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If You Are Struggling, You Are Not Alone

If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, or difficulty coping or adjusting, you are not alone. It is very easy for difficult circumstances and emotions to feel overwhelming at times. I would like to share with you some strategies that a lot of people find helpful for dealing with these overwhelming emotions.

Emotions and Thoughts Can Change
First, know that it is possible for emotions and thought patterns to change. Circumstances can also change. There are ways to feel better, to get unstuck, to feel good again. Most everyone goes through times of pain and struggle. You can get through this.

Schedule Activities
It is helpful to schedule some activities into your daily life and do them, even if you do not feel like doing them, and even if you do not feel better right away when you do them. The idea is to start small and do these things every day. Some things to start with could be: going for a short walk, doing some simple stretching exercises, listening to three favorite songs, or spending a few minutes each day in a hobby or other activity you would like to try.

Create Things
Make something. Anything. A craft project, cooking or baking, put together a model, grow some herbs under your kitchen window. The sense of accomplishment you feel when you complete a project can help boost your mood. There is an extra boost in mood if you share this project with someone who could benefit from it.

Express Emotions
Express your emotions. It is easy to ignore emotions, to put them on the back burner, or push them down. Over time, disregarding your emotions will cause emotional illness. Emotions need to be expressed and honored as valid and important. Creative and artistic endeavors are helpful for this, as are some types of physical activity. Some people find great relief in writing in a journal or writing poetry. You may prefer to paint or scribble or sing or play a musical instrument or dance or throw a ball against the wall of your backyard shed. There is nothing wrong with crying either. As long as you are not harming anyone or anything, allow yourself to express your emotions in manageable doses.

Connect With Others
Connect with other people. We are social creatures. Chat with a friend or neighbor, join a group, check on someone who lives alone, spend time volunteering. Even a phone call or video chat can help. Just as you need people, there are people who need you. Start by reaching out a little at a time.

Deep Breathing and Mindfulness
Spend a few minutes each day breathing slowly and deeply. Make sure your breath goes all the way down to your diaphragm. Close your eyes and focus on the feeling of your breath coming into your body and leaving your body. Notice any thoughts or emotions or body sensations you experience, with an attitude of curiosity and acceptance. Some people like to silently count or repeat a word or phrase. Others like to listen to soft music or nature sounds. There is no one right way. Whatever way helps you feel calm and relaxed and focused completely on the present moment is the right way for you. This is something that you may need to practice several times a day, every day, for awhile, before you experience good results. Don’t give up. Build it into your routine, and over time, you can expect it to help a lot.

Meditation and Visualization
Many people like to meditate or utilize creative visualization. If you are not sure where to start, I would suggest trying guided meditations on YouTube or in a meditation app. Try a lot of them and find out what works for you. (Note: If you have ever experienced psychotic symptoms, you should not meditate. Instead seek guidance from a qualified mental health professional who has evaluated you).

Recalling Past Successes
Remember times when you felt good or when you succeeded in overcoming an obstacle. Recognize good things you have done in your life and times when you were encouraging to others. You have value and you have the ability to make it through this difficult time.

Finally, seek professional support if you need it. Speak with several people and find someone you feel comfortable with and who is a good fit for your needs. 

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