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.

 

How To Give Dignity To Your Emotions!

How to Give Dignity to Your Emotions!

Today, I desire to be unencumbered by organizing my thoughts and structuring my paragraphs before my words settle upon this glowing screen. Sometimes writing requires capricious expression, and other times, it requires much mental effort. What I have to say doesn’t need much research. I just want to draw today. I completed a portrait of Sigmund Freud. It’s somewhat minimalistic, but to me, there is beauty in simplicity.

I also want to write today, simply to express myself- not to impress anybody, not to sell anything. And when I write today, I want to say what a special weekend! My daughter turned 14 yesterday. I am the parent of two teenaged creatures!

I’ve been pretty lucky in the parenting stage of life because my kids have remained, by and large, decent human beings, free of any major character flaws. But, I’m weary in this journey. My emotions are tossed about with conflicting feelings. On one hand, I fear the day when they are grown. Conversely, I also can’t wait for the days when they are grown.

Being a parent with mental health issues is a bit different from being a “regular” parent. No doubt, I experience the same dilemmas as other parents. But what makes my job more complex are the following factors:

When my kids have a problem, the first thing I attribute it to is myself. Did my anxiety cause them this problem? Did my depression bring them down? Did I spoil them when I felt guilty about “not measuring up” to societal standards?

One thing is for sure- I’ve been humbled by my illness, and also by the task of parenting. I am well aware of the way my mind working of my brain-

(my psychiatrist noted my thought process as “circumstantial”)-

Circumstantiality- (also circumstantial thinking, or circumstantial speech) – An inability to answer a question without giving excessive, unnecessary detail. This differs from tangential thinking, in that the person does eventually return to the original point

And as an individual with this type of thought pattern, I do tend to elaborate on insignificant details. My mind wanders in many directions, but it always returns to the original point. I’m a little disturbed that somebody that has spoken to me once can make so many assertions. I guess that’s what a college degree empowers an individual to do (not meant to sound snarky, just expressing an observation).

Today, I write because I feel the need to express myself- my hopes and dreams, and my joy and sadness. For without writing, or even drawing Sigmund Freud today, I’d be riddled with the impulse to start purging stuff in my house again. Anxiety, exhaustion, joy, sadness- it’s too many emotions permeating my mind at once.

I could spend the day trying to improve myself through studying or exercise. Or I can simply reflect on the gift of human emotions. I will honor my emotions by giving all of them the consideration they deserve and require. That’s much healthier than suppression or denial.

Simple Changes That Improve Anxiety Disorders

“Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life.” -Andrew J. Bernstein

The word “stress” often gets a bad rap, thanks to “anxiety.” Since stress is often the precipitating trigger in anxiety disorders, it is perceived as a negative experience. Stress is defined as your body’s reaction to a trigger and is generally a short-term experience. Anxiety, on the other hand, doesn’t resolve itself once the triggering event has subsided.

Anxiety is prolonged and debilitating. Disorders, such as GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) leave individuals feeling a sense of doom. Although stress can trigger anxiety, more often than not, the causes of anxiety are not always easily identified.

Years ago, I was diagnosed with agoraphobia and GAD. I felt somewhat relieved to know that a “fear of the marketplace” (agoraphobia) was a logical explanation for some of my distress about running errands or going shopping.

In retrospect, I was afraid of being around a lot of people, in situations where I might find it hard to get away if needed. I especially feared being judged when I was a new mother. I feared people might say rude things to my kids, or criticize my parenting style (they did!). A simple comment on how to manage my children when they cried in the long lines, or how I should discipline then if they misbehaved often left me feeling depressed and apprehensive. My head often grew heavy when I even thought about going out in public!

GAD, on the other hand, is a more mysterious anxiety disorder. GAD is defined by WebMD as, excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worries about everyday life events with no obvious reasons for worry. People with symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder tend to always expect disaster and can’t stop worrying about health, money, family, work, or school.”

So, what is the proper amount of worry about everyday life events? How much is a normal amount of worrying about important things such as health, money, family, work, or school? Possibly, is it an abstract amount of worry that can only be defined by the extent of uneasiness it causes to an individual? Why do some handle such pressures effortlessly, while others are plagued by apprehension or displeasure?

When I experience agoraphobia and GAD as a new parent (who possibly was afflicted by postpartum depression), I was limited into tapping into a source of support, and sources of guidance and encouragement. However, I took advantage of reading and talk therapy in some support groups. I lacked supportive family and friends, so I had to seek out my tribe. Only those people could understand me. Such groups offered a reciprocal dynamic.

What differentiates my ability to cope with stress now compared to those years?

  • Closer to a supportive family (father and stepmother)
  • Stable job
  • Having a reliable source of income (see above)
  • Wisdom, experience, maturity, insight, perception
  • Ability to reframe events and experiences
  • Writing in a journal when I have a difficult problem
  • Knowledge and implementation of nutrition and exercise
  • Stable environment for my children
  • A work schedule that allows me to maximize time with my family
  • Seeking spirituality each day

For me, changes in environments, income, neighborhood- physical resources, have contributed, I suppose. Experience, wisdom, maturity, insight, and perception have helped me significantly. These things do not occur overnight, nor can a prescription cure all elements of anxiety or stress. Understanding that we live in a dynamic, cyclic and rhythmic world, and forming internal and external patterns to accompany this understanding is a crucial step in coping with stress.

Break Into Smaller Tasks

I have also learned to break up problems and tasks into smaller pieces. If I am faced with a vast amount of tasks that need my attention at once, I can only delegate- to myself, that is, I must assign myself different steps to complete the tasks. And, most of all, I ask for help, even when I think others might judge me.

Allow Time For Issues To Improve

Just as we need time to adjust our internal rhythm, the problems and external forces surrounding our stress need time. Time for resolution, time to plan, time to delegate, etc. Time doesn’t have to be considered an enemy. When we are mindful about stress, we should actively pace our breathing to reset our bodies from a “fight or flight” response to a response that is confident and able to handle challenges.

Stress and Relaxed

References:

  1. (https://www.healthstatus.com/health_blog/depression-stress-anxiety/how-is-anxiety-different-from-stress/)
  2. (https://www.psycom.net/stress-vs-anxiety-difference)
  3. (https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/generalized-anxiety-disorder#1)