Archive | Depression

Shedding Light on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

January 2017

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is tied to the changes of seasons.  It is most common during the winter when there is less light.  Some people have dubbed it, winter depression.

If you experience a feeling of “down” that begins and ends at the same time every year – you may have SAD. Typically, symptoms start in the Fall or early Winter and then begin to dissipate, as the days get longer in the Spring.

Seasonal Symptoms
•    Sad – depressed – hopeless
•    Oversleeping
•    Moody
•    Agitation or Irritability
•    Low energy
•    Problems getting along with other people
•    Heavy feeling in the arms or legs
•    Increased craving for carbohydrates or sugary foods
•    Weight gain

Although these symptoms fade with the arrival of longer and warmer days, Seasonal Affective Disorder takes its toll with strained relationships, weight gain and feeling out of shape.

The exact cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder is unknown although Mayo Clinic cites the following:
•  Your biological clock is off – also called your circadian rhythm. The decrease in sunlight can disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
•  Serotonin levels.  Less light can cause a drop in Serotonin that triggers depression.  Serotonin is an important brain chemical that impacts mood.
•  Melatonin levels. The winter season can negatively impact the balance of the body’s level of melatonin – that plays an important role in regulating sleep and mood.

Common treatment for SAD may include light therapy, talking to a therapist and/or medication from your doctor.
It’s always best to talk to your doctor about treatment options.

Organic Options

  • Participate in outdoor winter activities: ice skating, skiing, snowshoe or sledding.
  • Discover an indoor hobby by yourself or with a loved one that is fitting for cold winter evenings: reading, board games, card games, puzzles, knitting, drawing, workworking or playing a musical instrument.
  • Sit by a sunny window during the day.
  • Make dates to meet friends/family out for coffee, bingo, dining or a movie.
  • Plan a regular game night with family or friends.
  • Schedule a winter vacation to a sunny spot.
  • Make time for a regular treat at a local spa for a  massage, facial, skin treatment or manicure.
  • Focus on your evening self-care with a warm (not hot) bubble bath and an application of your favorite smelling lotion afterwards.
  • Head to the gym — even 30 minutes of exercise releases endorphins and neurotransmitters that create a feeling of euphoria.
  • Limit alcohol — it’s a depressant.
  • Read a book with uplifting messages – here are some possibilities:
    • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
    • Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant
    • The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
    • The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
    • 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
    • Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo
    • All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
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Feeling Bad About Yourself? It’s your Inner Critic.

November 2015

An Inner Critic is the constant stream of inner evaluation of yourself and others.  Similar to background music in a coffee shop — the Critic becomes background chatter in your mind. It is often surprising to people when they begin to realize how much/often that Critic spews its negative dialogue.

The critical inner voice seems to monitor your behavior and thoughts, easily handing out sub-par performance ratings.  It mocks you, shames you, puts fear in your heart, tells you to not try hard or pushes you into high performance.  It drives anxiety, depression, anger and self-loathing and push you into exhaustion.

What’s your Inner Critic say?
You’re not good enough.
You’re going to fail.
You are a failure.
No one likes you.
No one loves you.
You’re a bad mom.
You’re an idiot.
Work harder.
You’re fat
Give up.
Stay small.
You’re stupid.
That was stupid.
Don’t take that risk.
You drink too much.
They think you’re a loser.
He/She doesn’t care about you.
You’ll never, ever be good enough.  Never. Ever.

People are addicted to self-criticism. Who among us hasn’t had the experience of learning to be judgmental of ourselves as a teenager, when we are so worried about how we’re going to appear to others or what might happen if we don’t perform well?

Noticing the Inner Critic
The first step in noticing the voice of your Inner Critic, recognizing when it begins to attack you.  What are your triggers?  Attending certain social events? Speaking in a meeting? Asking someone out on a date? Trying on clothes? Making a mistake? Being criticized by a friend/boss/sibling?  Not getting a promotion? Yelling at your children? Drinking too much? Not performing well at work?

Making Peace with the Critic
The key to lessening the voice of the Critic is to understand it.  Now that you begin to notice when it attacks you — let’s understandwhy attacks and shames you.

Grab a journal and spend some time with the following.

When did the Critic begin to attack you?  Think of the earliest memories or the evidence of events that have happened in the past that substantiate why it attacks you.  Ponder those memories and past evidence.

Ask that critical voice some questions:

  • What is it trying to accomplish by judging, belittling or pushing you?
  • What is it afraid would happen if it didn’t do that?
  • What is it trying to protect you from?

Notice – is there a small part of you that absorbs everything the Critic says and believes those messages? (I am hopeless.  I am not good enough. I am a failure.  I am worthless. There is something wrong with me. I’m ugly/fat.)

Is it true that you have an Inner Critic AND you have a part of you thatbelieves the Inner Critic?  Most likely — yes.

As you take a next deep breath, see if you can feel some compassion toward the vulnerable part of you that holds that fear or belief.

As an example — I see that vulnerable 13-year old inside of me who holds the false belief that mom and dad won’t love me if I do poorly in school or sports.  The Inner Critic began to push me hard at a young age to succeed and achieve — so I wouldn’t fail and lose their love.

The Critic certainly helped me to achieve things in life and to succeed — and I’m grateful for that.  The problem is that the Critic never stopped criticizing me even during success.   It pushed me relentlessly with constant criticism into my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, causing my stress levels to rise.  I became an expert at self-shaming myself if I didn’t perform well.

Once I began to appreciate the efforts of the Inner Critic and I felt compassion for that 13-year old (who still believed good grades = more love) — it became the magic bullet to love myself for who I am — not for what I do.

The old adage “Love yourself” need not just be another cliché.  It can become your truth as you begin to quiet the voice of the Critic.
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Type A’s & Stress

June 2013

There is no doubt that work is important in today’s society.  People who are hard workers and take their jobs seriously are often rewarded with promotions, bonuses and accolades from family, friends and the boss.  Our results-oriented culture admires people who produce – that makes sense.

However, hard work and success can actually become addictive.  Without even realizing it, a person driven by success begins to measure their personal worth by how much they get done and how successful they become.  Fearing failure and needing to experience the next success, a person may be driven — moving from one success to the next, faster and faster.

Often times, this personality trait is seen as early as grade school or high school.  It carries a badge of honor for the youngster to succeed in one or more areas, especially if it results in athletic and scholastic achievements.  Teachers, parents, coaches, friends – send the message that “you are somebody” as the child or adolescent begins to equate success to self-worth.

In the 1950’s, two heart specialists – Rosenman and Friedman – developed the term, Type A.  They conducted an 8-year study of middle managers and executives and asked questions such as:
• Do you feel guilty if you use spare time to relax?
• Do you need to win in order to derive enjoyment from games and sports?
• Do you generally move, walk and eat rapidly?
• Do you often try to do more than one thing at a time?

Rosenman & Friedman described Type A behavior as competitive, ambitious, impatient and aggressive.  Type A’s tend to have a harrying sense of time urgency.  Individuals displaying this pattern seem to be engaged in a chronic, ceaseless and often fruitless struggle with themselves, with others, with circumstances, with time and sometimes with life itself.

Energetic and strong-willed Type A’s become caught in a self-made trap of attempting to hold everything together, trying to achieve greater success, negating the poetic and personal side of life and struggling to answer the question, “Has it been worth the price?” as marriages dissolve, their children grow distant or they are laid off from their beloved job. Type A’s are so focused on the destination – that they treat themselves like machines until they break down one way or another.

The first step is a candid self-appraisal.  How many of these beliefs do you hold?

  • I must always be competent.
  • I must get everything done on time.
  • I don’t have the limits of normal people.
  • I must work hard all the time.
  • I feel more valuable when I accomplish something.

The  second step is to begin to softly shift those beliefs.  You might find a phrase to say yourself several times a day that is meaningful to you:

  • I do not need to work harder than others.
  • I am a worthwhile person — separate from my work.
  • I am loved for who I am — not what I do..
  • I can rest.  I don’t have to do it all.
  • I do not have to control everything.

The  third step is consciously take time each day to slow down:

  • Take mini-breaks throughout the day (stretch, walk, eat lunch with someone).
  • Take deep breaths and relax your shoulders, neck, jaw, hands when you feel tension increasing.
  • Set a goal for what time you’ll leave at the end of the day — and stick to it.
  • Leave your briefcase at work.

I encourage you to reach out to a mentor, spiritual advisor or counselor if you are having trouble making changes by yourself.

I’m here if you need help.

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