Mental Health tips from thatgirlinmuddyboots

Thank you to ThatGirlInMuddyBoots for this guest blog.

It happens so quietly that you cannot prepare for it, and before you know, you are enveloped in its grip so tight that escape seems impossible.

According to a WHO report, almost 36% of people in India suffer from some form of depression, most of them young and at the peak of their lives. National Institute of Mental Health describes depression as “a common but serious mood disorder that causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working”.

Battling with anxiety, stress, and depression can be hard, but with a little care, awareness, and self-love, you can manage, if not overcome, the constant feeling of despair. How do I know? Well, I do it every day.

Here are some tried and tested things you can do to help you deal with the monster.

1. Accept

Acceptance is the beginning of healing. Mental disturbances are quite similar to physical disorders. They are often caused by chemical imbalance in the brain or external triggers just like physical disorders, and just like any physical disorder, they can happen to any of us–some are affected more than the others, and some deal with them better than others. Accepting it makes a whole lot of difference. So breathe deep, smile wide, and embrace yourself wholeheartedly.

2. Share

Having someone who understands makes a lot of difference. If you are not comfortable sharing your feelings with immediate family, spouse, or even close friends, reach out to a support group. There are numerous mental well-being communities worldwide that extend help and support. Look them up online, connect with them on social media, or be an active physical member, the choice is yours. Knowing you are not alone always makes you feel better and more confident.

It feels good when people understand you. Or at least try to. When they trust you and believe you. When instead of doling out advice, they listen. Sometimes all you need is someone to talk to without the fear of judgment.

3. Identify Your Triggers

Most episodes of extreme stress, anxiety, and deep depression are set off by a trigger. The trigger could be an intangible feeling or fear, or a more concrete situation. Is it fatigue or feeling out of control that does it for you? Or is it coming face to face with an unpleasant situation or person that sets you off? Recognizing what triggers the discomfort and despair helps not only dealing with them better but also preventing the feeling to a large extent.

4. Pursue A Hobby

Doing what you love doing is a great and easy way to feel good. Investing time in yourself is proven to make you feel more positive and happier. Recall a long forgotten passion and revive it. Music, arts, dancing, gardening, philately, travel, writing, poetry, pottery–any of these activities will help you heal and feel positive. Join online and offline communities and connect with people who share your love. Creating something new, even as an amateur, gives you a feeling of accomplishment which goes a long way in ensuring metal well being.

5. Walk. Run. Work-out.

Picking yourself up and stepping out for a run is the last thing you’d want to do on a bad day, but trust me, once you have overcome that hurdle, rest will be much easier. Studies have shown that physical activity helps the body produce endorphins, hormones that promote the feeling of happiness and euphoria. According to NCBI, “Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.” If running or working out seems impossible, just step out for a walk in the park–looking at the green grass and blue sky will do you more good that you can imagine.

6. Love Yourself. Unconditionally.

We live in times where loving ourselves is not the simplest thing to do. The perfection portrayed in the media, films, and social media makes it even more difficult to appreciate our imperfections and flaws. The trick is to understand that what is portrayed is not always complete and that perfection may not always be possible. Knowing our limitations and capabilities helps us appreciate the flaws in others too. Love yourself unconditionally no matter what, and the rest will follow.

Note: While these are ways and methods to manage your condition, the importance of professional help cannot, and should not, be ruled out. Seeking medical attention or advice from mental health practitioners–counselors, psychiatrist, psychologists–is essential to ensure you feel and perform at your best.

(see amazing Facebook page and Blog of ThatGirlInMuddyBoots for more of her writing!!)

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Only words..

Today I heard someone else talk about a time when she too did not have words. She was talking about having the birds and the bees conversation with her kids. That she did not have words to have that conversation, and without those words she felt so incapacitated.

I would not say I do not have words to describe my experience. I would like to say words fail me. I can tell you that I am going through a heartbreak, but that does not do justice to how I feel. These words fail to say what I want.

Maybe it is that these words fail to do what I want. Maybe when I write I want these words to explain everything to me, to tell me what happened, and also to soothe me, and to heal this heartbreak. This ever-recurring heartbreak.

It is pathetic to feel lonely, to feel so lost at 40, when you assume that everyone should have their shit together. I feel I’m only just starting out to be a grown up, only just managing, barely.

I feel pathetic reaching out to people. There are people, perhaps, to whom I should not reach out: a relationship that has just ended, or people who are looking for something I am not ready to give. I did reach out to two friends today – thank God for WhatsApp – and it felt good to confess that I wasn’t in fact doing well. They comforted me in their own ways. And one of them asked if I had had dinner. Such a thoughtful question, to remind someone to take care of their selves, in simple ways.

This recent heartbreak has come about because my loved one and I are birds of a different feather. He longs for the free, open sky and I long for a nest. There is a song in a play penned by Rabindranath Tagore where two birds in love sing to one another, asking each other to come along with the other. Neither can leave their comfort zone, and so they must part ways.

It was so hard to understand: how could he love me, yet not want to build a nest? Until this song came to mind. And then I understood what I felt I had already known, that we are different, and that we will walk different paths. I am thankful that this song, this image of two birds – one free, one caged – for reflecting my situation to myself.

This is perhaps what we hope for from words: to see our selves reflected, and to know that we are not alone.

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Guest Blog 2: Tools to manage anxiety / depression

There are so many ways in which our thinking can go wrong. Listed here are only 146 ways that a friend shared.

Knowing this is actually good news. Often our past experiences weave themselves into what my friend referred to as an “emotional bias”, which then shows up in faulty thinking, or “cognitive errors”.  Sometimes such thoughts caused anxiety or depression. By reviewing if our thoughts occurred in the above list of 146 fallacies, we could also table these thoughts in a journal and come to a better assessment.

Once you have had an opportunity to review the link above, you could journal in both the following formats:
JOURNAL 1 (depression)
column 1: situation:
outline the situation that bothers you
column 2:
emotional response:
note your instinctive response
column 3: rational or reasonable response:
what could be a reasonable responsible recognizing our cognitive errors linked above?
JOURNAL 2 (anxiety)
column 1: activity:
outline the activity that makes you nervous or anxious
column 2: emotional response: your expectation of what the activity would feel like
column 3: emotional score:
rate your enthusiasm for the activity: 0 being the worst anxiety and 10 being ecstatic
(if anxious / depressed your score would be closer to 0)
*******do the activity******
column 4: describe what the activity felt like:
column 5: rate the activity based on a 0-10 scale: what did it feel like.
To better understand emotional bias, my friend recommends reading Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns, a book also recommended in my peer support group on depression and bipolar disorder.
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Cognitive Errors

 

thanks to G, for sharing this along with her guest post on mental health tips.

  1. MIND READING Mindreading occurs when you assume that another person is thinking negatively about you and there is no logical reason to make such an assumption. For example, you are having coffee with a friend and arbitrarily assume her silence means she is upset with you (ex: “She is thinking something negative about me”).
  2. CATASTROPHIZING Catastrophizing occurs when you make negative predictions (i.e., catastrophic predictions) about the future without much evidence for these predictions (ex: “If I go to this party, people will see that I look uncomfortable and awkward and they will not want to hang out with me again. I will never make any friends.”)

  3. ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING All-or-nothing thinking occurs when you evaluate situations, events, or relationships as being “either-or.” You see things as often being black-or-white, with no shades of grey. For example, when Ted leaves a party and thinks he hasn’t made a large, positive impression with people, he tells himself “That was a complete failure of a time.” For Ted, you are either admired or unimportant – there is no in-between.
  4. EMOTIONAL REASONING Emotional reasoning occurs when you believe something to be true because it “feels” that way. You might know logically that you have not been rejected, but it feels like you were rejected – therefore, you assume you have been. For example, Maria knows that her friends did not invite her to go to the museum because she hates museums. But she feels rejected and this plays the largest role in her emotional reaction of sadness.
  5. LABELING Labeling occurs when you label yourself as being a certain kind of person. It usually occurs after something bad happens. For example, after making a small gaffe on a date, Ian calls himself an “idiot.” People sometimes do this in a humorous manner, which is typically fine. However, if you notice that you often beat yourself up over things, and it is really out of proportion to the mistake, then it is a thinking habit that should change.

  6. MENTAL FILTER Whenever you receive positive and negative information, if you only focus on the negative information, it is called mental filtering. For example, Greg’s girlfriend recently told him that although his jokes can be a bit aggressive, he is overall a very funny guy, and that she loves his sense of humour. Afterwards, Greg is only able to think about the mild criticism he received.

  7. OVERGENERALIZATION Overgeneralization occurs when a negative event happens and you assume that more bad things are going to happen. You perceive the negative event as the start of a pattern. For example, after two unsuccessful relationships, Lisa believes that all future relationships are pointless, and she ends up feeling hopeless.

  8. PERSONALIZATION Personalization occurs when you take responsibility for negative events, even though you are not at fault. In other words, you take a negative event and assume you are the cause of it. For example, Bob’s wife has been feeling stressed and depressed recently because her mother died and she has been struggling to adjust to a new job. However, Bob feels guilty because he thinks “I should be doing more for her during this tough period.”
  9. SHOULD STATEMENTS Whenever you think that things should or must be a certain way, it is considered should thinking, which is similar to perfectionism. For example, Shelly hates her appearance because her nose is slightly too big for her liking. She thinks “In order for me to be considered attractive, all features of my face should be relatively flawless.” This is obviously faulty thinking.

  10. MINIMIZING OR DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE Whenever you ignore the positive things that happen to you, it is called minimizing or disqualifying the positive. For example, imagine that for most of your life you make friends easily and get positive feedback from others about qualities that are likeable. Then, a co-worker admits to not liking you as a person. If you start believing you are unlikeable, then you are clearly disqualifying a large proportion of information that says you are likeable.

 

Source: Covin, Dr. Roger. The Need To Be Liked (pp. 100-102). Amazon. Kindle Edition.

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Guest Post by G: Mental health tips

This letter from a friend came in my inbox after my first post giving tips on mental health. In this short time, I am happy the blog received many comments, and two emails with tips. Despite knowing that many (if not all of us) struggle with keeping ourselves emotionally healthy, I felt surprised that so many had gone through similar struggles. I also felt happier to know that this also meant that people had tried and found ways of managing mental health. 
Here my friend G not only shares tips that she found useful from her experience, but also resources that she came across through therapy that you may find useful.
Tips that G recommends are:
1) Daily meditation (very similar to alternate nostril breathing) – any practice that asks you to focus on your breath/body, be in the present moment, and practice non-attachment and non-judgment to your feelings/thoughts
This is a good online guided meditation.
2) Give yourself permission NOT to do social things, if social anxiety or depression is an issue
3) Make a list of small or large things that bring you pleasure/joy and make sure that you incorporate them into your everyday schedule (eating chocolate, patting the dog, watching a favourite movie, playing guitar, having a bath, etc)

4) Seek therapy. I have had two absolutely amazing therapists who I credit with helping me to make choices that vastly improved my quality of life, as well as to process trauma. You don’t have to worry about being a burden to a therapist in the way you might with a friend or family member; you can be completely honest in the company of a non-judgmental listener who has tools to help you.

G also mentioned that the following resources were very helpful in working with challenges around social anxiety and people-pleasing tendencies:
G also printed a sheet on cognitive errors from this book and stuck it on the wall.
and here are also more mental health resources.

Thank you G, for sharing these thoughts and ideas from your own experience. Another friend has also shared more on cognitive errors and emotional biases, that will be coming up soon!

Am so thankful for how this has taken off. Thank you to you, too, G and friends for reaching out and sharing of your selves. ❤

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Mental health: friends’ tips

There is so much happening, in our lives and on Facebook always. So I am happy that friends read and responded to the last post on Mental health: things that have helped. Friends I also met up recently shared some more thoughts, and so here are some very good tips shared by friends for mental health.

  1. Reduce alcohol consumption. This is difficult because alcohol is associated with good times. For some, though, alcohol use/overuse has caused a lot of agony. If you know this is the case, then taking steps towards cutting back may help.
  2. Sleep. The body needs 6-8 hours of sleep, minimum. Cutting down distractions before going to bed, and making sure you’ve eaten, had a glass of warm milk etc. helps get to sleep. During a time when I had insomnia, I used to have a shot of this concoction: 1 tbsp. juice of freshly grated onion mixed with 2 tbsp of honey. It was yucky, but it helped get to bed. Also poppy seeds in warm milk are supposed to help. Some people use weighted blankets. [Thanks Julia for the above tips.]
  3. Another friend [thanks Salma!] adds that it really helps to reach out and call the people that you love and whom you know love you unconditionally. “Have long comforting, meaningless conversations with them. So I just call my mom, my sister, my closest friend and start talking my feelings out and listening to their stories too to be reminded that the world still exists and is going its usual course beyond this anxiety.”
  4. Another comment suggested reflecting on our own cognitive errors and emotional biases. Rather than ruminating, this process involves looking at our own patterns of thinking and feeling. Have I jumped to a conclusion that isn’t necessarily valid or logical? Are my emotions from a current situation or am I triggered by something? (I am waiting for friend to share more on this point).
  5. Painting / journalling. Expressing oneself unrestricted through some form of art really helps externalising emotions, and even processing them. Friends and I too feel blocked at times while writing because of the tendency to stop and correct every error before the sentence is written. My advice is to stop the censor and just keep writing. (Something I have to try with this blog too!)
  6. Do one thing a day. One small thing a day to start your day: your cup of tea, your exercise routine, your morning walk. One small thing that makes you proud. One small thing that helps you get through the day. Whatever it is, just focus on that one thing, and then maybe the next one thing, and little by little you will get through the long day.
  7. Go to social gatherings. It helps to meet people, said another friend.
  8. “Be happy, now.” This person is a student and teacher of Buddhist philosophy, and perhaps that influences her. Don’t wait for tomorrow or day after. It is in the now that you can be happy, (and maybe with the little things if not the big ones, i would add).

Hope you have a good one. Please do share more tips. Will keep adding and sharing as they come.

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Mental health: things that have helped

I’m writing this both as a reminder to myself, and also to help others that go through the same questions around life and living it.

I’m 40 now. I feel I have little time to waste, less so than earlier. At the same time, I look at the stretch of time that seems to lie ahead of me, and sometimes it can feel unbearably long. I might not survive it, I might not want to. At least it feels that way sometimes.

Since turning 40, however, I’ve come to think it’s better not to wonder too long about the question of ‘To be, or not to be’. I’m going to go with living, it also happens to be the more recommended choice.

The next thing is to make this choice easier on myself. Here are a few things that seem to work:

  1. Exercise.
    Yes, really, exercise is actually the answer to mental agony. Please have a workout before you try to argue this point. I wish, I really wish, I had not been that person on the couch intellectualising my way out of exercise and into a depression so often. And sometimes, yes, I wish exercising wasn’t so hard. But it is in fact a truly easy and simple way to happiness, and I wish I had discovered it long ago.
  2. Do the things that bring you joy.
    Please do not deprive yourself of anything that brings you joy. For me, dancing and being with friends are big, big highs. Rather than leave these things to chance, plan these into your week ahead of time. And yes, did I mention I was 40? So there are times I feel too old to go dancing but oh well, I will still shake a leg while I’m alive and kicking.
  3. Anuloma-viloma.
    A friend has insisted that I try the yoga practice of alternate nostril breathing: anuloma-viloma. While I have only tried this a few times, I already know that it is something I can reach out to in times of anxiety or when I am overwhelmed. It is difficult to breathe in those times – just like it is difficult to exercise when you are pondering the point of life – but once again, paying attention to the body, its breath, are counter-intuitive ways of soothing the spirit.
  4. Nourish yourself.
    Feed yourself good food. Learn to cook for yourself. Start by learning to cook your favourite dish. Give yourself the nutrition that you need. Learn about foods that make you happy. I need foods that are high in serotonin, so I’ve found that having foods that are naturally sweet: mangoes, bananas, dates, jaggery are all good for my mind. What food works for you?

Please do share your ideas on ways you’ve learned to keep yourself healthy and happy!

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