How Goal Setting Can Help Depression

One of the complications of depression is that you feel worthless. You feel like the most underachieving waste of space and it’s incredibly hard to just pick yourself up.

What I found helped me was adopting goal setting methods. Yes, I can openly say that 99% of the time I failed. I stopped, started, and sometimes, I don’t even know if I reached one! But in time, I learned how to set realistic goals tailored to me. From there, I managed to build up small amounts of confidence in my abilities. I can never stress enough the importance of empowering the mind not only for depression sufferers but for all of us.

So what are we doing here? We’re making today more awesome for a friend in need – and of course yourself too! This isn’t a cure, depression is far more complex, however, the practice of small achievements creates a little voice inside saying “you’re getting better, you’re doing well” and for a depressed mind, this is very powerful stuff!

For anyone with depression, the idea of goal setting will be daunting and hopeless – they may not even want to participate at all. This is okay. You just need to reassure your friend that you’re going to start small and you’re in on this too, setting your own personal goals.

Remember, goals are subjective to the individual strengths, needs, limits and weaknesses. (Note: it’s critical you both choose goals that are attainable)

How do you even do this?!

In a comfortable place, hold a goal setting session where you both openly discuss what you would like to achieve. Goals could include places you would like to see, a skill you wish to learn, something you would like to reduce or remove from your life, what you would like to add – whatever is important to each individual and the more these goals include emotional, physical and mental wellness, the better for recovery. Make sure you evaluate both of your needs, values, strengths and weaknesses.

Here are my top five points to creating a success goal planning strategy

  • Start with two or three goals that are attainable. This depends on what you and your friend think you can manage.
  • Begin with weekly or even daily goals. Don’t get swamped by the big vision of life just yet!
  • Try to be openly aware of your limits. If you or your friend get frustrated easily or find that they are very hard on themselves, accept this as okay. This may even get incorporated into becoming a goal.
  • Review and celebrate! Don’t downplay any success and take each small win. Every step towards an achievement is owed a celebration.

It’s important to remember that it doesn’t always happen overnight, but those little shifts begin to happen and spark self-worth. Most importantly, don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first few attempts or if goals aren’t always reached. Goals may need readjusting and to find a place where they work for you. This isn’t minimising the success, just fine tuning the direction.

Happy goal setting!

“By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands—your own.” —Mark Victor Hansen

Real Friends Message You Back! Right?

You don’t hear back from them when you send them a message, even when you know they have seen it. You invite them out but they never come anymore. Why bother? Are they even a real friend? You seem to be drifting apart and they don’t even seem to care. What kind of friend are they? 

Hang in there. Before you assume that your friend doesn’t have time for you anymore, it could that they are suffering from depression. 

Depression is isolating. It likes to be alone yet at the same time, the person inside is screaming for help. It’s so suppressing that even a simple response can seem like such an effort and feels as if there are no words to say. 

It really becomes a vicious cycle for the sufferer. Your friends invite you out, but you’re feeling too low. You make excuse after excuse until they just stop inviting you altogether. When you’re no longer getting invited, you feel even lower because you feel more isolated and around it goes. How do you even get out of that bottomless pit? 

That’s why if it is depression for your friend, it’s important that you don’t withdraw too much, otherwise, their mind translates that into more mental proof that they are unlovable and unworthy. 

It’s time for you to reach out. Sometimes all it can take from you is a genuine “Are you okay?” Most likely the answer will be a top-level “Yeah, I’m fine.” but you need to really get to their core. Depression still carries a stigma of shame so it’s most likely they will be guarded. Try and get in a little deeper, “No, I mean are you really okay? If there is anything you want to talk about? I’m listening” It seems so simple yet it’s astonishing how this barely seems to happen. 

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Many of us could probably name a few people that we suspect to be going through depression. Are we reaching out? And what do you even do when a friend tells you that they’re not okay? We’re then fronted with responsibility. 

There are lots of ways to help a friend in need, depending on the level of severity. One simple way is just by being a genuine friend. What does that mean? It means listening, supporting and showing your friend that they are worth your time. You’ll be amazed at how much that can help. 

Another way is taking them out for an escape in a healthy environment. There are amazing beaches to explore, trail walks and hikes to challenge your fitness, or even camping/glamping for a whole night under the stars. We all need that friend that says “Come on, pack your bags!”.  Be that friend. 

Keep this in mind next time you feel your friend is falling away. I can guarantee nothing is going to strengthen your friendship more than knocking on the door when it’s needed the most. You never forget who was there for you when no one else was. 

 

Warning: 5 Sure Signs Of Emotional Abuse

I think it’s fair to say that many of us have experienced a difficult relationship, but at what point does it become toxic and classify as emotional abuse?

Unlike the obvious effects of physical abuse, emotional abuse and mental abuse are more discreet, without either partner having to be aware of it. This is what makes it so difficult to pinpoint, a real mind f**k. You question your own intuition until you begin to think you’re going crazy. You’re not. You’re on a rollercoaster and it’s only natural to feel unstable on shaky grounds. Emotional abuse becomes addictive because you’re constantly in fight-or-flight mode, running around trying to please your critical partner. It can take a huge toll on your health, mind, work, and other relationships in your life.

How do you know if you’re suffering abuse from your partner? Here are five signs you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship:

1) Isolation
They want you all to themselves because they ‘love’ you so much. You find yourself being cut off from your friends and family. Your partner strongly objects to you sharing any information with them for reasons like ‘They put ideas in your head’ or ‘They’re a bad influence’. Your partner may tell you that it’s not you that they don’t trust, but the others— therefore you shouldn’t be around them.

This is not love; it’s control. Your partner has no real care or concern about what is best for you.

2) Eggshells and Fear
It’s not an enjoyable place to be: walking on eggshells so you don’t irritate your partner. You’re scared of what you say and you feel like you need to hide perfectly normal things like invites out and messages from friends. You don’t want to tell your partner anything in case they blow up. This is no way to live and this is a sure sign you’re in a toxic relationship.

3) It’s All Your Fault
A classic trait of an emotional abuse sufferer is making excuses for the abusers actions. You may have thoughts like “they wouldn’t have done that if I hadn’t done this” or “I guess I should have/could have…”.

The first step is to wipe this out of your mind. It’s not a healthy place to be making excuses for why your partner mistreats you.

If your partner says “I wouldn’t have done that if you hadn’t done this” and directs the blame for their behavioural issues onto you, this is emotional abuse and it’s not okay. This means they haven’t taken accountability for their actions and are using you as a way to justify it.

4) Subtle Putdowns
If you get a chance, watch the Disney movie Tangled and listen to how Mother Gothel speaks to Rapunzel. She uses constant but subtle put-downs played off as humour, leaving Rapunzel confused and unsure of herself. Those belittling comments stab at her ability, physical appearance, and dreams. This is a classic example of emotional abuse and watching these scenes will sum it up nicely.

The put-downs don’t need to be vicious, they could be little throw away comments that leave you uncertain about how it was meant. Let your partner know that you don’t appreciate these comments and if they still deliberately continue, it’s a sign of emotional abuse.

5) Your Concerns Don’t Matter
You better not have a problem with your partner’s behaviour or bring up any issues in the relationship, because if you do, they don’t want to hear about it and will refuse to discuss your concerns. They will be taken personally and it will be turned around to you for making them feel bad. Often they will make you feel your concerns are your fault and things wouldn’t be this way if you hadn’t done something on your part.

Can you change an emotionally abusive partner?

Like any form of growth, change needs to come from within, and your partner won’t change while they have you under their thumb. The best way to help them grow is by escaping their control and getting your own life on track. Hardship brings growth, and when your partner loses this control, they can begin to learn this treatment doesn’t bring the results they desire.

The most important thing you need to do right now is look after yourself. Take all the time you need to heal emotionally. It doesn’t happen overnight, but with constant baby steps, the journey will eventually free you.

Take this online Positive Relationship quiz to see how healthy your relationship is.

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“She’ll Be Right” – My Personal Battle with Depression

My personal battle with depression started so long ago now it seems to have consumed a large portion of my life. It all began back in 2005 and I’m writing this now in 2017 still feeling the years of effect. My mission with this article is to help New Zealanders understand the importance of seeking help and speaking out so depression management and recovery is achievable. 

On the outside, everything in my life seemed fine. At age 27 I had two beautiful children, a good job, good finances and a kind and loyal husband. What else would you want? That’s what we’re all told to strive for, isn’t it? Each year, my life on paper was improving but internally, I wasn’t making any progress.

As a child, I was raised in an abusive and unstable environment. At the same time, I was also raised in New Zealand, a carefree, down-to-earth community with a “she’ll be right” attitude to basically everything. Don’t stand too tall, don’t whinge too much – it’s all good.

At 17, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, an analysis given within a ten minute GP appointment. At the time, I had barely heard of the disease and I thought it was just another way for the drug company to offer a band-aid solution for what I called teenage hormones. It’s normal to be emotional at 17, so I didn’t think much of it. Almost instantly I was prescribed Prozac and sent on my way. No analysis if this was the right medication for me, no in-depth medical background check, nor was there any information about depression. Just a simple, here’s the pills and ‘she’ll be right’.

Within that year I became anorexic, surviving on the bare minimum of food. Blood tests were indicating that I was at risk for a cardiac arrest due to the low levels of potassium but nothing really sunk in with me. Apart of this was due to age and the other part was from the apathetic behaviour that stems from depression. Two years later, I became bulimic due to the pressures of having to eat in front of others. Bulimia would control me for another ten years of my life and cause my first child to be born at the bare minimum weight. I live with the guilt that I could have damaged her.

From 20 I remember feeling so low that I would frequently think about taking my life. Fortunately having a stubborn mind, I’ve always had a driving life force that knew that one day I would get better. I didn’t know when or how but I knew that one day, I would be okay – so I held on.

Seven years went on and I swept it all under the rug. The trauma of childhood, the loud voices of blame, the guilt, the bulimia and the feeling of worthlessness. I believed that to some degree depression must be a choice. What did I really have to be depressed about? I live in a beautiful safe country. I have various opportunities at my fingertips. I must just be selfish. I tried to force myself to fit into society by telling myself that I was “all good”.

“All good” and “She’ll be right” was was so dangerous. All this did was make me think I had to get on with it and to mask how I was feeling. Eventually, I was trying to compare myself to others. I was measuring my success and abilities against a standard that wasn’t my own limits and strengths. What did this lead to? Constant failure. I spent those years looking for “the answers”. Maybe if I change my job? Change my house? Change my image? Change my life partner? Maybe I will finally find happiness. Inside, I was beating myself up. Why can’t I get better for my children? What kind of mother are you? Why can’t I keep a job down? Why can’t I keep a relationship? Look what you have done. I am a horrible, worthless and selfish person. It was a self-destruction that I knew I was causing but I had no control over it.

Over a decade of my life has passed like this.

I’m now 29. My 20’s have been dedicated to trying to fix myself the wrong way. Some people will tell you that depression is the latest hype and that it’s just some navel gazing trend. Others will tell you that you just have to get on with it. From what I have seen, those two attitudes, are probably what contributes to our high suicide rate in New Zealand.

Finally accepting depression as a real illness, understanding my limits and testing my strengths, I have been able to be in far more control of my own life than ever before. I’m no longer looking for the answers. I tackled my bulimia and turned it on its head. I’m kinder to myself and accept that sometimes I have bad days and that’s okay. I’m no longer running a race at a speed set by someone else. I’m running at my own pace, on my own track.

I feel empowered today and I am stronger than I have ever been because I acknowledge depression and sometimes it’s not ‘all good’, and that is okay.

I stopped all medication years ago. Each day and every feeling is an experience that I analyse and learn from. A bad day rolls around and I have anxiety, I can observe those feelings and look for key triggers that may have set off those feelings and vice versa on a good day. This isn’t to discourage medication as it is essential for some people, but if you’re able to accept that it’s actually okay to not feel okay, you give yourself a whole new power that you may not have realised that you had.

 

Is Everyone In My Life A Narcissist?

Is it just me, or are you seeing endless articles with big warning signs about staying clear of toxic people? Headings like ‘Beware Of The Narcissist. How Not to Fall Into Their Trap!’ 

It’s everywhere. Toxic people are labelled like poisonous spiders waiting to suck the life out of their next victim. 

At first, I was on high alert. I was analysing those close to me ready to spot a sign of this horrid creature. All of a sudden, someone close to me would show a self-absorbed sign and I was ready for the door! However, after a while, I found these traits in almost everyone –  including myself! I was left questioning…   are we all just a bunch of narcissists? 

Basically, anyone who is self-centred enough to a degree that seems they lack empathy for another and with a delusion of grandeur is considered narcissistic or someone with narcissistic tendencies. Yes, I am aware there are varying degrees and some people literally are lacking full empathy and have cruel natures. Let’s rule that small handful out. I am talking about your average self-centred prick who would tick most narcissistic traits but would generally be able to function in society. These people don’t torture for fun, but they justify their bad actions because somewhere in there, they believe should be able to bend the rules. They seem to believe they are an exception. 

We’re in the 21st century where social media creates a need for instant gratification based on a form of trivial and false validation and the GEN Y babies have been taught they can be anything in the world they want as they deserve only the best life filled with happiness and rainbows. 

BUT (and I hate to be the bringer of bad news), life isn’t all happiness and rainbows, you CAN’T be anything you want without hard work and some headstrong dedication. Just because your Mum said you deserve only the best doesn’t mean that you are the best and can treat your partner and friends as if they are commodities placed only on this earth only for YOUR use. You’re not going to have it all handed on a plate AND have all the benefits of the wisdom and experience that stem from true success. 

So, what are we left with? A community of depressed, angry and let down “narcissists” who constantly compare their lives to their peers,  live through ideologies, seek validation through ‘Likes’ and wonder why life hasn’t gone the way they were told it would. They can also treat their partners, parents and friends like crap, leaning on them to pick up the pieces of this mess – zero responsibility is taken because they’ve never had to be responsible for anything in their lives. 

These are the “victims” or at least they believe they are. Everyone and everything that doesn’t see just how great they are is a fault and created their disappointment. 

On the other hand, as our world likes to divide humans into categories and square it off with a label we now have this horrible huge collection of selfish beings dubbed “Narcissists”, “Toxic People”, “Psychos” and so on. These name stick and to this society of people who generally just need some strong guidance and role models, the boxes divide for something that isn’t actually their fault, to begin with. 

What a complicated mess! The solution I can see in this matter is to ditch the labels and stop trying to box everyone. That’s not who or what we are. You can have a bit of self-centred attitude without being a narcissist, just as you can be sullen without having depression. Every condition under the sun is now diagnosed and put into a category. What’s wrong with being a mix-up? I know that’s what I am. 

The sooner we accept our generation’s weakness and identify it for what it is, an illusion, the sooner the red carpet is pulled from beneath our feet and we’re left to walk on the cold hard concrete that generations before us built. 

Bring on the school of hard knocks! 

The Key Formula To Complete Happiness

Many of us spend our entire lives searching for happiness and never find it. We look for it in the strangest places. We get married or wait for that magical proposal that’s going to make all our distress disappear. We change our careers, thinking the answers are hidden in our 9 to 5. We consume material possessions and promote our daily activities across social media to prove a superficial pointless point. All of these are ideas that we have learnt, giving us a perception of what we think will bring us happiness.

I have searched for happiness in each and every one of those options above. I’ve exhausted them. I can tell you from experience if you’re searching for happiness in any form that isn’t coming from within, you’re not going to find it. I know we’ve all heard that before. But what does it actually mean?

True happiness has a pretty simple formula. The sum is: Gratitude + Acceptance – Expectations = Happiness. Here’s a quick breakdown.

Gratitude 

Gratitude is simply appreciation for what is currently in your life. Whether you say so or not, there is always something to be grateful for. It just comes down to your perspective. Are you going through a rough patch? Have you experienced heartache? You’re gaining growth and equipping yourself with better life tools.

Gratitude is essential to happiness and it’s proven to work. Psychological research has found that those who are thankful for what is in their lives live a better quality of life. This includes stronger immune systems, reduction of stress and better social relationships. Gratitude raises the bar on your whole existence.

If you begin each day with gratitude, you’re pushing out positive vibes and lifting the vibrations within you and others around you. Whatever you put out, you attract.

How do you practise gratitude? I highly recommend participating in 30 days of gratitude challenge. It is as it sounds, writing down, documenting and acknowledging what you’re grateful for 30 days. It’s guaranteed to pick you up and get the ball rolling for higher vibes.

Acceptance

Acceptance is kind of like the egg in the cake that holds it all together. What I love about acceptance is it makes all the tough parts in life manageable. You may not like a current situation and it may be out of your control. If you beat yourself up and keep battling, you only become exhausted and create turbulence in your mind. Acceptance allows you to put things into perspective so you can harness the tools you need to raise the platform. It’s okay to want to change a circumstance but accept that things are as they need to be right now and some time may be required.

To find acceptance it’s really about convincing your mind with affirmations. Strong and positive statements to say you accept what currently is and that you trust any challenge is necessary for your development and journey.

Click on this link for a list of positive affirmations you could incorporate into a daily routine.

Expectations

Expectations is the killer of happiness. If you expect something, you’re usually leaning on another to provide you with a certain feeling or give you a result. Often the person you lean on will not always act as we have expected. What does this create? Negativity and this will destroy many relationships.

In relationship form, it’s important to have boundaries of what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour but limit expecting so much from the other person. Embrace one another’s individuality and communicate with this in mind.

On a personal level, expectations create an ‘in the future’ environment and you’re not living in the here and now. If happiness is in your checkout basket, leave expectations behind!

Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be. (11)

How To Really Help Someone With An Eating Disorder

Note:While there is no quick fix solution for an eating disorder, I aim to offer advice based on my experience. I have moved from an individual who battled with Anorexia and Bulimia to being a mother who understands the concerns of parents or friends. I’m not a medical professional; all I can offer you is knowledge from my research and personal experience. 

Eating disorders can be so difficult to understand, particularly for those involved with the sufferer. It seems like an unnecessary, destructive path that makes no sense. Why can’t they just eat normally? Why do they care so much about their weight? Watching someone self-sabotage with an eating disorder is a helpless and devastating time. Worldwide, there are 70 million victims and according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in every 5 women will likely struggle with an eating disorder during her lifetime. 

Bulimia, anorexia, binge eating and other eating disorders are usually signs of a deeper underlying problem and are not always about weight or the food itself. Although this could sometimes be a contributor, the habit of weight loss (can be enough manifest it deeper). Could indicate something deeper is involved. An eating disorder also does not indicate that victims are self-focused either;  it’s usually caused by emotional and stress-related issues. 

Everyone’s situation is different so there isn’t a unified answer to why eating disorders happen. It could arise from reasons such as bullying, emotional stress, genetics, abuse, high-stress environments and so on. What is clear, however, is that body image and low self-esteem goes hand in hand, causing complications in other aspects of lives such as decision-making, relationships and careers. 

It is important to identify the key triggers for the disorder but beware, it doesn’t become a blaming game and this includes blaming yourself. If there are triggers that stand out, always approach your loved one in a non-judgmental way or seek advice from a professional. Here are some tips to help you from the outside, to understand a bit more of what’s going on on the inside. The aim is to help you communicate and step forward with your loved one through this time 

IT DOESN’T ALWAYS START OUT ABOUT FOOD 

As mentioned above, eating disorders usually have little to do with food and are signs of deeper underlying problems that as much as you want to help, you might not always be able to. It may be the need to control something in their life when they are feeling out of control in other areas due to emotional stress. 

As food becomes the visible issue of the disorder, it is important you keep a level-headed approach around meal times. Forcing your loved one to eat and pointing out their abnormal habits around food is only going to put them back up and result in a communication shut down towards you. 

As hard as it may be, patience and understanding are essential. Try not to discuss food, image, weight or dieting. They’re already aware of their body image, and as an eating disorder is usually about control, you can’t be seen to take that away from them. Do reassure them of your concern and love for them, but most importantly, make sure you respect your loved one’s privacy. There’s a lot of guilt and shame attached to an eating disorder, so when you do communicate, talk privately and avoid any statements such as “You should just eat properly”. You need to be the rock right now and your stability will help their recovery. There are forums online where you can anonymously chat with others in your situation or professionals who are willing to support and help. 

BUILD THE COMMUNICATION PLATFORM 

Another piece of advice to build your communication platform is by giving your loved one compliments on who they are and great things they have done. 

Building communication can be done in many ways. My advice is to try to give their stressed mind a break from their disorder by finding out goals they would like to achieve, places they would like to travel to or challenges that interest them. This can be made into a goal building session, where each of you writes down your top goals to achieve and actions you can make towards them that week. Start with small goals that can be achieved in the short term and build from there. Together, piece out the actions you need to take to make them a reality. Each week, get together at the same time and review your actions success. Then, of course, repeat and repeat again. At first, overcoming the eating disorder may not be an open goal for your loved one, but the foundation of goal setting and action planning will begin to set in, so when they’re ready to overcome their disorder, they will have a platform to model. 

INTRODUCE A FOCUS SHIFT 

The focus shift should incorporate some goals that are fun and not just for practicality. By doing this, it helps to shift your loved ones focus and of course, yours. Get out and do something crazy, wild or new together! While it’s not always easy getting your loved one to listen or do things with you – when they get there, it will be fun or at least new! 

There are endless options to try: bungee jumping, outdoor adventure, travelling, language classes, etc. Do something where you can’t help but change your state – even though it’s temporary, this will build up trust in your relationship and enable communication between you. 

UNDERSTANDING THE EATING DISORDER BRAIN (EDB) 

The eating disorder brain is not a reasonable one and even though from the outside you can clearly see it is a destructive unnecessary path, to someone with the disorder it’s sometimes seen as the only way and logic is thrown out the window. The disorder is deeply justified within themselves and they may not even be aware of it. 

It’s usually uncomfortable or painful emotions driving the eating disorders. They restrict food as a way to control their lives. Quoted from Help Guide “ Overeating temporarily soothes sadness, anger, or loneliness. Purging is used to combat feelings of helplessness and self-loathing. Over time, people with eating disorders lose the ability to see themselves objectively and obsessions over food and weight come to dominate everything else in life” 

When dealing with the EDB, communication should always be at a level where you are not attacking it or threatening it, instead try and understand it. Show empathy and show them that you care. “What you’re going through must be hard, how can I help you?” Let them talk about what they’re going through and don’t undermine or simplify their problems. If they resist initially, don’t get frustrated, just give them space and remember to be patient. Just let them know you’re there and you’re on their level in a not judgemental way. 

DON’T TALK ABOUT IMAGE 

As mentioned briefly before, avoid commenting on looks and anything image based. You might have an opinion on how your loved one looks and that the weight loss is making them less attractive, too thin etc. This kind of advice is dangerous as the self-esteem has already taken a knock in the first place and image has become the forefront of their disorder. Make it a rule not to discuss bodies or images about them, yourself or anyone else. Poor ‘self-talk- should be banned for all homes with adolescents. 

FINAL NOTE 

Last but not least, don’t blame yourself. Like I mentioned earlier, there is no quick fix for an eating disorder. Parents think is it something I could have prevented, what can I do to fix it? An eating disorder is a lot more complex. Your best tool to use is building your communication with your loved one by coming from a non-threatening place on their level. 

As a girl who had these disorders: My battle lasted over a decade and it was not an easy road. It shifted from years of anorexia to years of bulimia. (On average. 50% of anorexics follow-on to bulimia.) I can’t put it down to one thing that changed it for me, but surrounding myself with good people who loved me gave me the motivation to say enough is enough and I made a choice. Becoming a mum was also a driving force as I could only imagine how I would feel if they learned those habits from me. What role model would I be to them? 

From a mother now who has two beautiful daughters, as hard as it may be, you must keep your head high. I know it’s not easy. My mum and I sometimes talk about what she has gone through too now that I have recovered and I can see how hard it was for her. 

I know sometimes you’re scared and you’re wondering what you did wrong. Don’t blame yourself. Look around at the world our youth are forced to grow up in, a world you can’t protect them from. Advertising, media …, it’s all very confusing for a young person. The pressure to be what is so-called ‘beautiful’ and to fit a one-size fits all mould. 

Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go, but I believe with the right care and assistance, we can build and rebuild the broken pieces. 

Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be. (8)