remember a time when you felt your true self?

In the past, someone had loved that old house.

In its heyday it would have been gorgeous. People lived there, a couple or family and made it their family home, loved it and enjoyed it.

Then the children grew up and left and perhaps the wife or husband died. Perhaps the remaining spouse couldn’t cope in a large place on their own and moved into aged care.

The old house fell into disuse. No one felt like renovating it. The garden grew into a jungle. Walls cracked and windows were shattered. Still nobody cared.

Finally, perhaps the remaining spouse died leaving it to the children who didn’t want such an unkempt place. Perhaps the thought of renovating it was too enormous a job. It was sold on to new owners.

Despite the long period of vacancy and the fire damaged roof and the walls at risk of falling out, they had noticed and loved the remaining original architectural features. Renovating it for them would be an act of love. They had seen also opportunity to build something at the back, a beautiful garden perhaps, or a swimming pool.

They saw value in it, despite the lengthy period of time the needed renovations would undoubtedly take, not to mention the costs involved.

I was glad that they had decided to renovate rather than pull it down and put up teeny tiny outrageously expensive apartments in some hideous ‘style’.

I am glad that it will soon be back to its former glory.

What about you?

Chronic low mood, makes us lose sight of ourselves. We forget who we are, what we stand for, our purpose.

We lose interest in what we previously enjoyed and neglect the people we used to love spending time with.

We neglect ourselves, not bothering sometimes even with regular showering or presenting ourselves in a way in which we are worthy.  We neglect our home environment too.

“Who cares?” We think. “Who will see us? Nobody comes here. What does it matter?”

It may not even matter if nobody ever sees the real us again, like the house being strangled by a garden once lovely, now turned to shapeless, impenetrable jungle. renovating

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost sight of yourself? Like you’re lost behind all the negative thoughts and feelings? Like the true, positive you has disappeared somewhere?

What if you could be like those new owners and see that original beauty and worth? The real you is still there, beautiful and neglected and sad.

But still there.

That small child who was once curious and excited about the world. She’s still there. Somewhere.

It may take a bit of work to cut back that stuff that’s got a strangle hold on you – the negative thoughts, the sense of hopelessness, the fatigue, the lack of energy, all the pain that is depression – but maybe it’s time to do that.

Maybe it’s time to take a brave step forward, to show yourself to the world once again.

Are you worth renovating?

The new owners of that poor, abandoned, ruined house not only see its former beauty but also its future potential.

Can you still see the potential in you or has the depression told you so many lies that you just don’t think there’s anything of value left in you?

Have you lost sight of any kind of different future, or do you believe that the only future is one that’s restricted by depression?

How we think about ourselves as depressed people may have an important role in how we think about getting well.

If you don’t believe it’s possible to improve your mood and have a better experience of life, then it’s unlikely that you will set out to look for a solution, even if you say you want to.

Believing you can live free of depression is a crucial first step on your journey to creating a more joyful future.

Do you have the energy and resources to do a major renovation job on yourself?

With the right knowledge, tools and support you can be you again. You are not your depression.

You are worthy and you are valuable. Be confident and show the real you. renovating

Find You Again!

My new course, ‘Make Your Mind UP: Decide To Be Depression Free!’ where you’ll learn how to develop the motivation and resilience to know, 100%, that you’re the hottest property in your street!

Meanwhile, if you found this post interesting, would you consider sharing it? Thanks!

Save train
Dec 22

Are You On The Right Train?

By Vickie | Uncategorised

I did the silliest thing the other day. I really thought I was on the right train…

I was looking after a friend’s dog on the other side of my city. Now this friend and I, we were almost neighbours at one time. I lived in this area for about seven years, so I should know my way around!

Anyway, this particular day I went into the city by train and after finishing my errands, jumped on a train back to my friend’s place again.

We came through the underground tunnel and approached a station I didn’t recognise. South Kensington. Where’s south Kensington?

“We didn’t come through this station before!” I thought. “I must be on the wrong train!”

I leapt up and jumped onto the station platform.

What was I thinking? How could I have caught the wrong train? I’ve been catching public transport all my life and as I mentioned, I wasn’t unfamiliar with the area.

Oh well.  I guess I just jumped on the wrong train without thinking. confused train

How did that happen? Ever had those moments?

I crossed to the other platform, mildly annoyed with myself as I wanted to get back to walk the dog before he got too anxious. I hate wasting time.

Ten minutes later and I’m on the train heading back into town. I got off at the first station in the underground, because I knew all train lines went through that station and looked for the correct platform.

To my utmost surprise, when I looked at the schedule for the next arriving train, I saw that both my destination station and the station where I had jumped off, South Kensington, were on the same train route!

I was on the right train all along!

I just didn’t recognise the station (where I jumped off), nor stayed on long enough to reach my destination!

At first I was really annoyed with myself. What a waste of time!

It reminded me of my journey from the grip of chronic low mood to living free of those horrible feelings.

There were plenty of times when I thought I was on the wrong track (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Taking three steps forward, two steps back. On the right train, doubting myself, hopping off only to find I was on the right track after all.

If only I’d stayed on until the next station, then I might have realised I was on the right train.

When we’re experiencing overwhelming despair and hopelessness, it’s hard to take action, let alone stick with it long enough to feel the benefits. If you’re not completely sure that what you’re doing is helpful anyway, it’s even harder.

Take exercise for example. You know it’s good for you. It improves everything…well nearly everything. Obesity, diabetes, stress, and yes, depression.

But it’s so hard to get going when you’re low in mood. The despair sucks up all your energy and the last thing you want to do is head to the gym.

But often the thing we don’t want to do is the thing we really need to do. 

So we make a promise to go for a walk every day. We head out, maybe to the park. Slowly, you find your mood lifting. You notice the trees and plants around you. Perhaps the sun is out. Maybe it is windy. You hear the birds singing in the trees. You say a brief ‘hi’ to people you pass and after half an hour or so you head home, feeling slightly better.

The next you’re busy so you don’t go.

The following day you find 20 minutes for a quick stroll but you miss the next one because it’s wet.

You think you’re doing exercise, but really, you haven’t done enough to make more serotonin to lift your mood and you haven’t had a good dollop of dopamine either, because you haven’t stuck with your plan of exercising every day so there’s no real feeling of accomplishment.

You give up. train frustrated

You give up.

“Exercise doesn’t work” you mumble to yourself. 

But you didn’t stay on the train long enough to reach your destination.

Exercise does work but you need to sustain it for long enough to reap the full benefits.

Sometimes you need someone to show you the way.

Immediately after my dog died I raced off and joined a gym.

I must have been on auto-pilot. I think my grief gave me a kind of energy. After the workout I went home and fell in a sobbing mess but the point is, I went to the gym and I got a personal trainer.

I didn’t know how to get fit again. I felt weak and out-of-shape. He explained how to do warm up exercises and then went through 30 minutes of training with me, suggested I spend a bit more time after that on the bike or treadmill and then showed me how to do stretching to cool down.

He was kind and he understood about the depression and loss of my dog. I can’t remember his name but he was very compassionate.

And he got me back on track with fitness which did absolute wonders for my mood. He showed me that I needed to do at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and really get my heart rate up to get the brain responding with serotonin and dopamine.

You have to keep going until you feel the results and you have to get help if you don’t know if you’re heading in the right direction!

Don’t waste time getting on the wrong train.

Most stations have staff who assist passengers make sure they are on the right platform for their train.

South Kensington was a funny little station in the middle of nowhere; just one line in each direction. If there had been staff in the station they could have reassured me I was actually on the right train line and just needed to stay on a bit longer.

I remember years back, traveling in the UK for the first time, I got on the wrong train and had to change at a similar small station only at this one, I had to heave my backpack up and down a tall flight of steps to cross to the other side. I got across but it was hard and there was no one to help me.

So without people who know what they’re doing on-hand to help you, negotiating unfamiliar terrain by yourself may be a recipe for time wasting and unnecessary expenditure of precious energy.

Have you been depressed for years because you just don’t know what to do?

I’m neither a doctor nor a therapist but I am living proof that you don’t need to struggle on with the symptoms of persistent depressive disorder.

I didn’t know what I was doing at the beginning. I tried different supplements, meditation, psychological counselling and while each might have had some small positive effect, none gave me that real surge in energy and optimism that I craved.

It was only when, after many years of trial and error that I put two and two together and built up a weekly strategy that became my lifestyle that I felt my depressive thinking slipping away.

Don’t take the wrong train. Don’t waste time or energy.

Find out how exercise, sunshine, adequate sleep, good nutrition, socialisation and a meaningful life can reduce your depression symptoms and give you back the life you deserve.

If that all sounds like too much, start with my new course, ‘Make Your Mind UP: Decide to be Depression-Free!‘ where you’ll learn how to develop the motivation and resilience to know, 100%, that you’re on your right train.