Depression—Is it situational, chronic, or something else?

Depression can show in many ways and forms.  But, what does it mean for you?  If you recently went through a loss of any kind, or are grieving in any way, what you feel is depression-- yet it is attached to an event that really affected you.  If your feelings have persisted, or there is not an exact event that you can associate with why you are feeling the way you do, the depression you’re feeling is most likely chronic.  

Depression can feel mild, like it’s always been there for you throughout your life.  It can also feel severe, where you have thoughts like you just cannot go on living.  Any kind of depression may feel like a, “downward spiral”, where you simply cannot get out of the darkness of the storm that you most likely feel stuck in.  

You may not want to get out of bed.  You may not be motivated to do any activities you once enjoyed.  No matter what people say to try to help you, their words may not help, or even may make you feel worse.  Please realize that not everyone is a trained counselor in St. Petersburg, Florida that can help you work through all you’re personally feeling.  People in your life may just not know what to say, or how to react.  Some people may even avoid you because they’re also finding it difficult to cope with what you’re going through.

Depression can be treated.  If you are depressed in any way, please do not take the label of depression on.  Depression is something you are feeling.  It is not all you are.  Separating yourself from that label can be a good first step in being able to address what is going on for you. 

Another thing to remember is that your mind and your body are related.   Just as your brain chemistry is related to depression, exercise can help the chemicals in your brain balance out.  It’s important to pay attention to when feelings are coming on, and what works for you to address them.

If you are having any feelings of sadness, please take that first step and reach out for help. Also, please keep the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number available:  1-800-273-8255.  If nothing is addressed, you may not be able to bring yourself out of that downward spiral. Know that there is help to find your way out.

Codependency—Finding balance between giving to your partner, and giving to yourself.

Balance--in this area--it’s about having a reciprocal relationship with another.  If you have things you do for yourself that are “you”,  giving you your own identity that, “keep you going”; and your partner also has things they do for themselves, that give them their own identity, that keep them going--you are then moving forward together in a healthy, balanced relationship as a couple.

But, this is not always that easy for you to do.  You may feel uncomfortable, helpless when you are alone, or scared to take initiative in moving towards your own identity.  You may also feel a need for acceptance outside of yourself, and go out of your way to help your partner so you feel loved or accepted, while forgetting to love yourself.  Anything that feels like disapproval or criticism towards you can really “sting”.  It can be difficult to find comfort in your own company.  You may not see that you really do have a lot to offer.

As with many things, this may have stemmed from how you grew up.  Maybe you were overprotected. Maybe you had expectations placed upon you to behave perfectly.  Maybe your family believed in strong loyalty or family ties.

It takes a commitment to yourself to overcome dependency, and an appropriate relationship with a counselor to gently move you through your process of self growth.  But where can you start?  You can be open to introspection—looking within yourself to begin understanding your own dynamics behind your need for dependency.   You can begin working towards communication with your partner, asking them for their support.   Also, celebrate YOU when you make even the smallest step.  That is progress!

Substance Abuse—The beginning, the middle, and the end.

Substance abuse is vicious.  Once it takes a hold of you, and you are addicted, it is one of the hardest things to break.   I’ve seen men, taller than myself, walk into my groups at the Pinellas County Jail weighing a mere 98 pounds.  These men said that they knew if they weren’t arrested, they would be dead.  I have had clients that I later found out, did not survive their battle with addiction. I have also had people in my office that decided they were ready to do whatever it took to overcome their personal struggles.

I started learning about substance abuse back in 1998, when I did undergraduate fieldwork at a residential facility.  At that time, I said that I could not work with substance abuse because of the low success rate.  Now, that is exactly why I need to work with anyone that is struggling with this disease.

I believe that substance abuse is a symptom of underlying problems.  It could be your family legacy that has followed you.  It could be that you have a diagnosis that you are trying to self medicate.  It could be that you do not feel comfortable with yourself, and it is how you found a way to, “fit in”.   There are so many reasons why, but what do you do to start to learn how to break the cycle?

Many of you most likely have heard that the first step is admitting it.  Whether you believe in AA and NA, The Twelve Steps, SMART Recovery, getting substance abuse counseling, or any other means of support;  please do not try to battle this on your own.  No matter what you’re trying to overcome,  support can help you.  Why not reach out?  There are so many things you can do,  and so many things you are capable of, but it does start with making a decision that you are done.  Nobody else can make that decision for you.  Are you ready to have the life you always wanted, but never thought you could have?  You can have that life.  What gives you a reason to try?  What is your why?

Social Anxiety--How do you find your peace?

Social anxiety can feel debilitating.  It can stop you from doing things in order to stay feeling comfortable.  Does this mean you need to avoid everything? 

One aspect of social anxiety—which is not the same for everyone--is that you can tend to feel judged by others.  You may feel powerless or awkward.  These feelings can stop you from getting involved with things you might be interested in that could add to your life--even if you have a strong desire to, “get yourself out there”.   You may isolate due to the worrisome thoughts you feel.

How can you get past this, find your peace, and feel comfortable with yourself?  The cliché of, “Knowing is half the battle.”  really is a beginning.  Once you understand what or who makes you feel uncomfortable, you have a choice about what or who you involve yourself with. 

You can see this as an opportunity to work on overcoming your fears, facing them, "head on".  But, you do not have to.  It is okay to avoid situations that cause you extreme anxiety.  Extreme anxiety can turn into such things as experiencing a shortness of breath, insomnia, cause panic attacks, or turn you towards substance abuse as a means to cope.  Instead, you can begin practicing different relaxation techniques or daily practices to help you make it through. 

You can set boundaries for yourself.  Once you find what or who causes you less anxiety than others, you may choose to combat your anxiety in situations that do not cause you such high levels of stress—a symptom of anxiety.  It’s kind of like experiencing claustrophobia—maybe one-on-one, or smaller group situations, make you feel more at ease than very large groups.

Pay attention to what your body is telling you.  Combating any type of anxiety can take time and effort.  Just like changing your body, it takes time to change your thoughts.  Start exercising ways that benefit the quality of your life.  Your mind and body will thank you.

Work Stress—How do you cope?

Whether it’s trying to deal with the demands of your work responsibilities, or struggling to have a healthy working relationship with your boss and co-workers, we all know stress is not good for our health.   So what can you do?  It can be difficult with the politics in your workplace to address things the way you might in your personal life.  It often requires you to take the, “high road”, and keep your professional presence intact for the benefit of your career.

A conflict with a co-worker you may see more than your own friends or family can leave you feeling frustrated.  How do you take control of the situation, instead of letting it control you?  It is always best to address anything, no matter where you are, directly with the person--instead of going, “above their head” to your boss or someone else you work with about it, if you would like to remedy the situation for the benefit of both your physical and mental health.

Your boss is mostly concerned about productivity, and is not a counselor listed in St. Petersburg, Florida that you can say anything to without a filter.  If it has been a consistent issue with the same co-worker, you may benefit more by pulling them aside to address it with them privately.  As an example, maybe they keep answering questions that are being directed towards you.  Respectfully asking them to please let you answer for yourself (which may require swallowing a bit of pride or emotion) could be a remedy that is between you and them, and hopefully the beginning of a better working relationship.  If they are quick to jump in with answers, that could be a sign of anxiety.  They may find it difficult to be patient while you are trying to thoughtfully respond to a question.  Trying to imagine where they might be coming from might help you to approach them a bit easier if confrontation is difficult for you.

If the conflict is with your boss--maybe you don’t agree with company policy, or how things should be done.  That is a hard one.  Ultimately, when you are working for someone else, it is most usually best to do your best to create an air of collaboration.  This can make you feel like you have an opinion, it matters, and you end up feeling heard.  If it is a situation or issue that needs resolving, thanking your boss once a resolution has been made can not only keep you on that “high road”, but also could make your boss feel appreciated, and in turn, he or she may appreciate you.

Work stress can be difficult to deal with.  But, no matter the situation, that Lou Holtz adage of, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you, and ninety percent how you respond to it.” has some value.  Respond wisely.