Two areas to consider examining if you’re feeling depressed:

Two areas to consider examining if you’re feeling depressed:

By Joel Christie

One: What takes up your time?

Is your schedule too full? Or maybe you don’t really have a schedule? If you’re perfectly happy with how you spend your time, I sincerely congratulate you. But many of us spend too little time doing what replenishes us, or fortifies us, or bolsters confidence and helps us grow. Maybe we turn into workaholics or perhaps we gradually become trained to pursue small, temporary pleasures that ultimately leave us unsatisfied or even drained. We neglect our social lives, or we neglect adventure. Or perhaps we neglect our responsibilities because they’re too hard or just not especially fun, resulting in unpleasant consequences that can sew anxiety and depression, amidst the other consequences they bring. It’s not so different than the body’s need for nutrition: we need iron, and calcium, and vitamin B12, and whatever else, but also not too much sugar or saturated fat, of course, because why should we get to eat delicious stuff all the time? (Thanks, stupid body.)

Our souls need a healthy balance too, of course, just like those self-help books will all remind us. And if we’re looking for something to weaken the smothering hold of depression, this can be an invaluable area of life to examine. Extroverts may need an abundance of meaningful time with people, but they also need time to reflect and be introspective. Creative types certainly need time to create, but they may also need to spend time doing the grittier unpleasant tasks of training and application and bloody annoying paperwork. Why? Because these can be the kind of activities that promote growth and produce confidence as we realize our own competency and self-sufficiency. We need to be challenged. And we need time to rest, relax, and replenish. But then we need to get up and keep going. If we stop to reflect, most of us can identify areas in our lives that could benefit from more time and attention. So how about you? What could you benefit from spending more time doing?

Two: How do you approach problems?

Our problem-solving instincts can dominate our lives if we’re not careful. It looks different from person to person, but at its root, it’s trying to fix what we perceive is wrong with the world around us. Facebook arguments, staying late at the office every night to impress your boss, trying to make your spouse finally see your side of things, that one friend who never does what you want, bills, disappointing family members, and so on. There are a million places where our problem-solving instincts flare to life. We often get a small, short-term boost of empowerment from pointing out or identifying a problem—that “I’m smart” feeling that allows us to believe we’re on our way to fixing things. And indeed, identifying what’s wrong is the beginning of the problem-solving process. But identifying problems this can leave us depressed and depleted if we rarely see positive changes occur, either because of the lack of response our criticism produces or because of our disappointment with ourselves for not doing something more direct to fix the problem.

Yet most frustrating of all, our efforts often will fail to solve our problems. Repeat: our efforts will never eliminate all of the problems we are able to identify. Which is why gaining the ability to accept the slow, clumsy, annoying, and the perpetually ongoing process of problem-solving is so valuable. As we come to accept that problems are a normal part of life (and not things that “shouldn’t be happening to me!”), we can learn to expend less energy wishing they would just go away. We can cultivate durability, which frees us up to be more content before the problem is resolved as we gradually pursue the outcomes we desire. This doesn’t mean we ignore problems, it means we recognize that our problem-solving instinct will dominate us if we don’t shut it down from time to time. It means we’re better off thinking of ourselves as people who are able to keep striving and enduring in this world that is never short on problems than as people who need our problems to end in order for us to experience happiness.

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Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating

by Simanto Khandaker

3 steps to having a more mindful eating experience:
Preparation (Remove distractions)
Observation (Utilize all senses while eating)
Reflection (Bringing awareness to how the body & mind processes the experience)

Preparation: The goal is to minimize distractions and maximize opportunities to be present. For example, finding a secluded location, turning off the phone/tv/computer, washing dishes, removing disruption by informing others about your intentions eating mindfully.

Example: When i'm eating with a group of people, I usually take a few minutes to set my food, and put my phone face down, on silent, and about an arms length away from me. Usually, in front of my food, where I have to reach across my food to get the phone. It allows me to be conscious about my reaction to the phone's vibration (ringing).

Example: When I'm eating alone, I put my distractions (phone, reading material, computer, to do list, etc.) in another room, set my table, wash dishes used to prepare my meal before eating. This allows me to minimize the to do list before moving onto the next step.

Observation: This is the big one! The goal is to use all the senses while eating: taste, smell, touch, hearing, and sight. Observation can be more impactful if the first step, preparation, is done to the best of our ability. Minimal distraction allows us to focus on the experience.

Example: Eating a peanut butter sandwich: I look at the bread, the ratio of peanut butter, how it flows, the grains and patterns of the bread, the crust and other characteristics that I see. When I pick up the sandwich, I feel the texture of the bread, the temperature, the peanut butter, etc. As it approaches my mouth, I smell the sandwich, and after every bite I try to find another aroma. I observe how it impacts my taste buds, and listen to my chewing or other sounds. I give myself 5 - 10 minutes before moving on to the second half and reflect on my experience.

Reflection: The goal is to create an open connection with our body and mind. For example, I observe my thoughts, feelings, body posture, stress, etc... Taking an inventory of myself.

Example: When I have a peanut butter sandwich, my mind usually goes back to when I was in college. My roommates and I used to make, hot pressed, peanut butter sandwiches. The bread was toasted, the peanut butter melting, the jelly combined with the peanut butter and bread. It was something we did when we didn't want to cook and were too tired to go out. It was quick and delicious. At this time, my body is relaxed, eyes are closed, and I feel happy to have gone through the experience.

Reminder: Give yourself permission to be present and accept that sometimes it will be challenging. Each attempt is a step closer to having a more mindful eating experience.

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Anxious and Stressed: A Technique to Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Anxious and Stressed: A Technique to Reduce Anxiety and Stress

by Adam Tharkur B.A.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR as it is commonly referred to as a tension release exercise I have used with many clients. One of the first things I do with all clients is finding out what is bringing them into counseling. For the clients who share they have obstacles like stress or anxiety, which are preventing them from reaching their goals, I recommend PMR. I have also used it for client's with panic disorder, the results have been positive.

I noticed a growing trend since I began seeing clients. Different people with different stressors all had the same concern- anxiety. It is not uncommon for a client to come in due to concern of a possible, future event which they cannot control. For instance, applying for a job, and becoming anxious during the wait period even though there is nothing more they can do at the time. Same applies for clients who show signs of depression; in most cases the depression comes from past events that a person wishes to change. However, unless scientists have developed a time machine which allows individuals to change their past, the individual is in a standstill until they choose to move forward. The idea of staying present and keeping it in the "here and now" can be daunting, I am not dismissing that. PMR may be the answer to continuously staying in the present moment.

I will share an experience I have had using PMR with one of my clients. A client came to seek counseling due to his continuous panic attacks starting in Christmas of 2012. Although he has been given medication to combat these attacks, he wanted a more lasting solution that does not have many side effects that comes with medication. The client disclosed that he had sexual dysfunction and insomnia from the medication. In addition to the medicinal side effects, we learned during our sessions that he was constantly living in fear that he might have another panic attack at any moment. I taught this client PMR techniques so he may implement these during stress provoking situations, such as work. With PMR and counseling, the client was able to determine what the best course of action to apply at work. Once he determined the appropriate action, and implemented it, he was no longer distracted by what he should have or could have been doing. Instead, he was able to focus on his responsibilities and therefor increase productivity. Once this client saw the progress he made with PMR and counseling in a professional setting, he attempted to apply the techniques with personal goals and duplicate the results there as well.

In my experience and opinion, PMR cannot be the only intervention. As I've shared through my example, counseling plays an important role in identifying the client's triggers and the causes of their issues. With the above mentioned client, I used cognitive behavioral therapy techniques which allowed the client to become aware of his anxiety by using a technique known as paradoxical outlook: Welcome the panic attack rather than being scared which may intensify the episode. Though frightening for some, this is also the most effective way to apply PMR efficiently.

As for my client the use of PMR helped quell the intensity of the panic attacks. He felt like he was in control for the first time. The client has maintained his job for almost three years and has no written complaints from his supervisors about his work performance. Through counseling, it allowed him to have one more tool in his toolbox to combat panic attacks and endorsed a new stronger resilient person.

If you would like more information regarding a Progressive Muscle Relaxation script, I have provided a link Progressive Muscle Relaxation . Remember this is only a tool; this alongside counseling may garner better results.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Script

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