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Blog: Ways to Help Yourself

Image of Ways to Help YourselfAn extreme situation can put additional pressure on your mental well-being. The current climate of health crisis and social unrest definitely qualifies, and in fact it has been well documented that disaster and other social trauma can lead to psychological distress.
 
You are not alone. Current research estimates three times as many Americans are experiencing signs of depression. Here are signs to look for as you self-evaluate:

  • If you find yourself feeling down or hopeless.
  • If you have lost interest in things that normally bring you joy.
  • If you’re low on energy or have trouble concentrating.
  • If self-harm even crosses your mind. 

You can stop yourself from spiraling into depression with lifestyle tweaks and techniques that help reduce stress, improve your mood and modify the complex factors which affect the biology of depression, including the millions and billions of chemical reactions that determine how you experience life.
 
Below are five things you can do in five minutes to improve your mood or perspective:
 
One: Breathe Deep.
 
Breath is vital to living. It should also be your first line of defense when you’re feel stressed or under pressure. Deep breathing can be done anyway and anytime. Here’s how to do it effectively: 

  1. Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down. Choose a spot where you won’t be disturbed. If sitting, keep your back straight and your feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes.
  2. Place one hand on your belly, just below your ribs. Place the other hand on your chest.
  3. Take a regular breath.
  4. Now take a slow, deep breath. Breathe in slowly through your nose. Pay attention as your belly swells up under your hand.
  5. Holding your breath, pause for a second or two.
  6. Slowly breathe out through your mouth. Pay attention as the hand on your belly goes in with the breath.
  7. Do this several times until you have a calming rhythm.
  8. Now add images to your breathing. As you inhale, imagine that the air you're breathing is spreading relaxation and calmness throughout your body.
  9. As you exhale, imagine that your breath is whooshing away stress and tension.
  10. Try to deep breathe until you feel relaxed and less stressed. Gradually work your way up to 15-20 minutes. 

Two: Take a Walk.
 
Walking (or any other form of exercise) elevates endorphins, which can increase your sense of calm and well-being.
 
Three: Daydream.
 
Daydreaming, or letting your mind wander, in the middle of a workday is often framed negatively. However, research indicates that taking a “micro-break” during a meeting or while engaged in a repetitive task to remember a family or romantic vacation or anticipate an upcoming milestone or achievement can benefit your emotions and improve your work performance.
 
Four: Share Kindness.
 
Research shows that learning and practicing loving kindness can profoundly affect your attitude, outlook and health. Reach out to a friend or family member with help, advice or a thoughtful gift.
 
Five: Find Quiet.
 
Finding a moment for quiet, or mindfulness, can help you put the brakes on your initial emotions or responses to a challenging situation, which might explain why meditation is the fastest growing health trend in America. Here’s a short meditation practice from Center for Healthy Living, “Calm in the Midst of Chaos.”
 
Help yourself with these five techniques whenever you feel the negative impact of stress or uncertainty and take an active role in your own mental health.
 
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If you think you need more involved care, teletherapy options like Betterhelp can offer many advantages and benefits for accessible counseling despite the pandemic.
 
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Depression and feelings of helplessness can often be signs of suicide risk. Educate yourself at our annual Northeast Wisconsin Suicide Prevention Summit, taking place virtually on Thursday, October 22. Presenters will address this topic from multi-faceted viewpoints. Learn more and register.
 
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RESOURCES:
Center for Suicide Awareness, “5 Minutes to Get Out of a Funk in a Quarantine House,” RanĂ©e Wright, MSN, RN
Harvard Health, “What Causes Depression?”
Mayo Clinic, “How Sharing Kindness Can Make You Healthier and Happier,” Mayo Clinic Staff
Psychology Today, “Why Daydreaming Can Improve Your Mental Health,” Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., January 29, 2019
Time, “Depression has Skyrocketed During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Study Says, Jamie Ducharme, September 4, 2020
WebMD, “How to Deep Breathe.”

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