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Getting Sleep in Spite of Depression or Anxiety

When we think of depression, we might imagine sleeping a lot and having a hard time getting out of bed and facing the day. But it can often mean the opposite—being unable to get enough badly needed sleep. The same is true with anxiety. We can keep ourselves awake with worry or a vague restlessness can keep slumber just out of reach. 

Research confirms how vital good rest is for mental and physical health, in spite of our modern lifestyle of energy drinks, 24/7 connectivity, binge-watching and bragging about how little sleep we can live on. Even if you are not already struggling with either of these conditions, skimp on visiting slumberland long enough and depression will come knocking on your door, with anxiety likely not far behind.

If wakefulness is plaguing you, let’s review some of the basics that promote a restful sleep:

  • Get some exercise—but not too late in the day. Regular workouts or even just a daily brisk walk will relieve stress and then later facilitate sleep. Finish 90 minutes before bedtime so its energizing effects won’t postpone shuteye.  
  • Avoid coffee colas and energy drinks after noon. Even after 6 hours, half the caffeine is still in your system, so a 4pm espresso can still be haunting you at 10pm. 
  • Alcohol is a culprit too. It can make you sleepy at first but leave you wide-eyed in the middle of the night. It blocks REM sleep, the most refreshing kind, so you wake up feeling unrested. And it aggravates snoring and sleep apnea.
  • Develop a bedtime routine to signal the body to get ready to shut down. Turn off most lights, take a shower, change into sleep clothes and sip herbal tea. Listen to soothing music or a relaxing podcast. Diffuse lavender or other relaxing scents into the air.
  • Follow a regular sleep schedule even on weekends to keep body rhythms on an even keel, and avoid more than very brief naps during the day.
  • Discipline yourself to avoid screens—phones, tablets and TVs—at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light inhibits production of the natural sleep-maker, melatonin, and resets your body’s inner clock to a later bedtime. Like alcohol, this light also interferes with REM so you wake up feeling groggier. Avoid LED and fluorescents, too—same problem. Go old school and read a book. If you must work on your laptop at night, dim the screen or use settings to warm the color of the light. 
  • End that large meal two hours before sleep time. A late light snack like an apple might be helpful, though. 
  • Use the bed only for sleep and lovemaking, so it becomes associated with rest.
  • Keep the bedroom cool, dark and quiet. Try earplugs or a white noise machine or app to prevent intermittent noises from keeping you up or disrupting deep sleep. Eyelids alone don’t block light, so use an eye mask or opaque window shades. Turn that digital clock away from view. Not only is the light problematic, but you don’t want to focus on the time and start worrying about how much sleep you are getting.
  • Keep things well ventilated—open that window or turn on that fan and keep warm with blankets as needed. The best temperature is 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Try freezing a soft gel pack and slip it into your pillowcase to cool the scalp. 
  • Chamomile tea is a proven sleep aid. Make it strong and cover the cup to retain the oils. B-vitamins, and certain mineral, amino acid and herbal supplements are also effective to facilitate rest and combat insomnia (like this formula). 
  • Keep Bruno or Fluffy out of your bedroom if they disturb your rest. Even their resting body on the bed can inhibit you from freely moving about as you need to while asleep.
  • Wind down any focused task an hour before sleep, so your mind can get ready for rest. Same with any discussions of emotional topics. 
  • If basically calm but still awake after 30 to 60 minutes, consider getting out of bed and going to another room—you don’t want to lay awake so long that you come to associate the bed with sleep difficulty. 
  • Distract yourself with a quiet activity like light reading or coloring until you are sleepy. 

(What to do if you can’t stop worrying or reliving distressing moments from the day? Good question. That’s for part two of this blog.)

A key point is not to obsess about getting enough sleep or get impatient and give up after just a few hours. Worse comes to worse, let yourself lie and rest the eyes and aim for an unfocused reverie to give the brain a break for as long as you can. That can be good enough. 

Overcoming depression and/or anxiety requires a multi-faceted, whole-person approach, but optimizing sleep is certainly foundational. As Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of Hope, points out, these disorders and “sleep deficits are unarguably entwined. Yet in that interwoven relationship lie opportunities for treatment, relief, and healing.” Enhance your sleep and symptoms inevitably improve.

Written by John R. Williams, MA LMHC for the The Center • A Place of HOPE. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or stress, our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in the treatment of depression and has been voted a Top 10 U.S. Depressions Treatment Center.  We use a whole-person approach that allows you to discover what is truly going on in your mind, body, and spirit. 

Taming the Fire: Trauma and Anger

Part III of a Six-part Trauma Series. Trigger warning: This is a difficult topic. Some examples of traumas will be eluded to without details in order to set a scene for clarity and relatability.

Part II of this series, Trauma and Depression: The Other Side of the Mountain, can be found on aplaceofhope.com blog.

Part I of this series, What Trauma Is and Is Not, can be found on aplaceofhope.com blog.


Ever since your trauma, you find yourself feeling so angry. Everything bugs you for no real reason you can see. The thoughts running through your mind surprise you. Nothing is enjoyable. It feels as if the universe and everything in it has conspired against you. 

No one understands. People keep checking on you. They ask you if you are mad. Of course, you say no because you know there is no logical reason to be angry. They do not believe your answer because everything in your tone and body language says otherwise. You know this, but there are just no words for what is happening. You wish they would stop asking already because the questions are no longer about “the incident,” or “the trauma,” but about you. You have begun to wonder if you are broken beyond repair and the futility of it all fuels the volcano within. Will the cycle ever end?

Remember how trauma was described in the first edition in this series: 

“A very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems, usually for a long time. It can be helpful to think of trauma as a sort of spectrum, ranging from unpleasant surprises on one end to near-death experiences on the other.” (Emphasis added)

No one asks for a trauma. Even if you are intentionally acting in a risky manner, it is highly doubtful the results of trauma were what you intended to accomplish. Trauma is an interruption, an abrupt and jagged curve in the road. It affects every single aspect of life; mind, body, spirit, and social realms. 

The initial distress of a trauma may be over. The perpetrator was caught. The compensation money has been deposited. Your body has healed. You came clean about your part in it and everyone rallied around you with support when you needed it most. You may even believe that God was with you and “it was all for a reason.” No matter what the situation, at one point, you were headed down Road A and trauma came along and, without your permission, flung you to Road Z. Your boundaries were crossed, and the outcome was a whole lot of unfairness. Rest assured, the absolute reasonable and correct response to injustice and boundary crossing is anger.

Really? You sure?

Yes. Really. I am sure.

This may sound wrong to some of you. Many people have been taught that anger is wrong and “mean”. This is simply untrue. Anger is a healthy emotion. The problem often arises when anger, aggression, and rage are confused for each other.

Our emotions are part of an intricate, brain-based signal system that runs on rules and algorithms, often outside of our awareness.  Anger is an emotion that supplies us with heat and energy to propel us toward keeping ourselves safe, speaking the truth, and striving for justice. We know when overt actions occur, someone hits us or takes something of ours, anger is appropriate. When it becomes more subtle, when, “they didn’t mean to crash into me on the freeway,” our logical mind may tell us a story to keep us in social equilibrium. However, our much more “feely” right brain will still know that a rule was violated, and the emotion of anger will be triggered accordingly. This is why you do not know why you feel as you do sometimes.

As mentioned, anger is not to be mistaken for aggression or rage. To understand the difference, consider the following chart:

Emotion Emotion Self-talk Emotion Action
Anger “This is unfair. It needs to change” (Firm, heated, but not disrespectful or harmful. You can think and make a plan) Firm voice, persistent. Willing to persist from different directions until heard. Easier to lay down boundaries. Thoughts are action/solution focused. 

Aggression

“This is unfair. Someone needs to pay and I’m going to make it happen” (Heated, loud, distrusting, disrespectful) Pushes you to prod and poke until you hurt the other side. Yelling, insulting, intimidating, withdrawal of affection. Thoughts are focused on punishment.
Rage “AAARRRGG!!” (Incoherent, irrational, loud) Yelling, hitting, throwing, breaking things, bailing on others. Not controllable without outside help. Thinking is usually offline.

Anger is a normal and proper response to trauma. However, if not properly vented or addressed, it can fester and grow, leading to aggression or rage. If you have struggled with anger and it feels as if it is becoming a wildfire, here are some things you can try:

Give Yourself Space to Tell (or Show) the Truth. Undoubtedly, there are aspects of your traumatic experience that feel unfair and/or violating. You have a right to those feelings. It is important to express them in a healthy manner. Everyone processes differently. Some people need to tell their story over and over again until the brain is satisfied it has worked out all the details. Other people feel better if they act out their feelings (throwing ice cubes in the bathtub, chopping wood, smacking balls at the batting range, and so on). Others feel best if they take their tragedy and morph it into something useful to others. Whatever method works best for you, find a way to speak or act your truth. Start with God, the Universe, a pet, a journal, or a trusted and safe friend. Don’t lock it up inside.

Know Your Temperature. Anger carries heat and energy with it. This makes it easy to notice if you pay attention. On a piece of paper, write a line and put numbers one through ten. One indicates complete calm and happiness and ten is rage. At each one or two points, write down a personal experience that correlates to that place on the line. Perhaps one would be when you were lying on the beach in Maui. Four might be when that person cut you off on the freeway. Seven could be when your mother said she was not coming to your wedding.  Perhaps the angriest you have been was when your significant other left you. That might be your ten. Whatever it is, notice the types of thoughts and body sensations you have at each point along the way. Then, find a way to check in with yourself a few times a day to measure where your anger meter is. If it is rising, stop and spend some time speaking truth or self-soothing until you are calm and in control of your thoughts and actions.

Opposite Action. Don’t make things worse. Once you have decided that a given episode of anger is not about the present moment, you need to override your emotions with a decision. Decide how you want to behave and do that, even if your anger tells you otherwise. It is easiest and most effective to act opposite to the emotion. Perhaps you are having a particularly rough day and your sister is twenty minutes late. Suppose your trauma occurred when you were waiting for a friend who was late. You realize that the intensity of your anger is coming from the trauma and is out-of-proportion to the current situation because your sister is rarely late and always apologetic. You decide that when you see her, you will smile, listen carefully to what happened, and give her a hug (when, really, you want to scream, throw things, and chase her out of the room). This takes strength, but after a few practice runs, it will not only be easier, you will feel more powerful and in control.

As with the above example, the taming of the fire of anger (keeping it anger rather than allowing it to grow into aggression or rage) produces a feeling of great empowerment. Anger is helpful and healthy. Attempting to stoke it or quench it will only result in physical illness, chronic irritation, or other unhealthy response. You are not bad because you are angry. God is not mad at you for being angry at the trauma. God can weave whatever we give Him into a beautiful tapestry, but He knows that the particular thread of trauma itself is unpleasant. If you struggle with chronic anger, you need not suffer alone. There are many professional anger management treatment programs like the one at The Center • A Place of HOPE. Find a trauma survivor support group. If that does not sound like enough, then consider a call to The Center for information on its trauma recovery program. 

Written by Hannah Smith, MA LMHC CGP, Group Therapy Training & Curriculum Consultant for The Center ● A Place of Hope. As a Neuroscience-informed, Licensed Therapist and International Board-certified Group Psychotherapist, Hannah’s passion is to see people reach their potential and find lasting, positive change. The Center is located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and more.

The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in the treatment of depression and has been voted a Top 10 U.S. Depressions Treatment Center.  We use a whole-person approach that allows you to discover what is truly going on in your mind, body, and spirit. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process.

A Cleanse and Detox Protocol that Addresses Depression

Your body has multiple organs and systems that work together to filter and flush toxins out of your body.  The liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, lungs, and skin can become overwhelmed by the large amounts of toxins in our diets. Not to mention daily environmental factors we encounter. 

Unless we are very intentional about diet and lifestyle, there’s a good chance we are not supporting these organs and systems with the nutrition and activities they need to stay in tip-top shape.

At The Center • A Place of HOPE, when we work with a new client who is struggling with depression, we often recommend a three-week protocol designed to cleanse and detox the body. The protocol incorporates detox agents, dietary changes, and actions that support the body in performing at maximum capacity and work to eliminate problem-causing toxins that are affecting health and mood.  Below is the recommended protocol.

Look to incorporate detox agents into your daily routine.  Each day, do at least two of these: 

  • Drink a cup of dandelion root tea in the morning and another one in the afternoon.
  • Take 500 mg of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) twice a day.
  • Take 300 mg of milk thistle (extracted from the fruit or seed, not the leaf, and standardized to 70 to 80 percent of the active ingredient silymarin).

These are dietary changes that will assist in supporting your body.  

  • Eliminate all alcohol, soda, energy drinks, coffee, and juices or teas with added sugar.
  • Avoid all candy and other sweets.
  • Drink two cups or more of fresh-pressed vegetable juice every day.
    Limit animal products; eat no more than six ounces of animal flesh a day.
    Avoid all dairy products except for butter.
  • Focus on whole foods (whatever you can buy in the produce section).
  • Drink at least two liters of water a day.  

It is important to move the blood and lymphatics.  Each day, do at least two of the following: 

  • Dry skin brushing, which involves brushing your skin with a soft brush prior to a bath or shower. This provides gentle exfoliation, boosts circulation, and encourages new cell growth.
  • Spend time in a sauna, then follow up with a cold rinse for ninety seconds or less. (I recommend choosing this at least three times a week.)
  • Exercise for at least twenty to thirty minutes at a time. Exercise boosts circulation through the body, which helps flush toxins out.  

Now, we must talk about sleep!  Get at least seven and a half hours of sleep a night. This will help you feel rested and less stressed.  Sleep reduces inflammation so the body can function at its best.

In addition to helping your body get rid of built-up toxins, this plan will also eliminate foods that are common causes of food sensitivities and inflammation in the body.  After following this protocol for three weeks, you are in the perfect position to slowly reintroduce common problem foods back into your diet, paying close attention to any reactions you may be having.

Pick one of the foods that was eliminated, and eat it twice a day for two days. Bread is a good example.  Be sure to keep a journal and write down any differences you notice in your body, energy, or mood. Make a note if you feel more depressed, have headaches or joint pain, or feel bloated. Also, notate if you are experiencing brain fog or have trouble concentrating. 

If your body responds negatively to the food item you have reintroduced, remove it again from your diet. Wait a few days, then reintroduce a different food and pay attention to how your body responds.

Whether you have gluten sensitivities or not, when it comes to managing your mood, clean eating is going to make a major difference.

The Center • A Place of HOPE specializes in the treatment of depression and has been voted a Top 10 U.S. Depressions Treatment Center.  We use a whole-person approach that allows you to discover what is truly going on in your mind, body, and spirit. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process.

Intentionally Change the Pace of Your Life

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” 

To paraphrase the famous Serenity Prayer, it is so important to recognize those things in our lives that we can change, and those things we cannot.  While there may be a great deal in your own life that you cannot change, you may be surprised at how many things you can.  

One of the keys to overcoming depression is to honestly and realistically evaluate your life.  Then, develop a plan to accept those things that are unchangeable and a plan to change those that are possible.  This requires taking stock of your life. Just as a storekeeper takes an inventory of all that he has, it is wise for us to make a tangible list of our physical, mental, and spiritual assets and liabilities.  Make a list in your journal of all your responsibilities; write down what you want to do or be in addition to what you have already done or become, and consider what needs to happen (or stop happening) to fulfill your hopes and aspirations.  

You may be reluctant to do this exercise for fear that it will make you even more depressed.  But the objective of taking stock is not to create an inventory of all the things that are wrong with your life.  Rather, taking stock will help to categorize the changeable and unchangeable things in your life to intentionally move forward, out of depression.  

Too often, we live our lives feeling like spectators instead of active participants with the power to choose our own outcome.  We get caught up in life’s flow, whether good, bad, or neutral. Wherever the currents take us, we go. It’s as if we are on autopilot, but depression happens when our autopilot gets stuck in a negative descent.  Unless we can take intentional action, chances are that circumstances won’t force a change to the positive.  

In other words, if you go along waiting for some “thing,” some event to alter the course of your depression, you’ll probably be disappointed.  It’s time to take control and look at where you are in your life. It’s time to actively and intentionally participate in the course of your life.  

Take a close look at the activities in your life.  Determine if you have too many activities, along with the overall effect they are having on your life.  Depression can occur when your activities are out of balance in the following ways: 

  • You have too many activities, and the sum of them outweighs their value. When you’ve got too many things going collectively, you’re too busy to enjoy any of them individually. 
  • You have many activities but too few worthwhile ones. 
  • You have too few activities in your life.  When your biggest activity is inactivity, you rob yourself of the stimulation and engagement of purpose and people.  

You may find that you are simply too busy.  If so, you need to evaluate which activities to continue, and which to let go.  Or perhaps you have isolated yourself from meaningful, worthwhile activities and will need to stretch and expand yourself.  Intentionally changing the pace of your life can help you move forward in your recovery from depression.  

If you are struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. The Center has been voted a Top 10 Facility for the Treatment of Depression.  For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Creating a More Physical Lifestyle and Altering Your Attitude

In addition to doing wonders for your brain and body, physical movement can be a game-changer when it comes to your overall attitude. Exercise is the perfect tool for reprogramming a depressed prefrontal cortex. It can reprogram how you think and cope too. 

Here’s what else regular movement is going to do for you:

Increase your confidence. There’s a confidence that comes from having a body that is fit and healthy, and there is also confidence that comes from doing something every day that you know is good for you. Either way, regular physical movement empowers you to feel better about yourself.

Boost your creativity. Research conducted at Stanford University showed that something as simple as casual walking improves creativity by boosting convergent thinking (solving a problem) as well as divergent thinking (coming up with original ideas). [1]

Help you cope. We’ve already talked about the fact that the endorphins released while exercising serve as your body’s natural painkillers while helping to reduce anxiety and stress. That makes exercise the perfect go-to activity when you’re looking for a healthy coping strategy. Unhealthy coping techniques (such as misusing alcohol, overeating, and excessive TV viewing) may provide a temporary release or escape, but they are expedient at best and cause more harm than good in the end. Physical movement, however, is a coping strategy that not only provides relief at the moment, but it also offers innumerable lasting benefits for a healthy brain and body.

Increasing your activity level for one day is a great start, but the most powerful benefits will come from consistency. Once you get moving, how do you keep moving, day after day, week after week? 

Here are five ways to reap the long-term benefits of a more active lifestyle:

  1. Keep a journal. Write down what your thoughts and feelings were like before, during, and after exercising. Write about any improvements you feel in your body, attitude, or emotions. 
  2. Be consistent. Especially as you get started, remember that consistency is more important than intensity. As you gain strength in your body and mind, you may naturally want to increase the intensity of your workouts. In the beginning, however, make consistency your number one goal, and the rest will follow.
  3. Ban all-or-nothing thoughts. Consistency and commitment are indeed essential for an effective activity regimen, but don’t be hard on yourself if you slack off a bit. Perfectionism is the enemy of progress.
  4. Enlist the help of fitness apps. Downloading a fitness app on your phone or purchasing an activity tracker isn’t necessary (so don’t put off your fitness goals until you have one) but can be motivating for some people. If counting steps or reaching activity goals by using an app or tracker feels rewarding, do it!
  5. Create a favorite workout playlist. Music and movement are a powerful combination. Creating a playlist of lively tunes that make you want to move is always a great idea.  

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.

[1] Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz, “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 40, no. 4 (July 2014): 1142–52, http://psycnet.apa.org/record /2014-14435-001.

Part 2: Intellectual Integrity and Depression Recovery

Just because you think you know something, doesn’t mean that something is true.  That something could be flat-out false.  That something could be partially true but lacking in full context.

In order to recovery from depression, you need to strive for intellectual integrity.  Integrity can be defined as adhering to a code of ethics, and that certainly is a good thing; but the integrity I mean here is a bit different.  Intellectual integrity is like structural integrity.  When something has structural integrity, there are no gaps or weaknesses to create instability.  When you believe something that isn’t the truth or is only partially true, you leave yourself open to gaps and weaknesses that undermine intellectual integrity.

One of the keys to overcoming depression is to honestly and realistically evaluate your life and determine whether what you think you know is really the truth.  As much as possible, develop a plan to accept those things that are unchangeable and a plan to change those that you can.

Please recognize, you may be reluctant to do this for fear that it will make you even more depressed.  Remaining tied to false truths and half-truths may seem more comforting that living life in the glare of intellectual honesty.  If you feel that way, aren’t you tired of living your life while feeling like a spectator instead of an active participant with the power to choose your own course?  Unless you take intentional action, chances are that circumstances won’t force a change to the positive.

It’s time to take control and look at where you are in your life.  It’s time to actively and intentionally participate in the course of your life, shoring up your intellectual integrity by understanding and accepting the truth of who you are.

  • If you have developed a pattern of tying self-worth to activity, you may find it difficult to let go of some of the things you are doing.
  • If you have developed a pattern of believing in your own incompetence, taking on new activities may frighten you with a potential for failure.
  • If you have developed a pattern of being afraid of making mistakes, an honest appraisal of why you are engaging in an activity may be uncomfortable, because of needed changes it might reveal.

In order to continue taking stock of your life, you will need to press on.  Don’t let any initial hesitation stop you from being honest with yourself.

Your perspective on life is based upon what you “know.”  These “truths” are often forged in childhood.  If what you “know” is framed in negativity, your perceptions and expectations may also be negative.  Another way to think of this “knowledge” is as a filter through which you view your life.  Some people who seem perennially happy are said to view life through rose-colored glasses. Their filter is weighted on the side of the positive.  In depression, life is viewed through gray-colored glasses.  Life appears negative, oppressive, and filled with shadows.

One of the main areas that may need to be changed in order to overcome depression is what you “know” about life:

  • If you “know” that life consistently treats you unfairly, then the inevitable ups and downs of life are filtered through that perception.  If you “know” that life is supposed to always be smooth sailing, the inevitable ups and downs can cause great anxiety.  Down times are not put into a proper perspective, because you don’t consider them to be legitimate.  Down times are supposed to happen to other people but not you.  If you’re unprepared to deal with these down times, confusion, frustration, and depression can result.
  • If you “know” that you don’t really deserve to be happy, you will filter the events of your life to make sure you aren’t.  Good things will be met with suspicion, and bad things will be accepted as inevitable.
  • If you “know” that the only way for you to be safe is to be in control, you will have a heightened sense of anxiety over life events.  Since people are rarely in total control over their environment and never in control of other people, this “knowledge” leaves a persistent, nagging feeling of insecurity.  This perpetual sense of unease can lead to anxiety and depression.

Life does not always flow smoothly.  Circumstances can alter the most carefully constructed life.  Traumatic events will be part of each of our lives.  That we cannot change.  What we can change, however, is our response to those traumatic events.  If the fundamental foundation for what we know about life is based on negativity, we will have little support when bad things happen.

But we can use intellectual integrity to identify and replace the false and incomplete truths we’ve been basing our lives on.  We can replace those false and incomplete truths with a more complete understanding of ourselves, our expectations, and just what the world is truly able to offer.

Making changes in your life requires a certain level of optimism.  If you find it difficult to be optimistic, consider working with a caring professional or counselor.  Oftentimes, when the process of evaluating your life activities is done with the help of others, their vantage point offers perspectives you hadn’t considered.  Borrow their optimism, hope, and joy, until you are able to generate those refreshing, renewing feelings on your own.

If you are struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.

Finding Relief by Writing Your Own Script

In the play As You Like It, William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.”  Put another way, life is a drama.  Sure, there are light moments, but most of us don’t live within some sort of frivolous sitcom.  Each of us is called to deal with serious issues and handle difficult situations.  That’s just the way it is.

For too long, you’ve allowed your anxieties to set the stage of everything that happens to you.  For too long, you’ve allowed your fear to act as the director of your life, determining how you act and respond.  For too long, the producer of this play that is your life has produced little relief from the unending concerns and stress.  You’ve allowed yourself to be played, to be directed instead of insisting on taking charge yourself.  You must decide to write your own script and set your own stage.

As yourself, when you wake up in the morning, whose script you are following, whose stage you are walking on to?  Anxieties, fears, and worries set a dark and ominous stage with a script full of negatives.  That doesn’t have to be your life.  You can refuse to play along.

Every story is told from a particular point of view.  Each one of us has an attitude about life.  We’re either optimists or pessimists.  We expect either good things to happen or bad things to happen.  Now, you might say, aren’t there people who expect neither good things nor bad things?  What are they – optimists or pessimists?  The absence of expecting good things isn’t all that positive, so I would say those people are really not neutral; they are pessimists.

If you’re anxiety-driven about something, you’re a pessimist about it.  The more things that cause you anxiety, the more pessimistic you are about your life.  This is the script you’ve been operating from.  It’s time to fire those scriptwriters and take over yourself, switching from a negative, pessimistic worldview to a positive, optimistic one.

One of the best ways I know to reorient your attitude is to have a heart-to-heart with yourself.  Some people do this silently, inside their own minds, and others prefer to hold an audible conversation with themselves.  One woman I worked with would argue with herself like an opposing attorney, talking to herself out loud.   She said it helped to hear what she had to say out loud because she had an easier time detecting the emotions underlying the various arguments.  If something didn’t sound right, she would stop and repeat the statement to herself, working through it until it made more sense.  So she didn’t disturb other family members, she would often do this while taking a walk.

Another woman I know would hold her conversations with herself in front of a mirror, looking herself directly in the eye.  Other people, will have conversations privately, in the confines of their own minds.  There is something valuable in articulation, in requiring yourself to produce the reasons behind what you do and then making those reasons visible and examinable.  It’s not unlike what people do with their therapists, or when they talk with trusted friends.  All these dialogues can be extremely useful, but you have got to learn how to have these conversations with yourself.  Start building trust with yourself.

As you engage in inner dialogue, don’t forget to control the volume.  Pay attention to the volume of the negative and the positive.  Be aware of when you need to change the dials and allow in more positives.  This is especially true when problem-solving.  You’ll need to crank up optimism, hope, and joy so you can find the motivation and courage to find and implement a solution.

If you aren’t verbal and don’t process things in an auditory way, I encourage you to articulate how you feel through writing.  Many people find great freedom of expression through journaling.  This has an added benefit in that you have a written record of your inner discussions that you can review and refer back to.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

Physical Healing in Depression Recovery

Feeling depressed is not just a mental state.  Depression is a debilitating whole-body condition that must be addressed physically as well as mentally.  The whole-person approach accepts the body as a complex organism and looks for systemic reasons for depression.

As Dr. Robert A Anderson, founding president of the American Holistic Medical Association, says: “A definitive diagnosis of depression should not be made until physical conditions have been surveyed.” (1)

The body is not merely along for the ride into depression.  The body is an active participant, with the capacity to aggravate or improve symptoms of depression.  The first stop on the road to recovery from depression for many people is a physician’s office.  After all, they feel bad.  Whatever the factors leading to their depression, many will attempt to obtain a medical diagnosis for physical symptoms.

There are studies showing that addressing physical conditions can have a dramatic effect in overcoming depression.  Psychiatrist Richard Hall has found “evidence [of] dramatic and complete clearing of psychiatric symptoms when medical treatment for underlying physical disorders was instituted.” (2)

The body holds its own special key to overcoming depression.  Physical illnesses as well as physical conditions that may not be diagnosed or readily apparent can contribute to depression.  Yet even when blood work and medical examinations are done, the physical culprits involved in depression can be overlooked.  Like a detective, you need to be informed and persistent to discover the truth.  To begin, let’s examine several known contributors to depression.

Mental and Health Conditions:

  • Hypoglycemia.  This can cause weakness, mental dullness, confusion, and fatigue.  All of these symptoms, when taken together, can exacerbate depression.
  • Heart Disease.  Research has shown that one out of every five people who suffer a heart attack will become depressed.  Conversely, a link between depression and heart disease was found in a study at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, which reported that depressed people were four times more likely to have a heart attack than people who were not depressed.
  • Anemia.  This is a condition in which the blood lacks iron.  Symptoms of anemia, similar to depression, include fatigue, weakness, and lethargy.
  • Sleep Apnea.  This is a condition where the air passages in the throat close off during sleep.  The resulting symptoms are fatigue, mental confusion, and lethargy — all associated with a state of depression.
  • Diabetes.  This is the body’s inability to regulate its own blood sugar.  The constant up-and-down stress of elevated versus low blood-sugar levels can compromise the body’s ability to regulate important nutrient absorption and hormonal levels which provide protection from depressive mood swings.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  This depressive cycle — also known as the winter blues — is tied to the body’s secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body’s biological clock and coordinates the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Heredity.  Depression appears to run in families.  Educate yourself on the health background of your family, especially parents or siblings who have experienced depression, whether clinically diagnosed or not.
  • Dehydration.  Most people don’t drink enough water.  Dehydration impairs the body’s ability to perform vital functions, causing fatique, weakness, dizziness, and mental dullness.

For more information on mental and health conditions associated with depression, see Dr. Jantz’s new book, Five Keys to Dealing with Depression.

(1) Robert A. Anderson, Clinician’s Guide to Holistic Medicine (NY: MacGraw-Hill Publishing, 2001), 243.

(2) R.C.W. Hall, E.R. Gardner, M.K. Popkin, and S.K. Stickney, “Unrecognized Physical Illness Prompting Psychiatric Admission: A Prospective Study,” American Journal of Psychiatry 138, no. 5 (May 1981): 629-35

Being Intentional in Your Response to Depression

What do we do when life feels like it’s piling on top of us?  In depression, we bury our optimism, hope, and joy and react with anger, fear, or guilt, allowing overwhelming circumstances to knock us flat.  Emotional depression can become an automatic reaction to life’s trials.  Reactions are automatic, but responses need not be.  Depression does not have to be automatic.

Even if we may immediately react negatively, we can learn to intentionally reassert positive emotions.  This may not be our first reaction, but our first reaction doesn’t need to be our only response.  Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created.  You have to rise above it to the next level.”  Our reactions are on one level, but we can learn to take our responses to the next level.

The next level above automatic reaction is intentional response.  You need to be intentional in your response to life and its circumstances.  You need to deliberately recognize, promote, and sustain optimism, hope, and joy.  In the midst of depression, the thought of sustaining even a modicum of positive feelings may appear overwhelming, a burden too heavy to bear.  But aren’t you already carrying around the weight of emotional baggage?  Think how much energy it takes to carry around anger, fear, and guilt.  When you begin to put those emotions down, you will find strength for optimism, hope, and joy.

Negative emotions may be part of your personal landscape.  If that is the case, you’ll need to intentionally seek out and rediscover optimism, hope, and joy.  Optimism, hope, and joy are responses that come from within you and are not necessarily derived from your outside circumstances.  Regardless of the circumstances, you determine to remain optimistic; you decide to have hope; you derive joy.

Intentionally choosing how to respond to life is not a trivial matter; this attitude can save your life.  In his book Man’s Search of Meaning, Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl set forth to answer the question why some people lived through the Nazi Germany concentration camps and some did not.  He found that it rarely had anything to do with their physical state.  Some prisoners who were extremely debilitated or ill continued to live, while some others who were in much better physical shape died.  The difference, he found, was in their attitude to life.

Frankl discovered that in the final analysis, strength for living is found in the ability to choose your attitude — your response — to any given situation.  The situations he and others dealt with on a daily basis were deprivation, starvation, physical disease, and beatings.  Yet in the midst of the hell of the concentration camp, he and others intentionally chose to respond with optimism and hope.

Frankl, who could find positives in the midst of a Nazi concentration camp, demonstrates that each of us has the opportunity to find positives in our own situations.  We will not always have control over our circumstances, but we can determine to hold on to optimism, hope, and joy — to recognize them, promote them, and sustain them.  This is the challenge for those who are depressed.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 30 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and others.

Managing Your Time

What do you think of when you hear the phrase time management?  If you are a go-getter, you may hear those words and think of how many tasks you can cram into a single day.  However, I didn’t say task management; I said time management.

Healthy time management, meant to reduce stress and increase quality of life, includes more than merely scheduling tasks.  Time management means incorporating times to accomplish tasks, yes, but also times of rest, reflection, recreation, and communication.  Each of these is needed daily to advance priorities and goals.

If you are a stay-putter, you may hear “time management” and think of how impossible it is for you to get anything done, no matter how much time you have.  For you, time management means incorporating effort, progress, completion, and accomplishment into each day in order to advance priorities and goals.

Time — no matter how much of it you have — needs to be harnessed and controlled: each morning (or even the night before), decide what you goals and priorities are for the day.  If the day is a word day, then arriving to work on time and being ready to actively participate are going to be main priorities.

However, most people don’t work sixteen-hour days, so there will be hours in each day for other activities.  Decide ahead of time what those activities should be based upon what you want to accomplish as well as on the type of person you want to be.

For example, as you’re on your way to work, you might decide to listen to music or an informative or informational podcast.  You might decide to spend the time in quiet reflection, meditation, or prayer, depending upon your mode of transport.  At lunch, you might send a quick text, or place a quick call, to a friend or family member.  On your way home, you might catch up on the news and take time to disconnect from your workday.  If you don’t intentionally plan your day, your day will plan you.

If the day is not a workday, then you will have more time to harness and manage.  There is a danger in thinking that you have all the time in the world over the weekend, but how many Sundays (or the equivalent) have you gone to bed, realizing that you didn’t get done half of what you wanted.  Instead of being satisfied with the goals accomplished, you’re distressed about tasks left undone.  Now not only do you have the week ahead, but you’re also playing catch-up from the week just ended.

When it comes to time management, the challenge for go-getters is to balance time with reflection.  The challenge for stay-putters is to balance time with achievement.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and others.