Thursday, April 21, 2016

Learning to smile again: Overcoming Depression and Anxiety

I've really been trying to educate myself and research anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress within the last few months. My counselor is really helping me and has been a wealth of knowledge and resources. She has given me books to read, printouts of online articles, and worksheets. We have read over and discussed several together during our sessions. I see her weekly.
At our last session, she suggested keeping a mood journal. We have discussed before, that I do in fact journal, but my journal has been my and the kid's daily happenings and memorable moments, my devotional, prayer, and Bible study, a few other things scattered here or there all combined. I have never dedicated a journal specifically for my mental illness journey or recorded my feelings and moods.I've always found writing to be therapeutic 
(hence why I blog lol) 
so I really loved this suggestion!

 Basically she suggested keeping a journal chronicling my illness,and that it will help me recover from depression, my anxiety, even my post traumatic stress and get in touch with my feelings. She also explained that it's an especially powerful tool to help me trace and monitor my trauma and feelings, that keeping a journal is proven to be an effective form of stress relief, as well. She instructed that I just write down my feelings and thoughts or when I notice a shift in mood (neutral to sad etc.) to write it down! List my external circumstances (what I'm doing, where, and with whom), and also list my internal circumstances (What was I thinking about, daydreaming, or remembering?). Then we can review it later together (if I'm comfortable, of course) and identify any patterns. 

Journaling is proven to be an effective form of stress relief.
 Suggesting that letting out our emotions through expressive writing will lead to a greater reduction in anxiety and depressive thoughts, or may reduce the amount of worrying we do, allowing us to sort out and clarify our thoughts and emotions,and let us reflect on our life's journey, by our looking back at past journal entries. It will give me time to reflect about my feelings and emotions so I can better understand them, providing an outlet for expressing difficult emotions ie: anger or frustration without hurting those I love. It could also be a way to release my negative thoughts and emotions so that I can move on to a happier state of mind. Basically I was to write whenever I "feel" like it. Just write whatever comes to mind. My hopes, fears, dreams, feelings, thoughts, ideas, frustrations, goals, ambitions, etc.

My counselor went on to discuss with me that a mood journal could ease my anxiety when I find myself in volatile situations or surroundings, or help me feel safe, that it could even reveal my accomplishments upon reflection, a way to gain insight into my thoughts and feelings, allowing me to dialogue with my psyche, especially the parts that seem frozen in time, allowing me to tap into deeper reserves of creativity and problem-solving, or I could get a flash of knowledge and awareness that haven't seen before! That sold me! Cha-ching! Sign me up, Mrs. Counselor!
Ultimately when one records their daily events and happenings, focusing on their reactions and perceptions to those events, forcing them "to-do", something! Sounded like a  good way to start coping with my depression! Quite possibly, the cheapest and most effective form of self-help, forcing me to be honest. Sharing my journal with my counselor or therapist will begin "real healing", by sharing my thoughts with her, I am accepting the idea that I can't do things alone. To get through my depression and trauma I NEED feedback! Which, in turn, will be beneficial for both my mental and physical health (studies show that it lowers blood pressure and can boost immune system, among other things) giving me an opportunity to nurture myself. Woohoo! I'm a nurturer or that sounded that bliss! Literally music to my hurting, ill, emotional, sad ears!
One of the handouts she gave me stated that writing about the significant people in my life, the peaks and valleys I have experienced through out my life, could give me give a sense of where I've been, am, and going. It also suggested for me to get comfortable, take a deep breath, write for 20 minutes without stopping. Envisioning myself and the beach (my relaxing, tranquil, favorite, happy place) will transport me to another time and place, removing me from my present anguish or grief, (or what I perceive to be grief. This is currently a "grey area" for me!) allowing me to distance myself from my life, taking me out of the context of everyday chaos! Yes! Loving it! Or I can choose to focus a 20 minute writing session on a specific problem or concern, that's reoccurring. Then detail what it is that worries or angers me, predict 3 different scenarios for what may happen next, list which one I like best and why? What role might I play in making each scenario come to pass?

I've also been jotting down Scriptures, phrases, quotes, etc. My first journal entry began on Saturday April 8, 2016. I've journaled every day since! It really is therapeutic! I can see it helping already. So I encourage any of you suffering from the debilitating disease of depression or anxiety to try this method of healing and restoration to health and happiness. I truly believe it is a journey. Please know I understand and I am here, so please message me if you ever need a listening ear. There is strength in numbers. Also, please seek a doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor, some type of professional trained in mental illness who can help you! It really is vital to your recovery to sanity. I tried for 8 years to do it on my own. I have been in counseling since March and I am already on a path to better coping, healing, and recovery. You can be too! It is never too late to start a new. Take it one day at a time. There is always hope. You WILL smile again!

Much love,


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