Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"In the Moment " Tips for Coping with Depression - Part 2: Engage the Body

Today’s post focuses on strategies that engage the body in coping with depression. Here I'm suggesting that you take advantage of the awesome design of the physical and energy bodies to deal with distress by sneaking in the 'back door' - accessing issues through the body instead of the mind.

1. Honor Body Basics. By this I mean tend to all the basic things human bodies need to function properly. Have a Basics checklist:

  • Eat something nutritious
  • Take your vitamins/supplements
  • Breathe intentionally
  • Drink water - lots of it
  • Move - go for a walk, even 10 minutes
  • Rest - take a power nap
  • Rejuvenate: get some fresh air and sunshine

2. Outwit the Mind. Simple mind-body techniques go a long way toward shifting your energy relatively quickly. The biggest reason I love these techniques is that sometimes I'm just not able to directly or easily 'change my thoughts.' I first have to somehow shift feelings of heaviness and hopelessness, so intertwined with my thoughts. Some of my favorites include:

+ Smile. Make yourself smile, or half-smile, even though you don't feel like it. The body thinks you're happy and produces happy hormones.

Thump. Do the Three Thumps exercise described by Donna Eden in her book Energy Medicine: thump assertively several times each at your collarbones, breast bone, and the bottom of your ribs. This wakes up and stimulates your immune system and overall energy flow.

+ Chop. “Karate chop”: Bang the sides of your hands together repeatedly while speaking aloud ‘even though’ statements such as:

“Even though I feel hopeless, I totally and completely accept myself.”
“Even though I feel like a failure, I totally and completely accept myself.”
“Even though I don’t have a job right now, I totally and completely accept myself.”

This maneuver activates potent energy meridians while unhooking deeply held, subconscious beliefs. The karate chop is often used as an initial step in various tapping techniques, but is also very helpful by itself. One thought leads to the next, and the next, often guiding you to whatever underlying dynamic is really troubling you. And, as Louise Hay says in her book You Can Heal Your Life, the root of all dis-ease boils down to lack of self-love and self-acceptance. This exercise begins to re-write this most fundamental inner script.

+ Tap. Other mind-body techniques include the Rapid Relaxer from the book Instant Emotional Healing (Pratt and Lambrou), and any variation of the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). These techniques involve tapping on specific sequences of energy meridian points associated with strong emotions to interrupt unproductive negative loops. As described in my previous post entitled Why Aren’t We All Tapping, they often produce seemingly miraculous results.

3. Come into the Now. Each of us has favorite ways to come into this moment, and out of the viscious cycle of self-defeating thoughts. The idea here is to engage the senses to distract, self-soothe and transcend despair one moment at a time. It is extremely useful to maintain a tried-and-true list of your personal favorites to pull out and use in times of depression. Some examples include:

* listening to music;
* taking a bath, especially with essential oils;
* doing yoga, dancing, jogging, walking – any form of movement;
* meditating or praying;
* practicing gratitude;
* journaling;
* reading or listening to something inspiring;
* getting energy work or massage (one of my favorites
J )

Pay attention to what works for you, and practice, practice, practice doing whatever it takes to bring yourself into this moment.

Monday, August 11, 2008

"In the Moment " Tips for Coping with Depression - Part 1: Get a Grip

Coping with depression isn't a neat, clean process. I'm reminded of the advice I was given as a new mother trying to calm an inconsolable baby: try 10 things and the 11th might work. Same applies here. If one thing doesn't work, keep trying, as well as combining various tools and techniques until you've somehow reached a better place.

The following tips are my best attempt to share what I've learned and what's worked for me in coping with episodes of depression. Today’s entry includes Part 1: three basic tips focused on getting a grip. Part 2 will address engaging the body in dealing with depression, and Part 3 will offer strategies aimed at taking control of the mind.

Stop, Drop, and Get Mindful. Mindfulness is the crucial first step that allows access all other suggestions. It is imperative while in the swirl of despair that you stop long enough to get in touch with the 'observer' part of yourself, drop into your body and into the moment, and very intentionally choose to be mindful. Mindfulness means "just noticing" - without judgment or attachment - the facts of the situation: what you're feeling, what you're thinking, what events occurred, what the circumstances are. Mindfulness is like pushing the pause button on your experience long enough to gain some perspective and be intentional about how to respond.

Once you have gotten still, you can ask yourself what do I need? What works for me? What help or tools can I access?

2. Breathe. The importance and effectiveness of intentional breathing cannot be overstated. Breathing deeply provides instant access to calming energy, to our deeper spirit, and to significant relief. It also distracts the mind, at least temporarily. It only takes a couple intentional breaths to relax deeply and completely, and shift stuck energy. Try reading this out loud slowly:

Quiet the breath.
Soften the breath.
Slow it down.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Let the breath just trickle down through all the cells of your body.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.

(doesn't that feel great?!)

3. Vent!
Others may disagree about the value of venting, but I've found that until you unload your baggage one way or another it's difficult to move on. Venting is a means of both validating your very real feelings and simultaneously expelling all that negative energy. I find journaling or emailing very effective ways to vent - I just get on a roll and it all spills out. The great thing about email is that you don't ever have to actually hit 'send', but spilling it as if you're telling someone makes the writing easy and is very cathartic. Actually telling someone works, too, but sometimes putting it in writing helps to really highlight repeating themes and patterns which you can begin to address more effectively in the bigger scheme of things.