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.
I know it has been a long time since I posted here. I think I am ready to start posting again. I hope my posts will continue to benefit others.
When I look back on my childhood I realize how deeply I felt emotions. Due to other people reacting to me and shaming in general I trained myself to suppress my emotions. I came to believe that the honest expression of my feelings was somehow wrong. This led to many years of depression and anxiety.
If I could go back and change one thing it would be this. To not fight the social pressure to conform into being someone I am not was the biggest mistake of my life. To feel deeply and express it means we are really experiencing what it is to be alive.
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.
There was a study done several years ago to determine why certain people live to be over 100 years old. They looked at all factors including family history, diet, lifestyle, and geography.
There was one factor that was common to most of those studied. They had a purpose. They had a reason to wake up in the morning. I could be a job, caretaking, an interest that requires attention, or plans for the future.
Having a purpose or a goals goes a long way toward improving mood and self esteem. Find an interest and pursue it. Have a reason to get up in the morning. You may well live longer and actually want to accomplish this.
I often hear from my clients that they don’t know who they are. Part of the process of counseling is helping my clients define who they are and what that means. It is important to understand that our identity (who we are) is not stagnant. We are constantly changing and evolving as human beings. It is also important to understand that people are complex beings containing many dimensions. A combination of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and experiences combine to make us who we are.
It has been my observation that most people identify who they are by the roles they play in life (father, sister, wife, parent, a profession). In reality, these roles do not define who we and are not stable over time. They describe what we are doing at a given time in our lives. If we define ourselves by our roles and one or more of our roles change, we lose our identity. I have experienced this and I found myself searching for an identity. Our identity cannot be tied to only what is currently happening in our lives.
Our identity cannot be tied to one event or period in our lives. This leads to being tied to the past. Example: the person at the high school reunion who identifies him or herself by their time in high school. Our lives are not a snap shot. Our lives are more like a feature film lasting many decades that include our accumulated experiences. We have our successes and our failures. We have all made mistakes over the course of our lives. It is important not to define ourselves any specific events.
Our identity is not determined by how others define us. Some people will like us and others will not. Some people will agree with what we say and do. Other people will not agree. Their opinions in many cases have little to do with who we are and more to do with who they are.
Who we are is an internal process and not about the external. For me, identity is what my values and beliefs are (and those have changed over the years). It is my thoughts and feelings as well how I perceive things (and myself) to be. From this I can determine my purpose in life and not have it determined for me.
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.
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.