1. When you’re depressed: A lesson in self-forgiveness

    June 4, 2013

    stop self-blaming

    by Zita Weber, Ph.D.

    Too often, depression results from excessive self-criticisms.  When you’re feeling guilty, it’s easy to get too down on yourself.  Sometimes the guilt feelings are imaginary and even if they feel real, they can be overly intensified and make you feel worthless.    Getting away from this self-blaming approach is key to starting to feel better about yourself.

    Getting away from a self-blaming approach

    Learn to replace self-blame with a constructive and realistic attitude.  It’s always more empowering to look to the future and what you can do to improve your situation.  Don’t linger in the past.  Sometimes we hear what appear to be simplistic expressions such as:  ‘It’s all water under the bridge’ and ‘What’s done is done’.  Learn to embrace these expressions and take them seriously.  Make your peace with the past but resolve to do things in the present and the future that will make you feel better about yourself.  Learn from past mistakes, but don’t hold onto any blame.

    Learn to practice self-forgiveness

    Practicing self-forgiveness might sound challenging, but the devastating effects of not doing so are highlighted in a novel, Ironweed, which was made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.  The main character, Francis Phelan, accidentally drops his infant son on the floor and the child dies of complications as a result of the injury.  Although this happened many years before the beginning of the novel, the tragic event is revealed through Francis’s nightmarish flashbacks.  Francis is restless, becomes a wanderer and an alcoholic.  While his wife is prepared to forgive him and have him back at home, Francis can’t forgive himself.  In not being able to forgive himself, he dooms himself to a hellish existence.  If only Francis could learn to forgive himself, he could reclaim his life.  The moral of the story is:  don’t be unforgiving of yourself.

    Begin practicing self-forgiveness by accepting that we all make mistakes and we all have times in our lives when we might feel down and depressed because we believe we haven’t met our own standards of behavior.  Learn from these challenges and make sure that you forgive yourself and move on to a more positive place.

    Keep a journal

    Keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings will help you tremendously when it comes to self-understanding – and self-forgiveness.  Don’t put pressure on yourself by keeping a daily journal if that doesn’t work for you – but make sure that you do write down the important thoughts and feelings that might lead to disorganized, chaotic and self-blaming ideas.

    It’s useful when keeping a journal to dialogue with yourself – ask yourself questions.  It might be difficult asking these questions of yourself, but remember – by asking yourself questions you are clarifying thoughts and feelings and adopting a more problem-solving stance.

    Asking questions – and answering them as honestly as possible – will empower you in your thinking, making matters clearer and imposing a kind of sense and order on them.

    For more skills and strategies in dealing with depression, see Losing the 21st Century Blues (http://zitaweber.com/new-releases/losing-the-21st-century-blues)

    Author Bio: Zita Weber, Ph.D. has worked as a counselor and therapist with individuals, couples and families.  She has researched and written about communication, relationships, sexuality, depression and loss and grief.  More information about her work and books can be found at:  http://zitaweber.com.

    Image Credit: Mark Sebastian

  2. Six Tips for Depression Self Help

    May 21, 2013

    depression self-help

    We all get depressed at some point in our lives. We also know how difficult it is to do our tasks when we’re feeling down. Even simple things like cleaning the house, taking a shower, eating, or getting out of bed can be mentally and physically taxing even for strong-willed individuals. Most people deal with depression in a negative way, some will find ways to escape, some will blame other people for their woes, while others wouldn’t even acknowledge their woes. The easy way out of depression is to run to psychiatrist and ask for medication. Healthier option is to go to psychologist or therapist and sign up for psychotherapy e.g.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  But what about depression self help? Can you pull yourself out of depression without medication?

    Motivation is the key to get back to living your life and feeling better when you are feeling helpless. I know that this can be the last thing on your mind when you’re down, but there are some tricks you can do to get your groove back. Here are six ways to stay motivated during the bad times:

    Don’t be too hard on yourself

    It will take time before you feel like your old self again. You need to be patient before you can get things back under control. Changes don’t happen overnight, don’t feel bad if you commit mistakes or fall short of your goals. In many cases, you are your number one critic, so be more forgiving. Give yourself a pat on the back even for simple accomplishments.

    Write your plans on paper

    In order to get out of your funk, you need to remind yourself that everything will be alright. Get back on track by writing your plan down. When you put everything down on a piece of paper, you are indirectly reassuring your subconscious mind that you’ll do something about your situation, helping you overcome your depression. Be detailed about your plans and include a time table so you can track your progress easily.

    Be realistic

    Don’t go overboard when writing down your goals. Setting lofty goals is one way to set yourself up for failure, leading to more frustration and depression. Start with simple changes you know you can achieve and work your way up from there. Achieving your goals gives you a sense of accomplishment which you can build on. Being realistic is like taking baby steps towards achieving your goals.

    Get up and start moving

    When you’re feeling bad, it seems like staying in bed all day is all you can do. Being sedentary will only sink you further down into depression. Don’t make any excuses and just start an exercise routine. If you have been inactive for too long, you can start by walking around your neighborhood for thirty minutes each day. You’ll find that exercise builds on itself, so you can increase intensity over time. Staying active will not only help get you in shape, but is also an excellent way to make you feel good. It promotes the release of endorphins, a neurotransmitter that elevates mood and reduces anxiety.

    Find someone to talk to

    We naturally withdraw from the outside world when we’re depressed. Being alone isn’t the best or the easiest way to deal with your dilemma. Go out of your way and seek help from family and friends. There are lots of people who are always willing to lend a helping hand during your time of need. Finding inspiration in others can help get you back on your feet. If you are having problems with seeing other people face to face, you can always start with e-mails and phone calls; the important thing is you are talking to someone. You can also try calling help lines if you don’t know anyone to talk to about your problem.

    Start working on a project

    Working on something unrelated to your problems is a great way to get your mind of things that bother you the most. This could be your best therapy. Work on something that interests you to help keep your mind off of depression and give yourself a treat when you’re done. You can learn how to play an instrument, a new language, or anything that gets your creative juice flowing.  Try different things and practice whatever works as your personal depression self help.

    Getting out of depression may be challenging, but with a little planning and progress you can find that silver lining once again. Just hang in there and know that you are bigger than your problems; you’ll be back to your old self sooner than you think. The sun will be shining again.

    This article was prepared by Simon Bukai who owns and operates Vista Health Solutions, a health insurance marketplace. Vista Health Solutions provides helpful advice and valuable insight to consumers looking for the best health insurance solution.

     Image Credit: Julien

  3. On Depression: Getting Support when you’re Depressed

    April 7, 2013

    girl with depression

    Image Credit: Sarah G.

    by Zita Weber, Ph.D.

    When you’re depressed, it’s often difficult to face the idea of getting through the day without the support of others.   It’s sometimes also difficult to ask for that support.  But getting that support is crucial if you’re going to go on the journey of healing and finding your way out of the downward spiral.

    Many people describe their depression and their emergence from it as a time for change, an opportunity for growth and healing.  Change, however, can be confusing, sometimes chaotic and often frightening.   Because this process can be so challenging, getting the support you need is important.

    Asking for support

    Perhaps you’re concerned about asking for support.  But remember, you have to give people the chance to say ‘yes’ – so have a look at the tips below for getting the support you need:

    • ask trusted family members and friends to help with specific tasks and ongoing responsibilities
    • if you need to make decisions, ask for the opinions of your trusted support people because when in doubt, it’s good to get the opinions of others you respect in making your choices
    • if you know people who have been on the healing journey from depression, ask them about their experiences and any advice they have to offer
    • ask if a few really trusted support people are available for phone calls and chats – even if it’s into the small hours of the morning
    • if you’re finding work a little challenging, ask your manager if it’s possible to lighten your workload for a while
    • when it’s difficult making major decisions or commitments, ask that they might be deferred until later

    Joining support groups

    The idea of support groups has been around for a long time.  It’s endured because it’s a good idea.  Research evidence tells us that people often benefit by gathering with others going through similar experiences.

    Support groups are an excellent place to share experiences, information, suggestions and as the name suggests, support.  It’s often been said that perhaps the most important knowledge a person can gain from a support group is that they are not alone.  You might hear of an experience similar to yours and get the perspective of several others who may have faced the same challenges and found their way through the healing process.

    Support groups are self-selected and grow around people who care about and are committed to their own healing and sharing the experience with others.  This creates an atmosphere of camaraderie and a commitment to finding a way to create a more empowered sense of self and way of being in the world.

    Today it’s easier than ever to find support groups.  Once, people assembled physically in a place and spent time together face-to-face.  Now, it’s possible to join a support group by going online and it’s still possible to join a real-time, physical support group.  The choices have been widened as have the opportunities to meet with more people whose experiences are similar and have the commitment to helping themselves and others through constructive conversations aimed at helping each other on the journey through healing from depression.

    To read more about support and healing from depression see Losing the 21st Century Blues (http://zitaweber.com/new-releases/losing-the-21st-century-blues)

    Author Bio: Zita Weber, Ph.D. is an author and honorary academic, and has worked as a counselor and therapist with individuals, couples and families.  She has researched and written about communication, relationships, sexuality, depression and loss and grief.  More information about her work and books can be found at:  http://zitaweber.com.

  4. Four Easy Steps To Put A Tourniquet On Your Teen’s Depression

    March 5, 2013

    Depression and sadness

    Image Credit: Mike Bailey-Gates

    by Jennifer Mathis

    Seeing Depression as a Serious Injury

    Without broken bones, a high fever, or profuse bleeding, it can be difficult to determine how severe your teen’s depression really is. Depression stripped of any scientific or medical terminology is, put simply, a severe brain injury.

    It’s not like your teen face planted in a skateboard stunt; it’s not that kind of brain injury. It is usually a slow, relentless assault on your child’s psyche, which drains vital hormones from their brain. It may be their love life’s gone bad, or lack of friends, or being the victim of bullies, or even their reaction to your divorce, or contentions at home that rob their brain of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

    How important are these hormones? Well, imagine trying to drive your brand new car while it is dangerously low on oil, anti-freeze, transmission fluid, and brake fluid. Everything looks fine. It may even have that new-car smell, but it doesn’t seem to work right. Maybe your car just has a bad attitude.

    Similarly, when your teen is low on serotonin, it is difficult for them to feel happy or good about anything. Low norepinephrine robs your child of motivation to achieve or even get out of bed, and low dopamine can affect your teen’s grasp of reality.

    When your child is in this weakened condition, dealing with ordinary problems and stress can feel overwhelming and further tax their body’s remaining supply of these vital hormones, sending them into a full clinical depression.

    When your teen is grappling with depression they won’t appear to be broken, injured, or in pain. In reality, they are bleeding to death in front of your eyes. Hopefully you will see it in time.

    Does depression sound serious to you yet? If you are convinced, here are the four steps you need to take now for your teen.

    Step 1 – See Your Doctor

    Yes, you will need to see a doctor. Depression is a medical condition. It isn’t a “bad attitude.”

    Under most insurance plans, your teen will need to see your primary care physician first. Be sure you attend this visit. Most primary care physicians know when a condition requires a mental health specialist. He or she will most likely recommend a good child psychologist or psychiatrist, depending on the severity of your teen’s condition.

    Step 2 – See the Psychologist

    Based on your doctor’s recommendation, a health care professional which has the proper training and experience to deal with your child’s condition will be able to help determine the underlying causes and ongoing circumstances that exacerbate your child’s depression.

    He or she will also know the proper treatment such as psychotherapy. Severe depression usually requires both a psychotherapy provided by a licensed child psychologist or psychotherapist as well as medication prescribed by a psychiatrist.

    Step 3 – Follow Your Doctor’s Treatment

    The Internet isn’t a good repository of medical information, mainly because much of it is inflammatory, misguided, or trying to sell something. You will surely find several sites that disagree with your doctor. Paying attention to this misinformation is a bad strategy.

    Those who foster a non-medical approach don’t have a vested interest in your child’s welfare. They are most likely trying to sell you an herbal, vitamin concoction that is the equivalent of a band-aid on a broken leg.

    Depression, like any other serious injury, can’t just be walked off, it needs medical intervention. The psychotherapy and medication your doctor prescribed will help your teen to heal.

    Step 4 – Provide a Healing Environment

    Even though medication for depression exists, it isn’t like aspirin for a headache. It only helps your child to cope enough to follow strategies and regimens that allow for gradual healing.

    Based on this reality, it is impractical to think that your teen could heal in the very environment that helped create the problem in the first place. The competitive, negative, and often toxic atmosphere of school can nullify the effects of their medication and therapy.

    Many parents have found the success they are looking for in boarding schools specifically created as places of healing. Severe depression often requires this type of intensive care for the psyche, allowing your teen to learn to deal with life and achieve academically without the negative stimuli that could reopen wounds and prevent proper healing.

    As in cases of severe bleeding, doctors will eventually remove a tourniquet in order to repair tissue and allow the patient to fully recover. Similarly, drastic measures to save your teen from depression can eventually lead to full integration of your teen back into your life as well as society.

    If you like this article please share and save a life.