D – Depression – Part Two

  

Avoiding Depression

Ok so what can we do to avoid depression?  The best approach to managing your mental health is to take a holistic view by encouraging good physical, mental and spiritual health.  Simply looking after your physical health in isolation from your mental and emotion health will not guarantee protection against depression, anxiety or stress. Having a spiritual view of life, one that gives you a purpose and a sense of meaning to life is also very important for good mental health.  Here are five top tips:

(1)  Cultivate a good support system of family and friends – who can be there for you when life gets difficult or throws a challenge your way.  We all need support from time to time and we should all trust ourselves enough to ask for support in times of difficulty.

(2)  Eat healthily – a healthy diet doesn’t just help to keep your weight manageable, it also helps to prevent against a number of diseases, including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and a number of diet-related cancers such as: colon, breast, cervix, gall bladder, ovary, thyroid, kidney, prostate and esophagus.  The added benefit of ensuring that you are eating a nutritional diet is that your body will function at its optimal best which means that you will naturally feel better too.

(3)  Exercise – encourage those feel good endorphins by being active: Brisk walking, swimming, running, cycling, playing sports, going to the gym, running around with your children – even mowing the lawn or cutting the hedge count. Research shows that exercise results in: up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke; up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes; up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer; up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer; a 30% lower risk of early death and, a 30% lower risk of depression.

(4)  Go with the flow – people are at their happiest when they are fully engaged in a task that is interesting, challenging, and intrinsically rewarding to them. This is the experience of “losing yourself in the moment” or, as sports players say, “being in the zone.” Pitch the task correctly by choosing something that is challenging but achievable and then lose yourself in it. Immersing yourself in this way allows you to “switch off” from all your everyday concerns and experience a greater enjoyment of life.

(5)  Practice mindfulness, yoga and/or meditation – All or any of these practices will promote a deeper self-understanding which results in your being better able to appreciate and look after your Self.  When we are more self aware we are naturally better able to make choices that are good for us deep down without being so affected by external influences. Self-awareness builds trust in our own judgement and facilitates a happier level of being.

 Look after yourself and your Self will look after you!

 If you would like more information or some informal advice about depression or any other concern relating to thoughts, behaviours or feelings, please feel free to use the Contact Sarah page and I will get back to you.

D – Depression – Part One

 

Recognising Depression

It is now understood that one in four of us will suffer from depression at some stage in our lives. That is a pretty high statistic and so it can do no harm to be able to recognise some of the common symptoms of the onset of depression.  The following changes in mood or behaviour may be indications of depression.  If you are suffering from any of the following for more than a couple of weeks it is advisable to seek help and advice:

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
  • Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  • Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Reckless behaviour. You engage in escapist behaviour such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
  • Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.

There is no need to feel any shame or embarrassment associated with suffering from depression.  Depression, like asthma or a broken leg, is a medical condition, and like any medical condition it responds much better to prompt diagnosis and treatment. If you suspect that either your or somebody you know may be suffering from low mood or depression, a visit to your doctor is always a good idea. 

For information about how to avoid depression please look out for my blog entitled “Avoiding Depression” on Saturday.

C – Cognitive

Cognitive is the C in CBT and in the context of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, it means exploring the mental processes that take place in our heads.  Examples of cognitions are: 

  • Thinking
  • Remembering
  • Problem solving
  • Realising
  • Day-dreaming
  • Beliefs
  • Understanding
  • Exploring
  • Conceptualising
  • Perception
  • Worrying
  • Obsessing
  • Ideas
  • Dreaming.

These thinking processes are the cause of everything we feel, and the way in which we behave. If we are thinking positive thoughts we feel content and we smile. If we are thinking negative thoughts we feel low and we frown. 

CBT helps people to explore these cognitions in order to “root out” the negative automatic thoughts (NATS) that are troubling them. Much of our thinking is below our conscious awareness which means that we may not be able to understand why we experience certain cognitions and why they lead to unwanted feelings and behaviours. By becoming consciously aware of our cognitions, and recognising that negative ones can be challenged and changed into neutral or more positive cognitions, we are in a much stronger position to find equilibrium and contentment.  

Remember:  If you want to change your life, change your thoughts.

 

 

C – Change (Part Two)

 

As humans, we naturally organise our lives into routines, habits and comfort zones because by doing that, we automatically reduce the likelihood of stress in our everyday lives.  We all have our own comfort zones, from that pair of comfy old slippers, to our hobbies, habits and routines and these are what makes our life our own.  We choose our friends and our pastimes, we choose what and when we eat and we choose what to belief and think (yes we do).  Choosing to change means taking ourselves outside our comfort zone, seeing things from a different perspective and learning new ways to think, feel and behave.

Even change that is considered to be positive, such as a new job or marriage, will still normally hold some degree of stress. How stressful we find it will be determined by our ability to cope with change and our levels of resilience.

People undergoing CBT therapy are actively wishing to change things within their lives, and yet, even though they are seeking change for positive reasons, it doesn’t necessarily follow that this change will be easy because change means learning new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.  Not easy for us habitual, controlling, comfort zone loving human beings!

Whether change is imposed or invited, remember:

  • Accept it – Fighting or denying something that is still going to happen won’t help. 
  • Face your fears – Be Honest with yourself about how you feel.
  • Talk to the other people who are affected by the change – make sure you are all on the same page as you explore your options.
  • Do a stock-take of your resources – depending upon the situation, this may be finances, time, skills or the support of others.
  • Anticipate stress – change is rarely easy, by anticipating stress you will be forewarned and forearmed.  If you struggle to deal effectively with stress you can seek help and information through CBT therapy or by attending a Stress Management Course.

Change helps us to develop and grow as human beings which makes change a positive force.  There is always a silver lining to every cloud, even if you cannot immediately see it!

 

 

C – Change (Part One)

 

Whilst some of us thrive on change and transformation, others will seek to avoid it. Our reaction to change will be the result of our life’s experiences to date. If you have experienced a lot of change in your life and dealt with it successfully, then you will find it easier to confront change the next time. If, however you have always sought to avoid change and found it frightening, confusing and difficult to adjust to, then you will continue to react in that way unless you decide to do something about it. Change is such a difficult concept for so many of us that companies often run change management programmes to help their employees cope when they are undergoing change within their organisation.

The reality is that change is a part of life, whether it be imposed change or wanted change.   

Major changes can be difficult to cope with and require the ability to adjust and accept to a new way of being.  It is no surprise that major life changes are the biggest stress factors in our life whether positive (marriage, new baby, Christmas) or negative (divorce, bereavement, illness).  Imposed change is normally seen as negative because it is something that has been forced upon us.  It is not desirable, often unpredictable, and it takes us outside of our comfort zones as it forces us to look at things differently and to adopt new ways of being.  It isn’t what we chose or wanted and it is outside of our control and so it is no surprise that we find imposed change to be stressful, upsetting and disorientating. 

 

 

 

If you would like some tips to help you manage change, whether imposed or wanted, then please come back Saturday when the second part of this blog will be posted. 

Your comments are always appreciated!

B – Belief

 

An individual’s belief system is created from birth, in fact, possibly even before birth. Every external message received by the mind contributes towards how an individual sees him or herself.  Our belief system is the culmination of other people’s opinions, attitudes and reactions about and to our selves. During our early years we subconsciously assume these beliefs and attitudes since they are given to us by those we hold in authority and respect, ie: parents, grandparents, teachers, etc. The self-image that we build up may be either helped or hindered and is entirely dependent upon the perception of the individual and upon the attitudes and opinions foisted upon him or her.  If our beliefs are left unquestioned and undoubted then we will eventually become that which we truly believe ourselves to be, whether positive or negative.  Our self-image therefore becomes our true self. 

As adults, we remain within our belief system because it is comfortable to do so.  We feel safe and protected within our environment, even when the situation is a negative or self-damaging one. Individuals often choose to remain in their environment, even if their life is full of pain or sadness.  This is because a person’s belief system reinforces the conviction that the position he or she is in, is what he or she deserves.  This reinforcement of the belief system is known as a closed personal loop: one which constantly supports a person’s life-long held beliefs about himself and the way he should live his life and how his life should be.  There are three parts to this loop (i) the behaviour of the person, (ii) the self-talk that he/she persists in, and (iii) his/her own self-image and his or her expectations of his/her self. However, all human beings can choose to change their beliefs and attitudes should they wish to do so, since we choose our own beliefs and attitudes in the first place.

If negative beliefs are addressed and dealt with, then behaviour and emotions will be improved.  It is the responsibility of the CBT therapist to enable his or her client to assess and analyse his or her beliefs, assumptions and thoughts in order to challenge and confront them and so effect long-term, positive change.

Beliefs can hold you back forever or they can enable you to achieve your highest potential.  The choice is yours. 

 

Mo Farah, Double British Olympic Gold Champion -Winner of the 5,000m and 10,000m at the 2012 Olympics