Strategies for When you can’t Face the Day

No matter how many people surround you, depression is a lonely, solitary place filled with funhouse mirrors. Your world is twisted and distorted, pain reflected back from every direction.” – Unknown

There are times when life feels unbearable, and it’s hard to find the will to go on. The door has slammed shut, and the key’s been thrown away. You’re in a prison cell and there’s no way of escape.

At least, that is how it feels right now.

So what can you do when you feel like this?  

1. First, acknowledge how you feel. Be aware of your emotions and your state of mind. Don’t try to ignore, bury or repress the pain. You need to respect it. You need to honour it. Denial doesn’t help. In fact, it only makes things worse.

2. Don’t try to rid your mind of negative and painful thoughts. Being mindful means noticing the different thoughts you have. You are simply an observer; there’s no judgment here at all.

However, it is also important that you don’t dwell on these thoughts. Just let them come and go … like clouds that float across the sky.

Also, writing down your thoughts can sometimes help with letting go. It somehow frees us up, and helps us feel somewhat detached.

3. Have a tool box of strategies that help to calm your mind – and then actively draw from this range of strategies.

Examples of useful strategies might include: slowly counting your breaths; focusing on feeling your chest rise and fall; repeating calming thoughts, or a Bible verse, or prayer. Try different things to find out what works best for you.

4. Take steps to nourish your body and mind. Drink some cool water. Get outside; go for a walk; and feel the fresh air on your skin and face. Focus in on nature; notice birds, and flowers, and trees. Smell the flowers and grass, or watching the waves upon the shore.

Also, check your blood sugar and prepare healthy meals using foods that are rich in nutrients. There’s a close interaction between body and mind.

5. Don’t withdraw and isolate yourself. Making conversation, or putting on a mask can feel extremely daunting when you’re low on energy. But maybe you could simply hang out in a coffee shop, or sit on a park bench and watch the children laugh and play. Just being around people often helps us feel alive.     

Following these steps can help to soothe and calm the mind. They can help nourish the body and infuse us with new strength.

Perhaps you will find it was worth the try.

How to Support a Depressed Friend or Partner

It can be hard to know how to help a partner or friend who is feeling depressed. The following suggestions might help with this:

1. Find out the kind of depression they are suffering from. Symptoms of clinical depression include sleep difficulties, loss of appetite, a desire to isolate themselves, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, suicidal tendencies and an inability to determine the cause of their depression.

Those with situational depression may have some of the same symptoms but they generally know why they feel the way they do. Also, once the specific issue is resolved, they are able to function normally again.

2. Be available to listen, or to just be there for them. Sometimes you don’t need to say a word. Don’t offer opinions; don’t give them advice; don’t be judgmental. Be kind and understanding; be gentle empathic, patient, accepting and compassionate.

3. Take them out of their environment as a change of scenery can help to change our mood. It doesn’t have to be somewhere that is wildly exciting. Just a walk by the river or a coffee at the mall is often enough to shift our mood for a while.

4. Don’t comment on their lifestyle (habits and patterns). Comments like “You ought to try and sleep more … or exercise … or change your diet …” are likely to hurt, and shut the person down. They show a lack of understanding, and send the message: “It’s your fault.”

5. Encourage them to seek out professional help. A friend or family member can be a real lifeline. We need a sense of belonging, and to know that others care.   However, objective, insightful support from a professional counsellor can help them deal with the real issues in a more effective way.

Anxiety, Depression and Thankfulness

(Make sure you read to the end of the post!)

There’s a lot to be said for being thankful.

1.For a start, we have a lot to be grateful for – Even when we’re suffering, and life is full of pain.

Most of us will have a decent roof over our heads, enough food to eat, some family and friends … And then there’s the beauty that surrounds us in the world. When we start to think about it, the list becomes quite long.

2. Gratitude can also help us to keep things in perspective. When things are really tough, we usually feel quite negative. And feeling negative affects the way we see the world. There’s a dark and dusty filter over everything in life. We have lost all sense of hope. We expect the very worst. This is normal, and it’s natural, when we’re in this situation.

However, thinking of those things that we’re grateful for in life can help steady this imbalance (an understandable imbalance.) Yes, our friends have let us down, and they didn’t understand.  

But perhaps there are some things we can still be thankful for.

3. Being grateful helps to temporarily shift our focus from ourselves and our pain, onto the larger world again. It shifts it back onto a world which – it seems – is much the same. And that in itself, can help to ground us once again. It can offer some relief when it feels like chaos reigns.

What does the research tell us?

However, the research also shows[1] that when we practice gratitude, the effect is minimal if we’re anxious or depressed.

That is, it doesn’t change our feelings for any length of time.

What can we take away from this?

Yes, there’s value in being thankful. It can balance out wrong thoughts. But if you suffer from depression or anxiety, then it helps to know being grateful will have limited effects.

So, pay attention to the research. Show compassion to yourself.

And know that being thankful really isn’t a cure-all.

[1] David R. Cregg, Jennifer S. Cheavens. Gratitude Interventions: Effective Self-help? A Meta-analysis of the Impact on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety. Journal of Happiness Studies, 2020; DOI: 10.1007/s10902-020-00236-6

In the Bleak Midwinter

bridge canmore.jpg

Winter in Canada is absolutely brutal. And it is dangerous to let appearances deceive you. Step on fragile ice and you’ll be dead in a few minutes. The icy calm will quickly chill the life out of you.

And though I love the scenes, I pay attention to the warnings. I check for risk of avalanche, and don’t ski out-of-bounds. For nature has a power that is truly awe-inspiring. But she is temperamental, and can quickly turn on you.

When we’re living with betrayal we are in the depths of winter. We may put on an act so others think that we’re OK. But underneath the surface there are powerful scary forces that rise up suddenly, and can destroy our sense of calm.

If you are in the winter, then you need to note the warnings. You may need to retreat, and focus solely on self-care. It’s crucial you’re supported, and are heard with understanding. It isn’t being selfish. You are in survival mode.

Yes, winter is the time to prioritize your needs.