Category Archives: Depression

support partner with depression

How to support a partner with depression

Being in a relationship with someone who struggles with depression can be difficult. It is hard to know what you can do to help and you may be worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. It can also be difficult to know if what you are doing is helping, causing you to get discouraged and feel helpless.

Depression is a tricky thing. It is an internal struggle, a mental illness that ebbs and flows. People who are depressed have good days and bad days just like everyone else. Those who struggle with depression need love and support from those around them. They need people with knowledge and understanding who can give them grace during bad times.

That being said, as in any relationship, you must take care of yourself too. Make sure you take time to breathe, relax, decompress, and practice self-care. Supporting someone who is depressed can take a toll on you, as a partner, as well. Take the time to recognize your needs.

Here are some ways you can help a partner with depression:

1.) Learn about depression— It is hard to help someone who is struggling with their mental health if you don’t have some knowledge. People who are depressed often have angry outbursts, moments of withdrawal, days when they want to stay in bed all day, bouts of crying, and unexplained sadness. If you aren’t aware of the symptoms then you, as a partner, might get angry, take things personally, or feel hurt. Understanding and making sure you also have a support system is important.

2.) Just be there — Sometimes caring for another is as simple as sitting with them, giving them a hug, rubbing their back, checking on them, etc. You don’t have to do any huge acts of kindness. It is more about showing your support by being present. Letting them know you care about them. Say things like “we will get through this together.”

3.) Encourage treatment — Often those struggling with depression get so down on themselves that they don’t have the energy or the motivation to get help. They might not even know why they are feeling this way, or notice changes in their behavior. As a partner, you can be a voice of reason. You can encourage them to get help, maybe even schedule and take them to the first visit. Tell them what you have noticed and explain to them you want them to feel better. You can assist in the research of mental health options. Let them know you are on their team.

4.) Create a supportive home environment — It is important to recognize that depression is no one’s fault. It is not yours and it is not your partner’s fault for being depressed. Create a healing environment in your household. Make plans to exercise together. Choose a healthy diet plan to help you both feel your best. Limit access to things like alcohol or drugs. Make time for counseling appointments. Create routines and work together to limit overall stress around the home.

5.) Positive reinforcement —People who are depressed often feel the worst about themselves. Everything they do is wrong, everything is bad, they feel worthless. Noticing small improvements and mentioning them to your partner can go along way, “I think it is great you got up to workout this morning,” “I am proud of you for making that appointment,” etc.

6.) Set small goals — Depression is overwhelming and overcoming symptoms can feel like a mountain to climb. Instead of looking at the big picture, focus on the day-to-day. Set small, manageable goals. Maybe it is taking a walk a few nights a week after work, going to bed by a certain time each day, making and keeping an appointment, or even getting out of bed and doing one thing — like making a meal, taking a shower, something attainable.

7.) Know suicide warning signs —It is hard to think about but suicide is a very real result of depression for some people. You must acknowledge the risk and keep your eyes peeled for signs. Talk to your partner about how they feel, is this something they think about? Keep notice of them making plans, talking about death, giving things away, or finding a sudden calm, see other warning signs here.

Supporting someone with depression can be hard on the partner. Make sure, as mentioned above, to take care of yourself as well. You can’t be expected to carry all the burden but you can show those you love that you are there for them. Seeking help from a licensed professional counselor can be helpful for both yourself and your partner. Don’t hesitate to get help. You don’t have to do this alone.

foods to battle depression

Foods To Help Battle Depression

When you are feeling depressed, you probably aren’t thinking too much about the foods you are eating. But, research shows that eating right can give your brain the tools it needs to avoid (or even treat) depression. 

Let’s get real here, when we eat right, we tend to weigh less and feel better overall. But that is not the only reason the food you eat matters:

1.) Protein-rich foods boost energy — Proteins like turkey, tuna, and chicken contain the amino acid tryptophan which can help your body produce serotonin. Eating one of these protein-packed foods several times a day can boost energy and help you to clear your mind. Other healthy proteins can be beans/peas, low-fat cheese, milk, yogurt, and soy. 

2.) Vitamins help you feel better — A Spanish study showed a link between depression and the amount of vitamin B12 women got and the amount of folate men had in their diet. Eating things like legumes, nuts, fruits, and dark green vegetables can help keep folate levels high; and lean and low-fat animal products and fish can help to keep B12 levels where they need to be.

3.) Omega-3 Fatty Acids are good for your heart and your brain — Scientists have found that those who don’t consume enough Omega-3s are at greater risk for Major Depressive Disorder. Fatty fish, flaxseed, canola oil, nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables are all good ways to get your Omegas in. 

4.) Antioxidants help prevent cell damage — It is important to keep our brains in tip-top shape and antioxidants can help with that. Our bodies make free radicals which can damage cells and lead to aging and other problems. Antioxidants lessen the destructive impact of these molecules. Foods like carrots, broccoli, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes, blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, nuts and seeds all contain antioxidants. 

5.) The mineral selenium can keep your mood boosted — Low selenium levels have been linked to poor moods. Foods like beans and legumes, lean meats, low-fat dairy, nuts and seeds, seafood, and whole grains are all rich in selenium. 

Avoiding certain unhealthy foods can also help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression including limiting caffeine and alcohol. Remember if you treat your body right, your brain will follow. 

men symptoms depression

Men Show Depression & Anxiety Differently

Men and women have different ways of reacting to feelings of anxiety or depression. Where a woman might cry or voice feelings of nervousness or unrest, a man might react in an angry outburst, alcohol-abuse, or even muscle aches and pains.

Difficult to Diagnose

This significant difference in reactions often makes it difficult to diagnose men. Many times they choose to not seek help and those around them don’t recognize the signs.

Often we think of men as jerks when they have a big emotional reaction to something that seems insignificant, when in fact they could be reacting that way because they are nervous or anxious. Men who are depressed have more issues with controlling, violent or abusive behaviors and inappropriate anger, according to the Mayo Clinic. Men tend to turn to escapist behaviors, like spending more time at work or sporting events. They might avoid coming home or attending group events.

Many men also find it difficult to display emotions like sadness or to find a release like crying, and instead hold those feelings deep inside resulting in muscle aches or pains, headaches, and dizziness.

Unhealthy Coping

All that holding in makes it hard to process feelings, leading many men to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drug abuse, or turning to risky behaviors like reckless driving. Rather than dealing with their mental illness or admitting they are struggling with some hard times, they drown their feelings turning themselves numb. It is no question that these behaviors are unhealthy and often contribute to relationship failures, job loss, and other personal problems.

Scientists don’t know the exact reasons why depression/anxiety symptoms show up differently in men than women, but it is likely due to many factors — brain chemistry, hormones, life experiences, and learned behaviors, to name a few.

Help is Available

Because men display symptoms differently than women, we must have conversations. Learning and recognizing the different ways men may display symptoms of mental illness, can lead to more men getting the help they need.

warning signs

Suicide Warning Signs: What should you be looking for?

With suicide rates at an all-time high, we must know and understand the signs and symptoms to look out for. Suicide is preventable and is never the answer to your problems. If for any reason you think you may be suicidal or just don’t feel like yourself, please consider seeking help from a licensed mental health professional. So many people want to see you continue in this life and so many resources are available to help you get through these hard times.

If you are someone who is concerned a child, relative, or friend may be at risk for suicide there are some signs to look out for:

  • Focusing on death — a person at risk of committing suicide likely doesn’t want to die, they just want a way to end their pain. It is a concern if a person focuses on death and dying, researches different ways to die, and/or seems encompassed by the idea.
  • Making plans — someone who is thinking about ending their life may start to make plans. They might make a will, talk about after-life wishes with family, giveaway important things, or start saying goodbye to loved ones.
  • Becomes withdrawn — not returning phone calls or showing up for social events can be a big sign that something is not right.
  • Shows despair — they might seem sad, distraught, severely depressed, or talk about how they are a burden to others.
  • A swing in mood or sleep — a person who is normally anxious, depressed, moody or aggressive may suddenly become calm once they have decided to commit suicide. They may also stop sleeping as much as they used to or sleep more.
  • Substance abuse — as with any mental health condition the use of substances like alcohol or drugs can contribute to feelings of depression or suicidal thoughts.
  • Acts recklessly — participating in dangerous and risky behaviors like having unprotected sex or driving drunk can be a sign that a person doesn’t appreciate their life and doesn’t care if it ends.
  • Victims — victims of trauma or abuse of any kind can be more at risk than other populations. These people have a lot of pain they are dealing with and struggle with wanting that pain to go away.

If you or anyone you know is displaying any of the above signs or symptoms, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK [8255].

teen suicide

Teen Suicide Rates At All-Time High, Here’s How We Can Help…

Suicide rates among teens and young adults are at an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts can’t pinpoint exactly why the number of teens and young adults taking their own lives is continuing to increase, but many blame things such as the use of digital platforms, economic distress, and social isolation.

There is no question this problem is one that needs our attention and care. There are steps we can take as parents, community members, and school administrators to help those who are struggling, to make suicide a more difficult option, and to show this population that suicide is not the answer.

Where do we start?

1.) Restrict Access — Having a gun in the home to protect against an intruder may seem like a good idea but it is also giving your child access to a deadly tool. My advice is to keep guns locked up and in places where even your teen doesn’t know they exist. Same with drugs, keep them out of sight. Lock them up. Reduce access. It is a lot harder to commit the act of suicide if you don’t have the tools readily available.

2.) Talk to Your Teen — If you are worried about your teen or your teen’s friends potentially struggling with emotions, then talk to them. In fact, talk to them regardless. Let them know they have a place to turn. Ask your teen if they are suicidal. Open up the communication gates. Let them know that is not the answer and get them help from a licensed mental health professional. This subject feels taboo to many but it is clear we need to talk about it. Let your child know it is ok to not be ok.

3.) Implement Suicide Prevention Programs in Schools — Training teachers and school administrators to recognize the signs of depression, suicide precursors, and other mental health issues in teens and young adults can have a lasting impact. Teens spend much of their days in an educational environment, our school professionals can play a part in watching for the signs and getting help.

4.) Training for Parents and Other Adults in the Community — Our teens need to feel like they have a safe place to turn, even if it is not a parent, to talk about their mental health. They need a caring adult who is willing to talk about suicide and can act as a support network.

The bottom line is our teens and young adults need to know they are cared for, they matter, and they have places they can go and people they can talk to whenever they need. 

For additional information on these tips, visit https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/7/11/18759712/teen-suicide-depression-anxiety-how-to-help-resources .

How to live the fullest with the holiday blues

The holidays can be a time for joy, happiness, appreciation but they can also trigger sadness, depression, and remind us of things we are missing. These feelings are so common they have a name — the Holiday Blues. 

Around this time of the year, I frequently encounter clients who are struggling with loss in their family, financial issues, mental health, etc. They often ask me what they can do to get out of their funk. On top of therapy, medication, proper nutrition, and physical activity the main thing we need to do when we are struggling is to avoid isolation. When we are down and we isolate ourselves it escalates those negative feelings. 

Turn negative into positive

Doing something nice for others by giving part of yourself helps to get people out of isolation and feel good when they see the joy of others. Through volunteering, cooking a meal, cleaning a house, or baking cookies for others in need you can help yourself while also helping others. When we see the joy of others achieved through our efforts it helps to lift us up and feel good about the way we are spending our days. 

It is hard to get through the holiday season when you focus on all the things that have gone wrong throughout the year, or all the things that are missing. When you turn that negative energy into something positive it can help you get through this otherwise hard time more easily, and might also give you a reason to smile. 

If you are wondering where to start, here are some websites to help:

National Coalition for the Homeless: https://nationalhomeless.org

Volunteer Match: https://www.volunteermatch.org

Create The Good: http://createthegood.org

Connecting with loved ones at bedtime: It is good for your health

A healthy bedtime routine with the people we love can be a smart way to close off the day. To let go of stress, and rest peacefully.

Whether it is cuddles with a child, a bedtime kiss, laughing and talking with a spouse, feeling physically or emotionally connected to those we love can decrease cortisone levels and stress-related health risks. It is a routine that everyone in the home can look forward to, and it is a nice way to put some finality into the day…to know you are not alone in this busy life, and tomorrow is a new day. 

A psychological scientist at Wayne State University explored the link between cortisol levels—also known as the stress hormone—and physical health. Cortisol is present in nearly every cell of the body, impacting learning, memory, and emotion. It also helps to regulate the immune system. The scientist Richard Slatcher found the more connected to their relationships people felt, the healthier cortisol levels they had. 

A Healthy Bedtime Routine

Some ideas for a healthy bedtime routine may include:

1.) Exchanging “I love you’s.” This is a good habit to get into because as much as we feel we don’t need to always say it, it helps to hear it and know your children or spouse mean it. It is healthy for everyone. 

2.) Go to bed at the same time as your spouse. This provides time to reconnect, even if only for a few minutes. It is time where it is just the two of you. Even if it is a few exchanges about your day or some more intimate cuddle time, maybe a laugh or two, it is a good healthy habit and keeps you both on the same page. 

3.)Unplug. Bed is not the place for your phone or laptop. Leave that stuff at the door. This is time for your marriage, for your children. 

4.) Prioritize getting a good nights rest. Try to go to bed at an early enough time to get ample sleep. Better sleep means better mental and physical health, and better handling of stressful situations. 

5.) Don’t try to settle arguments. The old saying “don’t go to bed angry” is not always true. Not everything has to be fixed before getting some shut-eye. In some cases, it can be better to get some good rest and then reassess in the morning when you are refreshed and focused. 

6.) Take a few minutes to practice gratitude. Think about one good thing that happened in your day and share it with your spouse or your kids. It will leave the day on a happy note and improve overall mental health. 

The loneliness of being a perfectionist

It is hard to be perfect. In fact, it is impossible for everything we do to turn out exactly the way we want it to. It is impossible for everything to be perfect, leading to an immense and overwhelming sense of pressure for a perfectionist.

Being a perfectionist means always striving to be the best at everything. To be on the top, at the pinnacle, and it is a very lonely place to be. There are many different kinds and combinations of perfectionists with two of the big ones being: overt and covert. 

Overt vs. Covert

The overt perfectionist has a strong want for order around them at all times. They have anxiety when things get chaotic and tend to want to always be “right.” The overt perfectionist fears failure and therefore won’t try things they might not be good at. They want to do everything they can to not lose control and believe abilities are pre-determined and not able to be developed. (SOURCE: huffingtonpost.com; Smith, A.W. (2013). Overcoming Perfectionism. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.)

The covert perfectionist often hides their perfection actions and thoughts. They have low expectations of those around them and act as if they want to be average or carefree but secretly want to the be the best. The covert perfectionist may choose to underachieve to avoid the pressure or competition with those that might be better at something. (Smith, 2013)

Regardless if you are a covert, overt, or a combination of both, the inner struggle of a perfectionist can be overwhelming. And, it is made even more difficult by the fact that those around us often find it hard to relate. Our peers have difficulty empathizing and understanding the frustration, the NEED to be the best. 

The perfectionist is often told to “get over it,” “no one is perfect,” “try harder next time,” or “it is not a big deal.” The result often leads to more mental stress, to depression, anxiety, and difficulty maintaining relationships. Our society views perfectionism as a positive quality. It leads to success in business and life, but there is a happy medium. There has to be a way to try hard, to work hard, but to also accept and let go when things don’t go as planned. When we study and study and study for the test and there are questions we still are not ready for, we need to accept we tried our very best and maybe next time we will take a different approach. 

If you are one of those people who consistently struggle with the urge to be perfect and to be on top, then it can be helpful to receive help from a mental health professional. Talk to someone who can not only understand why you feel the way you do but to help you with skills to curb these feelings and help you to live a healthier, happier life. Frequently clients also find it helpful to be in support groups, to find people who do know how to empathize with your feelings, to help you know you are not alone. 

Finding YOU after pregnancy

You went through the whole nine (really 10) months of pregnancy and were excited, scared, anxious, elated about the new little human entering your life. Now the baby is here and you are consumed with sleepless nights, overwhelming days, and a profound loss of who you once were.

Having a child is a major life change—we all know this—but what can be shocking is that feeling that you don’t recognize yourself. You don’t know who you are anymore. It is important that you reconnect with your old self, embrace your new normal, and not lose sight of what is meaningful to you. Yes, of course, that new bundle of joy is your world and he/she is at the top of the list all day every day but you also need to care for yourself. By failing to take time for you—even if it is a short coffee outing with a friend or a solo trip to the gym—you are hurting yourself. If you don’t take care of you, it is a lot harder to take care of the others in your life.

It is common for moms to feel like that is all they are— “I am a mom, but what
else?” It is the new mom identity crisis and it can be rough. So what can you do to reconnect with yourself after pregnancy?

Reconnecting with YOU

1.) Connect with friends in new ways—Instead of late nights at bars or concerts,
meet your friends for book clubs, coffee dates, or playdates at the park. You need
to continue to have adult conversations and adult time, and support from others
who understand your challenges.

2.) Embrace a hobby—Maybe it is going for a run, hiking, knitting, painting, or writing…whatever it is that makes you feel alive and gives you a sense of accomplishment make time for it. It can be daunting to think about adding another thing to your list, but this stuff is important for you, your happiness, and the happiness of your family.

3.) Don’t compare— You are your own person. It does you no good to compare yourself to others. The mom guilt is there, we all have it but it is not necessary. You need to care for yourself, and you should not feel guilty that you are doing something for you rather than staring at your sleeping child for hours on end. It just hurts your soul.

4.) Ask for help — Don’t be afraid to ask a grandparent or a friend, or hire a part-time babysitter so you aren’t doing it all, all the time. If you are feeling like you could really use an hour away then take it. Losing your cool and your sanity isn’t going to be helpful for you or baby.

5.) Take care of you—Find time for that shower, or to get that haircut. Take naps when you are tired. Forget about the laundry, it will get done eventually. Take a deep breath. You will get through.

If you are struggling with feelings of being overwhelmed, depressed, sad, alone, or you just feel like you could use someone to talk to seek out a qualified counselor. And, know you will find yourself again.

Guilt & Shame: Whose Life is it Anyway?

Guilt, we all know that deep-down gut feeling and some of us know it all too well. We feel it all the time. About everything. But why? What real reason do we have to condemn ourselves to such feelings all the time? It is draining and it makes our life events less enjoyable. 

Clients come to me all the time telling me they feel guilty for taking a break, for actually using the vacation time given to them, and for choosing to stay at home when feeling sick or drained. I always ask them, what does that guilty voice say? Whose voice is it? And, whose life are you living? Is this your life, or the voice of life’s past?

Why do we feel guilty all the time?

1.)We want people to like us. We are people-pleasers.

2.)We are focusing on the “shoulds”— the stuff we tell ourselves we should be doing. We should be cleaning the house. We should be folding the laundry. We are comparing ourselves to what we think other people are doing with their time, instead of caring for ourselves.

3.)Perfectionism—we have a fear of letting people down, of not allowing ourselves to make mistakes.

4.)Childhood conditioning—we were taught as children to always put people first and to feel responsible for other people’s happiness. Sometimes we feel like we are failing to live up to the expectations of others.

5.)Manipulation—we are susceptible to having our buttons pushed by other people. You are exhausted and desperately need a break, yet when your boss calls you to come in two hours early to work on a project you do it. 

Next time you feel guilty over caring for yourself, take a breath and think about that voice in your head. What do you really think of what it is saying? What would you say to someone else in your situation? This will help you to live by your own standards, rather than someone else’s.

You must take care of yourself before you can fully take care of you. If you find it difficult to care for yourself without feelings of guilt, then it may be time to seek out a licensed professional counselor to help. After all we are here in this world to live it, to enjoy it, and to enjoy those around us. If we are constantly consumed by feelings of guilt or shame for doing things that make us happy, then we can’t fully live.