My wife and I were having a discussion about the current state of affairs in the United States and around the world. We follow the news on a daily basis. She was telling me that she was getting very depressed and feeling hopeless about the future. I first suggested that we disconnect. I suggested that we stop watching the news on TV and reading the newspaper. We also watch television programs that focus on current events. I suggested that we change our viewing habits. Her response was that she was not willing to do this and wanted to stay informed. This got me thinking about the tools available for people to manage their mood. Given the state of affairs in the United States and the world I am sure many people are feeling anxious and/or depressed.
Our mood is directly related to those things on which we focus. If you focus on those things that cause you emotional pain or sadness, it is logical to have feelings of depression and/or anxiety. It is important not to bury your feelings or deny them. Acknowledge your feelings and then work on strategies to manage or lessen the impact these feelings have on your ability to engage and enjoy your life. Feelings of hopelessness are a part of depression. Many people tend to think in catastrophic terms. Thinking about the worst possible outcome is not realistic and only adds to anxiety and depression. The outcome of any situation would be somewhere between the best and the worst. Also, we have no way of knowing what the outcome will be nor do we have control of it. Work on focusing on the present. Stay engaged in life.
Here are a few more suggestions for managing your mood:
Focus on the things that you have rather than the things you lack. We are all aware of things that we want that haven’t materialized in our lives. Focusing on the things you lack will only reinforce feelings of depression. I suggest that my clients maintain a gratitude list. Add things to it as you become aware of them.
Self-care is very important. Grooming and hygiene are important as well as eating healthy meals regularly. Do things that feed your soul. Listen to music, read a good book, get a massage, or get your hair and nails done. Do whatever makes you feel good about yourself. Stay active.
Lastly, Don’t isolate.
Lack of motivation is a key feature of depression. Follow these suggestions even though you may not feel up to it.
About a month ago I became ill. I don’t ever recall being as ill as I was. This illness lasted for about two weeks and I even made a visit to the emergency room at the direction of my Doctor. I have been frustrated with how slowly my energy is returning. I was told by my Doctor to have patience.
I am grateful for the return of my health. Good health is one of those things we tend to take for granted until we become ill.
I plan on returning to writing on a regular basis. Thanks to all those who follow my blog.
What a huge and universal topic to be tackled on a blog post. Man has been trying to find an answer to this question since the beginning of time. Numerous philosophers and psychologists have written volumes on this topic. This is the major reason people have turned to religion and metaphysics. How many sleepless nights have been caused by the search for the meaning of life?
“What is the purpose of my life?”
“Why was I born?”
I have come up with my own answers that simplify and truly work for me. They make life less of a mystery and far less scary. I thought I would share and I hope they might work for you.
1st the second question: Why was a born?
My birth is no more or less significant than the birth of any child that has ever been or is yet to be. My parents engaged in sexual intercourse. One of my mother’s eggs was fertilized and approximately 9 months later I was born. This is the reason I was born. It is that simple.
1st question: What is the purpose of my life?
I do not believe in some grand plan or inherent meaning of life. I believe each of us has value as a person and we make choices during our life. My life does not have meaning. I give meaning to my life. The meaning I give it depends on my values and beliefs and the choices I make. Therefore, life means what I decide it means. And the meaning I give it can and has changed over my lifetime.
Try this on and see if it works.
I have been writing my blog for a few years and I have rarely spoken about myself and my own struggles. Having started my own journey of recover nearly 30 years ago, I have a great deal of experience and knowledge about all the skills I have shared with my readers. I have also learned from all the people I have counseled over the last 20 years. I hope that some of you have benefited from my blog.
One thing I have to keep in mind is the phrase: progress not perfection. No one, including me, has ever done this perfectly. I am a work in progress like everyone else who is in the process of change and growth. I suffered from chronic depression and addictive behaviors for most of my life as well as poor self-esteem. Although I have experienced a tremendous improvement in the quality of my life, I also have my struggles. I sometimes find it difficult to apply all the coping skills I know. There times I have to work hard to focus on the things I need to and stay in the present.
I have my own philosophy of life: Life is to be enjoyed. I work every day to make that a reality. One of the ways I stay focused is by writing this blog. It has great value to my life. I hope it has value to yours.
You have realized that something is not quite right in your life. You have become more aware of your anxiety or depression or some other issue that weighs heavily on you and negatively affects your life. You have become increasingly aware that something has to change because you can no longer tolerate living like this. What are you waiting for?
You have experiences that have haunted you for many years. You have tried to put behind you. You have read books and gotten advice from friends on how to overcome it. You have beaten yourself up for years about it. You have thought about getting help with the issue for years and understand that you cannot do it on your own. What are you waiting for?
Your drinking or other substance abuse has become more and more of an issue in your life. The damage continues to pile up. Friends and family keep telling you need to get help and deal with it. As much as you try to control it you find it impossible. You life is unraveling in front of your eyes. You know you can’t deal with it on your own. What are you waiting for?
You are very unhappy at your job and keep telling yourself you need to find another one. The economy has improved and it is easier to find a job. You have been thinking of continuing your education for a long time. You keep putting it off and continue to feel sad and anxious. What are you waiting for?
Your relationship is just not working. You and your significant other have one disagreement after another. There is more conflict than calm and happiness. You have worked hard to find ways for you both to get your needs met. The more you try, the more you realize your values, wants, and desires are not the same as hers/his. You know in your heart that the relationship will never be as fulfilling as you want. You want more. What are you waiting for?
Life is so short. The clock continues to move as you stay stuck in a place that you do not want to be. Fear stands in the way of finding a more fulfilling life. For the most part it is you that stands between yourself and having an opportunity to find the things you seek. Taking the steps to overcoming your fears is the only path. Moving forward one step at a time. Try not to look too far into the future. That’s a very scary place full all kinds of unknowns. You can deal with those when you get there. You are responsible for your own happiness. You are not responsible for the happiness of others.
Another year is about to come to an end. What are you waiting for?
One thing we have in common is the experience of loss. No one goes through life without experiencing some degree of loss at some point. Sometimes the losses are minor (a small amount of money, changing jobs, moving from one city to another). Other times they are more significant (the death of a parent or spouse or child, loss of a relationship, a betrayal, loss of something we are unable to replace, economic reversal). No one wants to have these experiences, and rarely are we prepared for them.
When we experience loss, what we feel is pain, but often we cannot identify exactly what it is about the loss that is causing the pain. We miss whatever we have lost and it just hurts.
This emotional distress comes mostly from two sources. First, the realization of how little control we have over what we experience in life. This realization is both frightening and depressing. We feel helpless and are powerless to control the situation. We want to regain a sense of control.
Secondly, what was lost occupied a part of our lives. It had meaning for us and took up space in our day to day living that was either physical or emotional or both. This leaves a void, and a longing to fill it. We feel empty inside and it is deeply upsetting. Many of us try filling the void with activities, a new relationship and/or, material things. Many of us turn to substances or addictive behaviors in order to avoid these feelings, but nothing we do can replace what we have lost. We struggle with our feelings and want the pain to stop.
The only way to heal is to allow the grieving process to run its course. It is important to avoid pushing those feelings away no matter how much we want to. Feel them for as long as you need to. Cry until you stop crying. No one can tell you how long this process will take. We will eventually release the pain and other people and things will enter our lives to fill the void. We will also begin to feel we have more control over what happens to us.
Allow yourself to heal. Repressing or denying your feelings will only lengthen the process and could result in prolonged depression and anxiety. Allow yourself to feel your feelings without judging them or yourself. Find ways to express them. Keep a journal and write as often as you need. Rely on friends and family for support. That is what a support system is for. The use of drugs and alcohol really won’t help and might make things worse. There is no timetable for grief. But, remember that you will heal. Those feelings will not last forever.
Whenever someone famous commits suicide people are affected in different ways. There is usually the surprise and shock associated with the sudden death. There are the questions of why and how could they? Most of them have achieved success and wealth and have adoring fans. Why would a person who seems to have it all want to end their life? They live in the real world just like you and I.
When these people appeared in the public eye they seemed so happy and positive and full of energy. It seemed their lives were so easy and they were able to have whatever they desired. What we saw was just a snapshot of their life. What we saw was only what they wanted us to see. What we saw was actually fantasy and not reality. These celebrities lived in the real world as we all do. They all had a history of life experiences, tragedies, losses, as well as the happy times and successes. Some had medical issues. Others had mental health and substance abuse problems. It is not easy living your life in the public eye. It affects how others see them as well as making it more difficult to have stable relationships. They lived in the real world and what the rest of us see is merely an illusion.
Just like the rest of us, life sometimes gets to be too much to deal with. Feelings of desperation and helplessness and hopelessness take over. It seems there is no way out other than to put an ending to it all. They lived in the real world.
If you look at what you think their lives have been and compare them to your own remember that you live in the real world too.
It seems that most people are in search of happiness. Clients come into my office saying, “all I want is to be happy. What do I need to do in order to me happy”? I read on message boards how people just want to be happy. Look at many of the daytime talk shows and you can find them talking about seeking happiness. You can find literally hundreds of book promising to help you find happiness in your life.
I do not think that happiness is a reasonable or attainable goal. Before you stop reading, let me explain and you might even agree with me. I believe that happiness cannot be a constant state of mind and happens from time to time under special circumstances. I think we can work toward being in the state of mind to allow happiness. I want to be in a place emotionally that will allow me to experience happiness when those situations present themselves during the course of my life.
There are feelings that I like to have and feelings that I would rather not experience. If I want to experience the feelings I want I have to allow myself to experience those feelings I don’t want. I don’t get to choose. It is important to learn not to judge our feelings as either bad or good. There are no bad or good feelings. There are only feelings. Having and expressing our feelings is all part of experiencing life and being a human being.
Ultimately, my goal is to feel comfortable enough in my own skin to experience and work through my feelings. I cannot judge myself for the feelings I have. This way I can allow myself to experience happiness and joy in my life.
Most of us grow up exposed to the habits and beliefs of our families of origin. We learn from them the way to do things and the way to think about and see things. Most of our beliefs come directly from them. It is common to adopt those beliefs or rebel and do the opposite of what we were taught. Neither is the best approach to life. Most of us grow up limited in our exposure to the variety of options available to us. My experience with clients and people entering a recovery process is the common view of seeing things in black and white.
Black and white and all or nothing thinking can cause people problems and inhibit their ability to solve problems and succeed in life. Many of us go through life unaware of how limited we are by our inability to recognize all the choices we have and choices we never consider as options. We have the beliefs we learn as children and carry with us into adulthood. Many of those beliefs do not apply to our adult lives. We have many choices for how we interpret the world around us. Keep this in mind. Many things mean many different things to many different people.
Most people tend to do what they are in the habit of doing and what is most comfortable for them. If we have not be raised in an environment of exploration and being open to new ideas it is difficult to go out of our comfort zone. We have to learn to think outside the box and explore all possible option in order to make better decisions and have a more fulfilling life. It is important to avoid black and white thinking and be able to see all the shades of grey.
(I am sorry that I have neglected my posting for the past several days. I hope this makes up for it.)
“It’s just not fair.”
“How can they do that to me?”
“Don’t they care how this affects me?”
“This always happens to me. Why can’t I catch a break?”
Have you ever said anything like the quotes above? I don’t think anyone goes through life feeling they have been treated justly or fairly all the time. We have all fallen victim to injustice at some time in our lives. That is, unless, you have lived some kind of charmed life. It could have been a relatively minor injustice like not being selected for a team or passed over for a promotion or someone treating you poorly. Some can be major injustices involving major losses. They can be anything from being falsely accused of a crime and being convicted, infected by a disease or injured by someone who was negligent, or being the victim of a crime.
Recovering from an injustice can be quite difficult and take a considerable amount of time. Many times the consequences can affect lives in many ways and for a considerable amount of time (possibly even the rest of someone’s life). I am writing this post because I have fallen victim to an injustice that has had a considerable affect on me and my life. I am writing this from the perspective of a mental health professional and a person trying to work through this issue. I try to use my own experiences in life to illustrate or help the people I have worked with as a professional.
How do you deal an injustice and the effects it has on a substantive as well as an emotional level? These are the type of events that you never anticipated and were not prepared to deal with. We see the man who gets released after spending years in prison when they find he did not commit the crime. We wonder how he was able to deal with the situation. People find themselves in situations that are unjust every day. Many of us have an intellectual understanding the life is not fair. Life just happens and sometimes bad things happen to us for no reason. When faced with these situations we must find a way to cope. We must find a way to continue living a productive and rewarding life. The other alternative is to remain stuck in the anger and depression from something we cannot change.
A good place to start is to process the feelings associated with the situation or event. It is not going to help you in the long run to avoid the feelings or self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, or some behavior (sex, spending, eating, etc.). It is okay to feel sad or depressed, angry, or nervous. These are all natural feelings associated with negative events we experience. It is not a good idea to judge what we think we should or should not be feeling. Let these feelings out. Talk with family and friends, write in a journal, or find some physical way of releasing these emotions. I don’t think it is productive to try to get some meaning about the event or events. If there is a meaning, you will become aware of it after some time has passed.
There is a grieving process that can take place. You can’t decide how long you will grieve. Allow the process to happen no matter the level of pain or discomfort. The longer you resist the feelings and the process the longer it will continue. When you are ready to move on with your life you will begin to accept what is. You will learn to accept those things that you cannot change and get on with your life. Dwelling on the past or the negative things in our lives accomplishes nothing more than keeping us from getting pleasure from life. This is good time to be looking at what you may have learned from the experience.
Eventually, you will get to the point of being able to accept what happened and allow yourself to move on with your life. Thoughts of the event or events enter your mind less often. It also affects your emotional state to a lessening degree. You will begin to heal and more so over time. Healing is an ongoing process and the emotional effects could be with you for a considerable amount of time. In my case, whenever I have to deal with something associated with things that have happened in my life, my feelings surface to some degree.
I am not the type to tell people they can completely heal from all experiences. In some instances this is true. In some instances it is not true. The affect linger. But, you are able to recover and cope and get on with your life.