Difficult challenges seem to come in bulk- it’s a real phenomenon of life. These strange time periods in which there is a piling of negative events one on top of another is experienced so universally that we all say, “When it rains, it pours.” How do we outlast the down-pour?
Stress is a fact of life. Thankfully, some of it can be alleviated by honestly evaluating our priorities, relationships, behaviors, etc., and making different and healthier choices. But, some of it just has to be lived through. (Example: last week I was dealing with a horrendous tax audit chore when my car decided to break down, expensively. That was chased with an extended family emergency and a two day migraine… You’ve been there, right?) Stress is part of life, but misery does not have to be! If you choose to, you can navigate the rainy times of life healthfully and resiliently. You can, and should, honor your feelings and acknowledge that things suck sometimes. Write it out, talk it out, and don’t pretend everything is okay. But then give yourself a break and navigate the storm with confidence.
Write down as many pleasurable and relaxing activities that you can think of. Many of them should be free, in case of financially stressful times. Use this list to take care of yourself and wait for the sun to start shining again. Worrying solves nothing. Take a break; enjoy something. Get lost in a book. The problem will still be there when you’re done playing with your dog, trust me. Memorize some mantras that are empowering to you for times of emotional overwhelm. Positive self talk is everything when you feel fatigued from life! I’ll let you peruse some of mine if you need some ideas:
It’ll be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
This, too, shall pass.
I’ve survived a lot of hard things, and I’ll survive this, too.
Anxiety won’t kill me, it just doesn’t feel good.
I’m strong enough for this.
Everything changes. This is only temporary.
Finally, a few basic coping skill reminders: Get enough sleep!! Drink water, eat well. Take walks and breathe deeply. Get enough sleep!! Learn how to say ‘no’ to unwise time commitments. And did I mention, get enough sleep?!
The way you talk to yourself matters. The thoughts we indulge in dictate how we feel. When your mind is spinning in negative self-talk and pessimistic views of life events, it makes perfect sense that you would feel defeated, depressed, or anxious. Trouble is, negative or critical thinking is a powerful habit that feels to happen TO us. That is actually not true, we have power over what we think. But, the thoughts can become automatic and difficult to avoid when it’s been our way of viewing the world for a long time. It’s often been taught to us in our family of origin since we were very little, and we may not have ever known how to have a positive or optimistic thought!
But research has shown again and again that happy people have inner dialogues that are optimistic and self-compassionate, even in difficult or embarrassing circumstances. Research has also shown that we have power to improve the quality of our thoughts. I believe it is a fight worth under-taking. It is never to late to work on your thinking and improve your base level of happiness day to day.
*Important disclaimer to following article- the tips below address non-suicidal depressed mood. If your partner is showing signs of suicidal ideation or talking about wanting to die, get them to emergency MEDICAL help immediately. At that point it is about life saving measures, and a spouse cannot provide that help.
Hard work and compromise are necessary to keep any marriage alive and well, even during the “up” times of life. But what happens when the stress becomes overwhelming, and emotional challenges get thrown in the marriage mix? What happens when one of the partners can’t give as much because they feel, just… down? How does a marriage whether a storm of mental health challenges?
I’m going to get very personal, with the permission (and help) of my husband. We agree that depression, and its effects on the loved ones of those suffering, is a prevalent and important issue and we are willing to share our own experience. We both have families with histories of mental illness, and have had minor bouts with “the blues” ourselves at different times when life was stressful. Over the last year, however, things got serious emotionally for my husband. His “blues” hit symptomatic levels that made daily activities and participation in family life difficult to manage. Stress from work became oppressive, and soon hopelessness and exhaustion were about the only thing he was feeling. We’ve struggled together to get through this storm and return positive, hopeful feelings to our home.
Chronic stress causes problems in every area of life, not the least of which is physical sickness and mental exhaustion. Many people’s depression and/ or anxiety can be traced to chronic high levels of stress. We live in a face-paced and complex world with more stressors than ever. The problem is that people who are stressed out don’t feel they have the time to do anything about it- and so the stress gets worse and worse.
When you honestly have very little time to take a step back from life and take care of yourself, you need to get creative about carving out peaceful moments throughout each day. Prioritize and simplify wherever you can, because as the old adage says, if you don’t take time to be well now, you will certainly take time to be sick later. While you’re figuring out how to cut some things out (!), here are some simple strategies you can implement today to de-stress:
What occupies your thoughts throughout the day? I’m sure that you, like me,
are peacefully present in each moment of time- enjoying the company, conversations,
and sensory experiences around you. Ha! While that sounds delightful, I admit that I
struggle to turn off my busy brain and just be. I know I’m not alone, because “overanalyzing”
and constant mind-chatter are common complaints I hear from clients and
friends. The seriousness of the problem can range from simple unwanted worry to
obsessive over-thinking that can cause insomnia and major anxiety. If you relate to the
plight of the over-analyzer, I have good news. There are many therapeutic techniques
that, when done consistently, result in a more peaceful and present thought process.
Bitterness and anger trapped inside your body- sound fun to you? The common practice of holding a grudge, or harboring negative emotions against someone who has wronged us, is poisonous both mentally and physically. So why do we do it? Even when the hurt feelings are justified, grudges only serve to hurt us further while doing nothing to solve the offense suffered or repair the damaged relationship. Here’s some steps you can take to release the ugly feelings, and move toward forgiveness and inner peace.
1. Sort through the emotion; get to the heart of what hurt you.
Before confronting another in anger, or determining you can never forgive them, find out if there are deeper issues involved. Perhaps the offender hit a deeper nerve they were not even aware of. There is an old writer’s motto that states, “I write because I don’t know how I feel until I read it.” Journaling out all the feelings involved in the offense, the grudge, and the reactions you are having might reveal other ways to look at things and release much of the pain, leaving room for forgiveness.
What image does the word addict conjure up in your mind? Are you thinking of the stereotypical movie character who is trembling in an alley night after night looking for a “fix”? Most people believe that an addict is easily identifiable by their disheveled looks, by their inability to function in day-to-day life, or by recognizable constant “loaded” behaviors. This picture of addiction is simply untrue; and the danger of believing in the movie character addict persona is what can allow a person to continue in a dangerous pattern of addiction unaware.