Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lifehacker Article: The Importance of Self-Awareness & How to Become More Self-Aware

Here is an enjoyable article from Lifehacker on the importance of being self-aware in making any positive changes to your thinking. I hope you find it useful.

Click here or use the link below.

Use such info to integrate new ways of doing things into your life IF it helps you live well. Enjoy!

-- Rich

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Digging Out of Depression: A Quick Start Guide

We have all seen the flurry of write ups on the tragic death of Robin Williams. It reminded me of many issues I cover with clients coping with depression as part of the chronic illness of Major Depressive Disorder and/ or Bipolar Disorder, among others.

We've heard that Robin was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease recently. We should remember that a trauma such as being given a life-altering diagnosis, can be a major punch to the psyche. And these might include physical ailments you might not have expected like heart surgery and Diabetes. Any diagnosis that changes how we live our lives can be felt as traumatic.

Some insurance companies are now offering supportive services to help people make the transition to a new reality as smoothly as possible. I am just starting to do some of this work as a provider with a company that works with insurance companies and I'll let you know what I learn over time.

I've seen other headlines about Robin Williams' situation just prior to his death, that we might learn from in understanding the effects of depression on our lives.

He was said to have been distant with his family and friends and to have been upset by other issues that he could not resolve and that he had quit alcohol and drug rehab too. I have no idea if these are true as reported. But I know I have seen many depressed clients of mine deal with life issues like these.

Depression is our total focus on the negative aspects of our lives. As good as some parts might be, we will tend to focus on what is not the way we want it to be. And feel angry and frustrated by that fact. If we feel bad enough, we can even begin to imagine that nothing can be good in our lives again.

This counter intuitive process is so seductive to a depressed person, that we might not even realize it is happening until we are deep into our illness. The key to stopping this process, as early as possible, is to see it as it happens.

I think of this process as being one of disengagement from life. We might be angry or irritable or simply negative in talking to others until we make a decision that others don't like us or we might as well not bother family and friends with our presence when we feel so bad. Our mind might even convince us that we are doing them a favor by avoiding them.

If we know we are likely to become depressed, we need to become good at recognizing our disengagement patterns. Usually, we start with irritability and taking life very seriously. We lose our sense of humor and we become tired and feel we need to rest at length. Instead of needing a nap, we might feel that we could sleep for a week.

Even if we do rest we can feel it was far too little. So we try to rest some more and our motivation to do much of anything can diminish.

We can find ourselves focused on solving the insolvable problems of life and feeling deeply frustrated and sad about them. Small issues become large when you look at them too closely and for too long.

We might stop doing all those things we know contribute to living well, like being grateful for what we have and trying to stay physically healthy. Everything can become a chore and eventually these chores become another backlog of unaddressed issues we can blame ourselves for not fixing.

If we do not try to counter this process, and sometimes even if we do, we will find ourselves feeling desperately unhappy and alone with our thoughts of sadness and hopelessness.

It is very common for depressed folks to feel that they have failed at living. And then to feel ashamed of that feeling. In that state of mind, It doesn't take long for anyone to then ask themselves, "what is there left to live for?"

All of this is recognizable as the process of disengaging from daily life and going deeper into a depressive episode. And in a case of deep depression, we might even feel that we are somehow "locked into" the illness as if some kind of emotional Legos have snapped permanently into place.

So for anyone reading this who might see themselves, or a friend in this description, the actions to take are clear if not necessarily easy. But doing them sooner might well prevent a worse episode.

Recognize the pattern you are living as you have noted before when feeling depressed. And if you have not made your list previously, here is what to do.

-- Make a list of increasing severity of symptoms so you can recognize them next time. You might write at the top, When I start feeling depressed I do this...I feel generally irritable or I am easily angered or frustrated for example. Refer to this list if you suspect you might be slipping into feeling depressed. A second list should be the actions you know you need to take to feel good. Start doing them immediately. Preferably with a friend or group.

-- Share your feelings with someone you trust. Hopefully you have one that will accept you as you are in any given moment. And if not, you can make it a challenge for another time to find one.

-- Re-engage with life by maintaining those things you know you like and enjoy and are good for your physical health. Social activities and all those things you used to love to do. And you can always find new things to love too.

-- Get active! This might be the last thing you want to do, but do it anyway. Walk the dog, swim some laps, take up disc golf (which is awesome). Get blood flowing like your doctor told you at your last exam.

-- See your physician and therapist to tell them what is happening and they will help you get back on track. By the way, I am all for medication if it allows you to feel better enough to do the work you need to do to dig out of a depressive episode. How else might you do it when you feel terrible? Too many people have an old mental picture of anti-depressants being addictive or coming with severe side effects, that might no longer apply with the newer medications and treatments available.

-- Do something nice for someone else. Visit someone you think needs a visit. Pay the toll booth fee for the car behind you. Someone recently did this for me and I did it for the next car, and it was genuinely fun to do out of all proportion.

-- DON'T make big decisions if you can help it. There will be a better time for that later.

This is all easier said than done, but you can do it. One step at a time and one day at a time. And this is not a description of a total program of course, but it is a good start.

It might take help and so what?

Do you really have a bigger priority than living well?

Do what you need to do without shame.

Do what it takes to live well again. It is always about being ACTIVELY ENGAGED with life.

Let someone know how you are feeling and ask for their help. And email me if you have questions.

You are not alone. There is hope and you can feel better.

-- Rich

Monday, August 4, 2014

Couples Communication Mistakes: Making Assumptions

I work with lots of people whose problems in their intimate relationships are related to not saying what is on their minds. They have a variety of reasons for not sharing their thoughts. And this lack of clear connection between two people leaves room for multiple problems.

Too often we don't say what's on our minds because we make an assumption that our partner already knows what we're thinking. Or we imagine they would think and feel as we do in the same circumstances. So we can even believe others understand and accept our position, without our stating it openly. It doesn't make logical sense, but it happens.

The truth is when we make assumptions, we are guessing about whether or not our message was received properly. And this is if we recognize that we didn't really express it adequately at all.

This is not uncommon among those couples that start off being able to answer one another's sentences and later realize they really haven't been connecting. Often, a fast and steady pace of life makes it easy to overlook such misconnections.

So be clear and direct with your views and calmly work to understand and accept the views of your partner even if they are much different from your own.

And if you are uncertain about the details, ask for more, calmly and tactfully.

Good communication is not just a cliche in good relationships. It is a foundational element in our understanding and being understood, in our intimate relationships. And that sense of certainty can bond us to one another like little else can.

Live well now with clarity.

- Rich