Life Hacks For Staying Productive During Depression

Life Hacks for Staying Productive During Depression

“I found that with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone.” –Dwayne Johnson

Can you recall a time in your life when you were so crippled by depression that you weren’t able to focus on anything but your mental health? There was a time when I was so depressed and unable to do even the simplest of tasks. Sadly, this occurred right after the birth of my children, who are two years apart in age. It seemed as though everything was working against me. Some things I can distinctly remember are:

When Your Family Isn’t Equipped To Help

My mother, stepfather, and sister, lived an hour away from me. They were all pretty absorbed in their own problems. I remember feeling like a wallflower, an invisible entity when I was in their presence. My sister was a single mother at the time. She’d have my stepdad and my mom babysit for her while she pulled side jobs. She had many financial difficulties and often borrowed money from the family. They bickered about the money she owed them and complained about having to babysit so much.

I felt guilty for asking for help with money, but I did seek their advice when I was dealing with my abusive husband. They always told me to get away from him, but nothing more than hollow words to appease their own conscience. It took me years before I attained the wisdom to leave my husband.

I especially desired emotional support. I was too far away from the family members that were able to help us. The church and a domestic violence support group offered me the social support and knowledge I needed to take care of my kids on my own.

I Lacked Self-Worth

After my pregnancies, it was hard for me to lose weight. Here I was, in my early 30’s, mentally and emotionally exhausted from depression and anxiety. The constant chipping away of my soul continued for 4 years. My ex-husband took great delight in berating me when I weighed 160 lbs. He told me my stomach stuck out more than my chest, and he could get anybody he wanted, but nobody would want me ever!

I Lacked Mobility

When you are poor, it’s hard to keep up a car. There’s the car payment, the insurance, the car repairs, and of course, e-check. In Ohio, if you have an older car, you can forget about passing the e-check. In fact, I had to get a waiver because I paid money to correct the deficiencies, but it still failed. Luckily, the county I currently live in doesn’t require e-check! But the car I lease now would pass the emissions test.

When you have young kids, many people run the other way when they see you’re in need. After trying to unsuccessfully find a place to stay, I wanted to see if the kids and I could be part of the transitional housing for the homeless. There were several churches that participated in this project. The only catch was you had to move your family each week to another church “host”. I didn’t think that was a great idea for my family, given the fact we had been through so much already. Eventually, we were approved for an income-based apartment. Many people endearingly refer to these homes as the “projects.” It was the best option for us at the time, despite the fact that there was a lot of shady activities going on in the complex.

How did I ever manage to be productive when all this was going on in my life? Nothing fell into place quickly, unfortunately. It took years, but those difficult years helped me become disciplined, even when I was depressed.

Some things that worked to my benefit during my most difficult times?

Ask For A Flexible Schedule

My employer (NACS) was aware of my situation, to some extent, and allowed me to come into work after my son got on the bus in the morning, and after I took my daughter to the childcare center.

Have A Routine At Home

My kids and I followed a regular routine of when we ate dinner, played, and slept. Going to sleep on time, at the same time each day, helps your body maintain a regular rhythm.

Enjoy Low-Key Activities

When you feel the surge of anxiety or depression, it’s hard to be around large groups of people (especially, confident and happy people). While it’s not good to isolate yourself from people, many times they unwittingly cause more hurt than good. We used to go to the park when very few people were there. I took my kids to the “Book Mobile” to get videos, books, and puppets. The Book Mobile is essentially the local library contained on a bus that comes to your establishment (nursing homes, the “projects”, etc.).

Some other “low-key” ideas to get you out of the house, without throwing you into chaos when you are least likely to enjoy it, would include:

  • Walking around a quiet lake
  • Going to the movies during matinee
  • Stopping for some ice-cream
  • Fishing, boating, camping
  • Visiting a nature center

Write Lists

My ex-husband used to scoff at the fact that I was so mentally burned-out that I needed to write everything down. If I didn’t write down even the most minute task, my brain was too foggy to recall key information. Amid depression, domestic violence, unexpected “guests” showing up to “party” with my ex, and the weekly visits from the police, my mind wasn’t focused on the future. Instead, I was stuck in mere survival mode.

My family could not have moved beyond those ashes of despair, that bleak kind of existence, if it wasn’t for writing down to-do lists, tasks, resources, and even Bible verses on index cards.

Get Up And Dressed

It’s important to give your appearance some hope the better days that lie ahead. When you take a shower and get dressed, it’s easier to be ready for whatever is going on in the day. There may be an expected opportunity waiting for you- an unexpected job offer, an unexpected friend may call and want to have lunch. Taking the time to get ready is refreshing to your body and your well-being!

Finding Peace For A Troubled Soul

How a Self-Proclaimed Loser Finally Found Peace

By worldly standards. I haven’t achieved much, nor do I have much clout or influence. I do not have hundreds of friends and followers, in real life or on social media. The friendships I have managed to gain have not come easily or quickly. If it were not for having to interact with those individuals daily, I might not even be able to consider those people my friends.

In my life, I have only been a “winner” a handful of times. In middle school and high school, I achieved recognition for my artistic talents. My endeavors to obtain a career in graphic design failed. I was never able to finish college. Fate told me I could keep art and design as a side project, but not as a career- not at least at that time when I was in my twenties.

I had never considered writing as a career and thus, never realized my potential until more recent years. Writing is an especially sweet pursuit for those who struggle to be heard in the noise and busyness of life. One is almost forced to withdraw from the world in order to reflect and gain a fresh perspective on everything from relationships, money, family, pain, etc. Introverts are particularly gifted and drawn by writing.

When I was young, I turned neither to God or writing. I didn’t even try to draw much, but somehow believed that I should go to school for graphic design. Even though I was a very depressed and emotionally fragile person, I tried to attain what I felt the world was calling me to do- and I remained unfulfilled and unsuccessful in my pursuits.

Being poor was just one disadvantage of my youth. Our family no longer lived on the “right side of the tracks” once my grandfather died. My family lost touch with families in our middle-class neighborhood. Our family relocated after my dad was laid-off from his job. After the death of her only son, the family went to live in the upstairs of my great-grandmother’s house on the West Side of town.

My family was wrought with grief and anguish. Mom didn’t want to be torn away from the stability of our old neighborhood. Dad was struggling to keep it together after the loss of his father, and the loss of employment. They started fighting more, and we became poorer, in spirit, community and financially. 

A number of changes occurred to our family with regards to location status. None of these things provided any type of stability. As a result, I felt very insignificant and unworthy compared to other kids. When I saw other kids feeling happy and nurtured, I knew I was going through issues others my age did not face, and I faced them alone.

Only now, as an adult, can I see how selfish I was to consider only myself during those difficult years. Now that I am that parent that struggles to keep it together, I could only hope that my kids would be understanding of their mom. A mother who has tuned-out their emotional needs at times. I can vividly remember all the times I found parenting “short-cuts” to just get some kind of a mental break! Many of the “nobler” parents would gasp at how often I was disengaged, albeit, due to the emotional burn-out. 

Throughout my teens and twenties, I became more withdrawn and depressed. Even with my group of friends/drinking buddies, I felt a certain emptiness in my soul.

By my early twenties, I tried to conform and be an adult. Without any family support, I tried to make it on my own by working full time and going to school part-time. During those years of my teens and twenties, I believe God was calling me but I turned to substances, self-pity, and selfish ambition. I would still achieve anything in the world.

Marriage was also not the answer- a man was not the answer. At 35, I was alone with my two young children. Maybe I was subconsciously trying to correct my version of history by quickly marrying somebody I was not suited for in marriage. Not only did my own inadequacies cause me to make rash decisions, they altered the lives of my children.

We have managed to obtain some of the “good things” in life by now- a house (mortgage), security and stability. The kids no longer have to see drugs and alcohol in our neighborhood or home, but we are without emotional resources many times. In that emptiness, I have tried to fill the void once again, except not with alcohol like I did when I was young. Now my vices were seemingly more benign.

Credit cards- I tried to buy my family’s happiness with entertainment, food, clothing.

Food- I have turned to unhealthy foods to fill the void, and then I’ve purged in an effort to rid myself of the guilt of poor food choices.

Time- Instead of savoring every free moment with my family, I have been given over to passively leaking time on the internet and on social media.

Never could I offer God even just a little of my time in the morning to prepare me for the day. Instead, I turned to the wireless void of deceit (when not used sensibly). Instead of allowing God to manage my time, finances and other aspects of my life, I over-indulged or tried to allocate things as I saw fit.

Now, I spend a few minutes each morning (almost every morning), reading the Bible before I get ready for work. Connecting with God each day has changed my life significantly. I am able to move on past my flaws (sometimes after a good cry). When I am subject to depression and anxiety, I take comfort that I will overcome my emotions and feeling.

Proverbs 18:10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.

 

A Simple Lesson on Nurturing Ourselves

Lessons On Nurturing

I believe many people regard taking care of themselves as a frivolity, or an act of selfishness. Unhealthy demonstrations, disguised as “self-care” are, indeed, selfish and even destructive. Unhinged shopping sprees may give me a temporary lift, but it isn’t the soulful lift I need to manage myself and others. However, taking the time to replace the drawer of missing and tattered socks isn’t selfish. Not all acts of shopping for myself are selfish.

Bad Lessons

  • The quality of love and care that one gives is circumstantial and conditional.
  • Nutrition is unimportant- grab some junk food and soda.
  • If somebody is behaving badly, keep out of their way or behave badly in return (watch for signals).

Not Trained To Think of Myself As Important

As children, my sister and I never got new clothes or even used clothes very often. Sometimes we got a bag of clothes from an aunt or grandparent. I’m quite sure I never considered the bag of bell-bottom corduroys as a gift or a curse. I got through my high school years wearing jeans and t-shirts- black t-shirts, concert t-shirts, one-size-fits-all shirts. I was happy wearing those clothes and it was very low-maintenance. I still do not treat myself by way of buying clothes, although I am very much in need of the most essential of clothing, jeans, and t-shirts. I long for some dressy clothes sometimes but never make the effort to buy myself such things.

Diet & Nutrition- Taking Care of The Physical Body

Those who lack a strong support system especially need to manage self-care in a balanced fashion. We should not turn to mere substitutes or addictions, no matter how benign they may appear. I am guilty of using caffeine as a crutch. This is probably a factor in my erratic moods and weak food choices (carbs, lots of carbs). A steady stream of caffeine and a depletion of vital, cleansing water leads to an abundance of empty calories and garbage in the body. Perhaps my mood swings are the only way my body can adapt to balancing all the garbage I eat and all the mindless clutter I am consumed by each day? This is something I will explore further.

Leisure Time

Let’s face it- men have their “man-caves”, and some ladies like to get manicures. And then we have the rest of the world. These are ordinary people taking care of their families, working a job, attending school, etc. They may lack the means- time, energy or money- to enjoy “leisure” activities. It is essential to carve out even a little bit of time for yourself each day, whether you have to stay up after the kids go to bed, or get up earlier to go for a walk, read, or whatever else feeds your soul.

Being busy in life sometimes makes us lose ourselves, which can cause us to feel bitter, devoid and empty. Often, it is not until a crisis or conflict when it becomes apparent that self-care is as important as the care we provide for others.

Unpacking the Baggage of the Past

Issues from “the past”, people from our past and messages from the past continue to plague us subconsciously. Both solitude and good company can help us “recharge” and make sense of the world around us. I have suffered frequent episodes of depression in my life, which has made me more isolated at the very times I needed support. I was taught it was embarrassing and “weak” to cry or have emotional needs. As a child, others were told to “not baby me” when I needed to talk or receive encouragement (not criticism). My achievements were not validated by my mother, I wasn’t “validated”. Today, I still battle with such feelings of inadequacies.

My first job as a production artist proved challenging for many reasons- my depressed moods, adjustment to medications, and the stressful work environment (my supervisor didn’t like me, our boss came into work intoxicated, and he and my supervisor had a “love/hate” relationship). In the past decade, I have settled for a more mundane job, but one that provides my family with stability nonetheless. My job does not (always) subject me to harsh attitudes or very much dysfunction, and I have great co-workers.

I’ve had very little training in thinking of myself as important as those around me. Even as I write this, I justify the reasons to take better care of myself so that I can be able to provide a better life for my family. Often, when I project my well-being to others, I’m deeply disappointed when I become depressed or sick.

Today, I will make an effort to ask for help when needed.

There’s nobody to ask- I will pray for strength and endurance.

I’m a weak person and often a weak follower, but I am a believer.

 

woman walking near brown wooden door during daytime

Why You Should Take a Break From Technology

“Technology is, of course, a double edged sword. Fire can cook our food but also burn us.” -Jason Silva

Mobile phones and other electronic devices offer access to an array of entertainment and information. We can access information about anything at any time. We can watch movies, listen to music, and read books with a sleight of hand. But these things are nothing more than distractions. In some regards, distractions can be helpful. When we need to move at a quick pace, listening to music on our iPhones provides that rush of adrenaline we need to hustle.

A diverse group of people who are distracted by cell phones and tasks.

Distractions Are Nothing New

For many years, people have turned to mindless entertainment. Such entertainment is usually wrought little redeeming qualities, but audiences tune in anyway. There’s the stereotypical image of the 1950s, where the man of the house retreats to his den to skim the local newspaper. Women turned to soap operas and television dramas to “escape” their ordinary lives.

In the 1980s, music videos and video games were rolled out to the masses. When people were not watching TV, playing games, or listening to the radio, they passed the time using the phone. Although technology has changed, the concepts are relatively the same. We seek distraction. We seek an escape from reality and our problems. By immersing ourselves in technology, we can feel “engaged” without fully participating in life.

Artificial Happiness

In my experience, I’ve learned that electronics and the various means of communications via electronics (i.e., my phone, laptop, blog, email, social media) provide me with an artificial “high”. Who isn’t delighted to get a new friend request or find some illuminating, esoteric information?

Promises of Opportunity

I was recently seduced by an email invite from a notable online community. I accepted the offer, which involved writing, and realized it amounted to pennies if it amounted to anything at all. Money for impressions, eyeballs, and clicks. The next day I vowed that I wouldn’t let the desire for success or money to cause me to accept such offers.

For others, they may be chasing other promises. The promise of fulfillment, success, friendship, beauty. Advertisers and publishers study our habits and know our desires. Before cell phones and computers, there were magazines, billboards, newspapers, and radio. Now, it is much easier for people to be swept away by advertising.

The Natural Tendency Towards Selfishness And Sin

One could say that greed, not a technology in general, was my flaw. Humans all have a tendency towards sin, whether it’s the promise of easy money (sloth, greed), or the envy of a celebrity, the feeling of adoration (pride), and even gluttony (casually, mindlessly eating while sitting in front of the TV.

Technology, in itself, isn’t inherently good or bad. It is a tool that we use. Unlike “functional” tools, such as an eating utensil, the “tool” of technology lends itself well to human weakness. We love to share our lives with others, yet technology can easily be misused. It also robs us of face-to-face interactions and “real” friends. Too much time online can make people feel lonely and depressed.

Teens Especially Vulnerable To Technology’s Vices

In an article from the Chicago Tribune, titled, “Mobile Phones Linked To Anxiety And Severe Depression In Teens” studies show that feelings of hopelessness and suicide increased by 12% between 2010-2015.

“As smart as phones may be these days, they simply don’t know when to quit. To protect your mental health, experts say you must develop ways of outsmarting them – and often that involves simply turning them off.” (https://yp.scmp.com/news/features/article/108242/mobile-phones-linked-anxiety-and-severe-depression-teens).

For teens, who on average spend 9 hours each day online (Common Sense Research), the use of electronics and technology is especially pervasive. When teens interact on social media, technology can cause harm when they feel excluded from social groups. Additionally, it’s easy to take offense to what others post on Instagram or any of the other myriad of social media.

The Addictive Nature of Technology

It’s important to consider the “feel good” effects of technology, and how we can become addicted to the “reward” our brain receives when we spend too much time online.

“Dopamine is a feel-good neurochemical messenger that carries signals across brain synapses, responsible for motivation and reward-seeking behavior, and essential to neuroplastic change.  Neuroplastic change is what allows a habit or addiction to form in the first place.” (thebestbrainpossible.com).

“All of our technology is completely unnecessary to a happy life.” -Tom Hodgkinson, (British writer)

The Minimalist Approach

In an article featured at Becoming Minimalist “7 Important Reasons To Unplug And Find Space” by Joshua Becker, we can discover some interesting reasons to avoid technology. The reason that resonated with me was  “Powering-down promotes creation over consumption.” Joshua points out that we spend our time in one of two ways: consuming or creating. We spend time reading, watching, playing or browsing. He advises us to power-down so that we can recharge our battery. In doing so, we can inspire the world around us, instead of simply taking in so many distractions.

Shut-Down Technology, Renew Your Soul

Why should anybody fast from electronics and technology? The same reason we should fast from anything in life. Moderation is key. Mindfulness and discipline to keep track of our precious energy and time, and so we don’t become so consumed by worldly pleasures and fleeting things.

Benefits To Your Well-Being

More time for face-to-face interactions.

More Time to create instead of consuming.

More time for personal reflection.

Less time spent clicking unnecessary pages.

Less time worrying about other people’s lives and dramas.

Less time comparing yourself to others.

 

 

How OCD Nearly Destroyed My Creativity

One of the things that helped soothe my mind as a child was art. I had a special affinity for drawing people. Teachers noticed my skills and would shine the spotlight on my artwork sometimes. I became known as a good artist by my classmates. I always believed I would choose a career path that utilized my artistic talents. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I started to become disenchanted with the concept of art. In school, art was never very disciplined.

Once I took art classes at college, it was very different. I hated using charcoal pencils, pastels, and paints. My artwork no longer represented my creativity, but rather, it reflected “mental clutter” and oppressive memories. I started purging my pencil and charcoal sketches that I had devoted so much time and energy. I did not want these remnants of my past, for whatever reasons.

In my early thirties, I began favoring a more minimalistic home environment, much to my family’s dismay. I was unable to have any kind of clutter. This meant I could not pursue my art anymore, though I tried to keep my interest in art alive by doing art with my kids. I would buy art supplies, make arts and crafts, then throw the supplies and designs away. It also meant that my husband and I would have arguments over what he wanted to save and what I wanted to discard or donate. He wanted the basement to remain undisturbed. He did, in fact, want to hoard too many things, but the truth is told, he had a point. My thoughts were impeding on the liberties of others in my home.

OCD or A Bipolar Trying To Control External Stimuli?

It’s odd that I started to favor a minimalistic theme in my life. I loved to see art, I loved to be surrounded by cozy objects in other people’s homes- just not my own. My mind became cluttered with stimuli if I allowed any empty space in my house. My kids said our house looked like we just moved in. I tend to agree with them! The mission to maintain a clutter-free house consumed me- OCD Decluttering! Absolute madness, yet disregarded by many that do not see the damage caused by this disorder.

Assigning Values To OCD Stress & Triggers

I don’t know what has caused my OCD symptoms to lessen. Perhaps the passage of time, or maybe I have become more mindful of the destructive ways of OCD. When I have become overwhelmed, I have purged “things”…clothes, paper, the pantry, anything I could get my hands on! I try to minimize things that trigger OCD. For instance, I try to avoid doing too many things I dislike in one day. I won’t grocery shop and drive excessively on the same day if I can help it. Maybe somebody should try to assign numbers to indicate varying degrees of stress for daily activities. I know there are such systems for monumental stressful life events (such as jail, divorce, job loss, etc.). For people suffering from anxiety or OCD, this would be ideal.

Reconciling OCD, Rekindling My Creativity

My OCD symptoms have diminished in the last few years… I haven’t thought too much lately how far I have come with my anxiety and OCD because I have been distracted by other issues. Visiting an art museum has helped me to become inspired by art once again.

In my previous post, I wrote about being happy when I am out in nature. Nature is beauty in its simplest form, no clutter or embellishments. Art is the creation of man (and woman). It is not necessarily simple, yet I find it beautiful and edifying. I have become less focused on intrusive, unimportant worries about clutter, and more concerned about what is involved in the making of the things that are in my surroundings. Processes, engagement, activity: things that are relational help make the visual beauty in a way that has depth. This is beyond what was once shallow. Everything that is material or visual is not superficial to me any longer.

white surfboard beside white wall white wooden cube bookshelf inside the room

How Simplicity and Mindful Living Can Spark Joy

Recently, I watched the Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” and I also purchased her book, “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.” This book is the companion to Marie’s #1 New York Times best-selling, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

The substance and design of her best-selling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” appealed to me more than the companion book. Nevertheless, I still value the concepts presented by Marie Kondo, and I will spend time reading everything she espouses. Each chapter is filled with clarity and mindfulness. For instance, tidying experts advise keeping some items in a “grey zone.” This grey zone signifies that you have a degree of uncertainty on the value of the item. Keep it there for 3 months. If after that time, you have no use for it, you may discard it.

Marie tried this method but had little success. The guilt of getting rids of items just because they didn’t make her happy in the allotted time frame, was something she wanted to change. “There are only two choices: keep it or chuck it. And if you’re going to keep it, make sure you take care of it,” responds Kondo.

I believe it’s logical to place things in a “grey zone” (Ms. Kondo refers to this grey zone as a “detention” zone). I never put sentimental items in a grey zone- only things that have utility. I use 3 clear plastic boxes that store under my bed or can fit on top of my closet shelf (and I often shuffle where I place the plastic boxes, depending on if I have been recently sorting the contents).

Items of Sentimental Value (Children’s Things)

  • Box 1- (Flat mementos) school projects and artwork, report cards, and award certificates.
  • Box 2- (Flat, oversized artwork) Flat artwork that is larger than 8.5” x 11” (usually 11” x 17”).
  • Box 3- (Dimensional) Bulky, odd-shaped and dimensional mementos. In this box, I have an odd assortment of hand-made pasta bracelets, origami sculptures, magnets adorned with sequins, and a few baby teeth. I also have newspaper clippings in this box because they don’t go in Box 1.

I struggled with getting rid of some of my children’s projects, especially ones that won awards at the fair. My son was very proud of his 8th-grade lamp project, so that made the cut. My daughter made some figures out of coffee cans that a folk-art vibe. I had painted some of the cans to get her started. The ones I made were discarded because hers hold more value. Mine was simply used to guide her. She was proud of her final creations. I was disappointed in how weird my coffee can sculpture looked! It was not my project anyway, so they lacked value.

When I organize mindfully, there is less guilt.

Although my methods are somewhat different from Marie Kondo’s, I find dignity and clarity in how she organizes.

By contrast,  I have often purged things as a means to an end- that end being an end to my anxiety. Decluttering or purging out of compulsion or anxiety never leaves me refreshed. I enjoy discovering the mindful and meditative ways in which others handle material things.

“The challenge is coming to grips with the fact that, often times, material things have an emotional connection and attachment.”http://www.thrive-mindful.blog

Be healthy. Train yourself how to handle emotional attachments. Detach from unhealthy “things”. Not all outwardly-beautiful things have a need in our homes or lives. Sometimes they are just taking away mental energy that could be used for utilitarian purposes. And other times, they are benign and serve only to be admired by the world.

Assorted wall decor with an organic theme.

Decorative items, although not particularly useful, serve to define the style and set the tone for the things valued by an individual.

What is YOUR personal style? Do you crave utility and function, with a little bit of glamour? Or do you see your living space as something to be used to impress others? Maybe right now, your desires have little control over how your home appears. Whatever style you embrace, whatever you determine sparks joy, just be thoughtful. Give careful thought to the value and placement of the things in your home AND your life.

A smiling woman, standing near trees.

How I Refresh When I’m Depressed

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”- George Harrison

For several weeks, I have neglected my writing, my drawings, my dreams, and my passions. Why? Because I am depressed. As a result, I feel hopeless and unmotivated. It is the same reason why I buy things and throw them out a week later, I suppose. When I feel ambitious, I buy things to “make changes”, to pursue a hobby or some other “worthy” cause. I become overwhelmed and depressed, and I figure my plans and abilities will fail, I simply discard my purchases.

Writing is my faithful outlet- I won’t throw away my laptop, but I may edit some of my ideas on the computer. I have written essays to process my feelings, to aid in my research and recovery of mental health issues. When I have a problem, I turn to the internet or books to help me understand; I usually feel compelled to write while researching a topic.

But even now, I have only recently begun to feel like writing again. I had hoped to be making progress in composing a collection of essays to be published, either independently, or otherwise. I don’t like waiting months for a response and I feel I want control over my work. I have been feeling like I’m drifting, sailing mindlessly, with nothing to do but observe the grim scenery. I’ve come to realize, despite my depression, bipolar people can still do some things, even when they are crippled by mood fluctuations.

How To Work On Your Dreams Even When You’re Depressed:

Work on smaller tasks that help you achieve your goals.

When I feel too depressed to write, I should accept the fact that I won’t probably compose a novel in that state, but at least I can make an effort to put my thoughts, ideas, or any other “fragment” down on paper. The mind can gather and begin to subconsciously work in a way to move me to write once again.

Peruse the internet to find support groups and tips.

Many people are in the same place, looking for answers and support.

Remind yourself of your dreams and how they are a great part of you!

No matter what others think of me, no matter how lousy life has become, I am grounded in at least one passion. I don’t seek approval from others when I am depressed because people tend to view depressed individuals in a negative way. Thankfully, I’m an introverted person- I don’t need other people to make me feel better. It is a boost to my ego when I do feel accepted by others, however.

Get some fresh air and some fresh perspective.

Maybe circumstances and people are creating a climate that is toxic. Get around new people, go for a walk, listen to music to drown out some of the toxicity.

Read!

Being a writer means I must be a reader too. When  I am uninspired, I read inspirational stories of other writers. In the midst of feeling depressed, I read articles about how to improve my mental health. I understand that with my mood disorder, I am prone to bouts of depression- I have almost accepted this fact of life. Reading about mood disorders helps me to feel less anxious and isolated.

Recently, I bought myself a Kindle and I’ve discovered a wealth of free ebooks on self-improvement, mental health, productivity, and creativity. Every chance I had a break at work, I read a few ebooks, got inspired and more motivated.

Sometimes, acceptance is a great way to overcome depression. When I’m depressed, I tend to consume too much caffeine. I drink coffee compulsively, sometimes to fill the emptiness in my time, or to curb physical hunger. This behavior wrecks my eating patterns, as I often “crash” from this caffeinated-diet and I supplement my diet with junk food. I don’t always accept my poor eating habits- but I make concessions for them.

Acceptance, a positive attitude about something that can’t be changed- but I can change my shopping, cooking and eating habits. There is often an issue with anxiety that I am unwilling to exchange for a healthier habit (such as eating right). With depression, there are often many layers of behavioral issues that need to be managed. If I am too overwhelmed to pursue healthier choices, I have enabled internal and external factors to influence my life. Despite living with unresolved issues, but because one can choose to acknowledge that which is “unresolved”, acceptance is authentic. Choosing acceptance doesn’t mean I am free to mull over poor choices, rather, it is a way a life sometimes.

A woman relaxing on a hammock.

The 5 Components Necessary For Well-Being

Maintaining clarity is difficult, especially when you are depressed or experiencing burnout. Often, something is missing from one of these basic components to well-being if you are unhappy. It is important to consider each of these elements when we begin to feel unbalanced.

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Spiritual

The Physical Component:

Getting the right amount of sleep and exercise are essential to physical health. Having access to good (and affordable) nutrition (not junk-food or convenience foods) is also important. When your body is depleted of the vitamins and minerals needed to maintain a healthy body, and you consume “empty” calories, your body and mind aren’t getting what they need to thrive, you will be more vulnerable to illness, fatigue and even memory problems.

All these can affect your performance at work- which is another very important aspect of wellness (social, financial, “career” well-being).

The Mental Component:

Optimal mental health can be defined as realizing one’s potential and having sufficient confidence and self-esteem. When an individual’s mental health is balanced, they are able to manage stress better, express their anger and moods appropriately, set goals, build friendships, and have a good view about themselves and their bodies.

The Emotional Component:

Exploring your intellect and getting insight is part of emotional well-being. It is the ability to see our problems and find ways to manage them. We also have compassion and empathy for others when we have optimal emotional well-being. Relationships with our friends, family, and co-workers are improved when we are well-balanced and our emotional component (as well as all components) are nurtured.

The Social Component:

The ability to build and maintain strong relationships and social networks is an important component of our overall well-being. Interacting, communicating, negotiating, trusting, and setting boundaries with others comes from the social component of our well-being. When we can socialize with others in meaningful and healthy ways, we, in turn, are able to reciprocate and receive needed support and guidance. Without proper social support, feelings of isolation or alienation may take root and hinder our well-being.

The Spiritual Component:

Spiritual well-being is the search for purpose and significance. Many people satisfy their spiritual component by participating in worship and religious activities, yoga, meditation, quiet time or by spending time in nature. Fulfillment, altruism, mindfulness are satisfied with the spiritual component.

When The 5 Components of Well-Being Lack or Overlap

Since well-being is holistic, meaning we depend on each and every component to function properly for our overall wellness. The components overlap each other- for instance, if you don’t get enough sleep (physical), you may be too tired to carry out your daily tasks (mental, emotional, social). Some of us lack the 5 components because of things beyond our control. When things are beyond our control, we don’t have a sense of mastery over our tasks.

A good example is working in a job where you don’t feel valued or respected. Perhaps, responsibilities are being removed or shifted to other workers without your input. You feel alienated and disregarded. It may be difficult for you to find another job. You may not have access to reliable transportation or childcare. This would be a situation where you would have to make the best of a situation or make some difficult choices. Perhaps you can explore a hobby to satisfy your sense of mastery, or you could write in a journal to gain insight and set goals for the future, or take classes to satisfy your intellectual curiosity. All of these things can help to improve your confidence and combat the stressors that are beyond your control.

Take Small Steps, Make and Maintain Small Goals To Start

What if you have too many responsibilities to meditate or pursue spiritual activities? You may have anxiety issues (perhaps repressed or unresolved issues) that prevent you from socializing as you would like to pursue? Perhaps you don’t have good social connections, or you feel judged and alienated by your peers, or you observe social cues that signal you don’t “belong”. Make use of one of the 5 components in which you are stronger- for instance, if you have good physical health, or a strong attitude and joy from exercising, you could do running and change your physical environment for the moment by being outside.

Being in nature helps us physically (fresh air) and spiritually (created environment). This environmental change refreshes us and allows us to see what is in the world beyond our cubicle and our own problems.

  • Set aside 5 minutes a day to pursue a spiritual goal, such as prayer, meditation, reading spiritual books.
  • Skip time with negative people and try to encourage or say “hi” to somebody else.
  • Read and understand the meaning of the serenity prayer. Apply it to your life!

“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

  • Talk to trusted people, or reach out to an online community or counselor.
  • Be sure to get an annual physical to check for underlying health issues.
  • Take a self-paced (free) online class.
  • Visit a museum for beauty and fresh perspective.
  • Write in a journal for insight and reflection.
  • Research and evaluate your personality.
  • Evaluate your values. Do they line up your physical environment? Does your career satisfy these values? Does the culture of your company align with your values? What small (or big) changes can be made to improve your daily interactions and surroundings?
A woman with outstretched arms near a lake.

How to Balance the 7 Elements of Wellness

“Health is not everything, but without health, everything is nothing” (cited from Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher, 1788-1860).

Insulating Your Health With The 7 Dimensions of Wellness

While physical health is the most obvious part of wellness, there are several dimensions that are integrated to create healthy wellbeing. These seven elements of holistic wellness- physical health, spiritual health, and mental health- are indicated as:

  • Occupational- Finding work that maximizes your talents and abilities, honing your professional skills, determining your career goals, exploring opportunities for growth, taking vocational assessments.
  • Environmental- Spending time in nature and in pleasant environments, reducing or eliminating harmful noises and exposure to harmful pollutants.
  • Physical- Exercise, nutrition, sleep, weight management, protecting your body and being mindful of any changes or symptoms of illness. Hygiene and preventative measures are also important.
  • Emotional- Giving and receiving support, self-esteem, the ability to express emotions and share feelings, managing time and stress optimally.
  • Spiritual- Spending time alone, participating in religious or worship activities that satisfy your desire to understand your purpose in this world.
  • Social- Sharing your knowledge or skills with others, getting involved within your community or by volunteering, sharing your ideas and thoughts, (ala a suggestion box, for instance).
  • Intellectual- Keeping an active mind, reading, taking classes, being inspired by people or activities that challenge your thinking.

When Imbalance Occurs, We Are Less Resilient

At times, various aspects of our wellbeing dominate our lives, while other aspects may be neglected. When we become imbalanced in any one of the elements, our overall wellness is affected and we may be less resilient to handle additional stressors. It is important to accept that “life” sometimes happens and some events and exterior influences are beyond our control.

Adopting a few practical tips can help you overcome stress:

Adopting a few practical tips can help you overcome stress:

Avoid or limit exposure to triggering or stressful tasks or associations.

  • Be assertive.
  • Know your limits.
  • Maintain a flexible attitude and be willing to healthy compromises.
  • Keep things in perspective. Will it matter a month from now?
  • Practice forgiveness to release negativity.
  • Manage your time.
  • Ask for help.

Sources:

(https://www.grcc.edu/humanresources/wellness/sevendimensionsofwellness).
(https://www.emaze.com/@AIRQQRFI).

A woman sitting alone in nature writes in a journal.

How Journaling Helps Bipolar Disorder

For those suffering from bipolar disorder, much of their life is filled with chaos and the uncertainty of when they will experience another episode of mania or debilitating depression.

In a post at the health and wellness website http://www.sharecare.com, Dr. Thomas Jensen, answering on behalf of International Bipolar Foundation, states,

“The mood state that we want a bipolar person to spend as much time as possible in is the euthymic state, which translates from Latin into ‘true mood’ or normal mood.” (https://www.sharecare.com/health/bipolar-disorder/what-euthymic-state-bipolar-disorder).

Unfortunately, this “normal” euthymic state is not the predominant mood in those suffering from bipolar disorder.

In a 2002 study by Lewis L. Judd and colleagues at the University of California at San Diego, “people with bipolar I experience depression three times as often as mania. For bipolar II, the ratio of time spent in depression versus mania is a whopping 40:1.” (http://www.bphope.com/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-bipolar-depression/).

Journaling is a form of writing that goes beyond the elements of keeping a diary.

While a diary merely allows individuals to record events, writing a journal involves self-expression and creativity. “Journaling allows you to dialogue with parts of your psyche that are frozen in time,” states Laurie Nadel, Phd., and author of Zen and the Art of Windsurfing.

The art of journaling helps organize thoughts, purge the mind of mental “clutter”, and gain insight into your perceptions of your moods and life experiences- a type of creative, and safe, inner-dialog.

Journaling can be viewed as an interactive way in which individuals can process their moods and emotions. Once the words are written down on paper, the writer has power over those feelings, and they may opt to keep the pages of their journal or destroy the pages after processing and reviewing their entries.

Although writing can help everybody manage anxiety and depression, it seems particularly beneficial to the 2.6 million people over the age of 18 suffering from bipolar disorder. (National Institute of Mental Health). Often, the stigma associated with bipolar disorder (and other mental disorders) makes it challenging to find support and talk to others. Furthermore, people suffering from episodes of bipolar depression may become so debilitated by their moods that, not only will they physically isolate themselves from others, but that they may withdraw emotionally from family and friends as well.

Here are some ways to motivate yourself to keep a journal:

Integrate journaling into your daily routine

Just as you should make time to eat, bathe, and exercise each day, setting aside just a few minutes each day will help you become more disciplined recording events, as you would in a traditional diary. Journaling moves beyond keeping such records, as it allows for self-expression and creativity. However, recording events and experiences is a necessary part of the journaling process.

Choose your own method of writing in your journal. Sigmund Freud “free association” with his patients, that is, he allowed them to sit on the couch and speak of their dreams and experiences.

Free association as used in the realm of psychotherapeutic technique, allowed Freud to unlock insights from a deeper level when he engaged patients in this type of spontaneous dialog. (http://aycnp.org/Self_Help_Writing_Journaling_Mental_Health_Self_Help.php).

Control Your Audience.

Opt to share your journal with whom you trust, or share it with the world by creating a blog. Use the journal to help organize thoughts when you visit your doctor, or simply, throw away any negative entries. Once you have processed the emotions and experiences, they are yours to share or discard.

References:

What is a euthymic state in bipolar disorder? Sharecare.com. Retrieved on September 3, 2017. https://www.sharecare.com/health/bipolar-disorder/what-euthymic-state-bipolar-disorder

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About BIPOLAR DEPRESSION. BPHope.com. Retrieved on September 3. 2017. http://www.bphope.com/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-bipolar-depression/

Writing Your Way Out of Depression. WebMD.com. Retrieved on September 3, 2017. http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/writing-your-way-out-of-depression#1

Journaling For Mental Health Self-Help. AYCNP.org. Retrieved on September 3, 2017. http://aycnp.org/Self_Help_Writing_Journaling_Mental_Health_Self_Help.php

Journaling For Mental Health. Urmc.rochester.edu. Retrieved on September 3, 2017. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=4552

man standing beside grocery rack

Finding Emotional Support When You Feel Marginalized

Traditionally marginalized people– (e.g., women or people of oppressed racial/ethnic groups; people with mental and physical disabilities, as well as older people and individuals from lower socioeconomic classes)- and any person that is underserved, disregarded, harassed, ridiculed or ostracized need to find ways to feel supported despite their environment. Each group of marginalized people has specific needs that are not necessarily understood by those in the community, thus, they must serve as their own advocate in finding such social and emotional support.

Fortunately- or unfortunately, we have become a society that has become more reliant on the use of the internet and social media. In one regard, this reliance on the internet and social media engagement have made us into socially-awkward creatures in the real world. Conversely, these tools can help some people- individuals who feel marginalized, in particular, by mental illness. Often, the stigma attached to mental illness cause people to feel ashamed or distrustful of others, as is the case with people suffering from schizophrenia.

Women, especially those who live with the fear of being abused, have varying reasons as to why they can’t obtain the social or emotional support they need. Victims of domestic violence must be vigilant when speaking to others, either in person or online, about the issues they face. These women live in fear of their lives and the lives of their children- they fear losing custody of their children and perhaps, they wonder how they will support themselves and children alone. (http://www.ncadv.org/learn-more/what-is-domestic-violence/why-victims-stay).

Three forms of social support are noted: (https://psychcentral.com/lib/strategies-to-reduce-anxiety-and-stress/) and they include:

  • Socioemotional support- The ways in which you feel validated, or (the ways) “that you are loved, cared for, esteemed and connected to other people in a network of communication and mutual obligation.”
  • Tangible support- Money, transportation, and housing.
  • Informational support- Describes the ability to obtain “advice, personal feedback, expert guidance”

While much research tells us the benefits of having a strong support system, the truth is that marginalized people from all walks of life do not have access to such social supports. The reasons for this include:

  • Lack of money
  • Lack of mobility
  • No support systems in place within the community
  • Mental or cognitive impairments that prevent individuals from seeking help
  • Lack of supportive family, friends or co-workers
  • Lack of knowledge or lack of education about such help
  • No affiliations with community groups or churches

In many cases, “social support” may only be available from government or nonprofit agencies. While these agencies can offer many resources- such as referrals to legal or mental health resources, people still lack socioemotional supports.

Many marginalized people might be able to obtain a support network, and information, through the internet. One may be able to access the internet at the public library so long as they have the means to get a library card (proof of residency, driver’s license or ID). In many cases, the librarians can offer patrons a “guest” username and password in order to use their computers. Once online, they can connect to a plethora of online support groups, or they can locate community resources.

(http://www.reachout.life/)
Reachout is a Support Network for patients and caregivers fighting chronic conditions. By connecting with other patients with similar ailments in specific support groups, users are able to find support, gain self-confidence, develop coping skills and reduce loneliness and depression.”

(https://www.benefits.gov/benefits/benefit-details/613)
“The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides grant funds to states and territories to provide families with financial assistance and related support services. State-administered programs may include child care assistance, job preparation, and work assistance.” Users may search for benefits and grants for various causes.

(https://catholiccharitiesusa.org)
“At Catholic Charities we help people who are struggling by addressing the often complex issues at the root of their need. Through our national office’s advocacy and disaster relief programs — and its support of our network of member agencies — we’re making tangible progress toward better serving and loving our neighbors all across the country.”

 

References:

  1. Understanding Why Victims Stay. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved on September 3, 2017. http://www.ncadv.org/learn-more/what-is-domestic-violence/why-victims-stay
  2. Strategies To Reduce Anxiety and Stress. Psychcentral.com. Retrieved on September 3, 2017. https://psychcentral.com/lib/strategies-to-reduce-anxiety-and-stress/

Simple Ways to Survive a Negative Workplace

When you are feeling no longer feel motivated or you simply feel burned-out, it is best to find the root cause of your feelings before making any major life changes. A common mistake is attributing the sum total of your negative feelings on one broad problem, such as a bad job, or having no money. While both of these things do not elicit feelings of joy or contentment, resilient people are able to deal with such challenges with a hearty attitude.

If being in a bad job, or being broke, is not the root cause- or there are layers of an underlying cause, it may be more difficult to overcome negative feelings simply by getting a different job or working more hours to bring in more money. In fact, if your current job is not recognizing your efforts, why would you want to work more hours to bring in more money- only to continue a never-ending cycle of “live to work, work to live!”

Your Job Isn’t So Bad That You Can’t Overcome Some Obstacles.

You may be unable to change some aspects of your job, but maybe you can change one important component to your experience each day- and remind yourself that life doesn’t cease to exist when you punch the clock, you may be better equipped to recognize what is in your control and what is beyond your control.

Ways To Ease The Challenges of A Negative Environment

  • Read about the type of people that inspire you, instead of only taking in the negative people that surround you.
  • Make a note of it. Keep a notebook handy to write down what is making you angry or sad. It’s not convenient to do this when your manager is breathing down your neck about quotas, but take a moment to write it down the minute you are alone. Talk to a trusted friend to help process your emotions. If you have nobody that understands or shows empathy towards your problem, you need to find your “tribe.” In the meantime, writing it down may help you process your emotions.
  • Determine what it is about the problem. Hopefully, you have discovered at least one root cause of the problem. Sometimes you can get a sense of control or power by determining the problem(s). Taking action to improve elements of the problem are the next logical step.

What You Can Control About The Negative Environment

Some jobs naturally place people in stressful or negative environments. You may explore your personality (www.gladeo.org) discover if you are suited for a particular line of work. It may be you may don’t thrive in a conservative, office job if you are meant to be designing or building something. You can cope better at your job if you have other hobbies or projects that satisfy your need for intrinsic motivation.

When I took the personality test, I learned that I was a “creator”. Jobs for creative types include graphic design, editing, advertising, and writing. Consequently, I don’t use any these skills at my current job, but I have, on occasion, contributed to small projects that satisfy these skills at my company. I created a company newsletter and contributed with some of my peers to engage and motivate employees, via a “safety committee”. I was initially not interested in a health and safety committee because I didn’t realize the creative force within the activity. I was able to work in a team (not unlike how advertising executives work in teams) and I was able to write content and format a newsletter. Employers and managers appreciate the time and effort I invested to boost morale and engage employees in the company culture and values.

The Purpose of Keeping Notes Is To Help You Become (More) Self-Aware.

Being aware of yourself helps you get a grip on the things you can control!. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, it is helpful to know where you’re going and where you have been. For instance, if my co-worker catches an error, I may not necessarily be distraught over the error so much as the way in which he/she made me feel stupid. My issue would be “respect” and I would be able to handle the disciplinary action of my error. It may be that when you feel bombarded with negative feelings, you don’t know where to focus your anger.

Venting talking to a trusted friend should help peel away the many layers behind the anger. A good friend may be able to help you gain insight, other times, many of us aren’t so lucky. Being an introvert and a writer, I find that writing about my anger and sadness is a natural way to process the situation. Some people prefer to play sports with a group to shed some of the stress, while others work on puzzles or building something.

If your work doesn’t suit your personality, you must find other ways in which you can explore your talents. If you already have a job that allows you to use your talents, and you are not being recognized, perhaps you can ask to take on a small project that will allow you to shine (or at least give you some extra money for your hobbies). Check out Mantelligence for great money-making hobbies!

If you aren’t afforded the opportunity to have a job suited for your personality and there is zero potential to use any of your talents, it’s not time to change yourself, it is time to move on in your career or company.