Why You Get Depressed!

This is my take on depression and why I experienced several episodes of depression.

Whilst there are some medical reasons that cause depression such as chemical imbalances, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease to name but a few, this article relates to Depression caused by lifestyle, environment and / or mindset.  Having dealt with depression on and off for many years, I have turned a corner in the past couple of years, my take on the causes of depression for many is relatively simple.

For me depression is a red flag, a warning  that something is wrong in your life, whether it’s the situation you are in, your environment, your mindset or a combination of these factors.  Whilst this is obvious to most, the key for me is that depression is your body’s (or mind’s) way of telling you something has got to change, in this respect I think depression is actually helpful.

I am not saying it is easy to change, but it can be done, for me I had several triggers for depression over the years, but the main one was my mindset, negative self-talk and feeling trapped.  What I have learned particularly the past 6 months, that it almost does not matter what happens in your life, you have to carry on, you owe it to yourself to fight on and live the best life you can.

You can give in to depression and suffer the consequences of that, which is a pretty miserable existence or you can take action to deal with what it is that is causing you to be in a depressed state.   You have to consider the cause first before you can take action, I believe if you contemplate and reflect, the cause will become clear, you may want to write down your feelings to try to get your answers.  Once you know your why, you can then go about trying to change either your situation or your mindset or often both.

We often make excuses as to why we can’t get out of certain situations, be clear they are excuses, not reasons.  If you are in a bad relationship, you can get out of it, I am not saying it is easy and hardships may initially follow, but the boost to your self-esteem for doing the right thing and the bravery that it takes to get out of a situation that is affecting your wellbeing will help you grow as a person.  This growth will not immediately be felt,  but over time you will slowly take steps to change your situation which feels like a great personal achievement, you will be doing your life a great service.

I know of women who have stayed in abusive, controlling and coercive relationships because of fear, fear of violence, fear of financial loss, fear of the loss of a certain lifestyle.  Staying in a bad situation, compromising your beliefs and values always comes at a cost to your wellbeing?  No lifestyle is worth paying that price.  I know personally I feared violence and financial hardship, the fear of violence was unfounded, my partner was a bully, he became powerless when I finally decided to stand up for myself.  I know there are plenty of women where the threats are very real, in these cases I would advise to seek professional help.  There will be local groups in your area, I used one local to me who gave me great advice with the primary aim of keeping me safe, along with that came excellent support which really gave me the strength to get out of the situation that was making me depressed and anxious.

I won’t lie the financial hardship followed, but I am now in a position where I am dealing with these and slowly but surely am feeling better off.  I am grateful for everything that I have and I have more than a lot of women out there, yes at the moment, I will probably be in debt until the day I die, I am doing everything I can to change this, but regardless I am no longer looking at my debt with anxiety, I did seek help from StepChange.org and whilst it was a very emotional time when I finally admitted I couldn’t carry on with the level of debit I was paying.   I was paying my debts, then living off credit cards, it was only when I ran out of credit that I admitted I had a serious problem, that is when I sought help.

Despite all this, I have freedom from a bad relationship that caused my more psychological damage that I cared to admit, damage I have mostly come through, not through counselling or therapy but through reflection, self care and self-love.  A weight has been lifted,, because i am living a life of my choice, it has taken a few years but my personal growth or awakening has been staggering, I look back at the person I used to be and don’t recognise myself.  I hit rock bottom but I never could of imagined the progress I have made, this progress took effort and time, it does not happen overnight, I associate my progress with focusing on improving my mindset.  I look back and am grateful for the bad relationship I had for it has taught me so much about myself.

I was depressed because I ignored my own feelings, I was unhappy but thought I had no choice, I felt trapped.  Don’t get me wrong this man was not all bad, he was a Jekyll and Hyde character which is probably why I put up with so much for so long.  When I realised I deserved better, that’s when I started taking action to get out of the situation, it was not easy, it took time and I still have a way to go, but I am in such a good place right now, things aren’t great but I know things are a world away from how they was and I will continue to grow as a person.  I have hope for the future.

For years I had lost myself, I was so suppressed, walking on eggshells, I didn’t even know what I liked anymore.  I have so much more awareness of myself and I accept my good and bad traits, I care less and less what people think, this doesn’t mean I disrespect people but if people don’t like or accept me its absolutely fine by me, I just don’t spend time with these people.  I do what’s best for me, what feels good to me, it’s that simple.

My advice to anyone either suffering from depression or being in a situation that causes them to feel bad or anxious is to listen to your gut, just like physical pain is telling you something is wrong with your body, emotional pain is a warning something is wrong, face your fears and you will reap rewards.   I would rather be poor and happy than rich and depressed.

The main difference in me now is I am more spiritual, I trust the universe and that everything that happens to me is for my benefit, that goes for good and bad things.  If someone upsets me, I feel sorry for them because if someone is nasty it is they that are in a ‘bad place’ not you, so I recover from setbacks very quickly now.

I face the prospect of redundancy in 12 months time, I am not worried about this, I will use that as an opportunity for a career change, I want to work with animals and am laying the foundations for this now.  I am currently volunteering in my spare time at an animal rescue with farm animals, dogs and cats, I am looking at a second volunteer opportunity with dogs, apart from enjoying my time on the rescue farm I am preparing for my career change by gaining experience and I’m currently exploring my options of getting qualifications in animal care.  I am no longer waiting for a lottery win to change my life, I am changing it anyway!

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Self-Compassion – Feel the (Self) Love!

There are so many benefits to practicing self-compassion, these are simple everyday practices to help you love yourself!

Self-compassion, self-love or loving kindness is a tough one to grasp, when you have always been your worst critic.

I discovered self-compassion only a few years ago, when doing a free mindfulness course on Future Learn.  To me, self-compassion is to give yourself understanding, love and self-acceptance, it is about turning off that critical inner voice and listening to that compassionate understanding voice inside you.  It feels good to be compassionate towards your self and it really isn’t too difficult, but does take regular practice.  Unfortunately, I don’t always practice this on a regular basis, but it is on my daily good habits wishlist.

What is Self-Compassion?

Feeling compassion for anyone is to understand and empathise with that person, to take it a step further you may show that person compassion by talking empathetically with them, showing them you understand their pain, trying to help them or simply giving them a great big hug.  At times when we are feeling low, there is nothing like a genuine hug, it tells us that the person hugging us understands our feelings and above all accepts us, this can give us great comfort in that moment.  So, to be able to give ourselves that kind of comfort when we most need it, is quite something, unfortunately, we often don’t do that because we have learned to punish ourselves by criticizing either what we have done or haven’t or simply shaming ourselves for our flaws or feelings.

Benefits of Self-Compassion

The feeling of self-love is compounding, it continues to grow and makes you feel relaxed, calm, and self accepting.  Would you treat others as badly as you treat yourself? No, so why punish yourself with your negative self talk.  The thing is, when you practice self-compassion, you find yourself being more compassionate towards others, so they benefit too.  Once your physical body is taking care of, one of the best things you can do for your wellbeing is to practice self-compassion.

Self-Compassion Practices

Meditation

My favourite practice is mindful meditation specifically for self-compassion, guided ones are the best for beginners, doing meditations really helps you to focus on love and compassion towards yourself.  We are human and therefore all make mistakes, self-compassion helps you accept those mistakes regardless of what the consequences were and only by accepting how you feel can you move on to the self-love part.

Apps are a great way to start, You Tube is also great for free meditations, both guided and non-guided and there are plenty specifically for self-compassion, some are short, 10 minutes for example, others are 9 hours for whilst you are asleep, these are subliminal.  My favourite Apps are Calm and Headspace, there are some free guided meditations if you don’t want to subscribe to them or just want to test them out.

If you are in a bad place right now, I recommend practicing daily, even for just 5 minutes, but preferably 10.  If you have no time at all, do a sleep meditation, everyone has to sleep.  Even a daily minute of self-love practice is better than none.

Self-Care

I include self-care as a practice for self compassion, self care makes you feel good about yourself and it can include anything that makes you feel good.  I have regular self-care days which include a long soak in the bath, usually with Epsom Salts (for detoxing) or Himalayan Salts (for relaxation) which leaves you with the softest skin.  I make sure I soak between 20-40 minutes to absorb the benefits of the salts.  Whilst I am lying there so long I do some mindful meditation.

Other things I do are giving myself a facial; double cleansing, face mask, essential oils (patchouli) this is my favourite and its good for aging skin too.  I don’t know what it is about this oil, but for me it gives me a huge sense of self-love and calm, funnily enough when I first used I wasn’t keen on it, but it is my favourite now.  If I want to feel good after a bath I put this on my face, neck and chest, it instantly makes me feel safe and cosy.  Everyone is different, so trial some, you can get 10ml bottles to try them out, find the oil that works for you, do your research though, some oils are not recommended to put directly on your skin without a carrier oil.

I will body brush, do my nails, deep condition my hair with ‘Bleach London Silver Conditioner‘ by leaving it on at least 1 hour, usually whilst I am in the bath, lather myself in my favourite vegan ‘Lavera‘ body lotion and put something comfortable on, then sit and read a book.  I would do these things everyday if I could, but as you know when your working you simply don’t have the time, but make sure you do at least once a week, your mind will thank you for it.

Journaling

Journaling helps with self-awareness, thus bringing out the empathy and understanding  you need to be compassionate towards yourself.

I love to write things down, if I am struggling with something, if I am angry  with myself or others, I tend to write down my feelings, but I try to do it from a sympathetic perspective. Rather than express just my anger, I will write down how I feel  and then try to write something about understanding why that person did or said what they said, not to justify their actions but to understand them.  This really helps me to not hold on to  negative emotions, so that when I see that person again I feel more compassionate towards them, which in turn makes me feel good.  Anger  hurts ourselves, more than anyone else.

Final Thoughts

We all suffer in one way or another, we can’t always escape what life throws at us, the best we can do is accept unavoidable suffering in order to minimize it, practicing self-compassion is one way of doing this. Go love yourself, you deserve it!

Different Stages in Life!

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I have been thinking a lot lately about where we all are in life at the moment, I have read some great blogs from young bloggers and I think ‘Wow’, they know so much more about ‘intentional living’ than I did at their age, in fact, I had never even heard of ‘intentional living’, they are so lucky.  At 50, I am only starting to ‘wake up’ and rather than think ‘fate’ will foretell my journey, I am realising that I am the author of my life.

Why has it took me so long to come to this realisation?  Apart from being a bit slow, I am not sure, except that I have been caught up in the strains and stresses of working, living and everything else that came my way.  Anyway, I am here now and intend to make the rest of my life better, cleaner, and more purposeful.

In fact, I have reached the point where I resent the fact that I have to go to work just to try keep up with my mortgage, bills and £18,000 personal debts, mainly on credit cards.  I am currently on a DMP (Debt Management Plan) with Step Change because after living on my credit cards (due to overspending), I got to the stage where I simply ran out of credit and could no longer make the minimum payments.  These debts have caused me a huge amount of stress and worry.  I have also realised my spending is related to my mental health, whenever I have felt low, I have gone on a little spending spree, at one stage there was barely a day I didn’t buy something.

The realisation that my spending habits relate to how I feel at any given time, has made me realise, there are other (cheaper) ways  to feel good.  Realising that link between my mental health and over spending, the consumer trap I have fallen in to, buying in to consumerism and ‘keeping up with the Jones’ is enough to make me change my ways.

I no longer browse online when I am bored, I carefully consider if I really want / need an item before purchasing, I also put in my planner on pay-day 1 or 2 things I ‘plan’ to buy, things I have given careful consideration to purchasing, sometimes by the time pay day comes along I have changed my mind.

I have not worked out exactly how old I will be by the time my debts are paid off, but at the rate I am paying them off now, I will be over 100 years old taking the interest into account. This is not how I want to spend my retirement years, this is not what I have worked so hard for all my life.  I came to the conclusion that the only other option is to increase my income and eventually (hopefully within 3-5 years) hand my notice in to a job I have not an ounce of interest in anymore, this lack of interest is down to my own self-realisation in what I can and want to achieve; help people in some way, no matter how small to improve their own lives, if we all share what we know, we will gain many lifetimes of knowledge, how wonderful is that!.