Depression is a ‘Mood Disorder’ – where your moods are regularly lower than usual (out of order).
Persistent Low Mood/Sadness.
Lack of interest in/pleasure from activities that were previously enjoyable.
Other typical features can include:
Lack of energy/fatigue
Poor sleep (more or less)
Withdrawal from others/social settings
RUMINATION*!! KEY FEATURE!
Often hidden ‘The Mask’
TYPICAL NEGATIVE THINKING (“COGNITIVE TRIAD” OF DEPRESSION):
Myself “I’m Useless” (Self-Critical)
The World “It’s all awful”
The Future “It’s hopeless…”
Depression can be thought of as a reflection of how we live – if we feel negatively about ourselves, think self-critical thoughts, and struggle with activity and/or socialising, our moods are bound to reflect this. These are often coupled with trying to hide all these feelings, often based on assumptions like
“I’m the only one who feels like this, what’s wrong with me for feeling like this?”
“No-one understands what this is like…”
“This is/I am never going to get better…”
Great short information sheet on how to start to tackle your low mood –
*Rumination is the endless mulling/picking over past events – “post-morteming”, questioning past actions, with no outcome, other than ‘re-living’ negative situations, which only serves to lower mood further. Advice on tackling rumination in the link below – https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-rumination-1067471
If you think your moods are persistently low, it’s really important to get help. Talk to someone you trust, book to see a counsellor or therapist, or go to your GP for advice. DON’T just wait for it to ‘blow over’, or think you’re alone in this. You’re not, and there’s LOTS of help out there.
If you’re reading this and you’re feeling really bad, maybe struggling with ideas of harming yourself – please ring Pieta House 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444. Talk to the Samaritans on freephone 116 123 or text 087 2 60 90 90. Whoever you tell, PLEASE tell someone.
First, take a look at this info leaflet (linked above) and have a read. Really get to grips with the symptoms of adrenaline & understand which ones you affect you.
Adrenaline can can be released/needed in many settings, a speech, a job interview, and is normal, as we need it to be ‘on our toes’, but when we start to see risk everywhere – meeting our friends, going shopping, we begin to produce too much adrenaline. Then we start to feel bad physically, so then the body goes ‘crap, things are REALLY bad’ and guess what it does? Yup. Releases more adrenaline. So more sick stomach, or heart racing, or boiling hot – and the awful cycle of anxiety heads off on its merry loop!
The “Primitive” Brain
BUT, the important thing to understand about our threat system (which is activated by the Amygdala) is where it’s located – in one of most primitive parts of our brain. The one that kept our ancestors safe from sabre tooth tigers, all the way up to more recent wars and combat. But, that part of our brain hasn’t kept pace with the crazy, hectic world we live in today, so it can’t distinguish between a bear and a bank manager – it just sees risk – and releases Adrenaline regardless.
This is a really nice visual (only 3 minutes!) explanation of the “Fight, Flight, Freeze” response…
So! How to manage this primitive part of our brain… The bit that acts 1st, thinks later (ever do something you regretted later?!) Think of it like the monkey part of our brain – full of energy and drive, but no finesse!!
(“If I do that presentation, I’ll make a mess of it, everyone will laugh, and I’ll be humiliated in front of everyone” *Calls in sick, avoids all future presentations*) If we stuck this person in an fMRI scanner the Amygdala would be bright red!
So, to quiet down ‘monkey brain’, we need to engage the pre-frontal cortex (the more mature or ‘adult’ part) which is involved in rational, reasoned thought, (this is where the neurons fire when we stop to consider something, and make decisions). This big boy needs to get engaged to stop the release of Adrenaline, and help us engage in calm, rational thoughts.
(*Even though I get nervous speaking in front of everyone, I’ve done all the work, I’ll have my notes, and my boss was very encouraging the last time someone did a presentation. *Does shaky, but thorough presentation, boss notices nerves and compliments on overcoming them*)
This time the fMRI shows the pre-frontal cortex busily glowing 🙂
Managing our Thoughts
Why mention MRI? Notice anything about risk? It’s what we THINK that defines it. One person’s high dive thrill is another person’s terror. And what is a thought? Put simply, it’s neurons firing. A mental fart! By deliberately engaging different areas of our brains we control our thoughts (& therefore our adrenaline production) rather than them controlling us.
(Google ‘the Brain’ by David Eagleman – it’s on Netflix – for a fascinating look at how they’re using this to help drug addicts recover by controlling their neural activity!!)
Go back to the information leaflet, get familiar with the ‘cycle of anxiety’ & draw out your own. Know what your triggers are, and find more helpful ways of approaching them (THIS TAKES TIME, BTW!! NOT an instant fix.) There’s lots of suggestions on the back page – pick 2 questions, that you like, (e.g. lots of my clients really like “will this really matter in 6 months’ time?”) and practice them, relentlessly, when you feel that adrenaline creeping up.
Listen To Your Body
Also, your body is your ALLY. Think of it like an alarm system, it tries to let you know that you’re seeing threat /risk, and often we brush off those warning signs – distract, keep busy, have a drink, try to out run them with exercise/comfort eating – so what does the alarm do? (Think of ignoring a crying baby…!) It RINGS LOUDER!! (“OMG! they don’t know they’re at risk! QUICK! MORE ADRENALINE!!) Whereas, if we pay attention at the earliest warning shot – yours might be a slight knot in stomach – & assess the reality of the thoughts, guess what area of the brain gets engaged? Yes! Pre-frontal cortex!! (You’re all so good at this!)
So, instead of thinking “If anyone knew I was bad at presentations they’d think I was useless…” what COULD you think?
Use your friends for inspiration whenever you get stuck. thinking about others encourages us to be more objective, less critical, and more supportive. What would you say to a friend in the exact same situation? Or what would they say to you? Then repeat that, ad nauseum.
We tend to be our own worst critics (- and how’s that working out for us? Good? No! ) Being mean is not how to help ourselves, it compounds how bad we feel already, so start being kinder, and more encouraging to yourself. (Yes, that’s a professional instruction. So I know it works. 🙂 )
OK, SUMMARY TIME.
Just because you think it, does NOT mean its true/real. (Mental fart, remember?)
Look at every stressful/upsetting situation like a judge. (Judge Judy is my own personal favourite – “Not in my court room, HONEY!!) Where’s the evidence to support the thought? (“Everyone will laugh if i get stuck in the presentation” Really? EVERYone? Every single person in my work is mean and cruel? Well….. Would you laugh at someone struggling? Of course not, became 99.99% of us are kind & helpful. But if there is a mean person (they exist, I know…) & they laugh, who is that a reflection on? You? No. Them? Yes! Do you value their opinion? Do you like them? No. (& most people don’t either!) So, a more helpful thought would be “even if Horrible Harry laughs at me if I get tongue tied, everyone else on the team will be supporting me and wanting me to do well.”
Practice this stopping & questioning your thoughts, over and over.
Become a brain detective.
Think about your thoughts – are they real? Are they helping? These are skills that you need to learn – like the guitar, or hang gliding – you won’t get it straight away. But if you understand the process behind the anxiety
(Monkey brain in charge = not good! Can we have the rational, wise mind back in control please? Ta.) you will learn how to manage it, and in time, get back you back to the driving wheel, instead of being driven mad!
Mental fart, Judge Judy, and Mature Mind over Monkey Mind. Go!
Stress is our emotional and physicalresponse to pressure. When we feel there are too many demands, and too few resourcesto cope = PRESSURE!!
External factors; life events, illness (ourselves or someone close to us) living conditions, work, home and family, study, lack of some necessity,
Internal factors; demands we place on ourselves, e.g.; taking on too much, not ‘recharging the batteries’, lifestyle/habits.
Even those events which we see as enjoyable can be stressful, such as holidays, moving home, starting a better job, pregnancy, parenthood, Christmas etc.
So, spend some time working out what your triggers are, and whether the pressures are internal or external. Use this worksheet
to help work out where your stressors are coming from, and try 2 of the suggested new behaviours, and 2 of the suggested new ways of thinking to replace what you normally do when you’re stressed…. i.e. take on too much, don’t say no… berate yourself for being stressed in the 1st place….
This a lovely worksheet on how to treat ourselves with more Compassion and kindness
How would you talk to a friend when they’re stressed? Tell them to cop on? Tell them they’ve a good life – what’s wrong with them?! No? Why not?
Think about that for a minute. If you wouldn’t be harsh with someone you care about, why are you doing it yourself? Also – how’s that working out for you?!!!!!!
Now that you’ve started working on the inner thoughts, turn to behaviours. Are all the basics in place to support a hectic lifestyle, or a busy job?
How’s your nutrition?
How’s your sleep?
How’s your use of alcohol, caffeine, drugs – of any kind?
Do you exercise?
What do you do to “recharge the batteries”/Relax/Unwind?
When there’s something on your mind – do you talk to someone, or hide it?
It’s really important to support yourself – we’re basically a big battery, and if we don’t fuel ourselves properly every day, and take regular self-care breaks – then we can’t be surprised when our system starts to creak!! Have a look at this;
Are you doing all the right stuff? Stop now and add ONE change this week that will help you manage your life better. Each week add another. Slowly and surely is the best way to make changes – small, manageable chunks. One day at a time, dear Jesus, sang Dolly Parton, who is my patron saint of therapy ? One thing at a time.
My favourite = “let yourself be less than perfect”. Hmmmnnn…. Any perfectionists here? How’s it going? I’ve yet to meet a happy one!
Ok, to follow my own advice – that’s enough for now. See how you get on with this lot, take it one bit at a time. See what resonates with you, or hits a nerve. That’s probably the stuff to go with first.