Category: Depression

Free Download: Tips for Managing Loneliness

Loneliness comes up quite often for many people. Below is a list of the top 5 recommendations I discuss with my clients who want to address this complicated and difficult to manage feeling.

  1. Observe the feeling. To work on loneliness, you first have to know that’s the emotion you’re experiencing. When use the observe skill, we’re simply paying attention to the emotion that’s been triggered and not reacting. Just notice loneliness. Notice the urge you feel to be with others. Notice the pain that comes with it. Notice any thoughts, interpretations or perceptions that arise as a result.
  2. Honor the loneliness. Our emotions are here to tell us something. Loneliness is often here to tell us that we are missing or grieving connection. Connection is an inherent value for humans. It’s a pivotal trait that helped us humans evolve and stay safe. It makes absolute sense that this is one of the ailments after grief and loss of any sort. Pay attention to the loneliness and as if you were a child experiencing this pain, soothe yourself and honor that loneliness is a call for connection.
  3. Seek healthy connection. Since it’s human need to be connected to others, it’s perfectly ok to seek connection and companionship. My biggest recommendation is that you seek and develop healthy relationships. Focus on friendships and relationships that are healthy and good for you. This can include people with whom you have common interests, those who make your soul feel good, and where power and control are not an issue.
  4. Tolerate the loneliness. For those who want don’t want to depend on building connections with others just yet, I highly recommend to work on tolerating the loneliness when it comes up. Here you’ll be using skills 1-2 from above and deliberately watching it go up and down. You can use a 1-10 rating scale to check in with how strong the loneliness is. I really like this skill because it forces me to be aware of what’s going on with me physically (aching heart, rapid heartbeat, pain) and with my thoughts (I miss ____, I have no one).
  5. Nurture the connection with yourself. As you’re tolerating loneliness, you can this time to focus on solitary activities that bring you joy. You can use this skill to help you distract from the loneliness if it gets too high, and you can also use it as a way of building mastery of a certain skill you’d like to learn or develop. This is where a lot of people check out new hobbies and activities. Focus on new activities since the novelty of it can activate ‘feel-good’ brain centers and chemicals.

Check out this infographic with reminders. Feel free to download a free pdf here  , pin, link, or share with others!

 

*Disclosure: This is not meant to replace any professional relationship with a therapist or recommendations from your own therapist or medical professional.

 

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Your loved one is depressed. How to tell them about therapy

 

You’re sitting with your BFF (best friend forever) as she’s depressed, in tears and describing her extremely painful situation(s). You feel so much for her and also feel frozen. You don’t know what to do or say to make her feel better. All you know is you want her pain to end and don’t know how. 

This is an all too common scenario among those with close relationships. For us empaths (“How to know if you’re an empath“), it can be incredibly hard to sit with challenging emotions or a problem that we can’t “fix” (even if we are 1000% certain we know how to fix it).

So, what the heck do you say to someone who has a lot of pain and several problems that need solving? By now you all know that this is a therapist’s blog and I’m going to recommend that you encourage them to seek professional help with a therapist. You also know that your loved one would benefit from therapy (whether or not you’ve gone to therapy yourself). You know that these problems are obviously too big for you and he to carry alone. And perhaps you can feel the toll it’s taken on your relationship or even your own well-being as a loved one.

“So how do I tell my loved ones to get therapy for depression (or any other mental illness), without stigmatizing or offending them?”

I get this question by clients, other friends, family members and and even fellow therapists ALL. THE. TIME.

Below is my list of things to remember and ways to tell a loved one that they’re in need of professional help.

  1. Start with validating their emotions. Validation is a little like stating the obvious – which is why a lot of people skip it, but people who are depressed really need to feel like their voice is heard or struggle is being seen. This is where you can say things like:
    • You are in so much pain right now.
    • I know this is really hard for you.
    • “You went through something really traumatic. It makes sense that you’re in pain.”
    • “I’m so sorry you’re suffering like this.”
  2. Introducing the idea of a therapist.
    • “You deserve to have someone who is unbiased, non-judgmental and in your corner – on your side.”
    • “A therapist doesn’t have all the history you and I do.”
    • “A therapist has a lot more tools and training than I do to help you.”
    • (For my fellow therapists) “Even though I’m a therapist, I can’t be your therapist. I’m your sister/brother/friend/partner/wife/husband. My love is not professional. Ethically, I can’t be your therapist. My advice is biased — all full of love for you.”
    • If they say they’ve tried therapy before and it didn’t work, encourage them to try with another therapist. Not all therapists will be helpful or the right fit. They can definitely shop around until finding “the one” for this situation, in this moment (sometimes different issues require different expertise).
  3. Why it all matters. We all deserve unconditional compassion.
    • “You deserve to heal appropriately.”
    • “You deserve to feel free to express yourself.”
    • “You deserve to be free of your depression.”
    • “You deserve to work through this issue without fear of judgment or that people will get offended.”
    • “You deserve to self-care. You take care of so many other people. You need someone just for you.”
    • “You don’t have to be alone in your suffering. A therapist can help you hold it appropriately.”
  4. How to seek referrals
    • If your loved one has insurance, there is a ‘member services’ phone number on it (most are on the back). Ask for their mental health services department. I recommend talking to a live person to have them email a list of their providers that are close to the home or work (or the city the person wants to seek services in). They can then cross reference that list online by searching the therapist and a website.
    • You can also type in the search engine of your choice, “Therapist in (city)” or by zipcode.
    • psychologytoday.com is an online therapist directory that you can filter by location and insurance.
    • If your loved one is an adult you won’t be able to call a therapist for them. The person seeking services has to make the call and schedule their appointment
  5. Resources and gifts that inspire healing. I have a Resources page with a variety of books on different issues to heal from. I also wrote an article focused on Mental Health Gifts that inspire healing.
  6. What about you? Yes, YOU! As a friend or family member, it can be difficult to hold all this pain and responsibility alone. If you’re finding yourself in a lot of emotional crises with family or friends, it’s critical for you to get your own support too. You might be having a lot of guilt feelings or a high degree of expectation for how you help them. It’s hard sitting with uncertainty and pain. Feelings and core beliefs of helplessness contribute to burnout, stress and your own ideas of what it means to be a true friend/family member. Sort it out with someone who is trained to work with burnout, self-care, and families afflicted by mental illness. Family Connections is a great source of support for loved ones of Borderline Personality Disorder or Emotion Dysregulation in general. I was trained by them and have implemented this support group in Spanish at Harbor UCLA. It made all the difference in loved ones being able to place appropriate boundaries, self-care and understanding for their family members. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is another great resource to anyone who has been impacted by mental illness (individuals and friends/family members). Check out these posts I wrote about convincing ourselves to self-care and basic self-care practices. They were written for parents, but the message applies to anyone shouldering the responsibility of helping in general. Implement the #meforwe or self(care)ish message if it helps.

   

7. Crises. If you feel that your loved one is a danger to themselves or others, I strongly urge you to call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room. In Los Angeles County you can also call Department of Mental Health’s Access Hotline at (800) 854-7771 where you can speak to a mental health staff member and who can help with sending out the Psychiatric Mobile Response Team (PMRT) to your home to evaluate someone (wait times vary). Lots of police departments also have Mental Health Evaluations Teams that go out and conduct welfare checks to someone’s home and can also evaluate for a psychiatric hospitalization. Check with your local police station about this resource.

Lastly, I’d like to make myself available as a resource. After being trained in various family support models, I appreciate the love, struggle and compassion of family members. Feel free to contact me at info@sofiamendozalcsw.com to schedule a 15 minute consult to determine if you would benefit from therapy and support of your own.

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Self-Sabotage

A few weeks ago a colleague and I bonded over discussing Rumi, the 13th Century Persian Poet-Scholar. She has been studying Rumi with members of her Persian community and I have been introduced to his writings and poetry through my personal study on Acceptance and Healing. We (and millions of others) were drawn to Rumi’s words and poems because he captures the essence of emotions through several written gems. I call them gems because when I read them, they illuminate an experience in me that perhaps has been hiding under denial, pain, or masked by other emotions. Uncovering pain is also a gem to me because it highlights how much someone cares and how much their values mean to them.

Earlier this week, she lent me the book, “Silent Words” with hundreds of pages of poems and pieces by Rumi. I flipped through a few pages and found the following gem. “Fearfully, I was stealing from my own gold.” In the poem, Rumi is expressing his experience with doubting his wise friend and spiritual instructor, Shams. By doubting and challenging his wisdom, Rumi says, “Fearfully, I was stealing from my own gold.” It’s that cringe-worthy memory that shows up any time you realize, “‘so and so’ told me this would happen. ‘So and so’ was so right about this and I didn’t listen. The doctors told me this would happen, etc, etc.” I’m sure we could come up with hundreds of scenarios that get triggered by this gem. “Fearfully, I was stealing from my own gold.” I swear, the more times I say it and write it out, the more powerful it becomes. To me, this message and gem is about Self-Sabotage and how at times, we create barriers for the life we want to live.

I define Self-Sabotage as engaging in behaviors or thoughts that move us away from our goals, values, happiness, progress and ultimately, well-being. Giving in to negative thoughts and core beliefs also contribute greatly to Self-Sabotage. What’s important to know about giving in to deeply ingrained negative thoughts and core beliefs is that more times often than not, they are wildly inaccurate. We might have adopted a negative self view of ourselves as children or other painful experiences in which we might not have had a complete perspective, control, or facts and we internalize them as an absolute truth. Giving in to those thoughts and core beliefs takes away from our happiness. It’s stealing from our own gold!

Self-Sabotage and “stealing from your own gold” is also behavioral. For me, it entails those times in which I overeat in an unhealthy way. It entails crossing my own boundaries, such as overworking, over-committing, procrastination, or convincing myself that I don’t need exercise or a day off. I think any fellow workaholic can relate to this.

For others it might be not following a medication regimen, skipping out on doctor appointments, not meeting deadlines, or poor work performance. It means doing things that get in the way of self-care, progress or happiness.

The role of self-sabotage in relationships can be significant. It might look like an inability in trusting others (who are safe to trust), engaging in inappropriate, unbalanced or unhealthy relationships, having unhealthy boundaries, or even avoiding connections.

Stealing from your own gold also encompasses suppressing or over acting on emotions in an ineffective way, which can cause problems in your work, school, or home life. This might look like yelling or lashing out in the workplace; threatening others; not asking for help; or having unfair expectations of others — including loved ones co-workers, teachers, or the general public.  Engaging in such behaviors can cause problems for us in reaching our goals. It can impede 1) having a good relationship with our child’s teacher; 2) being evaluated well in our performance evaluations; 3) having a serene home environment.

One of my favorite sources of research and inspiration is this little cataloging website called Pinterest.com. When I did a search for self-sabotage it pulled up an overwhelming selection of quotes and messages. Among the best in describing self-sabotage were:

  • “Don’t stand in your own way.”
  • “Get off your but.”
  • “Self-sabotage is about wanting something so bad and making sure it doesn’t happen.”
  • “She didn’t know who would leave or stay. So she pushed them all away.”
  • “I’m afraid of what I’m doing to myself, but I can’t seem to stop.”
  • “Stop hurting yourself because you are angry at someone else.”
  • “Do not sabotage your new relationship with your old relationship’s poison.”
  • “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

Impressive and overwhelming list of quotes right? I know. They resonate with a feeling of dis-control that’s linked to hurtful experiences, and actions that we engaged in. I know.

So what do we do about self-sabotage? Below is a list of different recommendations and techniques that I have found to be extremely helpful in identifying self-sabotage and chipping away at it. By no means do I think that these are easy tasks. You should know that it can be a painful process in the beginning, especially if hurtful memories or trauma comes up for you. And some days might be better than others for you to be able to turn your cycle in the opposite direction.  However, please don’t underestimate yourself and your capacity for self-kindness and resilience. (*I also want to be clear that I recognize the role of systemic and societal barriers on our psychology and negative thought process. That conversation, however, is a much more complicated topic and post that, well, yes, I will have to write in the future. You have my word.)

Breaking the Cycle of Self-sabotage
  1. Recognize and acknowledge your self-sabotaging thoughts or behavior. This is a pivotal first step in making a change. Identify your behavior that is getting in the way of a goal you have for yourself.
  2. Observe the negative thoughts that are going through your mind. You can write them down if you want. Think about those one-liners that go through your mind as soon as you decide to go in the direction AWAY from your goal. What are you saying to yourself, about yourself, about others, the situation, the future?
  3. Challenge or evaluate these specific, situational thoughts. Think of evidence for and against it. Is there a more positive way in which you can think of this? Are you taking into consideration ALL perspectives? Are you being unfair with yourself? What would you be saying to yourself if you were being kinder? Or better, what would you tell someone close and who you love if they were in your shoes? Is the thought related to a fact? If it is, evaluate how HELPFUL or USEFUL  the this thought or fact is in your life? Just because it might be true, does not mean you have to adopt it and live your life according to it. Write the new, more positive, true and feel-good thoughts on a card, write in on your Notes app, or take a picture of it and look at it repeatedly for daily reminders. Make a pinterest board out of them (I swear, I’m not affiliated or get paid by Pinterest).
  4. Make a commitment to doing one thing, one action that’s in the direction of your goal. Even if it’s small. In fact, the smaller, the better because it’s more likely to be attainable.

These are small, yet meaningful steps that you can take to break the cycle of self-sabotage. If you’re finding yourself having a difficult time following these steps, go ahead and google ‘Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’ (or go to www.academyofct.org), or even on Amazon. There are tons of amazing self-help books on changing thoughts, feelings and behaviors — all related to defeating self-sabotage and negative thinking.

I think it’s only fair that I also share with your some quotes from Pinterest that to me, help with reversing the Cycle of Self-sabotage. Among my favorites are:

  • “Slay your stress monster”
  • “When you let go, we create space for better things to enter your life.”
  • “I will not feel deprived when I bypass junk food, I will feel empowered that I made a healthy choice”
  • “Remember that you are doing the best you can in THIS moment.”
  • “You are worthy, You are worthy of love, happiness and your own forgiveness.”

Feel free to follow me on Instagram @mendingrootstherapy for inspirational quotes and other musings on mental health and wellness.

Lastly, if you would like a free 15 minute consultation to discuss your situation and if you would benefit from individual therapy, feel free to email me at info@sofiamendozalcsw.com.

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