Finally! I have a podcast! It’s called “The Stresshacker with Sue Smith” and I am really excited to share it with you!
I have wanted to do a podcast for a long time – especially since I’m more comfortable with audio than video. But the question has been: what should I do it about?
Then I decided to stop over-thinking it and just LAUNCH something. So please join me as I delve into the podcasting world and forgive me if I’m learning as I go! Hopefully we’ll both enjoy the ride.
To start with I’m sharing one of my very favourite meditations and, as the podcasts progress, I’d love to share more personal stories, advice, tips and thoughts – as well as collaborate with some of my fellow wellbeing coaches.
If you have anything you’d like to hear me talk about – or if you’d like to ask me a question – please get in touch!
Episode One of The Stresshacker Podcast “One of My Favourite Meditations”
This is great if you need a nap or a refreshing 5-minute meditation session. It’s also perfect for refreshing yourself before heading out, taking a relaxing moment, focusing the mind, drifting off to sleep, meditating, unwinding and de-stressing or preparing for something. Use it if you’re trying to make some decisions or if you need a moment of respite before embarking on a creative project.
Please do subscribe to The Stresshacker and share with friends – I need your help in spreading the word!
Simply because it affects your overall health and happiness.
As a teacher and therapist of many years I see first hand how important wellbeing is for people to thrive. See what the World Health Organisation has to say about it.
I have learned that everyone has a story and none of us move through the journey of life unscathed. Some people suffer anxiety from past or current events and other’s live with emotional scars. And whilst some live with physical traumas, everyone has to deal with loss at some time in life.
It’s Not Happens To You, It’s How You Deal With It.
It offers simple exercises and is packed full of opportunities to program positive thinking and wellbeing into your mind and body.
There are 5 main components to Wellbeing
Loneliness is an epidemic and there are many reasons for it, technology not being the least. People who feel lonely often talk about feeling isolated too. Whilst this isolation is actual, in that they may have stopped going out and connecting to others, it can also show up as a physical numbness, an inability to feel. In therapy we discover that this usually forms part of a much bigger picture of grief. Grief can come from all kinds of scenarios such as a childhood where parents are absent because of divorce, death or just ‘unavailable’ because of long working hours. Grief and isolation can also stem from periods of bullying at school or in the workplace. The lonely person can feel cold, numb and shut-down.
The remedy is to connect, learn to trust again and reach out for connection. Finding just one person to talk to or discovering a small group that you could join. You can develop connection by taking up a hobby.
2. Be Active
It’s so important to stay fit and healthy. The stress hormone cortisol goes up when you feel lonely and this can compromise your immune system and affect your heart adversely. Psychologically this could be because ‘affairs of the heart’ will have you thinking in negative cycles spiralling into anxious and depressed thinking. Serotonin, Oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins all help us to feel happy and most are released when doing things we love and enjoy … so find the exercise you love and boost your wellbeing. So many people talk about a sense of ‘coming home’ for example, when they discover the joys of yoga.
3. Keep Learning
Keeping your mind active by discovering something new learning something different from your usual daily routine will boost your wellbeing. It could be something technical or a musical instrument or online courses that teach you how to think differently such as Wellbeing In A Week.
Remember there’s always help at The Stresshacker to deal with things that threaten to derail you or negatively impact your wellbeing.
Yes! believe it or not giving to others makes us feel great! Develop an attitude of gratitude to boost your happy hormones. Think back, when was the last time you helped someone out? The last time you made a random act of kindness? If you can’t think of anything try doing something by the end of today to help someone out. You will be helping yourself too.
Being mindful means being present in the moment here and now.
Try this exercise, stop right now and centre yourself by observing 3 things that you can see, 3 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel without moving too much and 3 things you can smell and taste.
How was that? How long did it take. It was easy wasn’t it! And do you know what’s even easier? Go to ‘freebies’ section in The Stresshacker shop and download your free audio guides for mindfulness. Let me know how you like them.
Interestingly sometimes the smallest change in your routine, your thinking or habits can have a massive positive impact on your health and wellbeing. Investing in self-care is probably one of the most important things you can do to maintain a good sense of self and wellbeing.
Do you avoid doing jobs because the thought of it stresses you out? Do you give up on your health regime after that first glass of wine? Are you late for things simply because you didn’t leave on time? Chances are you’re letting your inner child take control of your life…
I know, I know, you start out with really good intentions at the begining of the week. You’re going to eat sensible, healthy foods. And yet by Tuesday you’re on your second take-away.
Have you ever considered that your inner child has taken over and is running the show!
What Happens When You Let Your Inner Child Rule
That inner whining often goes something like this: “it’s not fair, I’m tired, I don’t want to work, I can’t be bothered to go shopping, I need a treat now, I deserve it!” And giving in to it means that you – the adult – are no longer in charge. Let’s face it if you were, you might be able to have a more grown-up conversation with yourself!
Your inner adult might say something like: “I know you feel like you deserve a treat, but if you do eat those crisps or drink that extra glass of wine, your workout at the gym will feel even harder and ultimately the dress you want to look stunning in next weekend will feel tight and uncomfortable. You’re just hungry let’s get something yummy and healthy to eat right now and if you still want crisps after you can have them!”
‘Losing it‘ signifies much deeper underlying issues such as loss and grief. Anger forms part of the bereavement cycle?
When I discuss this with clients I’m often told “But I haven’t had a bereavement. I just flare up for no reason.” Yet they’ll go on to identify loss. Loss of their dreams, a relationship or a part of themselves in childhood.
The emotion of anger usually covers fear and the bottom line is that fear centres around feeling unloved or unloveable.
Many a child has felt humiliation and shame at being shouted at and rejected by an angry parent however temporary.
Whilst parents are not saints and don’t come equipped with the perfect parent handbook it’s safe to say that most parents intend to do their best.
Women appear to adjust to parenthood more quickly as they navigate bodily changes and fluctuation in emotions during pregnancy. Whereas men’s bonding often starts when the child is older.
Both will grieve the loss of their previous lifestyle – their job, friends and colleagues. It’s natural to feel anger in these circumstance.
In Psychotherapy, Transactional Analysis is a model that suggests that we have 3 main parts in our psyche. The Parent, Adult and Child.
Your guide book for how to be a parent is a direct result of how you were treated by your parents. What they said and did becomes your inner map, voice and reactions.
You may blindly follow your guide book or totally reject it by doing the opposite. More commonly people cobble together bits of both in an effort to ‘get it right‘.
All that’s needed is a trigger. You’ve asked your child patiently for the fifth time to pick up their towel from the bathroom floor, the anger explodes and you’re shouting and screaming at them.
You don’t have to be an actual parent to follow your map either. When you get angry with yourself and judge yourself harshly? That inner critic is your parent part.
How does a child feel, who’s been bullied? Worthless and unloveable. Your inner child feels exactly the same after an internal battering.
How To Manage That Anger
The key is to develop a healthier adult part.
Risk being vulnerable and explore your losses. Make time and space to have more authentic honest conversations with trusted friends, partners and therapists.
It is possible to diminish anger and bear the losses. It is possible to feel in control and to like how you talk to yourself and others.
Here’s a few starting points that will help.
Develop the tools of mindfulness. Use your breath to ground you in the present and to stop you reacting like a victimised child or a volatile parent.
Work on rebuilding your self esteem so that you are more able to tolerate the emotions.
Making one simple change could be enough to boost your wellbeing
Wellbeing is said to be a state of being comfortable, healthy or happy. A measurement might be how contented you are from one day to the next with your life.
But have you ever had the thought “Oh no, what am I doing, how have I ended up here again!” You know, those times when you find yourself repeating negative behaviours and habits or when you just can’t seem to stop those repetitive, rubbish thought patterns that bring you down? Sound familiar?
The cause is usually down to old conditioning and programming, time for a software update perhaps?
The daft thing is, on our journey through life and at any given moment in time, we have an abundance of choices, yet we still tread the same old path, trotting out the same old excuses that keep us feeling stuck.
Using the metaphor of a car to illustrate, imagine you drive a car through a field one day, carving out a set of tracks and then tomorrow you drive the car down the same tracks you would only have to do it a few times before the car would automatically slot into the tracks because they’re there and it’s the path of least resistance.
It’s the same with our thinking. It’s far easier to run the same old thoughts each morning rather than make the effort it takes to create new healthier thought pathways. Most people robotically repeat the same routines and patterns each day without even knowing why they are doing so.
This is like a weird amnesia in which we forget that of course it’s possible to change your mind. You can choose a different thought. You can change a behaviour. You can choose a different course of action. There are always other pathways that can be carved out so that you can drive the car to a different destination.
If you fancy a boost to your wellbeing, here’s 5 steps to help;
Think of it as waking up and becoming more present. Move into a space where you can observe the choices you’re making in each moment. Instead of allowing every thought and action to be generated by you at an unconscious level, learn to become a witness to your thoughts so that you can make decisions more consciously.
How? I hear you ask. Slow down! Slow your thoughts down, you can train yourself to do this by slowing your breathing down. Breathing is an unconscious activity, we don’t usually say “oh okay I’ll take a breath now” it happens automatically. We can have anything between 17’000 and 30’000 breaths a day, so naturally you cannot observe every breath or you’d go bonkers! However when we gradually become more conscious of our breathing, watching it, listening to it and feeling the simple rise and fall of the chest or diaphragm, we can begin to slow it down. When our breath is slower our thoughts will also slow down leaving us with an improved sense of wellbeing.
In this space of feeling calmer and more in control, ask yourself “What will the consequences be if I make this choice? Will it make me feel happy and fulfilled? How will it affect others around me?”
To get the answer, listen within and sense the response from your body. Does it feel bright, light, expansive and uplifting? Or is there a sense of heaviness, darkness, tightness and gloom? Develop patience, stop hurrying everything and really tune in.
Are you in touch with your gut instinct? Can you sense what your heart really wants. It’s easier to listen to your body’s wisdom for the answers because the mind carries programme after programme of early conditioning such as people pleasing, resisting, putting other’s first or constantly asking the opinion of others out of habit rather than trusting your own innate knowledge. Put simply, does this choice feel good or bad. Keep repeating this process until you arrive at the choices that sit more comfortably with you.
One of the quickest ways to update your mental and emotional software and create new positive programmes to boost your wellbeing, is the regular use of simple hypnotherapy programmes, check out the range of programmes on offer in my shop here.
Rather smugly I thought I had swerved all the colds and flu’s quite successfully this year but finally a bug got me! After a recent unpleasant chest infection it’s been a joy to rediscover my taste buds and the pleasure of mindful eating once again.
So, how do you lose weight while you eat?
Mindful eating isn’t just for yoga retreats and it’s not restricted simply to the actual eating of a meal either. You can start mindful eating anytime. From the moment you plan your next meal to the shopping, selection and preparation of a dish. All of it can be done mindfully.
The reality is we can only think of one thing at a time and when we so-call multi-task, we’re really just diluting the other thing(s) that we’re aiming to do. So have a shot at being mindful of your next meal.
Mindful Eating… here’s how:
Slow down. Breathe and focus your attention inward for a moment and ask yourself
“What do I want, what do I need to eat that is healthy and will satisfy all my taste buds?”
Keep repeating this question slowly to yourself until the answers begin to bubble up. You can also add… “that is easy and quick to prepare” or… “ that will give me lots of energy and vitality”
Trust your mind and what it knows.
At a deeper level your mind is processing millions of bits of information every second, you absolutely have some good quality answers to these pertinent questions so trust your mind and it will serve you well. As the thoughts surface you might find it’s often the first two or three ideas that are the most helpful.
Shopping for food:
Aim to spend a few moments really looking at the produce, touch it if possible, check in and sense if you’re choosing well for yourself or are you making a hasty choice because you’ve left it until you’re hungry? If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!
When preparing the food:
Think of cooking something simple like an omelette, take a moment to feel the eggs between your fingers, notice how it feels to break the shells, observe the colour of the yolk. Now spend a moment thinking about the chicken that laid it and the people involved in the food chain that brought it to you.
Notice the movement of your hand as you whisk the eggs catching air into the mixture and how it feels to slowly pour it into the pan. Can you see the moment when the colour change? Watch how it slides out of the pan onto the plate. Catch the aroma in your nostrils and as you breathe it in, does it create a reaction in your mouth or your stomach?
This might sound a bit time consuming but the fact is you’re probably thinking something whilst you’re cooking anyway, so why not think about what you’re doing to the exclusion of all else?
You might just notice something of importance to you. You might decide to buy different eggs next time because the yolk looked too pale for example and the source of your eggs might be something for you to re-consider.
Finally, when actually eating your meal even if it’s a just a sandwich, aim to do so peacefully, eat in silence, free from distractions, so no radio, TV, phone or computer. Smell your food and notice any physiological reactions, such as the increase of saliva in your mouth before you start eating. As you take the first mouthful how does your gut react?
This may sound laborious but it’s just different, it actually increases the pleasure of eating and the possibility of weight loss!
After a silent meal during one of my yoga days a student told me “I noticed how fast I was eating and slowed myself down, usually I would have eaten a lot more but strangely I felt as if I’d had enough to eat even before I’d finished!”
According to the World Health Organisation in 2016 almost 40% of men and women were overweight. Along with a plethora of other reasons mindless eating has to play a part in this epidemic. It’s probably no surprise to know that many people start losing weight when eating mindfully. Give it a go and share your story with us here at thestresshacker.com to inspire others.
We’ve given thestresshacker homepage a new look and as part of launching that we’re offering a 25% discount to the unique online course Mindful Weight Loss the code NEWYOU will only be active until 1st May 2020 so grab yours while it lasts.
I’ve just shared a smashing weekend with a fabulous group of women in Yoga – that means unity for the uninitiated – at a weekend retreat in Sussex. Spending time with like-minded souls, sharing space, food and a love of yoga is positively uplifting.
Try Something New
We wandered out of our comfort zone to try out one of the oldest branches of Chinese Medicine known as Qi Gong with Sound Therapist Ruth from Dao Natural Health. Apparently Qi Gong is a medical science, it was a subtle yet powerful experience that left us feeling energized and relaxed at the same time.
A Change Is As Good As A Rest
Later we bathed in the sound of a fascinating array of instruments, from the larger gongs to the smaller Tibetan bowls and rain sticks that transported us into various states relaxation and mediation.
Added to this throughout the weekend was a delicious, balanced vegetarian diet with the odd (more sensational than odd) fruity treat thrown in.
This left us feeling satisfied and satiated on a mental, physical and spiritual plane!
Find Your Tribe
share the pleasure of taking time out to immerse yourself in the things that bring you joy.
If you suffer from anxiety or just plain old stress this is a gentle nudge to nurture yourself by spending time with people who share the same hobbies, pastimes or sports as you, so that you can return to everyday life feeling more contented and at one with yourself.
International Women’s Day (IWD) aims to raise awareness of issues of inequality and the marginalisation of women around the world. It celebrates the social, cultural and political achievements of women globally.
I grew up in a family with very strong female role models. Both grandmothers had a strong work ethic and believed themselves to be powerful and in control of their lives. Mum worked hard so that she could pursue her passion of travel, sometimes running 3 jobs at a time to afford our holidays.
Yet with all this power and self-belief cursing through my genes I found myself in extremely disempowering situations whilst growing up. I later realised that to feel truly in control, powerful and strong I had to find peace. Interestingly the earliest documented International Women’s day was on 8th March 1909 when women in Russia demonstrated for peace, oh and bread!
Hopefully we know by now how important it is to support other women but how do we support and empower ourselves?
To be truly empowered I believe we need to be SCABT! And not necessarily in the following order
Support Women Around Us
We need to give ourselves the support and care that we would be willing to give someone who we truly loved. That would mean listening to ourselves, to what we really know deep down inside. Making time to hear our inner truth about our lives, situations, relationships and health challenges for example.
That support might be in the form of caring for ourselves in simple ways, like taking time to languish in a candlelit bath rather than a quick shower. Or maybe by engaging the help of a professional or taking some time away alone.
Congruency – In Harmony
What’s that I hear you ask? You’ll know that you’re congruent when you’re confident and comfortable with yourself where ever you are and pretty much in any situation. For many this comes naturally with the wisdom of age, if you’d rather get there sooner do some work with a therapist or counsellor.
Ask yourself this powerful question “What has to happen for me to feel more comfortable with myself inside and out where ever I am” keep brainstorming this question until you arrive at some good quality answers. Then take your own advice!
Alignment – Of Heart & Mouth
When we’re in alignment everything flows naturally, life becomes easier and we feel balanced and centered. Alignment translated means, a straight line or in correct relative positions. If your heart is aligned with your mouth and mind you will be to speak your truth comfortably and to express your own ideas without fear of judgement. If you’re aligned and in tune with your gut instinct you’ll trust that over and above what you might be being told for example.
Are you sufficiently aligned to express your thoughts or emotions when necessary or do you feel you have to hide how you’re really think and feel?
Struggling with this? Then get my hypnotherapy audio guide support, Assertiveness Now and take the short cut to feeling more at home with your truth. You will also find that a regular yoga practice helps with physical alignment, which in turn encourages more harmony in your mind and body.
Owning our truth and growing ourselves up emotionally can be a daunting journey and we need the bravery of a warrior to do so.
How do you become brave? One tip I’ve always used is to look at the worse case scenario. Take yourself mentally to the absolute worse thing that could happen and then explore how you would cope with that. What steps would you take next to deal with the most awful outcome? Often we realise that although not ideal, we could manage that next stage so long as we are true to ourselves.
I often remind clients that if they only had themselves to rely on for the rest of their lives, they will probably be fine!
Truth and Time
To find peace, to be congruent and comfortable, assertive and strong, we need to spend time alone with ourselves to listen in. This can be in the form of simple quiet time without reading, watching or listening to anything and allow inner thoughts to float up to the surface. It might be by using the ‘daily pages’ technique that Julia Cameron proposes in her best seller The Artist’s Way. Meditations and repetitive exercise can provide the space to hear your truth.
Whatever you choose, enjoy moving toward a more empowered you and do please share your thoughts here for others to learn from.
Depression is a monster that can eventually be tamed according to some, whilst for others professional help and medication is necessary.
This is my third blog on depression and I’ll be changing my theme for the next blog, so if there’s anything mind/body related you would like to know more about, let me know and I’ll endeavour to create an interesting blog on it.
I’ve compiled a list of resources and activities that people I have worked with over the years claim have helped lift the state of inertia and depression. Work your way through the list and find the things that resonate most with you and keep using these tactics to chip away and find your beautiful nature within. I can elaborate pretty much on all of the points so if there’s a particular one you’re interested in understanding more about contact me and I’ll write a more in-depth blog.
Join a choir.
Place an advert on gumtree or in a local shop window and start a band… even if you do have to call it the ‘Can’t Sing or Play Band.
Join a drumming circle.
Book some drum lessons.
Take up some kind of percussion such as cymbals, tambourine, bells, gongs or make your own with a jar of beans or tins.
Beat an old tennis racquet on some cushions.
Start with aaah. Progress to oooo and finish with mmmm. If you can’t chant out loud do it silently in your head.
Lay on your back with knees bent and have bare feet. Draw your navel back toward your spine and begin to stamp your feet up and down side to side.
Add your hands by making fists and gently bang the floor.
Lie on your front and draw your navel back toward your spine. Lift your face from the ground and softly turn your head from side to side, whilst banging your fists gently on the ground. Bend your legs as if you could tap your buttocks alternately with your heels. Much like a baby having a temper tantrum. DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU HAVE KNEE PROBLEMS!
Take up Yoga
Join a Pilates class
Go to the coast when it’s cold, wet and empty, walk on the beach and scream as loud as you can.
If you can get to a sandy beach, get a stick and draw a picture in the sand of the person who has hurt you the most and pelt the drawing with stones until the sea comes in and washes them away.
Take up Drawing
Take up Painting.
Draw or paint your depression
Paint or draw the depression with your non-dominant hand, even if it’s just a scribble.
Walk… preferably with someone. If no one is around to walk with you, still decide to walk each day. Set small achievable goals to start with such as just walking to the end of the road, or the local shop and back. Swing your arms when you walk.
Write therapy letters, these are letters addressed to the person/people you have issues with. Know that you will never send the letter so let ‘em have it! Don’t hold back, really speak your truth.
Write a letter to yourself from the future. Imagine a time in the future envisage being free from depression and what advice would that older you give you now?
Write a letter from now to a younger you who needed help and support, tell that younger you all the things you would like to have heard. Offer that you love, wisdom and protection.
Write a letter from a stronger part of you to the ‘depressed’ part of you acknowledging that part’s pain and discomfort, reassure that part that it is loved and cared for. Ask that part what you can do for it to make things easier. Listen carefully and pay attention to the answers.
Write a short stories killing off your bullies torturers or demons make sure you finish the story. THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT
Whatever you feel like, make a long list of the opposites for example
“ I feel like using drugs” becomes “I feel like I want to stay clean”
“I feel like giving up” becomes “I feel resilient and determined to fight on”
“ I can’t be bothered” becomes “I am now motivated and energized”
Have some fun and feel empowered by challenging your thoughts and feelings.
Read your positive ‘opposites’ out loud in a strong loud voice with emphasis on the ‘I’
Stamp your feet to a loud musical beat.
Wave your arms up in the air from side to side until you feel physically exhausted.
Close your eyes and imagine you feeling well and happy use every inch of your will power to envisage a confident strong you. Make the picture brighter, stronger, clearer, louder and closer until you start to feel excitement stirring somewhere within.
Be creative and make something. Again, go to Youtube and put in simple arts and crafts and see what comes up that inspires you.
Look up on Google or YouTube how to make paper mache. Now make your depression, no rules, just see what you come up with. You can decide later if you’ve created something rather beautiful from it to be admired and kept or whether it’s something you want destroy or dispose of.
Do some gardening. If you don’t have a garden tend to one small plant, give it everything to nurture it and help it to grow.
Make a list of healthy foods that if you had someone to cook for you, you would like to eat.
Cook something simple and nourishing from your list.
Get your shoes and socks off and get your feet in touch with grass, concrete, the bark of a tree, sand, or earth. Scrunch your feet until they feel really earthed and connected.
Have a zingy cold showers try a mint or ginger shower gel.
Develop a routine, for example aim for 8 hours sleep… there may be a tendency to sleep longer but don’t. Plan to get up and get moving.
Make a pot of tea with the zest of an orange and 3 or 4 basil leaves; it’s always soothing for a sad heart.
Put on a face pack (not just women) and take up the pose as if you’re about to do the Maori Haka Dance… then do the Maori Haka Dance (go to YouTube) to see it. Take a selfie so that you can laugh at yourself sometime later!
If you have a car have a short drive around more deserted side streets and scream at the top of your lungs. Try AAAAHHH really loudly.
Get an old roll of wallpaper. Spread it out and draw a picture of the person you have most issues with. Graffiti it! Write what you’d really like to say to that person all over it.
Always aim to get some early morning sunlight. Even if the sun isn’t bright spend 10 minutes without sunglasses allowing light into your world.
Don’t be on your own. If you can afford a therapist or counselor get one if not go to your GP and ask for a referral to a local organization that can offer you support.
When you feel ready blow up as many balloons as you can. When you’ve finished, have a frenzied balloon bursting session ideally with your fingers.
Ask everyone you know for a list of their funniest YouTube clips, films and books make a commitment to watch/read them over the next year.
Drink lots of water.
Get a set of beads, preferably mala beads ~(there are 108). Every day touch each bead whilst voicing a positive suggestion out loud. Such as “I am NOW healthy and well” “ I am NOW strong and bright” “I am NOW vibrant and happy”. Because the subconscious mind believes whatever it is told and simply stores that information and because the subconscious mind has no concept of past or future, it believes these suggestions when housed in the now! Do this for a week on a daily basis and let us know here at thestresshacker how you feel.
De-clutter your spaces. Look at your belongings in an order as Marie Condo suggests in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Get all your shoes together and decide which you no longer love or need and put them in a bin bag. Next go through your books and do the same. Then your crockery, your jumpers … get on a roll this becomes such a satisfying project. Pass it on. Take your ‘stuff’ to the local charity shop. Even if you think they’re rags, they can use them and remember to gift aid.
When depression descends it‘s not easy to shake yourself out of it and for some just not possible at all, so if that’s you, you might want to stop reading now.
Many people who experience depression say that as part of it, they feel helpless and hopeless and it’s understandable as it can leave you feeling stuck and impotent. Anyone can be hit by depression at any time in life and it’s important not to judge.
It’s also important to know that it’s not your fault and doubtless you have done and are doing the best you can. It can be very irritating if not downright annoying to have people tell you to snap out of it and I wonder if one of the reasons is that for some, depression is an inward expression of anger. To have well meaning people lay unhelpful platitudes on you, can triggers more frustration and can make the depression even more intense.
My personal experience of depression and that of working with others is that it invariably strikes people who are highly thoughtful, sensitive and usually kind and caring. They ‘feel’ deeply and can struggle with boundaries, because they are used to picking up on the emotions of other’s but aren’t used to protecting themselves from it. Like a sponge they unconsciously mop up negative energy from those around them.
Developing a supportive inner voice can help. Over time I learned to tell myself that ‘this will pass’ and for me it did and thankfully I did not remain in a permanent state of depression. Knowing that it would pass I was able to use this knowledge to help myself. I would sit in the same place each time – in my case my wicker meditation chair and remind myself that nothing stays the same and that it would pass. When you’re in the midst of it however you can be forgiven for thinking it wont!
Funny thing is, even some of my closest friends may be surprised to discover that I’ve wrestled with depression and the reason for this is that I’m not a lover of labels, so I’ve chosen to not say that I have had depression. My concern was that it would become ‘my’ depression and I certainly never wanted it to be mine!
Here are a couple of things that have helped me in the past and others I’ve worked with.
Sit with a trusted friend or therapist and investigate the last 3 or 4 episodes of depression with a view to identifying what the triggers were. Aim to recall what happened the day or the night before. What did you eat or do, what time did you go to bed, what were you watching, who did you see, what activity were you participating in before the depression started? Aim to unearth the patterns that lead to the depression and make them more conscious.
When we throw light on something that has previously been unconscious i.e. in the dark, it usually has the effect of de-potenising it, taking away some of it’s power.
Don’t do this on your own, because you obviously don’t want to trigger an episode.
Once armed with a knowledge of the patterns or people that seem to trigger the depression you can start looking at things to put in place to avoid those triggers. For example if you realize that depression can start when you lay in bed thinking about things for too long, or listening to the news, train yourself to get up within 5 minutes of waking up, or make the decision to turn off the news and choose something more positive to listen to.
You can use stick thinking i.e. “If I lay here any longer I know I’ll end up with that sinking feeling in my stomach that leads to me feeling really stuck and miserable” or carrot thinking… “If I get up now I can get on with… or meet up with so-and-so to walk her dog, or to just make a nice cup of coffee and listen to the birds singing”
Commit to becoming vigilant and aim to catch the depression as it starts, imagine you’re a spy and your brief is to watch and wait to ‘catch’ it before it takes hold so that you can interrupt the pattern it takes.
Make a decision to do something different until you notice a change no matter how subtle. Even a tiny shift can make a huge change to the way you feel.
That shift might be an arrangement that you strike up with a trusted friend to call them the minute you feel the depression starting so that they can come over to support and motivate you to do something different. This is of course by prior agreement.
Whilst we know that exercise is a great way to combat depression, it isn’t always easy or possible for everyone to join a gym however one simple step that you could take is this.
Stand with your feet hip width apart and raise your arms up slowly up into the air as you breathe in. Then slowly breathe out through your mouth like you’re blowing air out with a long sigh as you bring your arms back down. Do this at least 10 times – longer if possible. Do it several times a day on a bad day.
You are lifting your heart and lungs with this simple movement, engaging your cardio-vascular and respiratory systems which change your breath, your mental state and of course your physiology. This can be done sitting down too.
Depression isn’t just a state of mind; it can also be a feeling that emerges somewhere in the body or just outside of it.
Depression has been described by some as a heavy weight, a black hole or a dark cloud hovering over them. Others say it starts as a sinking feeling in their stomach and some say that it’s like having someone or something sitting on them. No wonder then, that people can feel stuck or disempowered.
It can be helpful to externalize the feelings and one way to do this is by drawing or painting your feelings on paper. No rules, you don’t have to have any artistic skills, nobody else will see this – unless you choose to share it.
When you’ve finished drawing, bin it, burn it or bury it but get rid of it. By doing so you’re making a powerful symbolic statement – to your unconscious mind- that you’re taking action to erase it.
Another powerful thing to do is to write, by hand, letters to people who you feel have a part in your depression whether past, present, dead or alive. I’ve worked with many people with depression who have been bullied in the past and when they’ve done what I suggest here they have been amazed at the results. You really will feel lighter when you do this.
Write to the bullies, tell them exactly what you think of them. Let the people who have played a part in the way that you feel, know your truth, tell them exactly how you feel. When you’ve finished the letter bin it, burn it, or bury it but definitely get rid of it permanently, this is the most important step. I do not advocate sending the letters – this is for you, it’s your therapy.
Your unconscious mind believes whatever is put into it, so it willbelieve that you’ve sent the letters, even though you know at a conscious level you haven’t.
This might sound ridiculously simple but it really can take care of unfinished business in the back of the mind. Don’t take my word for it try it yourself to find out that this powerful exercise really does work!
Anything that you can do to empower yourself will be helpful
So the next time you’re feeling brighter write a list of the things that lift you and allow you to feel glad to be in the world. Put that list on the inside of a cupboard or on a mirror where you can see it to remind yourself to take tiny steps toward a better day.
Although I would never say I’ll never be depressed again, I do feel fortunate to be free of depression these days. I have used all the tools and tips I write about and whilst I appreciate that they may not be for everyone, I sincerely hope they help someone.