Tag Archives: Mental Health

Strategies to Face the Unthinkable: When a Spouse is Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s

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The moment a loved one receives the terrifying diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, difficult changes are on the horizon. I can think of nothing more daunting than to be a spouse facing these challenges. The supporting partner must navigate relationship changes, safety issues, as well as medical and financial decisions. At the same time, they are left to grieve the relationship they once knew.

Life will soon be inexplicably changed forever. The partner, now altered by this disease, will likely exhibit challenging behaviors and unpredictable personality changes. It is a difficult road full of unthinkable demands for the one providing care. A new reality requiring a tremendous amount of support. Following are suggestions for those facing this tragedy. Continue reading

VOD: Twin Brother Asks Santa to Save His Sister From Bullying

Screen shot 2013-10-07 at 11.15.25 PMAre you already thinking about what you want for Christmas? When 8-year old Ryan’s mom asked him and his twin sister to write their letters to Santa early (so she could get a head start on saving up for it) the only thing Ryan asked Santa for was to stop the kids at school bullying Amber. “She doesn’t do anything to them,” he says before adding “I’ve been praying for it to stop but God is busy so he needs your help.”

His sister is overweight and suffers from a few mental health issues, their mother admits to “Good Morning America.” So the kids at school taunt her to get her to do different things. “They call me fat, and stupid, and hideous,” the little girl confesses to cameras in one heart breaking part of the video. To make things worse she’s admitted to her mom she sometimes wishes she could die to make it stop.

Luckily for Amber, she has a family that loves her unconditionally and reaches out for her benefit. Her mom had a meeting with the school principal to see about stopping the bullying, and “Good Morning America” surprised Amber with one early Christmas miracle thanks to her brother Ryan’s good will.

Warning: This video will absolutely cause tears, but is definitely worth it.

Share this video if you know of any special child being bullied. What do you think of Ryan’s selfless request for his sister? Tell us in the comments below! 

How to Choose Real and Lasting Happiness

shutterstock_93400051Have you ever wondered why lasting happiness seems to elude so many of us? At times it can seem like we’re trying to find a brass ring in a field of hay. We try so very hard at being the best we can and still it seems to be so elusive. What’s missing here? I think that it’s safe to say that it won’t be found in materialism, at least not the enduring type of happiness we’re in search of. And according to divorce rates it isn’t to be found in someone else.

Where does that leave us folks? Yup, you got it. Happiness begins with us. Each and every one of us is the source for our emotions. Happiness is truly a responsibility and only we can ultimately be held accountable for our own.

So how can we begin to create lasting happiness? Well let’s start by talking about what takes it away. Are you ready for this? Here’s the culprit: attachment. And what is attachment? It’s a belief or idea that we hold in our minds about how things should be, and we base these ideas on past experiences. The great news though is that we can change any belief by making a conscious decision. It’s the most empowering thing you can do for yourself! Let’s look at an example.

How many times have we gone to a department store or mall only to encounter a surly employee? Now most of us go into these places expecting a certain level of service. But guess what? Not every person you encounter is going to be able to uphold your standard of expectation. So when our expectations aren’t met, we react. Reaction is the thief that attempts to steal away our happiness! You can decide to release expectation in any circumstance. Now that’s empowerment! Because the moment you do that, you now have relinquished the authority from anyone else to take it (happiness) away from you.

The other thing about happiness is this: it’s a choice. We don’t have to wait until some future event to happen or to get the dream car to be happy. It can be chosen moment by moment. It begins with a thought. You can choose happiness. When you begin to choose it for yourself, you’ll discover that life will start sending you more and more reasons to be happy. It has a domino effect. Like attracts like. Just some food for thought. Be happy.

Here is a video from Deepak Chopra on the key to lasting happiness:

 

Originally published May 2011

How Do We Become Strong And Confident From Within?

jana and the surf

First, be one with yourself. Accept yourself. Love yourself. Society conditions, educates, and “civilizes” each of us in such a way that we begin to condemn ourselves. For example, society states that you should not be sad. You should be happy. If your truth is that you are sad, you repress the truth, and become something you are not; you become phony. This phony side of you is what society accepts. A division is created within yourself.

Psychological pain exists because you are divided, at war within yourself. As a result, life becomes complicated. When you lose touch with your inner truth, and are living from a divided self, pulled this way and that, by your desire to please and be accepted by others, you find yourself  lost, isolated, and deeply unhappy. You create challenges, adversity, and difficulties to keep yourself distracted and to   prove to yourself that you are worthy.
If, however, you are able to live your sadness with total authenticity, the division disappears.

For example: you are sad; that is the truth of this moment. But your conditioned mind says: “You have to be happy. Smile! What will people think of you?”

Here is the problem: you pretend, you act, you repress the truth. The phony becomes the ideal. How can you know, and love yourself, if you don’t accept yourself?

Live your sadness in total authenticity, and you will be surprised. A miraculous door opens in your being, because the division disappears. Sadness is there and there is no question of any ideal to be anything else. There is no effort, no conflict, no war. “I am simply this” and there is relaxation. And in that relaxation is grace, and joy.

Psychological pain exists because you are divided. Pain means division, and joy means no-division. You might be thinking: how can feeling my sadness bring joy? It looks paradoxical, but it is true. Try it. However, please note: accepting your sadness with an agenda to feel joy, is not going to work. Joy arises through your authentic expression of sadness.

Joy is a by-product of being authentic. Joy is a natural consequence of being united with your sadness, because it is your truth, in this moment. In the next moment you may be angry: accept that too. And the next moment you may be something else: accept that too.

Live moment to moment, with acceptance, without any division, and self-love, self-worth, self-confidence arise within you, naturally, and automatically.

Drop all ideals of how you should be, and accept who you are, in each moment. The journey of self-acceptance starts with becoming aware of your feelings, and allowing yourself to feel your feelings. We are human. Feeling is a part of the human experience.

Get used to feeling because feeling is to LIVE, feeling is to be ALIVE. When  uncomfortable feelings arise: allow, experience and accept. On the other side of your sadness, hurt, and despair is your magnificent, brilliant, luminous spirit, which is not damaged. Your spirit is love, and when aligned with your authenticity, guides your life with grace, and ease.

Accepting yourself, warts an’ all,  helps you become strong and confident from within, so that no matter what other people think or say, you are deeply rooted in your own self-worth. Your feelings are the key. Love is always waiting on the other side. The only thing blocking you from receiving more love is your resistance to feeling your feelings.

Are you thinking: I don’t want to feel because I don’t want to be hurt any more?
 I understand. I went through this very same experience.  As I allowed myself to start feeling, something wonderful happened. I began to feel more love,  to laugh, and enjoy my life more. I was  liberated  from a prison of pain and opened up to more self-love, self-worth, and self-confidence, AND  to receiving more love from others.

Inner strength and confidence are an inside job. When you get to the point where you can accept yourself, the need for challenges, adversity, and complications, just falls away, because you don’t need to prove your worth any more to yourself.

Meditation: Accept Yourself– 4 minutes



Benefits: In the very experiencing of your feelings, a spaciousness is created, and miracles can occur. Trust that, even when you feel miserable, on the other side of the misery, is love. Our natural state is love. All we have to do is accept who we are, in any given moment, and love is there.

Start gently, with compassion for yourself.

Sit,or lie down, whichever is most comfortable for your body.

Breathe, relax your body, open your palms upwards, in a receptive posture.

Allow your feelings, whatever they are, without judging, condemning or criticizing yourself.

Accept what is happening, in each moment, without wanting it to be different. When you fight what is, you make it worse. You are the way you are: accept yourself with joy, with gratitude.

I look forward to your comments.

Envy as a Catalyst for Change (Part 2)

139378542_825107ffa3Click here to read Part 1!

Once you recognize envy for what it is, use it as a catalyst for change. Figure out exactly what it is you envy your friend for that you lack. Maybe it’s as simple as needing a little excitement in your life or maybe it’s the beginning of acknowledging the need for a real, substantive change that makes the day into night. It’s up to you to process, fertilize and transform your envy into the fuel that propels positive change or the blissful acceptance and appreciation that demonstrate that you are truly becoming the person you admire most.

Jealousy is a bit harder to use for your own enlightenment but perhaps that much more important for you to understand and take control of turning the tables. It’s not always going to work: Your bestie’s engagement ring is going to be hard to stomach if the love of your life just broke up with you any way you look at it. But it can be a useful exercise in figuring out exactly why you are so soured. Start by asking yourself some tough questions.

If you are feeling jealous it’s because you lost something. But what exactly did you lose? Each instance of jealousy is merely a stimulus for you to examine your life, and while Plato’s words suggested the unexamined life is not worth living, the over-examined life may not be the way you want to live either. Assuming your friend isn’t marrying your ex, you’re not really losing anything tangible.

The truth is what you have lost is an idea – about yourself, be it about your own desirability or your (perhaps totally unrealistic) previous vision of your future. Whatever it is, go ahead and figure out how you can regain what you actually lost…not the man but the love you felt. Chances are if you and Mr. or Mrs. Wonderful broke up before you could go the distance down the aisle it’s because those things weren’t really on offer in the first place. So maybe you didn’t actually lose anything, and the jealousy and envy provided an opportunity for a productive new future… one in which you actually know what you need and want.

Jealousy is often a reaction to what cognitive behavioral therapists refer to as projecting the future. You see your friend happy and you predict –irrationally, that you will never be that happy. Remind yourself that you are not, in fact, clairvoyant, and your friend’s happiness can actually add to your own, and that your thought pattern can use a readjustment to see potential, not pain.

Of course, not all envy can be turned on its head but the truth is, not all envy is painful or even negative. In some cases, you can not only use your envy but also enjoy it. Think about it. Is there anyone you hate more than Gwyneth Paltrow, with her Vegenaise and her handmade this and that and her smug and perfect skinny, blond, rich everything?

Still, the majority of what you hate is not hate at all. It’s envy but the fun kind, the kind you and your friends can giggle about and yet still, in the back of your subconscious mind, recognize that there’s a decent quinoa recipe on her Web site you could probably pull off, and you could go to the gym or prioritize what the jealousy and envy brought so clearly to your mind. So thank you, Gwyneth. We may hate you – or really, just envy you – but you are making us better despite yourself.

Often, of course, it’s not that easy. Envy can eat at you. Jealousy can indeed become a monstrous force, a dark green cloud that throws a pall over moments that should by all rights add to your happiness, not slice a blade through it. The feeling that the grass is forever greener over the hill you can’t climb needs to be replaced with climbing lessons or gardening lessons so that you get what you want instead of nagging dissatisfaction.

But the truth is, the monster is not that ferocious. Just by recognizing it you have sapped its strength, turned it docile, made it into your pet, to be taught and tamed and ultimately to make yourself stronger by serving your needs and wants…now that you know what they are. The grass you fertilize may become the envy of the neighborhood. Then walk magnanimously over to the other side of the street …. and teach your neighbor how to do the same thing.

Brave Teenager’s Manifesto on Depression and Why We Need to Talk About It

DISTRESS

Kevin Breel has been living two lives for years. In one, he’s a smart, accomplished young man with friends and family who love him. In the other, he is someone who suffers from depression, and has for the better part of six years.

This may come as a shock, Kevin says, to the people who know him. After all, on the surface his life is great. Everything is fine; everything is going well. But underneath the surface, he “struggles intensely” with a condition that many of us know all to well and yet no one wants to talk about. Why is this?

Depression is stigmatized in our culture, Kevin says, and yet it is a massive issue. According to the World Health Organization, one person in the world dies by suicide every 40 seconds. Worldwide suicide rates have increased 60% in the last 45 years, and it is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10-24. On top of that, suicide attempts are 20 times more frequent than actual suicides, which means there is a staggering number of people in the world who are hurting, suffering, and desperately needing help.

Kevin uses a powerful analogy: When you break your arm, everyone runs over to sign your cast. When you say you’re depressed, everyone runs in the other direction. This has created a world in which we don’t understand mental health, we don’t understand our emotions, and we certainly don’t understand depression. Watch Kevin’s poignant TEDx talk:

In order to heal our hearts and our communities, Kevin entreats that we speak up, speak out, and learn to love ourselves. In the spirit of Suicide Prevention week, let’s not waste a minute to reach out to our fellow humans and spread the love.

Have you or someone you know suffered from depression? We would be honored for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Suicide Prevention Week: Depression – Shedding Light on the Darkness (Part 2)

98831359_49ede3af3bClick here to read Part 1!

Rebalancing yourself in the face of depression can take several forms:

  • Be aware that you are depressed and seek help.
  • Treat your body well, including exercise.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Get enough sleep, meaning a minimum of 8 hours a night.
  • Address situations that would make anyone sad, such as the wrong job, a bad relationship, normal grief, and serious loss. Don’t passively wait for time to heal your wounds.
  • Regain a sense of control.
  • Claim your sense of self – depressed women in particular may show a pattern of giving away too much of themselves in a relationship, leading to a sense of weakness and low self-esteem.
  • Examine your reactions to difficult situations. You will often find that reacting with helplessness, passivity, retreating inside, and turning passive lie at the root of your depressed state.
  • Spend time with people who give you a reason to feel alive and vibrant. Avoid people who share your negative responses and attitudes. Depression in some sense is contagious.
  • Rely to a minimum on antidepressants and apply your main efforts to other therapies. Pills should be as short-term as possible. They work best in removing the top layer of sadness so that you have a clear space to address the real underlying issues.
  • Talk about your problems and share your feelings with those who can listen with empathy and offer positive steps.
  • Make friends with someone who has recovered from depression or is handling the condition well.
  • Find a wise person who can help you to undo your most negative beliefs by showing you that life has other, better possibilities.

Because everything on this list requires a choice, bringing yourself back into balance means that you are aware enough to make decisions and have the ability to put them into practice. Quite often depressed people feel too helpless and hopeless to face the right choices, in which case outside help is needed, meaning a therapist or counselor who specializes in depression.

Here’s a general picture of how to make a plan for your own healing.

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, works as well as medication for many people. It may be used alone or in combination with other forms of treatment. Studies have shown that psychotherapy can cause changes in brain function similar to those produced by medications. Focused, goal-oriented forms of therapy such as cognitive-behavior therapy appear to be the most effective in treating depression.

Diet may play a part in protecting against depression. Mediterranean countries have low rates of depression compared to countries farther to the north—and it isn’t just because they get more sunlight or have a more relaxed way of life. One large-scale study tracked almost 3,500 people living in London for 5 years and found that those who ate a Mediterranean diet were 30% less likely to develop depression. Researchers speculate that the foods in the Mediterranean diet may act synergistically together. Olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish are rich in omega-3 and other unsaturated fatty acids, and fresh fruits and vegetables contain flavonoids and phytochemicals that are full of antioxidants and folates (B vitamins).

Aerobic exercise is a very effective for depression. It’s been shown that moderate aerobic exercise done just 30 minutes a day, three times a week, can reduce or eliminate symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression and can help with severe depression.

It’s well known that exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals (which function as neurotransmitters). Less well known is the startling effect of exercise on the structure of your brain. Exercise stimulates the creation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus, your brain’s center of learning and memory, so that it actually increases in size. This is especially relevant because depression, unless countered with effective therapy, causes the hippocampus to shrink in size. Exercise has also been shown to raise levels of serotonin and norepinephrine and to multiply the number of dendrite connections in neurons.

Yoga has been shown to lessen stress and anxiety and promote feelings of well-being. Communication between your body and your mind is a two-way street. Certain yogic practices can signal the brain that it’s all right to relax and prompt the parasympathetic nervous system to initiate the relaxation response. For instance, slow, deep, conscious breathing is also a vital element of yogic practice. This form of breathing is very effective in prompting the relaxation response to counter elevated levels of stress hormones. Someone with depression might be advised to practice “heart-opening” postures that elongate their thoracic spine. They may be told to stand with their shoulder blades drawn together so that their lungs are lifted and they are able to breathe more freely. An important component of yoga is paying close attention to what’s going on in the body at all times and locating and releasing any areas of tension. Yoga should ideally be practiced with the guidance of an experienced teacher.

Meditation can be a useful treatment for both stress and mild-to-moderate depression. Numerous studies have examined the effects of mindfulness meditation, designed to focus the meditator’s attention on the present moment. One study measured electrical activity in the brain found increased activity in the left frontal lobe during mindfulness meditation. Activity in this area of the brain is associated with lower anxiety and a more positive emotional state. Subsequently, the researchers tested both a group that hadn’t meditated as well as the meditators for immune function. They did this by measuring the level of antibodies they produced in response to a flu vaccine. The meditators had a significantly greater reaction, which indicates they had better immune function.

I know that the easiest solution is to pop a pill, and in this country powerful forces back up the promise that drugs are the answer. Keep in mind that antidepressants only alleviate symptoms, and that in the long run couch therapy has proven just as effective in changing the brain responses associated with depression. The real goal should be to rebalance your life, gain control over the disorder, understand who you are, and elevate your vision of possibilities for yourself. All of that is harder than opening a pill bottle, but every positive choice leads to real healing and a much better life in the future.

 

For more information go to deepakchopra.com

Follow Deepak on Twitter

PHOTO (cc): Flickr  / madamepsychosis

Originally published October 2011

Suicide Prevention Week: Depression – Shedding Light on the Darkness

It’s not news that depression has become a kind of invisible epidemic, afflicting millions of people. We live at a time when depression is approached as a disease. That has a good side. Depressed people are not judged as weak or self-indulgent, as if they only need to try harder to lift themselves out of their sadness. Yet depression, for all the publicity surrounding it, remains mysterious, and those who suffer from it tend to hide their condition – the medical model hasn’t removed a sense of shame. When you’re in the throes of depression, it’s hard to escape the feeling that you are a failure and that the future is hopeless.

Before considering how to handle depression, let’s ask the most basic question: Are you depressed? The bad side of the medical model arises when people rush to be medicated because they don’t like how they feel. Doctors barely bother to get a correct diagnosis, because the easiest thing to do –and the thing that patients demand – is to write a prescription.

Let’s see if we can get beyond this knee-jerk reaction.

Becoming sad or blue isn’t a sure sign of depression. Life brings difficulties that we respond to with a wide range of normal emotions: sadness, anxiety, resignation, grief, defeated acceptance, helplessness. Moods are cyclical, and if these feelings are your response to a tough event, they will subside on their own in time. If they linger, however, and there seems to be no definite cause or trigger, such as losing your job or the death of a loved one, depression is accepted as the conventional diagnosis.

Depression isn’t one disorder, and even though an array of antidepressants have been thrown at the problem, the basic cause for depression remains unknown. For a diagnosis of major depression, which is more serious than mild to moderate depression, at least five of the following symptoms must be present during the same 2-week period..

  • Depressed mood (feeling sad or empty; being tearful)
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting, or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too little or too much)
  • Slowing of thoughts and physical movements
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or specific plan for committing suicide

If you can count five or more of these as being present, know that your list must contain “depressed mood” or “diminished interest or pleasure” before you’d be considered medically depressed. We’ve come to recognize different kinds of depression that fit certain circumstances:

  • Dysthymia is mild, chronic depression. It must present for at least 2 years for a diagnosis of dysthymia.
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that generally arises as the days grow shorter in the autumn and winter.
  • Postpartum depression begins after a woman has given birth and may get worse as time goes on.

Even though no one knows exactly what causes depression, it is clearly a state of internal imbalance. Balance is essential for the healthy functioning of both your body and your mind. The upsetting factors that make it more likely you will get depression form a long list: genetic predisposition, being female, death or loss of loved one, major life events (even happy ones, like a graduation), other mental illnesses, substance abuse, childhood trauma, certain medications, serious illness, and personal problems such as financial troubles. What these things have in common is that they disrupt the normal balancing mechanisms of mind and body. A treatment that aims at restoring balance therefore makes the most sense, and in tomorrow’s post I will outline measures for rebalancing.

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!

 

For more information go to deepakchopra.com

Follow Deepak on Twitter

PHOTO (cc): Flickr  / madamepsychosis

Originally published October 2011

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