Category Archives for "Resilience"

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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

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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:

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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.

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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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Apr 30

How To Live Without Depression

By Vickie | Resilience

Walt Disney died in 1966, five years before Disneyworld was opened to the public.  A journalist remarked to Walt’s brother Roy at the opening of Disneyworld, ‘It’s too bad that Walt isn’t here to see this’.  Roy replied, ‘He saw it first.  That’s why you’re seeing it today.’

Do you have a vision of your life without your chronic low mood as clear as Walt Disney’s vision his creation, Disneyworld?

Perhaps that’s a bit of a hard question…

Try these instead…

Can you imagine yourself living without depression? Who you’d be? What you’d do? Can you

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Can you see your future without chronic low mood?

imagine how your life would be without those crushing feelings of despair, disappointment and discontent?

I don’t mean that you’ll be happier and laugh more and have more fun. Not like at Disneyworld…

I mean, can you see, feel and taste, in detail, how your life could be different without the unbearable anguish and misery of a chronically low mood?

Now, if you can’t, I completely understand.

Chronic low mood is just that, chronic. If you’ve been living with chronic low mood for many years it may be very hard to imagine a life without it. You may simply not recall what it was like before the depression. You may not even believe that there was a time before you became depressed. You probably don’t know how to live without depression.

But I have learned that knowing what you want from a joyous, contented, rewarding life is the… Click To Tweet

I can hear you say, ‘But I already know I want to get rid of depression.  I want to be well! I have made that decision! I want to happy! Who wants depression?’

Who indeed wants to live with depression? No one I know.

But it’s the details of that life without depression that will motivate you to make the thinking and lifestyle changes that need to be made. Once you know how to live without depression, everything will fall into place. Perhaps not immediately, but you’ll know you’re on your way.

In sports psychology, visualisation is a powerful method for getting elite athletes in the right frame of mind to win. They picture themselves crossing the finish line first, standing on the podium with the cup in their hands, smiling and waving to the spectators who are cheering them on.

Sportspeople get into the feeling of winning, imagining the scene in the pool or on the athletic track,

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Sports people imagine their win before it’s happened.

crossing the finish line easily or jumping the highest or furthest, kicking the winning goal and holding the trophy in their hands. 

Getting into the feeling of winning spurs athletes on when the going gets tough. It’s as though they’ve already won!

But you don’t need to be an elite athlete to use imagery and visualisation. To start the journey to a brighter future, it will help you to know exactly what that life might look like.

How will you spend your day? What will you wear and how will your house look? Who will you spend your time with? What will you do? What hobbies, sports or interests will you take up? What kind of job will you have? Will you have pets? Will you grow your own veggies? Will you travel? What will your friendships and relationships be like?

Once you have a clear picture of how to live without depression, this vision will give you the impetus and motivation you need to get started.

How To Live Without Depression Step 1:

Gather Your Allies

Recovery from depression is not a journey to take alone.

The first step on the road to how to live without depression, is to gather your allies around you.

Because depression is an isolating condition, asking for help and gathering a support crew around it can be difficult.

Remember the ‘thinking’ symptoms we talked about earlier? They can play havoc with our mind when it comes to relating with other people. Here are the main three excuses that we often think about when we are depressed and considering asking for help:

  1. They’re all too busy…

Maybe you feel you’d be bothering someone if you asked them for help. Their own lives are really busy! Why would they want to help you out?

Don’t make the decision for them. Ask them and you may be pleasantly surprised at how many people react very positively. They may be happy that you want to make changes and be willing to help you out whenever you need.

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How do you know your friends don’t want to help until you ask?

In fact, some of your friends might be delighted with your decision to free yourself from depression’s grasp and be only too happy to support you. 

  1. They all hate me and they don’t care

They probably don’t.

You know, most people we come across in our daily lives are so bound up in their own problems that they just don’t think as much about us as we think they do.

Your close friends and family members probably do care very much about you.

If you feel they don’t, there may be two things happening: they’ve been treating you badly because they’ve got their own negative thought patterns going on.

Or, you’ve been putting meaning into their actions and words that were not intended.

The problem with depression is that it focusses us on ourselves so much that everything in the… Click To Tweet

Your sister’s in a foul mood? Must be your fault.

Your best friend isn’t calling you? Obviously she hates you.

Your father seems grumpy today? Clearly you’ve upset him, again.

No, no, no.

This is depression thinking. You are not necessarily the centre of other people’s worlds!

Your sister has just had an argument with her boyfriend.

Your best friend is having a crisis with her child.

Your father didn’t sleep well last night.

It has nothing to do with you!

Remember how we talked about self-compassion? Having compassion for others is helpful here. Understanding that they have busy lives filled with their own worries, concerns and challenges will help you see that you are not the cause of their not wanting to see you or help you.

Some depressed people feel they have been ‘abandoned’ by people they love. Yes, sure, some family members do get ‘fed up’ with depressed people and shut them out of their life. It’s a way for them to cope. Not a very constructive one, obviously, but they are not the only ones guilty of unconstructive coping mechanisms!

Your friends and loved ones are only human.

They may also just confused about how to help you and may be saying things like, ‘Oh just snap out of it, what have you got to be depressed about?’

Not everyone understands your feelings. If you’ve never experienced chronic low mood you can’t possibly know how serious and intense the effects can be. Other people just don’t understand how hard it is to change, to be more positive and upbeat.

Sadly, many of your friends might have turned their backs on you. And frankly, it is difficult to hang around with negative people. If they are not getting much pleasure out of your company, they may choose not to spend time with you. Try not to judge them. I know this is difficult but try to offer them the same compassion that you are now showing to yourself.

  1. But I just don’t know anyone!

You don’t need a big group of supporters; a couple of friends or even just one, will make all the difference.

Or maybe you can’t even identify a friend. A thoughtful neighbour, or even a kindly work colleague may be happy to help.

Think about your network of social connections. Does your aunt have a best friend who is socially aware and might be willing to give you a hand? Does your work supervisor talk about how her daughter is training to be a life coach and might be happy to coach you for ‘work experience’?

If you can’t find anyone in your social network, is there a minister, or a person who is part of a group you attend or used to attend (such as a volunteer group, environmental action group, musical group) who you could approach? If you are a member of a church or other spiritual organisation, can you ask the minister to put you in touch with someone who might be willing to support you?

If you are in college, is there a student welfare officer or student psychological services you could ask? They might even put you in touch with a psychology or social work student who could take you on for ‘practise’.

It is really important to give this some serious thought. I’m sure there’s someone in your town who would be willing to help you learn how to live without depression.

Depression recovery can be a long and challenging road and it’s not to be taken alone. You do need at least one real-time friend or supporter who can be there for you.

How To Live Without Depression Step 2:

Implement Lifestyle Changes to Create your Depression-Free Future

This is why you need allies: to help you do the work of changing yourself, your lifestyle and your thought patterns.

Change is hard and it’s even harder when you’ve been feeling so down for so long.

Your vision of your depression-free future will give you the motivation to get started, but keeping on going, especially in the moments when you feel overwhelmed by your feelings, can be very, very challenging.

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Enjoy physical activity with friends to lift your mood!

What kind of lifestyle changes do you need to make?

Remember when we talked, right at the beginning of this article, about how chronic depression means something in your life is out of whack? Well, we need to put that straight. We need to design a life based on the lifestyle of people who don’t have chronic low mood

So what are they doing right?

Look back at the list of ‘lifestyle’ symptoms that we discussed earlier.

  • Non-depressed people basically have the opposite of these symptoms.
  • Non-depressed people ensure they get enough good quality sleep every night.
  • Non-depressed people eat a healthy, brain-supportive diet.
  • Non-depressed people take regular exercise or physical movement of some kind.
  • Non-depressed people are well-connected with people who love them.
  • Non-depressed people have meaningful work or activity in their lives.
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    Make healthy food your friend!

Sleep. Diet. Exercise. Social connection. Meaning and value.

Then, taking a good look at your thinking patterns and changing the ones that are not working for you and living meaningfully according to your values is essential.

Finally, building resilience so that should you find yourself in a stressful situation in the future, that you don’t fall back into those negative ways of thinking.

So there you have it. Just do what non-depressed people do and you should feel a lot better.

Which is easier said than done…

More on the how-to of how to live without depression coming up!

How To Live Without Depression Step 3: Build Resilience

What is resilience?

Resilience is made up of a number of skills which you can learn to help protect you from the return to overwhelming despondency.

Lifestyle factors which keep you physically healthy and effective thinking styles that help you interpret your experiences in a positive way are part of developing resilience.

Resilience is also about increasing self-compassion, gratitude and mindfulness.

If you practice these three, eat and sleep well, exercise and socialise, be flexible and open-minded you stand a very good chance of never again experiencing the painful effects of low mood.”

Of course, developing resilience takes time. It’s impossible to suddenly be resilient. But people who know how to live without depression are resilient and you can be too.

Building resilience comes from the work done to take yourself out of depression. Click To Tweet As you build your physical strength through regular exercise, adequate sleep and good nutrition, you are improving your body’s immune system and reducing inflammation and the effects of stress on the body.

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Give yourself time each day to rest, reflect and reconnect.

As you reflect on your thinking patterns and choose more open-minded, flexible and positive ways of looking at the world and your experiences in it, you are acquiring better coping skills to handle the challenges that life with inevitably throws at us all. 

Practicing gentleness and kindliness towards oneself and others, being grateful for the good (and perhaps even the bad) in your life and taking time to be aware of your thoughts, your surroundings and the needs of your body means we need not be surprised or shocked when we receive bad news or something unpleasant happens to us or around us.

Resilience is developed when we learn how to live without depression. Resilience gives us the skills we need to stay that way.  

How To Live Without Depression: There is Hope

This series of posts (think of them as chapters in a book) are offered to you as a way out of chronic low mood.

In this series I will talk you through what I did to create a depression-free life for myself when I realised that anti-depressant medication was not going to do that for me.

The first step was to imagine who I might be and how my life might look without depression, how to live without depression. Have you ever tried to do that? I mean, to imagine, in detail, what your life might be like if you weren’t held back by negative thinking and behavioural patterns?

What you’d do each day? How you’d spend your time and who with? What your future might be like? Your house, job, relationships, hobbies and contribution?

No?

Well, I don’t blame you.

It’s often hard to think about the future because that means…well it means change.

Remember when I mentioned before that the brain loves to be stable and that chronic low mood is a nice, stable condition?

What this means is that when you think the same thoughts over and over, or do the same things over and over, it creates neural pathways which are bundles of neurons which are activated together and form a system or circuit in the brain. The activation of these neurons is known as ‘firing’ and as the scientists say, neurons which ‘fire together, wire together’ forming a circuit which becomes the brain’s default.

This means we have to consciously reprogram our brain to create new neural pathways which serve us, that is make us feel happy and bright, not which make us feel low and gloomy.

This conscious reprogramming comes from new ways of thinking, being and doing in the world. Click To Tweet

You have to change with way you think about yourself and your experiences and do different things to create different, more supportive neural pathways in the brain.

The amazing thing is that this is possible at all! Back in the 1950s and 60s it was believed that the brain you arrived in adulthood with was the brain you were stuck with for life!

Not so, recent neuroscience tells us. Today, we know that the brain is impressionable, that is, everything we do and say and believe leaves an imprint on the brain in the form of neural pathways. What is exciting is that we can change those neural pathways, if we can just change how we think and act.

So, the bottom line is that there is hope.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/love-1672154_1920.jpg how to live without depression

Somewhere in the world the sun is shining. Never lose hope.

You don’t need to suffer with the distressing effects of chronic low mood for the rest of your life.

You can learn how to live without depression.

For 21 years of my life I lived with feelings of overwhelming sadness, regret, helplessness and hopelessness but I haven’t experienced that truly miserable mood for over ten years.

Who am I?

No one special.

There’s nothing different about me or my brain that enabled me to do this. No, if I can do it, then anyone can do it. Really.

What you need is information, supporters and ultimately some kind of step-by-step system that you follow to take you out of depression using tiny baby steps and easy wins. Each of these tiny steps and easy wins is a success and gradually they accumulate into a much bigger successes.

You can experience relief from the symptoms at the very get-go. Those first tiny wins feel fantastic and are wonderful achievements, no matter how small. Each small step is a small step to a future free of persistent low mood and into a life which you can’t even imagine right now.

The following posts will tell you a bit more about me, my experience of depression and how I discovered the solution to letting it go.

I share the challenges and the breakthroughs and most importantly for you, offer you the hope that you can have this life as well.

  • I now live more contentedly and joyously than ever before.
  • I sleep soundly each night, waking up refreshed and calm.
  • I enjoy a delicious diet, based on the foods of the Mediterranean, which are simple and easy to prepare.
  • I take physical activity every day (not necessarily structured exercise).
  • I have regular social catch-ups with friends and family.
  • I have a rewarding life filled with work and hobbies that bring me great joy.
  • I know that I’ll never again fall into depression because I reflect on my thinking, I’m open and flexible to other explanations.
  • I’m kind with myself if I find negative self-talk creeping in and practice gratitude and mindfulness to keep myself aware of all that is wonderful and to be cherished about life and the world.

Life free of chronic low mood means you have the control back. You decide how you’ll spend your day and how you’ll feel about it. Challenges and setbacks will arise, sure they will. But if you have resilience in your thinking they will not be the terrible burdens that they are when you are depressed.

Learn how to live without depression your way.

Stay with me and I’ll take you on a journey from where I was for a many, many years (where you are now) to where I am now.

Stay with me and I’ll show you how you can do it too. Read more.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/greek-dancing-at-sunset-1983650_1920.jpg how to live without depression

 

 

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Feb 08

Be Strong and Flexible Like A Spider’s Web: Resilience and Depression

By Vickie | Resilience

Yesterday morning I saw the most beautiful thing, a perfectly spun spider’s web hanging between clumps of plants in the garden.

We’d had a lot of rain overnight and droplets of water clung to the threads like tiny diamonds. It was still windy and with each gust the web swayed and swung. I was sure that it would be snatched from its moorings and blown away.

But no, the web was firmly anchored by silky threads to the plants around it. The body of the web bent and sagged with each gust but then pulled taut again, clinging firmly but loosely to its moorings.

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Being resilient means being as tough and flexible as a spider’s web.

Such a light, soft structure, but firmly anchored, moving flexibly with each gust and returning to its normal shape when the air calmed.

The spider’s web reminded me how important it is to develop resilience and flexibility in our thinking and action. To be held firmly by our values, but not so fixed and rigid that we can’t adjust to new challenges.

Resilience is the opposite of depression Click To Tweet.

We all face a certain amount of stress in our life. Stress helps us to strive to reach goals and do our best.

At other times, small doses of stress keep us safe from physical harm.

But sometimes that stress becomes compounded – working overtime for some weeks, loss of regular sleep, a physical illness – and can result in depression.

To keep our low mood from worsening, or relapsing back into a depressed mood, we need to develop something called resilience.

Resilience can be built through greater flexibility in our thinking and behaviour. People who are resilient remain connected to the outside world, are open-minded and search for solutions for when times get tough. They don’t dwell on the challenges or problems of life but are able to move forward despite setbacks.

Although it’s difficult to understand why some people survive and do well after enduring harsh losses and cruel trauma, it does appear that resilient people tend to share certain characteristics.

Resilient people:

  • Are not judgemental of themselves or others
  • Care about others’ feelings
  • Have a good sense of self and feel good about who they are
  • Are thoughtful rather than impulsive
  • Have caring and supportive relationships with friends, family and the wider community and
  • Are skilled in communication and solving problems

Resilience is the ability to grin and bear it.

When stress, hardship or difficulty strikes, you still experience frustration, sorrow and heartache, but they don’t drop you into depression; you’re able to keep going. 

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This snail is showing flexible behaviour!

Not because you can tough it out or keep a stiff upper lip and pretend all is well, but because you have an inner knowing that you are on your right path.

Resilience is a strength of purpose and strength of character which, during the period of your depression, might have become lost to you.

Resilience is an inner resourcefulness, the knowledge that you can take care of yourself should the black clouds of chronic low mood gather once more.

We do need to develop skills for resiliency.

Resiliency takes time to develop and practice, especially if depression has had you stuck in certain thinking styles for a long time.

The core foundation for building resilience are being flexible in thinking and behaviour.

Resilience: Be flexible in your thinking

When we feel in overwhelming despair we tend to view the world pessimistically. Our gloomy outlook on life and the future may feel like realism to us.

We’ve got so used to having our thoughts be negative that it seems the only sensible way to think now. You may begin to develop negative beliefs that defend your depressed way of life.

For example, you might think

‘It’s better never to leave the house because it’s a dangerous world out there. Look how many muggings and shootings there are today’ or

‘Oh, I’d never take up walking or jogging. No, not with my knees. My father had a knee replacement. I don’t want that. No, it’s safer to stay on the couch’.

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Rusty, inflexible and going nowhere fast!

These kinds of thought fossilise in our brains because we’ve used the same neural pathways over and over again. They are automatic thoughts and they seem to make sense to us. They seem realistic.

In fact, thinking like this is very rigid and doesn’t help us to create new ways of thinking and being in the world.

Softening your way of thinking helps you with relationships, gives you more energy and creativity, helps you be more productive and effective at work and even develops a more effective immune system!

Our thinking is based on how we react to the world and the things that we encounter in our daily lives.

No one controls how we react except us.

We are all free to choose our own reactions to events in life. This is how one person can be very upset at something which barely affects another person.

What can you do to break these types of rigid ways of thinking?

  1. Become aware of your thinking. Be aware of when you are ruminating about the problems in your life. Practise letting go of this way of thinking by using mindfulness and then look for the evidence for your belief, or ask a friend if your thinking is realistic.
  2. Look for the evidence. Train yourself to look at an event or conversation which you are responding to from all angles. Is there any evidence for your rigid response? Was it really ‘all their fault’? Could you create an alternative meaning to the thing that has happened? Read more about looking for evidence here.
  3. Ask a friend to give their perspective on your way of thinking. Do they agree with your idea or interpretation? Could they open up an alternative way of responding? Friends and allies are really important in depression recovery. Learn how they can help you here.

Resilience is Developing Flexibility in Behaviour

The other key way to build resilience is to be flexible in your behaviour.

When we are experiencing low mood, it feels easier to do what you’ve always done: eat the same breakfast, take the same route to work, go straight home and watch TV till it’s time for bed. Breaking out of that habit and routine will spark up your brain and lift your mood.

Developing flexibility in behaviour will help build resilience because it opens up the possibility… Click To Tweet. Unless you try something new, however small, you will stay in the belief that how you are living now is the only way it’s ever going to be.

Next time you’re at the supermarket, try something different. Something as simple as a different breakfast cereal, a fruit or vegetable you’ve never eaten before, an interesting sauce or flavouring will create a new meal time experience that will open your eyes to new possibilities.

On weekends, or days you’re not working, make sure you don’t spend all day doing one thing.

Limit activities to a certain time, particularly those that are sedentary.

  • Watch some TV, but then do a little house work.
  • Surf the net for a set time, then put on a jacket and go for a walk.
  • Give yourself a short time on social media, then get into the kitchen and make a nice meal.
  • Phone a friend and arrange to catch up for coffee.
  • Walk the dog.
  • Go into town and look at the shops.

Just make sure you mix up your weekend activities to increase social time and increase flexibility in behaviour.

Flexibility in thinking and behaviour are important for building resilience when tough times hit.

Having a close look at the way you are responding to events in your life or conversations or actions of others will help you see that there may be more than one point of view, more than one explanation. This will help you choose a response that is less likely to end in disappointment and resentment.

Create a habit of flexibility in thinking and see the benefits for your relationships.

Flexibility in behaviour is also important because it makes you less rigid, and things which are less rigid are less likely to snap and break! Enjoy a varied lifestyle with different activities and see how brighter your mood can be and how much stronger you feel.

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Build resilience and flexibility and protect yourself from depression.

If you have found this post helpful, please consider sharing it to spread the message. Also, would you like to leave a comment below? I love to hear from readers and will respond to all comments. Thank you!

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