Read the full article from Esperanza here: Maintaining Self-Care through Depression
Depression can make it hard to complete the most basic of tasks, but struggling with self-care doesn't make you weak or lazy. This article from Esperanza will help you learn to set small goals, practice basic self-care, and combat inactivity.
Read the full article from Esperanza here: Maintaining Self-Care through Depression
We will find inevitably be faced with unexpected challenges, but we can do our best to be prepared by knowing our triggers, developing coping strategies, and having a system in place to tackle problems and symptoms when they arise.
The following suggestions will help you develop your arsenal of coping tools and strategies, and create a plan of action to help you find balance and get back on track.
Creating Your Action Plan
Be Prepared: It’s impossible to plan for every eventuality, but identifying and knowing your triggers can help you stay one step ahead of your symptoms. If you’re faced with an interaction or situation you anticipate may be challenging or triggering, take a few moments ahead of time to prepare yourself. Visualize the interaction, and practice your responses. Plan to take a few moments after the interaction to process and decompress.
Hit Pause: Implement the “24 hour rule.” After experiencing a major emotional event or strong trigger, ask yourself whether this is something that requires an immediate response. Might you take a day to process the event and form your response? If you have time – use it.
Taken by surprise? Before reacting, hit the pause button. If possible, excuse yourself for a minute to step outside or visit the restroom. Take a few moments to practice some deep breathing, and check in with yourself. What are you feeling? What do you need in this moment? What is the best way to approach or handle this situation without compromising your mental health?
Refresh: Neglecting to address your basic needs and practice self-care leaves you operating at less than your best, and not only makes you more susceptible to mood swings and your symptoms, but makes it far more difficult to get back on track. Self-care starts with the basics, so set yourself up for success. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Take time to be active and move your body. Fuel your body with a diet that is balanced and nutritious.
Refocus & Reflect: Take a few moments to reframe, and practice your attitude of gratitude. What are you grateful for? Dedicate some time to self-reflection. What can you do going forward that will help set you up for success? What tools or coping strategies can you add to your repertoire that will help you in the future?
Get Moving: Put your plan into action. When you feel overwhelmed by your symptoms, it’s easy to feel stuck. Tempting though it may seem, don’t rest on your laurels; challenge yourself to keep moving. A mantra will help you keep going when the going gets tough. Remind yourself,
This is only temporary.
This too shall pass.
I am strong and capable.
One day at a time.
Depression can be a slippery slope; in spite of our best intentions, a challenging day or difficult interaction can often send us into a downward spiral of negative feelings and negative self-talk.
In this article from Hope to Hope, Leadership Coach Owen Ashton shares his personal struggle with managing his depression, and offers suggestions on how to cope when you feel yourself slipping into a pattern of negative self-talk.
Learn more and read the article from Hope to Cope by following the link below:
Depression & Rising Above Negative Self-Talk
Managing Holiday Stress
The holiday season is a time for joy, family, and reflection, but between the stress of worrying about planning the perfect family event and concern over holiday spending, they can also be a source of stress and anxiety. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year just around the corner, it’s understandable to feel a little overwhelmed. The strategies below will arm you with tools to tackle any potential stressors, and help you keep holiday stress at bay.
Tools for Tackling Holiday Stress
Family First: Put your worries about work and the office on hold and engage in family activities. Instead of plugging into the TV or football game, make time to spend with the kids, and support your partner by helping with holiday preparations. When it comes to the holidays – family comes first.
Plan Ahead: Get ahead of the stress by putting together schedule for holiday plans, trips, meals, and shopping. Select menus, recipes, and create grocery lists ahead of time – saving yourself a frantic trip to the store the day before an event. Create a holiday shopping list and budget to help mitigate some of the anxiety about overspending. You may not be able to plan for everything, but by creating some structure you can focus on taking one week or day at a time – avoiding feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of tackling your entire holiday to-do list in one go.
Don’t Over-Commit: Feeling stretched too thin? Don’t over-extend yourself or bend over backwards for things or people that are not a priority. Know your limits and stick to your guns. It is okay to say no.
Ask for Help: Even with the best intentions and meticulous planning we can sometimes end up with too much on our plates. If you feel you’re struggling, reach out. Ask your partner, a friend, or a family member to help pick up some of the slack. Don’t feel too embarrassed to ask for help.
Lean on Healthy Coping Strategies: Set yourself up for success and keep your moods stable by using healthy coping strategies. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Make time to stay active and get outside. Schedule some time for self-care to decompress: take a walk outside, splurge on a nice cup of coffee, take a long bath, or treat yourself to a massage. Make healthy choices. During the holidays we expect to overindulge, but balance is key (for both your mental and physical health). Enjoy that slice of pumpkin pie, but keep your fridge stocked with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
Be Thankful: Spend a few moments each day thinking about your blessings. What are you thankful for? Practice your ‘attitude of gratitude’ by focusing on what you have rather than what you feel you’re lacking. Shifting your perspective and remembering the things you have to be thankful for will help you stay grounded, positive, and in the holiday spirit.
Focus on What Matters: Try to let go of the fantasy of a “perfect” Thanksgiving or Christmas. Enjoy spending time with your family, and focus on taking each day at a time. Things may not go to plan, and that’s okay! Remember the 5 by 5 rule: if it’s not going to matter in 5 years – don’t spend more than 5 minutes on it now.
When struggling with a mood disorder, it's easy to get caught up in a cycle of negative thought patterns which can leave us feeling overwhelmed and unable to move forward. While it's true that we have little control over the events of our daily lives, it's helpful to remember that we can control how we choose to respond, and react.
This article from Hope to Cope, 5 Ways to Master Unhappy Emotions, offers a set of tools rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy, which author Ashkay calls the LMNOP system. The LMNOP system, which stands for Labeling, Meaning, Not Me, Options, and Purpose, helps us break down, process, and manage our feelings.
Read the full article from Hope to Cope by following the link below.
5 Ways to Master Unhappy Emotions
If you’re struggling with a mood disorder like depression or anxiety, it’s tempting to want to keep yourself isolated. It’s easy. There’s no pressure involved. It seems comforting. It feels like a solution, albeit a temporary one (“I don’t want to see anyone, so I won’t – problem solved!”) and it’s easy to talk yourself into what feels safe.
As tempting as it may be, it’s important to remember that isolating yourself never actually makes you feel better. It may feel like a quick fix, but it’s not a solution. By staying isolated you keep yourself from developing more effective coping tools for handling your mood disorder, and you end up perpetuating a cycle of isolating behaviors that keep you running in place rather than moving forward.
It can be difficult to challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone, but remind yourself that no one grows by staying comfortable. It’s a willingness to make a change – to sit with feelings of discomfort – that creates room for growth. In other words,
“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”
If you’re feeling unsure of how to make a change, the following suggestions may be helpful in getting you started. Don’t feel the need to make any huge, drastic changes: baby steps can add up to big progress.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Check out this article from Esperanza magazine for tools and recommendations on how to manage your anxiety and/or panic disorder when symptoms arise.
We tend to be our own worst critics, spending more time judging ourselves for the mistakes we make than we spend on finding solutions for moving forward. We get trapped in a cycle of self-loathing and self-criticism: we make a mistake, we berate ourselves, and succumb to feelings of failure and hopelessness.
While we may not always feel we deserve to ‘cut ourselves a break,’ by offering ourselves a bit of self-compassion we can learn to break that cycle, and with time, we can re-train our brains and become our own biggest cheerleaders, instead of our biggest critics.
Re-Training Your Brain
Over time our thoughts forge typical thought pathways in our brains. Think of a sled in the snow. We start with a fresh snowbank, but after a few trips down the hill, we’ve left tracks. The sled will naturally gravitate towards these routes, rather than forge ahead through new snowbanks. Like the sled, your brain follows the path that has been laid out for it – the path of least resistance.
The good news is that our brains are remarkably adaptable.
What we learn, we can unlearn.
In the words of Psychology Today, “The brain is not hardwired, but plastic. Dendritic and synaptic connections have been demonstrated to rewire themselves via experience, and, most intriguingly, through mind training.”
In other words, with time and effort, we can re-train our brains to work for us, rather than against us. The tools and suggestions below will help you get started.
Trading Criticism for Compassion
For further reading on the benefits of self-compassion, check out the article below from Esperanza magazine:
Depression: Self-Compassion Can Change Your Life
When we struggle with a mood disorder we often spend much of our time in our head. We ruminate over the past. We fear the future. In a rush to hit the next milestone in our lives – be it our next vacation, a promotion, buying a home – we’re rarely present in the moment.
We think we’re planning ahead and staying one step ahead of the game, but the reality is that by living in this “what’s next?” mentality we end up missing out on actually living our lives. We forget that life is lived in the in-between moments: brewing our first cup of coffee in the morning, kissing our partner goodbye in the morning, walking from our car to our front door.
We write these moments off as stepping stones that get us where we really want to be, and forget to be present in our own lives. The reality is that we cannot control the future, no matter how much we plan and prepare. The moments we spend in anticipation, anxiety, and worry do nothing to change what tomorrow will bring. Practicing mindfulness can help us stop living in the past, and keep us from living for a future we cannot predict.
Life will continue to surprise and challenge us. No one can guarantee that every moment will be thrilling, joyous, or full of satisfaction, but we can challenge ourselves to live them – to be present for them. We can learn to say goodbye to “what is next?” and embrace “what is now.”
The tools and exercises below will help you practice being present, and mindful, encouraging you to find enjoyment and gratitude in each moment as it comes – regardless of what lies behind or before us.
Be here now.
One thing at a time.
I feel angry that…
I feel sad that…
I feel afraid that…
I feel guilty that…
I feel happy that…
I feel secure that…
I feel proud that…
I feel grateful that…
Breathe in comfortably to the count of four.
Pause and hold the breath (again, comfortable) to the count of four.
Exhale slowly and forcefully to the count of four.
Take at least three to five breaths as described above, visualizing each number as you count.
Experiment with different mindfulness exercises, and find what works best for you. Challenge yourself to be here now. In the words of Eckhart Tolle, “In today’s rush, we all think too much – seek too much – want to much – and forget about the joy of just being.” Let yourself be. It is enough.
Dr. Craig Alan Brown has been providing the highest quality of care and support to the San Diego community for over forty years.