Depression self-help

Depression – The Prison in Our Minds

“…..in depression we can neither give nor receive comfort, for we are alone in a prison, and that prison is filled with fear, anger, guilt and despair…..” (Dorothy Rowe 1983)

Depression can be the greatest isolation that we can experience, and it can be very difficult to take the steps we need to take to feel better when feelings of hopelessness and lack of energy overwhelm us.  However, although overcoming depression is not easy, it is possible and it is important to recognise that you can have some level of control over your thoughts and your feelings.  The following self-help tips can help, either alongside any professional help you may be receiving or on their own.

  1. One day at a time

Small goals and small steps are the way forward.  Write down a list of 6 things that you can manage to do that can help you move to a different emotional space.  e.g. taking a bath, making yourself a cup of tea, walking outside and looking at the sky, taking a short walk down the road, phoning a friend.  Pick one of these things each day and reward yourself each time you accomplish one.

2.       Reach Out

The heavy fog of depression can be very difficult to lift on your own, and being isolated can make it worse.  Reaching out to others for support is a strength, and this is the time to do it.  Often, it may feel more comfortable to retreat into yourself, but being around other people can help lift your depression and improve your support network.

3.       Challenge your negative thoughts

It can feel a difficult task to “think positive” when you are depressed, but there are things you can do to challenge the negative thoughts you may be having, simply by offering yourself more balanced and realistic thoughts.  E.g. Ask yourself, are you being harsh on yourself with what you are thinking? Would you say what you are thinking about to someone else in the same position?  Is there a less harsh thought that you can offer yourself?

4.       Make a Self-Care Kit

A self-care Kit can support you in different ways when you feel depressed.  Collect together one item for each of the 5 senses that can help bring good feelings to the surface for you.  E.g. smell (coffee, incense, perfume);  taste (chocolate, sweets);  touch (crystal, stone, jewellery, teddy);  sight (photo, poem);  sound (CD, Ipod).  Place these items in a box, and dig into it to help you move to a different emotional space.  By choosing 2 or 3 items from the box, you can make it more portable and carry them around with you.

5.        Exercise and Diet

Although this is the last thing you may feel like doing, exercise can be a powerful tool to helping depression.  A 10 minute burst of exercise each day can be a good start e.g. walking up the stairs, walking down the road, and you can then progress to longer periods of exercise, e.g. swimming, yoga.

Aim for mood boosting foods including low-fat protein, complex carbohydrates and fresh fruit and vegetables.  Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, saturated fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives.

  1. Three things

Each evening, look back over your day and choose 3 things that have happened that may have made you smile or may have just helped you feel a little better, and write them down, however small.  This may seem like a struggle, but it is possible to start tuning in to notice these things, e.g. something nice or amusing somebody said or did, hearing a nice song on the radio; something nice that just caught your eye.

Whilst these tips can all be part of your treatment plan for recovery from depression, there may be other issues such as anxiety, trauma, loss, and anger underneath it all.  If you are finding that you are continuing to struggle, professional counselling can help by working with you to deal with the issues underlying the thoughts and feelings associated with your depression so that you can find a way out of the ‘prison’.

Please contact sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk for an initial consultation or telephone 07936 556314.

 

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Lifespan Integration and Trauma Recovery

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I am just back from some excellent training in Lifespan Integration, which is a relatively new therapeutic technique in the UK to help adults overcome the effects of early trauma and neglect. Lifespan Integration was developed in 2002 in the USA by Peggy Pace.  It utilises up to date neuroscience research of how our brain and memory are affected by trauma and attachment issues. 

It is already well known that traumatic experiences can impact children during their early development, and can have lasting effects into their adult lives, affecting how individuals view themselves and others in the world for the rest of their lives.  For example, as adults, we might find ourselves reacting very emotionally to other people or situations in a way that feels disproportionate for what is happening.  This can often be because we are being sub-consciously triggered by a past memory or feeling that has not been resolved for us.  Lifespan Integration works by helping the adult client enter into an internal dialogue with his or her ‘child state’ and using the client’s active imagination to repair early life experiences.  The client is then led through a Time Line of his or her memories which has the powerful effect of proving to his or her mind and body that life is different now and that whatever happened is well and truly in the past.  This brings about the integration of memories in a very gentle, non-traumatising way by joining up neural structures across the individual’s lifespan.  When memories are integrated in this way, we become less ‘triggered’ by past events, and it therefore becomes possible to respond to current situations and other people in more age appropriate ways.  Having participated in the technique myself during the training, both by being on the receiving end and also as a therapist, I experienced and saw that connections made were at a deep level but in a way that was non-traumatising.  Lifespan Integration is an invaluable therapeutic technique which enables us to gain a greater understanding and resolution of early memories. This in turn allows us to respond in more helpful ways to stressful situations in our current lives.

If you feel that past events in your life are continuing to affect how you view yourself and others, and you would like help to make changes, please contact Sharon Convisser at Pace Counselling & Hypnotherapy on 07936 556314 for an initial consultation. 

Useful Links:

http://lifespanintegration.com/

 

Recovery from Trauma

Restorative Yoga 

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On a non-professional basis, I recently met Fiona, a woman who was overcoming acute trauma in her life following the tragic death of one of her children. She was inspirational in all that she had done and was continuing to do in the process of re-navigating her life and her emotinal recovery. Fiona told me that a vital part of her trauma recovery was through Restorative Yoga. This prompted me, with Fiona’s permission and some of her words, to write something about restorative yoga and her personal experience of how this had helped her. “Days and nights blurred into one another as I lay on my bedroom floor, fetal position, swaddled in a blanket of paralyzing grief and despair. This was two years ago when the worst thing that could ever happen to me happened, a precious child of mine died. That moment, that very second in time that I laid eyes upon my son’s lifeless body ‘I’ was no longer. Disorientated I could not find my way out of this horrible immobilizing fog until the day restorative yoga showed me the way.” Restorative Yoga uses props like yoga blocks, bolsters and blankets to allow your body to fully relax in each posture. This helps you achieve physical, emotional and mental relaxation. Some poses target specific areas of the body, and others work with the entire body. It promotes stillness, relaxation and a calmer state of mind perhaps more than other forms of yoga and is known to provide healing , reduce stress, and particularly help you overcome emotional distress and anxiety following traumatic events. “Restorative yoga threw me a life line that I grabbed and desperately hung on to. Gradually I began to have body and breath awareness and some days I could transfer this to my day which helped me to cope. Once I became connected to my breath my whole nervous system seemed to calm down and become quieter….” “This meditative style of yoga has given me the coping tools to go to in difficult times. I practice almost every day no matter where I am and most definitely use breath awareness every single day to keep me grounded and going forward. In the home I would use couch cushions, bed pillows, blankets, thick towels. The idea is to be as comfortable and relaxed as possible with no strain and the more fully supported your body is the deeper your sense of relaxation and surrender will be to allow the nervous system to calm down and drop the deepest layers of tension. This allows the Parasympathetic nervous(relax and renew) system to take charge for a while which brings the body back to a state of equilibrium, slows down the heart rate, dilates blood vessels, activates digestion, and stores energy.” It is not unusual to feel disassociated or disconnected from yourself following a traumatic experience. Practices such as yoga, mindfulness and meditation, in addition to talking therapies such as counselling can help bring the body actively into the healing process , alongside the mind, so that you can feel whole again. “While lying on my mat in deep relaxation I became aware of my body, mind, and soul being connected as one riding on the ebb and flow of my natural breath. There was no past, no future, just in the now, in this place of complete stillness and ease. My head and body was so spacious-everything was one with my surroundings-no thoughts, only a profound relaxed feeling of peace….” Fiona trained and qualified as a Restorative Yoga teacher herself in 2013 Useful links: http://www.bwy.org.uk/ http://www.samaritans.org/ If you are struggling to overcome a traumatic experience, or suffering from anxiety, depression or stress, I am offering a free initial counselling session.  Please contact me on 07936 556314 or e-mail: sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk

Grounding Techniques

There are occasions when emotional pain can feel so overwhelming that it may be helpful to be able to detach from your feelings and stay safe.  In particular, if you have suffered trauma either in the past or recently, you may find yourself struggling with intrusive and disturbing memories of what happened, either feeling overwhelmed with emotions, or perhaps feeling numb and disconnected.  There are certain techniques called ‘Grounding’ which can help you regain a sense of safety and help you tolerate the emotions.  The strategies work by distracting your attention to what is going on externally around you, focussing you on the here and now.  The techniques can be a useful support alongside seeking professional counselling and/or hypnotherapy to help you deal with the underlying issues.

Grounding can be done anywhere at any time and it helps you stay in touch with the present, and not focus on the past or the future.  It is an active strategy and can help with extreme negative feelings.  Here are some grounding strategies which may be of help:

  • Look around your surroundings and focus on the detail around you. For example, observe to yourself, “The walls are cream; there are 4 green chairs etc….” “I am on the train; I am looking out of the windows and I can see gardens; I am on the Bakerloo line and the next station is……”
  • Find something around you that you can see and which appeals to you. Ask yourself what you like about it; what texture it is; what size it is; what shape it is; what colour it is.
  • Say a safety statement such as:  “My name is ………….; I am safe now.  I am in the present, not the past.  The date today is….. and I am standing in the supermarket/office/street etc………”
  • Focus on your breathing. Imagine as you breathe in a balloon inflating in your stomach, and as you breathe out, imagine the balloon deflating.
  • Play a categories game with yourself. For example, try to think of songs, animals, tv shows, countries that begin with A, B, C etc.
  • Eat something and describe the flavours to yourself in detail
  • Describe an everyday activity in detail to yourself. For example, a meal that you cook (“First I peel the onion and then slice it; then I peel some garlic; I fry the onion and garlic and then….etc”)
  • Dig your heels into the ground and feel yourself connected to the ground, or stamp your feet and notice the power in your legs as you do.

One or more of the techniques may suit you better than others and it is important to go with what works for you.  It can be useful to practise the technique(s) regularly, and you do not need to wait until you are feeling in crisis to do this.  The more frequently you can use the strategy when you are not in crisis, the more familiar you will be with it for the times when you feel overwhelmed.

If you are struggling with emotional difficulties and wish to explore the possibility of counselling and/or hypnotherapy, please e-mail sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk or telephone 07936 556314 to arrange an initial session.

Useful Contacts:

http://www.mind.org.uk/

http://www.samaritans.org/