Articles for the Month of September 2014

Seniors –7 Tips to Beat Depression

Depressionby Cathy Neville, LPC

Practical Ways to Knock Out Sadness, Pain, and Isolation

‘Depressed’ was not the word you imagined would describe your senior years.

You certainly didn’t count on this heavy, listless feeling weighing down your life.

Take heart.

You don’t have to suffer the drain of depression forever.

You can survive the sadness and pain, reawaken your motivation, and reclaim your vigor.

Despite what it feels like, depression and aging do not go hand in hand.

You can push back against depression’s claim on your relationships, health, and sense of purpose, one choice at a time.

Here are a few things you can do:

1) Weed Out. Weed out what no longer serves you. Reevaluate what really matters. It’s okay to intentionally let go and move forward. Are there things, habits, even relationships that keep you feeling stuck or bogged down in the past? This season of your life deserves new consideration. Set new goals. Journal your journey. Try to see the future with fresh eyes.

2) Get Out. Get out of your own head, out of your room, out of your house. Let sun and fresh air work their magic. If only for a brief time, go outdoors. If mobility is an issue, position yourself near a window and take in the world. Mindfully appreciate what’s going on around you instead of ruminating on problems you’ve revisited time and time again. Breathe in. Life is good. Breathe out. Let the rest go.

3) Work OutWork out some of that lethargy. Ease the anxiety and insomnia. Exercise needn’t be tedious or unrealistically strenuous to provide significant benefits. Regular movement keeps the blood flowing and the mind alert. Gentle stretches to begin your day, leisurely walks around the mall, or arm circles while you watch a movie facilitate a healthier body, especially when combined with healthy food choices. A healthy body helps support a happier mind.

4) Reach Out. Reach out to the people who need you. There is a whole community in need of a willing and knowledgeable mentor, consultant, or volunteer. You have a lifetime of valuable, share-worthy life experiences. People want to tap into your knowledge and wisdom. Depression has a sneaky way of making you question your worth. It says you’re alone, it tells you you’re sick, keeps you in bed. Challenge those thoughts. When depression says withdraw, reach out.

5) Hang Out. Hang out with your friends and family. They miss you. Check in with former coworkers. Visit with neighbors. Socialize and connect. Listen to a few stories. Tell a few of your own. If you find that friends and family are few and far between, it may be worth your while to visit a local senior center or connect with others online to get your social juices flowing.

6) Try Out. Try out a new activity, learn a new skill, or pursue a new adventure. Explore the world again. Depression tries hard to sap your energy and motivation. Nurture your mind, body, and soul. You’ll find it more difficult to pursue dark thoughts down the rabbit hole when your mind is stimulated by new pursuits offered locally or online.

7) Talk it Out. Talk out your struggles. Share your feelings. Express your concerns. Meeting with a counselor to work through depression provides a safe environment for dealing with thoughts about aging, life changes, loss, and your future. There is no shame or weakness in seeking help. In fact, the decision to call a counselor is a sign of strength, a concrete choice to do what you can to beat depression and get the most out of life.

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How Stress Can Lead to Depression

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Unregulated Stress

You know about stress.

It’s that “high-gear” feeling that pushes you to get things done, meet that deadline, rise to the challenge, or focus on an emergency.

Feeling stressed is normal and often helps us do what needs to be done.

But chronic stress makes life more difficult.

Chronic stress keeps you on high alert and places increasing demands on your body.

An out-of-control stress response pushes our bodies too hard and drives our minds too far, for too long. It depresses our moods, upends our attempts to restore mental balance, and wrecks our ability to cope with that mountain of things to do.

Let’s consider the route from stress to depression:

“Stressed Out”

Stress, out-of-control, shows up first with somewhat tolerable discomfort. Most of us even consider the initial stages of mood disturbance to be a normal part of a busy life.

Irritability, insomnia, or disrupted sleep becomes commonplace. The ability to focus and concentrate is impaired. Strong shots of caffeine become near necessities for making it through the day.

From there, if stress is not managed well, a mood-disturbing cycle may begin. Emotional troubles and stress start to chase each other, as the ability to cope with stress erodes. Healthy options for stress relief give way to more mood-altering strategies for alleviating stress.

For example, in addition to compensating for the sleep disruption with coffee, a person may add more hours to the workday in an effort to meet work demands. This leads to less time for exercise and socializing. Soon, his or her body isn’t receiving a regular boost of mood-boosting endorphins or enjoying the soothing presence of family and friends. Before long, the stress becomes persistent and exhaustive, further depressing his or her moods.

More Stress Leads to More Moodiness Leads to More Stress

As time goes on, perpetually stressed people find that irritability and overwhelm becomes constant. Work and family relationships start to suffer. Then, the stress compounds itself, as a person feels pressure from a boss or partner to fix the problem.

Sleep deprived and anxious, concentration slips further; mistakes, miscalculations, and forgetfulness begin to complicate performance professionally and personally. After a while, this takes a toll on the person’s confidence, a sense of powerlessness rises up, and their mood darkens.

Without the proper coping skills, it becomes easier to press into the cycle of overworking, inadequate rest, and reliance on substances or other unhealthy methods to compensate for the problems brought on by too much stress. Here, alcohol, smoking, or food issues can start to get out of hand.

Without appropriate stress self-regulation, relationships go downhill fast and depression ensues.

Depression Takes Hold

Having given up on healthy self-governing and stress management, depressed thinking becomes a regular way of processing the world. Depression begins to restrict your daily function. Withdrawal and pervasive sadness or irritation frequently becomes a chronically stressed person’s predominant emotions. Physical symptoms and disease may start to take their toll.

Depression brought on by stress is no less difficult to overcome than depression caused by genetics or trauma. Studies tell us that chronic levels of high stress can actually hinder the production of new brain cells, a necessary function for healthy stress responsesIt’s vital that measures are taken to reduce stress, healthy self-regulatory skills are learned, and possible sessions with a qualified professional are encouraged.

If you are acutely stressed and suffering moods that seem to be spiraling downward, you are not alone. Seek help to learn ways to cope and restore your mental equilibrium.

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The Very Real Link Between Social Media and Depression

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by Cathy Neville, LPC

Are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram making you sad?

Take a moment to peruse the posts, tweets, and selfies of your social media friends.

Judging by appearances, depression may not be the word that necessarily springs to mind. After all, depression is a serious mood disorder, marked by persistent sadness and worthlessness. Look again at those posts:

Can everyone really be that happy and attractive?

Are their families really so content and well-adjusted?

Would they admit it if they weren’t?

Would you?

Is “Social Media Depression” Real?

In recent years, significant attention has been paid to the impact of social media on our minds and relationships. While there isn’t any mention of social media-induced depression in the official manual of mental disorders, more and more therapists are seeing a connection. In time, more research like the well-known study series at Stanford University titled “Misery Has More Company Than People Think,“ will help determine whether social media creates depressive thoughts or simply amplifies them.

What Makes Some Social Media Users So Sad?

Tweets and updates gratify our need to be seen and heard. Photos and videos allow us to share our experiences in full color.

But how long can we keep ourselves honest about what we share? Depressive thoughts can gain a foothold as the happy desire to add a friend or follower gives way to the pressure to keep up appearances.

Examine how symptoms of depression are linked to the behaviors of many social media users:

Worthlessness and dissatisfaction are common feelings associated with depression.

Social media can play havoc with your self-esteem. Measuring yourself by the lives of others becomes commonplace on social sites. Recent studies of social media use show that more “friends” on your list simply creates more people to compare yourself to and keep up with. Competition in the social media world can be exhausting. There are very few “likes” for average days and boring selfies. It’s easy to get caught up in fabulous virtual exaggerations and mistakenly conclude that your life and pursuits aren’t worth much.

 Masks or emotional numbness are often coping mechanisms for depression.

Negativity and “downer” behavior isn’t as well received on social media as upbeat announcements and inspirational quotes. You may feel down privately, but you keep smiling on screen. People go out of their way to keep the happy facade in place.

We may crave deeper connection, but the superficial, unspoken parameters of the medium keep us operating from an idealized version of ourselves. Unknowingly, we pressure others to do the same. The disconnect becomes a sad reminder that many of the people we connect with aren’t really close to us at all.

Interrupted relationships and withdrawal are often the fallout of persistent depression.

Untreated, depression pulls you away from people and shared activities you once enjoyed. Superficiality, social anxiety, and social isolation often make their way through the real-time relationships of depression sufferers, especially those who spend inordinate amounts of time on social media.

Too often, social sites can be a convenient distraction from real people when depressive withdrawal is present. However, many users report feeling even less hopeful or comforted, finding that their depression grows as they sense their vast online community is more isolating than insulating.

Be kind to yourself the next time you log on to social media.

Consider the validity of the boasts and photos.

Survey your feelings about yourself when you’re writing a post.

If you have trouble fighting off sadness or inadequacy, consider the help of an experienced therapist.

He or she will help you move past virtual identity toward a more complete life.

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