Help for Your Situation

Strategies for anxiety, depression, anger or stress

When you feel as though there is no way out, know that there is always help available if you're willing to take that first step.

I’ve been getting a lot, and I mean A LOT, of emails, and submitted comments, about what suggestions I might have that would help a person’s particular situation.  After reading these, and I do read every single one,  I really do wish that I could just type out a paragraph that would give you all the info you’d need to “fix” things.  I wish I could simply list the exact steps you need to take to make things better.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet, or a quick fix available.  There’s nothing that I could really say that would give you the insight needed to make everything go away.  It would actually be a huge disservice to you if I did try and conduct psychotherapy via email.

 

From my viewpoint, it simply wouldn’t work.  There’s so much that goes into conducting a session that taking away my ability to see nonverbal cues, affect, mood, intonation, reactions, read tones, etc hampers my ability to properly diagnose and suggest treatment options.

Trust me, I do want to help.  This is the main objective of the site.  I noticed several themes with the various clients I’ve seen on a daily basis and thought I would write my articles to address these commonalities.  They’re mainly behavioral and cognitive changes that I felt could empower the individual to make small progressive changes to their lives that would not only help improve their mental health symptoms, but also improve mood, energy levels, motivation, physical health and meaning as well.

The articles are not meant as a “cure” either.  They’re merely a series of stepping stones to lead you to your ultimate objective.  Part of this does entail seeking help from a mental health clinician in your community.  Talk therapy, and medication from a psychiatrist in some cases, incorporated into the articles I’ve written is going to be the most effective solution towards your goals.

This site is simply a tool for you to create a solid foundation upon which to build on.  Just as only building the foundation of a house is not going to give you adequate shelter, relying only on my articles is not going to provide you with a complete solution to your symptoms.  What I can do however, is suggest the following:

Firstly, if you do feel as though you are going to harm yourself – don’t do anything without first calling a qualified individual to assess your situation.  For this I would urge you to call (in the U.S.) the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255.  In the U.K., please call the Samaritan’s Hotline 08457 90 90 90.  Both are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Crisis lines are available in many other countries as well and I would urge you to visit http://www.befrienders.org/ to find the particular one that applies to you.

If you do think you are in imminent danger of harming yourself, or you believe someone you know is about to harm themselves, then call the emergency telephone number for your country.  In the U.S. it’s 911, in the U.K. it’s 999 or 112.  From here, responders will come to your location and assess you and help you get to the nearest hospital where you can get the immediate help you need.  Alternatively, have yourself, or even better a friend/relative, drive you to the nearest hospital and tell them you are going to harm yourself.

I cannot stress the above points enough.  When you are in the middle of a severe crisis any solution seems like a good one.  You cannot, WILL NOT, be able to think objectively about your situation.  This is why you need an outside perspective to intervene and assess things rationally.

Trust me, I’ve worked with suicidal clients before.  Those who were so deep in a pit of despair that they could not see any other alternative other than just ending it all.  Some that actually had attempted.  Some whose lives were so bad and out of control that even I had my doubts.  However, over time, and once they sought out some help, they did get better.  In some cases, the results were truly amazing and changed into someone who was unrecognizable from their earlier self.  It CAN get better no matter how horrible your situation.  It will take time, and sometimes, progress is slow, but I have never ran across a client that I thought I couldn’t help.  I’ve seen the changes with my own eyes and believe you can too.

How to Help a Loved One Struggling with Mental Health Issues

Strategies for depression, anxiety, stress or anger

Sometimes just being there for your loved one is the best strategy.

Most of the articles I’ve written dealt with how you deal with your own mental health issues like depression, anxiety, anger or stress.  However, I’ve often been asked what someone can do to help their significant other cope with a mental health issue.  The first thing to realize is that you are not alone.  A recent study has shown that 56 million Americans deal with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, anger or stress, every year.  Chances are very good that someone in your own family will suffer from a mental health issue in their lifetime.

 

Mental health issues can arise from too much stress from certain situations or a series of events.  As is the case with those battling cancer, diabetes and heart diseases, mental health issues often affect a person both physically as well as emotionally.  Depression, anxiety, anger or stress might also be caused by a reaction to environmental stressors, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination thereof.  The good news is that with proper care and treatment, most people are able to manage their symptoms, or recover completely.

Following are some warning signs that your loved one should seek help from a therapist:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Denial of obvious problems
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Substance abuse

Another thing to realize is that you are not at fault as to whether their symptoms improve or not.  You’re most likely not a doctor or someone trained to deal with mental health issues.  Even if you were, treating your own family members like they were a client is not advisable.  The best thing you can do is just be there for them as a source of support.  However, you might often find that your support goes unnoticed or even challenged.  Many times, you might be told that they no longer love you, can’t make this work, or it’s all your fault.  Divorce rates see a dramatic spike during this time as couples feud and fail to see that the source of all this tension is due to the mental health issues.  The main thing to understand during this time is to see the mental health issues as an illness that has changed the way your loved one sees, and interprets, the world.  During this time they’ll be frustrated, confused, and overwhelmed due to something that has grown out of their control.  It’s at this time, more than any other, that they have your support, your ear to talk to, your help and your patience.

Now, this is not an excuse for a husband, or any other loved one, to be abusive.  Absolutely not and a person has every right to leave the relationship if abuse were occurring.  At this stage, the amount of therapy, cooperation from the abuser and energy you have to support this relationship might be too much to bear.  If this is something you are experiencing, and you’ve made the decision, I highly urge you to call an agency for assistance, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) and not try to manage this on your own.

Depression or other behavioral disorders should always be looked at as a serious condition that needs immediate behavioral disorder treatment.

If you’re experiencing conflict, or feel as though you are powerless to help, just know that withdrawing from you, friends, work, everything is very normal and especially so for men who are battling depression, anxiety, anger or stress.  One additional thing to realize is that now is not the time to allow drastic decisions to be made.  If symptoms are severe enough, a person’s whole personality can change and the one you are talking to is a shade of their former self.  The goal is to look for ways to get help so that person might regain their former self.

The first step would be to create an open line of communication where the loved one feels as though they can talk to you when they are ready.  Express to them how concerned you are, and constantly ask the question, “How are you?”  Allow them to speak freely and do not place any judgment on their words.  Just the act of talking can be therapeutic and not necessarily what is being said.  Once an open dialogue has been created, bring up the topic of talking to someone else who can help better than you can.  Find a therapist and make the appointment yourself if the person is unable to.  Even drive the person over to the appointment yourself if they are so withdrawn and unable to cope.  Go to therapy together and sit-in on sessions, or schedule time to talk with the counselor to see what you can do to help and understand.  Or, if the person is so averse to getting help, try to create a source of motivation such as pointing out how the family is suffering and they should do it for the kids.  Or, offer that you will do something nice for them if they do the appointment.  If you’re also being threatened with divorce or separation and you believe this is a result of their mental health, you could offer up that you’d grant the divorce only if they get therapy and get on medication.  Another tactic is to talk about the depression, anxiety, anger or stress as a third person.  For example, “The depression is causing this and not you”.  Coming to the realization that the symptoms, or illness, is causing the person to say things they don’t really mean, can help you not take things so personally.  The depression, for example, will tell them that they are no good.  The depression will make them act out and declare they want a divorce.  The depression will make them push everyone out of their lives.  The depression won’t allow them to see reality.  The depression makes them think they’ll never be happy, there’s no way out, there’s no hope.  It’s the depression that is speaking out and not the loved-one.

If you’ve read any of my other articles, you already know to expect this to take quite some time before seeing any significant changes.  How long is highly variable, but expect this to be a long term effort.  Mental health issues are not easily overcome.  Medication may eventually have to play a role.  Therapy might take several months before any insight is gained.  There are many factors that play into how soon one can start managing their symptoms.  For my regular readers, you’ll know that there are several steps one can take to help improve your mental health.  For you the caregiver, I would highly encourage you to take the same steps as helping a loved one.

Through it all, it is imperative that you take care of yourself.  Keep busy and active, have a support network of friends or family, do not neglect yourself in favor of your loved one.  If you have nobody to turn to for support, search out a self-help or support group.  There are several out there for family members who have a loved one battling mental health issues.  These groups can offer an opportunity for you to talk to others who are going through a similar set of experiences.  Understand as well that it is very common for the ailing family member to become the sole focus of the entire family.  From this, others might feel ignored or left out and grow resentful.  It is very important to explain what is going on and to spend what time you can with them.  It might prove helpful to schedule time with others as well as time by yourself to get away.  Even if you can only get away for 30 minutes, take a walk, go for a drive, do some shopping.  If you take a moment to schedule time for yourself, you’ll find yourself able to maintain a proper perspective and have more patience and compassion for helping your loved one. Remember that if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’ll be less able to help others.

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How to Choose a Therapist, Part II

Strategies for anxiety, depression, stress or anger.

Finding the right person to help with your depression, anxiety, anger or stress can be extremely confusing, but it's a good idea to choose carefully.

In the previous article I introduced you to the various degree types that clinicians will have.  So, let’s take a moment and sum up:

To Read Part I of this article, please click here

Psychologists are usually doctorate level clinicians (PhD or PsyD) whose expertise is in testing/assessment and providing behavioral therapies, but may also be trained in a variety of psychotherapeutic interventions.

Psychiatrists are a medical doctor (MD) who have completed a residency in psychiatry and whose primary role is to prescribe medications to help with psychiatric symptoms.

Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) are masters-level clinicians (MSW’s) who may use a variety of methods of treatment, and who often have expertise in linking clients to various services and programs in the community.

Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC) are masters-level professionals who are trained in the techniques of counseling to help clients probe feelings, emotions, thoughts and ideas in order to achieve deeper insight and greater awareness or understanding.

A couple other examples of masters level clinicians (MS’s) not discussed previously who chose a different course of study or obtained certification after licensure:

Registered Art Therapists (ATR) are licensed masters-level clinicians who assist clients in the creation of art to express their emotions, inner experiences and trauma.

Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT) are licensed masters-level clinicians trained to understand how the interactions and roles in our relationships shape our feelings, thoughts, self-image, behavior, and how to make changes in a client’s pattern of interaction in order to bring about change.

Substance Abuse Counselors (SAC) can possess any of the above mentioned degrees, but have spent at least 3 to 5 years working extensively with clients who suffer from substance abuse, dependence and other compulsive, addictive behaviors. SAC’s provide techniques to help achieve recovery.

Certified EMDR Counselor is a clinician with advanced seminars and supervision in EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) who has been certified by the EMDR International Association.

Nationally Certified Gambling Counselor is a counselor who has taken extra seminars and supervision in the field of gambling addictions and has been certified by the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Certified Sex Therapist is a clinician with advanced coursework and supervision in the treatment of sexual disorders and certified by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists.

Play Therapist is a counselor who has taken extra studies in the use of play to help children express inner emotional problems and to change their behavior through guided play.

Now, after looking at all of the above, you might be thinking to yourself that it would be best to go see a PsyD, but that’s not necessarily the case.  There are other factors you have to consider and take into account whether one is better than the other.  One factor, for example, is how much each charge.  If you have insurance, it might not matter too much if your co-pay covers it.  However, if you have a high deductable, no co-pay, or are not using insurance, then price is a major thing to consider.  Especially when you consider that the length of time typically spent with a therapist is 8 to 20 weeks.  Getting charged $200 an hour by a PhD, might not be so bad for one session, but after 20 weeks (which is the typical limit most insurance companies place on the amount of time a clinician can see you) can add up to huge amounts you might not be comfortable with.  In addition, they might require you to participate in testing.  Each test can cost hundreds of dollars and is something to consider as well.  Ms’s and MSW’s are just as adept when it comes to providing talk therapy and are typically less expensive than doctor’s.  If you find yourself unable to obtain the services of any clinician due to monetary issues, please discuss them with your prospective therapist as they usually will give you a discount on their services.

Other factors to consider are:

  • Is the location convenient?
    • Do you really want to drive an hour to see them?
  • Types of clients they specialize in.
  • Do they strictly adhere to a particular theoretical orientation or are they able to adapt based on your situation?  If so, find out what orientation and then make sure to read up on it to understand their perspective and whether you have any issues with it.
  • What are their reviews like online?  This applies for anyone you’d see, even medical doctors.  There are services out there that ask members to submit reviews of clinicians.  It might seem trivial, but be aware not all therapists are created equal.  There are some bad apples out there and it’s best to be aware of them.
  • Call up various clinicians and ask whom they would recommend.  If you keep hearing the same name over and over again, it’s because they might be highly thought of amongst their peers.

Going through all this can be pretty overwhelming.  However, it’s better to do your homework in advance and not have to waste your time, money or patience bouncing from one therapist to another.  If you have any other advice or suggestions that you would like to share, please comment below as I’d love to hear them.

How to Choose a Therapist, Part I

Strategies for depression, anxiety, stress or anger

When trying to find a therapist that's right for you, it can be frustrating sorting through the myriad acronyms and vocabulary clinicians use to advertise themselves.

Note: For the sake of brevity, I’ve simplified greatly what the various fields of clinicians are in regards to their training and preparation.  Also, state licensure requirements vary state-to-state and sometimes have their own designations and acronyms.  This is purely meant to be an introductory primer and not an all-inclusive guide.

I’ve often wondered how the general public goes about finding a mental health clinician.  There are some things I hope everyone does before deciding to share intimate details about yourself to a complete stranger.  If you were to try and do some research on your potential therapist, you’d find a wide array of acronyms, orientations and terms that can simply overwhelm you.

 

This is why I think most people just go by word of mouth, “If someone’s good for one person, they’ll be good for me.”  That kind of logic might apply for some people, but certainly not everyone.  Depression, anxiety, stress, anger or any other mental health issue can be treated by a multitude of individuals several different ways.  To increase your odds of finding a clinician who will be a good fit for you, it would be a good start to understand what makes them different.  With that, let’s start with learning the various acronyms.

There are a multitude of degree’s and areas of specialization.  The most common are: Master’s of Social Work (MSW), Master’s of Science (MS), Doctorate of Philosophy (Phd) and Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD).  What’s the difference between these degrees?  Well, the MSW and MS are both master’s degrees and are the most common type of therapist you’ll find. Either one is proficient at conducting group or individual talk therapy.  The main difference is in their schooling: MSW’s are social workers and MS’s are counselors.  There’s been a lot of confusion between the two as the old way of thinking is that because there were so many MSW’s they became the norm.  Now, MS’s are becoming more and more popular and for good reason.  While social workers can become quite proficient at conducting talk therapy, it is not what they primarily go to school for.  For MSW’s, they focus on acting as an intermediary between client and provider putting them in contact with the services they require.  They are masters at navigating through red tape and allowing you to understand how various government programs work.  Counseling and talk therapy is touched on, but is certainly not the focus.

Now, enter the MS’s.  These are individuals who mostly majored in psychology for their bachelor’s and went on to a graduate program specifically geared towards talk therapy.  Within the MS degree are various areas of specialization: community counseling, Alcohol and drug abuse (AODA), School counselors and a multitude of others.  The main point to take home is that while MSW’s can be quite adept at providing talk therapy, it is not their forte.  That is, unless they decide to pursue a specialization after they obtain their master’s.  For MS’s, it’s all they’ve known.  Post master’s work typically entails additional practice and specialization within their chosen area.  For either person to be licensed so they may legally provide therapy, they must obtain 3000 hours post-graduate supervision experience.  We’re talking about working for free, or having to pay someone to supervise you, so you can get your hours.  The amount of time it takes to become fully licensed often takes upwards of 3 to 4 years AFTER they get their degree.  So, as you can see, for someone to take this path requires plenty of patience and dedication to their craft.

A quick side note; while it may seem like I’m not advocating you see a MSW for talk therapy, this is not the case.  They can be just as good, or possibly, better than some MS’s.  It’s all in what they specialize post-masters and whether they are licensed.  To tell if a person is licensed, they’ll have acronyms after their degree.  For social workers, you start out as first having your training license or APSW.  For MS’s, they’ll have LPC-TL.  Once full licensure is obtained, social workers can then use the acronym LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker).  For MS’s, it’s LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor).

As for PhD’s (Doctor of Philosophy) and PsyD’s (Doctor of Psychology), while they are typically the only degrees that qualify one to become a psychologist, there are significant differences between the two.  Again, both degrees can do the job of the other, but one tends to focus on one area over the other.  For PhD’s, the emphasis is on research with the goal of adding additional resources for further analysis and investigation by both academia and those doing clinical work.  PsyD’s are a relatively new phenomena that caught on in the 80’s and 90’s as a way of obtaining a doctorate for those that wanted to focus on being consumers of research rather than producers of research.  The focus was on testing and diagnosing in a clinical environment.  To simplify things, PsyD’s concentrated purely on psychotherapy and diagnosing as opposed to PhD’s who concentrated purely on research.  Again, both can do the job of providing psychotherapeutic services to their clients, but PsyD’s primary focus is on the practical application of conducting therapy and testing.

One more thing to mention are Psychiatrists (MD’s).  The vast majority of individuals in this profession are not into conducting extensive talk therapy.  Typically, they are into providing brief psychotherapeutic interventions.  Meaning, they are there to assess your symptoms, diagnose you and prescribe medication that would lessen your symptoms.  They get a pretty bad rap for not being very patient when listening to their clients’ needs.  Much of this is due to how they make money.  For the time it takes to see one client for a talk therapy session, they can see four clients in that same amount of time if they focus purely on providing the right medication and ignoring all the background details.  Not all are like this and there are some I know that will conduct talk therapy and take into account the whole person.  To break it down simply, Psychiatrists are whom you go to when you need medication.  If you need talk therapy, and you will even if you’re on medication, then see one of the above mentioned degree types.

In part II, I’ll talk about some other factors to consider and give a few examples of the other MS’s and certifications one can obtain.  Keep in mind as well that I’m merely presenting this as an informational resource purely to give you a basic understanding of the myriad acronyms and vocabulary clinicians use to advertise themselves.  Armed with this knowledge, you can be better prepared, and have a better chance, to find the right kind of clinician for you.

Motivation and Mental Health

Strategies for depression, anxiety, stress or anger

Finding the motivation to start managing your depression, anxiety, anger or stress can be an uphill battle.

If you’re suffering from depression, anxiety, anger, stress, or any other mental health issues, motivation is something you’ll find is in short supply and who can blame you? When you’re depressed, all you feel like doing is staying in bed all day. If your anxiety is in full swing, you probably find yourself so mentally exhausted from all the thinking that you’re left with nothing in the tank to do anything else. Anger, stress, bipolar disorder, whatever it is can really sap all your energy and strength. If you can muster the strength to go talk to a therapist, you’ll probably find that any

 

homework they give you turns into a chore of monumental proportions. You then end up feeling like a failure and engaging in negative self-talk and the cycle downward continues.

There is hope, however. If you actually want to feel better, and this is a legitimate question you have to ask yourself, you have to find the motivation to make it happen. If you’ve read my article on life philosophy and/or Spirituality, you already know the importance of defining meaning in your life. Once you’ve defined what this is, you can use it to cultivate a source of inspiration that can serve as your motivation.

To read my article on Philosophy and/or Spirituality, in regards to
depression, anxiety, anger or stress, click Here

Mental health issues can cause a lack of motivation. A research study of motivation in depressed patients showed only 33% of a non-depressed sample reported lack of motivation, while 86% of a severely depressed sample stated they had significant lack of motivation. Normally, we never give much thought to motivation. However, in regards to depression or other mental health issues, this lack of motivation can envelop a person and trap them in a state of despair.

When lack of motivation is combined with mental health issues, a person may resign themselves to accept their state rather than allowing positive interventions to create a better, more healthy frame of mind. This is why I previously asked the question of whether you actually want to get better. In order for someone to take control of their life and create positive change, you must have a desire to leave your depression, anxiety, anger or stress behind. However, if you’re the one who is incapacitated by a lack of motivation, it is very challenging to see this for yourself.

For those around you, and perhaps your therapist as well, this can be a source of frustration. You might be aware of some self-help guides that recommend asking those close to you what issues they see. In some cases, it can be easy for others to find errors in logic, irrational thoughts, self-defeating patterns and the like, but trying to coax someone battling depression, anxiety, anger or stress into seeing and accepting these observations can result in the person putting up a defensive wall and rejecting these views. Simply stated, the person honestly doesn’t want to change or take action. This is why, in order for progress to develop, a desire must be cultivated in order to enact positive change. In a worst case scenario this can all culminate in something clinicians call, “Paralysis of the Will”. When a person’s will is paralyzed, they find it nearly impossible to participate in life, or even the most mundane of tasks such as not eating, displaying poor hygiene, or interacting with a spouse, children or other family members. Even though they are aware of what they “should” be doing, the desire to do so is simply overshadowed by the lack of motivation.

So, what are we to do when confronted with this challenge? One must change their focal point away from depression, anxiety, anger or stress, which up to this point has been their sole focus, and replace it with something else. This something else might be your newfound source of inspiration gained from your creation of meaning and a life philosophy. It could be your desire to be a better Mother or Father to your children. Perhaps you realize how bad off your pet would be if you continue to following your current path. Maybe it’s a sense of obligation to create art and have a testament to your life well after you’re gone. Whatever the source, it’s imperative to create the will, or drive, to truly “want” to change. When a person is battling mental health issues, their sole source of motivation is their depression, anxiety, anger or stress. These mental health issues become their life, their meaning and main focus. To break this cycle requires one change their focus to a life philosophy, meaning or direction.

One example of this would be someone whose spouse has fallen ill and needed their help. This person then had meaning and a purpose which was then used as a source of strength to find the motivation to assist them. Aaron Beck, best known for pioneering the use of cognitive behavior theory, illustrated that clients who suffered from depression, could regain their motivation when they are confronted with an external pressing need or “an external stimuli needing to be filled”. This causes the person to attach their focus to something bigger than their own immediate needs or issues and allows them to see a wider perspective than just their own.

Depression, anxiety, anger, stress, or any other mental health issues can come into our lives unexpectedly and eventually become such a debilitating force that our whole focus is centered on them. However, you can regain control and alter your life by finding meaning, a purpose, your life philosophy, or through spirituality and use this to take control away from your symptoms and regain your life. Remember, this is an incredibly challenging concept and something that can take quite a long time to achieve. By taking things just one step at a time, and not trying to solve this in one day, you can build on each successive step and end up on one incredible journey.

Is There a Cure for Mental Health Issues?

Strategies for depression, anxiety, stress or anger

Unfortunately, there is no "cure" for mental health issues. This includes depression, anxiety, anger or stress.

Simply put, “no” there is no “cure” for mental health issues.  This includes depression, anxiety, anger or stress.  There are strategies that can be learned to cope with your symptoms.  There are things you can do that will lessen your symptoms such as eating right, getting some physical activity, managing your stress, etc.  You can take medication to get to a level where you can function in everyday life and not bear the full weight of your symptoms.  Or, medication can improve your mood and, in some cases, allow you to enjoy doing things again.

If you’re looking for some ideas that will lessen your depression, anxiety, anger or stress symptoms click here to go to one of my previous articles.

 

Expectations and your goals for treatment are one of the first things you’ll talk about with your therapist when you decide to seek help for your depression, anxiety, anger, stress or whatever mental health issue you’re facing.  For some people, the idea that they will never achieve some idealistic notion of what it means to be “normal” is too demoralizing.  This is why a therapist is going to focus on this issue right away.  For treatment to continue, client and clinician have to agree on some tangible goals and tempering unrealistic expectations.  Some people actually find relief in this because there is now something that is tangible and real they can work towards instead of some abstract idea of what is means to be “normal”.

For a moment, let’s talk about what it means to be “normal”.  What is “normal” anyway?  Is it being happy and jovial constantly, always having more than enough energy and motivation to get things done?  Is it being outgoing and the life of the party?  Is having a great physique and washboard abs “normal”?  Now, I guarantee that your definition of “normal” is going to be different from anyone else’s definition of what it means to be “normal”.  For most ideas, this entails momentary states of being that cannot be maintained indefinitely.  Nobody is happy every single moment of every single day.  Your energy levels and motivation rise and fall like the tides.  Sometimes, you just don’t feel like going to a party or working a room like you’re a politician.  As for having a great physique, our societal views are horribly skewed.  All those models and fitness stars you see in magazines train for that one photo-shoot year round.  Even their weight and body definition fluctuates, sometimes dramatically.

Another idea that has some research to back it up is the theory that everyone has their point at which mental health issues can develop.  The level at which this happens varies from person to person and there are a multitude of factors that can influence where this line is.  Your gene’s play a significant role as it’s been shown that mental illness is an inheritable trait.  Environment is another factor.  If you’ve grown up in an abusive household, you’re most likely going to face some type of mental health issues down the road.  Another example is found in the military.  There is an epidemic right now of post-traumatic stress disorder happening to this country.  Record amounts of veterans are coming home with severe mental health issues as a direct result of their experiences in combat situations.  This is a perfect example as it proves that no matter who you are or what your coping strategies are, going through some of the experiences these veterans faced are going to have profound consequences on your mental health and wellbeing.

The point is everyone is going to be up and down at certain times.  For those that deal with depression, anxiety, anger or stress, they tend to have more downs than ups.  However, life’s constant stressors can overwhelm anyone at times.  Some people have better coping mechanisms to deal with these changes in life and others don’t.  The good thing is that coping strategies can be taught and is why seeing a talk therapist is a good idea.  However, before coping strategies can be taught a client’s expectations and goals for therapy must be fully hashed out.

Dealing with Setbacks

Strategies for depression, anxiety, stress or anger

"The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall." -Vince Lombardi

I thought this might be a good time to talk about setbacks.

Life is full of ups and downs.  If you suffer from the effects of depression, anxiety, anger or stress you have more downs than ups.  How you choose to deal with the ups and downs of life can go a long way in dealing with your symptoms.

Maybe you’ve managed to start going for walks several times a week.  Then, you just lose the motivation and a week goes by when you do nothing.  You then start to get angry at yourself, and engage in negative self-talk,

for the perceived failure.  Your depression worsens, your anxiety increases, you become more stressed out, or your anger grows out of control.  Instead of being angry with yourself, you could choose to look at what happened as a minor setback.  Maybe you could’ve used a slight change in routine anyway because you were getting bored.  The next week, instead of walking several times a week, you decide to ride your bike instead.  Now, you’re right back on track and making progress.

The goal here is to look at the long-term trends.  I guarantee you’re going to have some setbacks, but if the overall trend is steadily going up, you’re still making progress.  Even if that progress is so painfully slow that you feel like you’re getting nowhere, it still counts as progress.  All those little increases will eventually add up to something huge.  The mantra here is: slow and steady.

Now, just because you had a setback doesn’t mean it can’t be something that you can learn from.  Being aware of how and why you had a setback is the first step.  Take a moment to examine your feelings about what happened.  What were some of the things you were telling yourself when it came time to do that activity?  Your body or mind may be telling you something.  For example, maybe you’ve been going out for a walk after work every day for the past week and then a week goes by where you did nothing.  Instead of getting angry or disappointed in yourself, look at it from a point of curiosity.  Maybe you think to yourself, “Eh, I just didn’t feel like it”, maybe you were dreading it, or maybe your boss has been piling up the work to a point where you were just too tired when you got home.  Whatever the case, use it to explore the cause and your feelings.  If you just didn’t feel like it, maybe you’ve become bored with the activity and it’s time to try something new.  If you were dreading it, perhaps it had something to do with the pain in your knee acting up.  Or, in the case of your boss, and if the activity is important to you, maybe it’s time to set some boundaries at work so you have time for the things that matter to you outside of work.

When we take the time to examine our setbacks and learn not to look poorly at ourselves, we can change the way we perceive that event and turn it into a positive, or learning, experience.  Part of this process is what some counselors will have you do in session and is called Cognitive behavioral Therapy, or CBT.  The goal of CBT is to change the way you perceive events that happen to you in your life.  If you have a setback, you’re most likely not going to be very happy about it.  However, you could rationalize it as being a positive step forward because you were getting bored with the activity anyway and needed a change.

It’s often been said that the best way to learn is by failing and learning from your mistakes.  If you can find a way to overcome your setbacks and continue on, you’ll find yourself a better person for it.  Not only that, but you’re continued perseverance will certainly have an effect on your depression, anxiety, anger or stress.

There’s one quote I often think about when this topic comes up:

“The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.”

- Vince Lombardi

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Medication

Strategies for depression, anxiety, stress or anger
Medication can be a useful tool in the fight against depression, anxiety, anger or stress.

Years ago I used to be very anti-meds.  I felt that there were far too many people out there that were over-prescribed and over-medicated.  I had a low opinion of Psychiatrists and saw them as someone who had no interest in having clients actually tell them their problems.  They just wanted to get a quick rundown to see what diagnosis they could pin on them and then toss some medications at the problem.  I thought that the only people who needed medication were those with severe to profound mental health issues.

Over time, I learned that isn’t always the case.  There are certainly still MD’s out there who will do exactly what I stated.  However, there are some good ones out there who actually do want to understand their client’s issues and take more than ten minutes to help them.  Personally, I would recommend first going through my articles and following their advice.  After you’ve turned my advice into a plan, work on that for a month or two.  When the month, or two, is over evaluate how you’re doing and if you need further help.  If you are completely unable to do anything and the feelings are so intense that it interferes

with your work, family, relationships, or wellbeing, then please go see a psychiatrist first.  Use the meds and make sure to create an open dialogue with your shrink.  Whatever he’s prescribing, you need to go home and read everything you can about what you’re taking.  Ask questions and try to understand the “how’s” and “why’s” of his thought process.  Remember, it’s very important to understand exactly what you’re putting into your body.  In addition, most medications have some form of side effects.  You need to weigh the pro’s and con’s and decide for yourself if it’s worth it.  Remember too, that you can decide to stop the medication at any time.  However, please make sure to give it a good try, at least a month, and NEVER stop your medication suddenly or without talking first with your doctor.

Some types of medication can cause substance abuse. Check out A-Z list of prescription drugs to find out more about them.

If you’re suffering from anxiety, depression, anger or stress, there’s a good chance he’s going to prescribe an SSRI for you.  These class of drugs are not fully understood, but meta-analysis of the available research points to its overall effectiveness.  However, there are some basic rules of thought when taking this medication:

1.       Understand if your expectations are realistic.  There are no magic pills.

2.       Know that it’s going to take a full month to gauge whether the medication is doing anything.  Many times, the Psychiatrist will start you out with a small to moderate dosage that might not be enough right away.  Each dosage level takes about a full month to evaluate.

3.       There will be side effects so, be prepared.  With SSRI’s, the most common side effect is a numbing of your ability to achieve orgasm and the ability to feel full sexual stimulation.  This is one of the biggest reasons people choose to stop their med’s.  Make sure to talk to your doctor as there are alternative medications, such as Wellbutrin, that won’t hurt your sex life as much.

4.       Always make sure to weigh the pro’s and con’s of taking the medication and whether it’s worth it for you.

5.       Know that medications will affect everyone differently.  Just because your friend may have tried SSRI’s once and thought they’re a scam, doesn’t mean they won’t work on you.

If the medication is working, you’ll notice a general sense that things don’t really seem to bother you all that much.  It’s not that you stopped thinking of things, but rather you won’t have the strong reactions you’re used to.  This can be both good and bad.  Good in that you’ll find it much easier to deal with your symptoms, but bad in that your ability to “feel” might be diminished.  Now, I’m not talking that you’ll be a doped-up zombie incapable of feeling anything.  Not at all, you’ll just notice that things just don’t bother you as much as they used to.  Your lows won’t be as low and your highs won’t be as high.

For those that are feeling like their symptoms of depression, anxiety, anger or stress are just completely out of control, it could be a huge relief to go from horrible to just plain ok.  Merely being “ok” could be all the motivation you need to start managing your symptoms and finally make some progress in talk therapy.

One last thing, just because you start to feel a little better with medication, don’t assume that this means you’re “cured”.  Many people who start to feel better take that to mean they don’t need their medication anymore.  A sudden stoppage in medication can cause a rebound effect in your symptoms and create a life threatening situation.  For example, if you were moderately depressed before, suddenly stopping your meds can throw you into a major depressive episode where hurting yourself might become an accepted alternative.  The rule here is DO NOT stop taking your medication when you notice an improvement in your symptoms.  What this means is that it is now even more imperative that you get the help you need and make a concerted effort to manage your depression, anxiety, stress or anger.

Personal Appearance and Hygiene

Strategies for depression, anxiety, stress or anger

When your depressed, hygiene and your personal appearance are the last things you think about.

This is the last article in an eleven article series I wrote laying out a plan for those suffering from depression, anxiety, anger or stress.  To see the first article, please click HERE

When you’re in the middle of a struggle with depression, anxiety, stress or anger the last thing you care about is how you look.  Personal hygiene also tends to take a back seat when you’re feeling overwhelmed.  It’s often that we take for granted the little things we used to do in our lives like brushing our teeth, bathing, putting on deodorant, shaving, dressing well, etc.  Remembering to keep up with your grooming can help play a positive role in your symptoms.

As we have learned in previous articles, the importance of taking care of your body is paramount.  Just like a car, years of neglect can shorten its lifespan and make driving stressful.  Maintaining your vehicle and its appearance by proper washing and waxing can give you many more years of stress-free use.  So to, do we need to take care of our bodies.

Maybe you don’t bath as often as you used to.  It’s easy to do when you just don’t feel like doing anything.  Maybe you stopped brushing your teeth and, if you’re a guy, shaving.  You then notice that your co-workers treat you different than normal and maybe your boss sees your appearance and thinks you’re a slacker, causing him to jump on your case and increase your stress even more.  Obviously, this isn’t going to help your battle with anxiety, depression, anger or stress.  Remembering to take care of your appearance can help boost they way you feel about yourself as well.  If you dress well, you’ll feel well.

Here are some suggestions I recommend:

1.       Set aside time each day to do your grooming and hygiene.  Make sure that it’s enough time so you don’t feel rushed or forced into skipping some things.

2.       Have time to pick out what you’re going to wear that is appropriate, and professional, if you’re in a business environment.

3.       Try to have some fun with it and learn to spoil yourself a little.  If you’re a guy, try out some nice cologne or deodorant.  Splurge a little and get a nice electric toothbrush.  Guys usually like gadgets.  Gadgets can make doing a previously boring, or negative, activity a more enjoyable one.  Look into buying a safety razor and using a badger hair brush with a mug of soap or shaving cream.  If you’re a woman, splurge a little and try out the high end skin treatments, conditioners, shampoos, or other products.  Learn how to make, or just buy, some bath salts, or bubble bath and take a regular dip in the bath.  Place some candles around the bath and bring your favorite beverage to sip on while you relax.

4.       Don’t stress about not having the perfect dress or not knowing “how” to dress.  Just do your best and let common sense be the rule here.  Meaning, “should I really wear shorts and flip-flops to work?” or, “Is wearing a T-shirt and jeans to a Wedding a good idea?” or, “Is wearing that pair of pants, or shirt, that I haven’t washed in weeks a smart thing to do?”

5.       Create a routine and stick to it.  If you set aside an hour each morning before work, make sure to keep it around the same time each day.  Your body loves getting into routines and your depression, anxiety, stress or anger will reflect that.  Lack of routine, and constant change, can create stress.  When you’re already in a vulnerable state, you do not need additional stress.  Creating a routine, and knowing what to expect, can help you relax more.

In the end, just make sure you’re hitting all the basics: brush your teeth, use deodorant, wash your clothes regularly, get a haircut, shave, dress appropriately.  If you want to go a little further, learn to pamper or spoil yourself: buy a new grooming gadget, use bath salts, create a relaxing atmosphere with music and lighting.  This might seem overly simplistic, but one of the best indicators of depression, anxiety, stress or anger is in your physical appearance and whether you’re taking care of your body or not.  Learning to take care of yourself is especially important when we start tying together my previous articles.  It’s just another piece of the puzzle towards learning to manage your symptoms and maybe finding a little hope or happiness along the way.

The Importance of Sleep

Strategies for depression, anxiety, anger and stress

Getting proper sleep is vital to both your body as well as your mind.

Sleep is one of those things in life that we feel like we have little control over and just have to deal with what we get.  However, getting proper sleep can help improve several symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress or anger.  If you find that you’re only getting about 4 hours of sleep each night and are constantly waking up throughout the night, I guarantee you’ll notice a difference once you start sleeping more soundly and for a longer duration.

Maybe you find that you’re sleeping throughout the day.  Overcome with depression, you don’t have much energy and don’t feel like doing anything.  So, you lay in bed all day nodding off from time to time.  When it comes time to sleep for the night, you find it very difficult to initially fall asleep and perhaps wake up throughout the night.

Depression itself can also cause sleep problems as well as sleep problems can influence depression.  Insomnia, for example, is very common among depressed, anxious or stressed individuals.  They could have problems falling asleep, difficult to stay asleep, waking up exhausted and not refreshed, and being sleepy during the day.  Along with this, having sleep apnea can influence depressive symptoms and research has shown that those with this illness are five times more likely to suffer from breathing issues during sleep.  This is why I recommend going to see your medical doctor first to rule out any possible medical symptoms.  If you’re sleeping pretty poorly, then I would also recommend having a sleep study done.  If you do a Google search for your area, you’re very likely to find a place near you.

There’s also been research which has shown that those who suffer from insomnia are more likely to have very severe and/or longer lasting depression symptoms.  This same research illustrated a direct correlation between mood disorders and sleep issues.  In fact, among those diagnosed with depression, stress or anxiety issues, 73% had problems with their sleep.

Sleep is also the main time when your body heals and restores itself to a normal state.  If you have problems getting to sleep, having your sleep disrupted, or not enough sleep, this can lead to higher levels of stress, vigilance and anger issues.  Getting inadequate sleep will lead to fatigue during the day.  More fatigue equates to less physical activity and then leads to a sharp decline in your level of fitness.  This all builds until you’re in a never-ending cycle of inactivity and sleep issues, which will worsen both your physical well-being as well as your mental health.

If you see your medical doctor and mention problems with your sleep, they are likely to prescribe something to help you sleep.  Some antidepressants can help with sleep as well as treat your anxiety, depression, stress or anger.  There’s also hypnotics, normally called sleeping pills, such as ambien, lunesta, restoril, sonata or rozeram which can lead to better sleep.  Make sure to talk with your doctor as well about possible side effects as well.

Some things you can do yourself can help you to fall asleep naturally:

1.       Listening to relaxing music or reading a book can hasten relaxation and calm your thoughts.

2.       Exercise is a huge factor in the quality of and ability to fall asleep.

3.       No caffeine, alcohol or nicotine after dinner is also a good rule to follow.  This is especially true if you have anxiety or stress issues.

4.       If you find that you can’t get to sleep and are restless, get up out of bed and go do something till you do feel very tired.

5.       Taking a nice bath or hot shower before bed can also help.

6.       Ambient sound, nature or a white noise machine can not only help distract your thoughts (a good thing if you have anxiety) as well as influence your sleep.

7.       Finally, make sure that the room is completely dark and you’re not too hot when in bed.

If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to list them below.

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