If you are questioning the seriousness of anxiety, depression, or both, it’s important for you to SAY something to someone…a family member, a friend, someone you work with. And it would be even better for you to reach out to a psychologist, counselor, minister, a resource where you work. However being ABLE to talk about what’s gong on sometimes feels too difficult, even scary. Some worry “others will think there’s something wrong with me.” But try to keep this in mind….talking is the BEGINNING of feeling even just a little bit better. TALKING is like “metabolizing” the feelings…mentally and emotionally “chewing them up”…providing some beginning relief. Starting to talk doesn’t fix anything, but it begins a process that will lead to feeling better and eventually finding solutions. Truly!
But if talking just simply feels too risky, and to many it does, write about your feelings. Grab a note book and “talk to the paper”… it helps. And as you start to reflect on paper, try rating your level of anxiety and/or depression. Use a scale of 1 to 10 with the number 10 representing the extreme of what you feel. Reflect on your anxiety and pick a number that feels representative of your feelings. Then do the same with your level of depression. Hold on to the numbers so you can go back and reflect again later to look for shifts and changes.
Now try writing in some detail. Make a list of anxious feelings; then a list of depressed feelings. Write about your feelings, thoughts, ideas, names of people or situations you are struggling with. In OTHER WORDS, write about anything that comes into your mind. AND if you feel it helps to address some of what you feel to a certain person, just imagine you are talking to that person “on paper.” Remember if you need to, you can shred everything later. The issue is getting it out of your head and on to the paper.
The next step is to review what you’ve written for “thought distortions.” Words or phrases like: “It’s awful, it’s terrible, and I can’t stand it! It’s impossible to fix it!” These are examples of words/statements that exaggerate, amplify, intensify or generally distort the basic facts that are ALREADY CHALLENGING.
For example: “I’m struggling in my marriage/relationship and I don’t know what to do” is a serious statement. But a “struggle” actually has the potential to be worked through and healed. But when the thoughts include distortions like: “There is no way out of this terrible mess; I’ll never survive. He/she will never understand or forgive me”…..these are distortions. They create both anxiety and depression over and above the already challenging reality. Most important — distortions or exaggerations have the power to push you AWAY from wanting to SAY ANYTHING AT ALL! YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TO JUST SHUT DOWN when distortions run through your mind.
Because our minds are typically filled with “distortions” it can be challenging to get yourself to think as clearly as you need to. That’s the reason seeing some of your thoughts on paper can help. And the BOTTOM LINE: Often the level of anxiety or depression can LESSEN a great deal when we back up and examine, and state, first on paper, the reality rather than the distortion.
After you’ve written for a while, reflect on your anxiety/depression levels again. There might be a change in intensity. If not, take that as a sign that talking to someone is truly a good idea. And remember this as well: our physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual symptoms are trying to get us to pay attention. When we ignore one of the messages/symptoms, it sometimes intensifies…meaning? Your overall system tries, with good intention, to get you to pay attention, and is capable of escalating when ignored! A helpful message turns into a more troubling one when ignored long enough.
It’s also important to remember that some level of fear/anxiety and sadness and depression is quite NORMAL in a time of crisis. Look for escalation in what you feel before you scare yourself about anxious or depressed thoughts. AND if you can nudge yourself, please talk and write.
And if you need to reach out to me, check my website for information — drlindalmoore.com. On the website you can look for and read some of the blogs on the topics and feelings that trouble you. And remember there are professional people in every community who want to help….and in this challenging health crisis we all face, you can hopefully find resources readily available in your community.
Take good care of yourself. You deserve to feel better!