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8 Reminders for a Great School Year

Decrease stress and drama with these steps.

Wait, what? It’s already time for school to start? It seems like just yesterday that kids were doing the happy dance as they got off the bus and headed home for summer break.

Are you ready to kick off a great school year with less stress and as little drama as possible?

Here are eight reminders to help parents set the stage for a great year:

  1. It’s okay to say “no” when commitments get too demanding. Many child experts warn parents about the stress children experience when they participate in too many activities. Ask yourself, “Are we in control of our schedule, or does it control us?”
  1. Saying “no” can be for you, too. On top of children being stressed, parents really have to consider their own bandwidth when it comes to school, work and additional commitments. A stressed-out, tired parent who is always at the end of their rope typically leads to more drama. Ask yourself, “Will my family benefit more from this activity or from an unstressed parent?”
  1. Routines and structure at home will help everyone. Having consistency at home is best for children and parents alike. When you set a bedtime, morning, and getting home routine, you’ll actually decrease stress for children (and adults) because they know what to expect. Ask your family, “What’s one routine we can start that will help everyone after getting home from school?”
  1. Intentional evenings create smooth mornings. Things like choosing an outfit, packing lunches, getting backpacks ready with completed homework inside and signing papers before bedtime can make the morning better. Anything you (and your kids) can do the night before to make the morning less hectic is a serious plus! Ask your family, “What’s one thing we can all be responsible for every evening to help our mornings go better?”
  1. Let your children do what they are capable of doing for themselves. Start by giving each child a short list of responsibilities as their contribution to the family. It’s tempting to do things yourself because it’s faster or easier. But it’s good to develop the habit of delegating stuff you know they can handle. When you face the temptation to jump in and take over a task, tell yourself,  “Giving room for independence will have a bigger impact on my child than if we’re late.”
  1. You will always be one of your child’s teachers. As a parent, you’ll always be your child’s first teacher. But the job isn’t over just because they’re in school! From homework help to life skills, try to be active in your child’s education. Ask your child, “What is one subject you feel a little nervous about? Is there anything I can do to help support you in that subject?”
  1. Technology is a tool. Technology is almost always a huge part of education, so setting screen limits and technology boundaries can be tricky! You can find helpful information as you seek to make decisions about this at Families Managing Media. Ask your child’s teacher, “What role does technology play in the classroom? And what are the expectations for technology at home?”
  1. Regular family meetings can help keep communication open. Set a weekly time for the family to all sit down together – even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Talk about what’s on deck in the coming week for everyone, and see if anybody is responsible for taking food or materials to school. Plan meal prep for the week, or discuss anything important for everybody to know. Ask your family, “What are two things you’d like us to talk about more often?”

Getting into the swing of things as the school year starts doesn’t have to take till fall break! Make time for your family to connect and communicate – it’s one of the most effective ways to decrease stress and drama. Here’s to a stress-free and great start to the school year for your family!

Other blogs:

8 Ways to Manage Family Time – First Things First

My Spouse and I Disagree About Parenting – First Things First

How Technology Affects Families – First Things First

What to Do When You Feel Compassion Fatigue

Here are some ways to take the proper steps to care for yourself as you care for others.

Have you ever felt like you’ve cared so much you just can’t anymore? Like you’re exhausted from taking care of others? Even if you’ve never heard of compassion fatigue, you may be familiar with what it is. Maybe more familiar than you’d like.

What is compassion fatigue?

Psychologist Charles Figley says it’s “a state of exhaustion and dysfunction, biologically, physiologically and emotionally, as a result of prolonged exposure to compassion stress.”

In essence, it’s feeling like you have no more empathy to give.

Compassion fatigue is most often associated with health care workers, first responders, law enforcement, therapists and at-home caregivers. But we’re all at risk of feeling this way.

Let’s face it: Life can be downright draining. 

Caring for sick or aging loved ones may be wearing you out. Perhaps you’re tired of giving grace to your spouse. Maybe you don’t feel like you have anything left to give your kids. The non-stop flow of information about the suffering around the world can overwhelm you. All these things (and more) can contribute to a feeling of emotional exhaustion.

The root of compassion fatigue is in caring for others.

It would be easy to confuse compassion fatigue with burnout, but they’re a bit different. According to the American Institute of Stress, burnout is marked by emotional exhaustion and withdrawal associated with cumulative stress at work. [Read https://firstthings.org/7-ways-to-prevent-burnout/.]

Compassion fatigue occurs because of the emotional strain of supporting those who are suffering from something traumatic. It is rooted in caring for others. It’s not just a workplace thing, but it can co-exist with burnout, especially for those in service professions.

Look for these symptoms.

Some symptoms of compassion fatigue are:

  • Physical and psychological exhaustion
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, or powerless
  • A decreased sense of personal and professional accomplishment
  • A change in your worldview or spirituality
  • Drastic shifts in mood
  • A dramatic withdrawal from social connections

Since compassion fatigue affects your mental and physical health, it also impacts the quality of your relationships with your partner, children, friends, and co-workers.

Remember, caring for yourself properly can help you care effectively for others. So, if (or when) you find that you’ve run out of empathy to give, understanding how to combat those feelings can help you move forward. 

Fighting Compassion Fatigue

Psychiatrist Yazhini Srivathsal, M.D., offers a few ways to combat compassion fatigue:

  • Follow general self-care guidelines – get plenty of sleep, eat well, exercise regularly, and nurture social relationships.
  • Practice gratitude and being engaged in the present moment.
  • Avoid information overload. If too much negative information stresses you out, take steps to decrease how much you consume.
  • Engage in activities that rejuvenate you.
  • Understand that pain and suffering are normal, and you have no control over them.
  • Focus on what you can control, like your thoughts and feelings. You may not be able to control what happens around you or to you, but you can control how you react.
  • If needed, seek professional help.

Helping others is an important component of healthy relationships. Your partner, your children, and your loved ones depend on you, and that can be overwhelming. When you feel compassion fatigue begins to set in, take the proper steps to care for yourself. If you see these signs in your loved ones, stepping in and offering to walk alongside them can alleviate some of their load.

Other helpful blogs:

What to Do When Everything Feels Hopeless – First Things First

How to Stay Motivated as a Parent – First Things First

How to Stay Motivated During Marriage Challenges – First Things First

5 Benefits of Being Thankful – First Things First

Sources:

Compassion Fatigue – The American Institute of Stress

Are You Suffering from Compassion Fatigue? | Psychology Today

Compassion Fatigue: Symptoms To Look For

Are you experiencing compassion fatigue?

Compassion Fatigue: Watch for These Warning Signs | Banner

How To Avoid Stress This Holiday Season

These things can help you navigate the season with more peace.

Holidays are wonderful times of the year, but it’s easy to get caught up in trying to make each one the “best” holiday ever. A lot of holiday stress comes from that expectation. Although we all want to avoid holiday stress, it usually shows up in different ways. It may look like wanting to purchase the perfect gifts, decorating your home immaculately, or preparing the food that everyone loves. Let’s face it, stress happens! But there are some ways you can try to avoid it.

Here are some tips for avoiding stress and bringing “happy” back to the holidays.

Create and utilize healthy boundaries.

Boundaries are limits or rules that we set for ourselves or others, and keeping those can help minimize holiday stress. You don’t have to attend every party you are invited to. Respecting the boundary of your time allows you to decide what activities you want to participate in during the holidays. When you embrace your money boundary, you choose what gifts to purchase and how much to spend. Healthy holiday boundaries can save time and strengthen relationships.

Create a schedule that works for you.

Schedules can often go by the wayside during the holiday season. We become overwhelmed with things to do. When thinking about your holiday calendar, remember to keep your daily routines on it. Making time to exercise, get enough rest, and give yourself time for a break when you need it is essential.

Examine your priorities.

Many people try to do it all for the holidays. However, it’s hard to do it all and keep your wits about you. Take time to examine what matters most to you by asking yourself some questions:

What’s the most essential part of the holiday to me?

What memories do I want to make this year?

What am I unwilling to do?

Once you’re aware of your priorities, you get to choose and adapt. For example, let’s say your focus is spending time with your family. You all have a tradition of going to hear your local symphony orchestra play, but you don’t have to do that because you always have. Maybe this year, your family has a holiday bake-off instead. The main thing is that your family spends time together, not how.

Presence, not perfection.

Media has created so much pressure around the holidays. And sometimes we do it to ourselves.

Perfect tree, perfectly decorated. 

Perfect gifts for family and friends. 

You have to host the perfect holiday party with the ideal menu. 

Do you feel the stress yet? 

If your priority is spending time with your family, it’s presence, not perfection, that matters. I’m not saying you shouldn’t put up a tree, host a party or get gifts if you want to. I am saying that prioritizing your family means creating memories and moments by being there. You can choose to slow down and be present in the moment. Don’t miss your moments.

Choose to see the positive. 

Your perspective on the holidays can determine how much holiday stress impacts you. You already know that holiday stress will occur, but you get to choose whether you see the holidays as a half-full or half-empty glass. Your perspective allows you to be willing and open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Whether your holidays are a great time with family or you’re glad it’s over because you don’t have to see some of “those people” until next year depends on your perspective. 

The holidays can be times of fun, family, food, and sharing life together. They can also be filled with overwhelming expectations. Deciding how you spend your holidays NOW can help you navigate the season with less stress. I hope you’ll be able to look back and feel good about the time with your family – which is what the holidays are really about.

Other blogs:

How to Connect at Family Mealtimes

DIY Date Night: Tree Traditions

5 Ways to Build Teamwork in Your Family

My wife and I have been together since high school, and she was just offered a new position at work. Yay!! We’re so excited. But there was only one catch: the offer required that she take and pass a standardized test. Three things trigger her anxiety more than anything else: doctors, spiders, and tests. When any of these three is a possibility, she can’t sleep and loses her appetite. We’ve always known this was an issue for her, but we work through it. One step at a time.

Her anxiety before these events made me curious. Is this normal or is it a sign of something more? Is she ok? I mean, I get anxious about some things, but not to that extent. So, I did a little digging. In the process, I came across some interesting articles and research regarding something called “anticipatory anxiety.”

What is anticipatory anxiety?

It sounds clinical, but anticipatory anxiety comes from fear or worries about things that could happen — situations, events, or experiences that may lie ahead. It can stem from past experiences, but it doesn’t always. My wife’s anxiety with tests or spiders doesn’t stem from past trauma. The anxiety with doctors? Now that’s a different story. 

Some symptoms may include things like hyperventilating, chest pain, difficulty concentrating and feeling apprehensive. It can also show up as sleep issues, loss of appetite, emotional numbness, and trouble managing emotions. 

Aren’t we all a little anxious about the future?

Sure! It’s normal for all of us to feel anxious about the future from time to time. Tests, moving, big trips, new jobs, and major medical procedures are just a few examples of things that cause anxiety. It’s not unusual to worry over these things, but there’s a BIG difference between being worried and having anticipatory anxiety.

Let’s take a look at some differences. A 2015 study looked at “phasic fear” (fear that precedes a threat you can predict) and anticipatory anxiety. Phasic fear lasts for a short time. On the other hand, anticipatory anxiety lasts longer and is a reaction to an unpredictable threat. Each fear activates different parts of the brain. The researchers found that we all experience different levels of anticipatory anxiety. BUT if a person suffers from an anxiety disorder, anticipatory anxiety can go well beyond what most people experience. Anticipatory anxiety can be life-limiting for those who suffer from panic disorder, PTSD, or a phobia.

An American Psychological Association survey in March 2021 found that 50% of participants reported anxiety in the current reentry phase of the pandemic. We’re probably all a little anxious right now as the world reopens and kids return to school (in some areas of the country for the first time since March 2020). We might even worry about a COVID recurrence or future pandemics.

So, how do we cope with anticipatory anxiety?

Anticipatory anxiety can put stress on personal relationships because you’re distracted by what-ifs. It can be life-limiting as you try to avoid things you’re afraid of. But you can cope with anticipatory anxiety and work to overcome it. 

We can also help others cope by paying attention to their actions and emotions. Maybe you have a loved one with anticipatory anxiety. If so, you can encourage them to use the coping mechanisms listed below. A strong support system that offers love, grace, and encouragement can make a world of difference.

Here are some methods to help you cope:

Practicing a relaxation response: Deep breathing, guided imagery, or meditation are a few examples. Find something that calms you.

Self-talk: Talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend who’s having a similar experience. Self-compassion can make you more mindful. It can also motivate you to recognize and face your fears.

Healthy distractions: Take a walk, listen to music, engage in your favorite hobby, or exercise.

Challenge your anxious thoughts: Ask yourself if you’re being realistic. If you aren’t, challenge those thoughts with realistic ones.

Take action: Sometimes, the best solution is to confront whatever makes you anxious. This may mean taking small steps toward conquering your fears. You don’t have to tackle it all at once.

So, my wife faced her test anxiety. She studied diligently. The kids and I cheered her on and offered words of support and encouragement. We created an environment at home to lessen her anxiety as the time to take her test got closer. And she passed her test. With that, the fear is gone… until the next test. But, when it comes to spiders, we’ve got a long road ahead. [Read How To Help Your Spouse Deal With Anxiety]

Overcoming anticipatory anxiety takes work. But, reining in your fears will be helpful for you and your family. If you think your anticipatory anxiety could be a sign of something more, consult with a therapist or counselor for guidance. 

Sources:

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/behavioural-and-cognitive-psychotherapy/article/abs/anticipatory-anxiety-as-a-function-of-panic-attacks-and-panicrelated-selfefficacy-an-ambulatory-assessment-study-in-panic-disorder/F74B866DB57404E82BAB423D9F48689F

https://www.nature.com/articles/nrn3524

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/da.22382

https://www.jneurosci.org/content/33/26/10607

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2021/one-year-pandemic-stress

5 Ways Kids Can Affect Your Marriage (& What to Do About It)

Reduce the stress and increase your connection with these tips.

Me: “Ok, what’s on the calendar this week?” 

My wife: “We have two baseball games. I have to work late Tuesday. You have a PTA meeting Wednesday morning. Our friends invited us to dinner on Friday.”

Me: “Ok, I have four runs scheduled. I forgot I have a dentist’s appointment on Tuesday afternoon. I’ll move that so I can pick up the kids. Oh yeah, don’t forget we have a tournament this weekend.”

We look at each other. “Do you remember life before kids? What happened?”

Does this conversation sound familiar?

Being a parent is amazing, but it’s tough. Life changes with kids, and each stage of parenting brings new challenges. There’s a lot to balance. 

Let’s be real: kids affect your marriage. Here are a few common ways and what to do about it:

1. Self-care often takes a backseat for parents.

Self-care, what’s that? Both of my elementary-age kids have schedules, activities, homework, projects, and social lives. (Wait, when did their social lives replace mine?) It can be hard to carve out alone time, but you need it, and so does your marriage. 

So, what can I do about it? Schedule self-care just like you schedule everything else. Don’t just wait for time to run, go to the gym, do yoga, or whatever activity you prefer. Make sure your partner schedules it, too. You’re a team, and team members need to be healthy (mentally, physically, and emotionally) for the relationship to be healthy. 

2. You may disagree about parenting styles.

My wife doesn’t parent as I do, and it’s frustrating at times. Ever been there? It happens. We all enter marriage with a belief system about how to parent, and it’s often based on how we were parented. Couples talk about if they want to have kids, how many, and when. But they don’t talk about how to parent. And that can lead to frustration.

So, what can I do about it? It starts with communication. If you aren’t on the same page about parenting, talk about it and try to come to a resolution. Express what you both believe and why. Don’t accuse; instead, work toward compromise. If you both want what’s best for your child, you’ll find a solution together.

3. Date night can get put on the back burner.

Dating is crucial to a healthy marriage, and kids can affect your ability to do that. Before kids, there may have been elaborate date nights, expensive dinners, flowers, and gifts. Now, you don’t feel like there’s time to think about dating. And what do you do with the kids? You don’t have the time to not have a date night, because they keep you connected and pursuing each other. Date nights just may look different. 

So, what can I do about it? Set realistic expectations. Date nights may not be what they once were, but they can be memorable. Prioritize date nights and put them on the calendar. Try once a month and then progress to once every other week. Dream big: Make your goal once a week. Your marriage (and your kids) will thank you.

4. Your sex life may change.

Early on in parenting, your sex life often takes a backseat because babies make life interesting. But you’d expect it to bounce back once you’re past the toddler years. For many, it does, but it isn’t always consistent. And kids always find a way to interrupt. Sex can become just another item on the to-do list, and that’s no fun. Being intimate with your partner is a worthwhile priority for your marriage. 

So, what can I do about it? If you don’t want to sacrifice physical intimacy due to exhaustion, busyness, or stress, schedule sex. Yep, have an honest conversation about your sex life. Agree on how often and when. Plan how to handle potential interruptions. Scheduled sex may seem boring, but it creates anticipation and excitement.

5. Marriage satisfaction may decrease…

Kids and all the issues I mentioned above can affect your marriage by adding stress to your marriage. When stress mounts in your relationship, satisfaction decreases. You’re not alone in feeling this way. Research published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that many parents with kids experience reduced satisfaction, too. 

So, what can I do about it? Here are a few ideas:

  • Have social support—parents, friends, family, and neighbors. Get help when you need it.
  • Practice self-care. Make sure you’re getting sleep, eating well, exercising, and pursuing hobbies.
  • Find and maintain balance. Balance work with play, your needs with your kids’ and partner’s needs, and time.
  • Focus on your mindset—practice gratitude and positivity. Have fun and be patient.

Yes, being a parent is challenging, but it’s so rewarding. Enjoy it, make memories, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Be intentional about having a healthy marriage, because it’s the best thing for you and your kids. 

Other helpful blogs and resources: 

Are You Setting a Good Example of Self-Care for Your Family?

My Spouse and I Disagree About Parenting

How to Have More Sex in Marriage

DOWNLOAD: 30 Days of Gratitude and Love

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Is Stress Killing Your Relationship?

Find ways to manage stress before it does major relationship damage.

Are you overwhelmed with deadlines at work, kids in school, the weekly to-do list, health concerns, drama on social media? Is stress taking a toll on your relationship? Do you find yourself taking out your stress on your significant other? If so, you’re not alone. 

Stress, handled wrongly, hurts relationships. It’s a reality. Often it’s the small stressors that build up and do damage. 

We all face daily stresses. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use a magic wand and remove all the stress in our lives? The reality is we have to learn to manage stress, not let stress manage us.

Here’s how to tell if stress is impacting your relationship:

Stressed out people are more withdrawn. 

When you’re stressed, you may pull away from those you love or be less affectionate. Maybe you’re working longer hours, spending more time alone, or camping out in front of the TV as a way of escaping all you have to deal with. Isolating yourself can damage your relationship.

Stressed out people see the worst in others. 

When we’re stressed, it’s easy to allow the small things to overwhelm us. A minor thing your spouse does, like not picking up their shoes, suddenly becomes a sign of disrespect and a lack of appreciation. Maybe they just forgot their shoes. But stress is blurring your vision and you see them doing it out of spite.

Stress leads to exhaustion. 

Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. Whether the tension stems from work, kids, or our calendars, it bleeds over into all aspects of our lives. Have you ever noticed that when you’re mentally exhausted, you just want to sleep? Stress takes a toll on our bodies. This can leave our spouse (and others) feeling neglected.

Stress makes us irritable. 

Who wants to be around grumpy people? The longer the stress lasts, the crankier you get. This can lead to arguments and hurtful words. 

[How Not to Blow Up On Your Kids When You’re Stressed Out: The Timeout is a great read if you’ve got kids]

Stress causes us to put other things in front of our relationship. 

Technology is a fabulous tool but can also be a source of stress. Endless work texts or emails can interrupt time with your spouse. When we are stressed due to work or other obligations, it becomes easy to prioritize those above our relationship.

So, if you find yourself resonating with these common signs of stress…

Make a plan…when you aren’t stressed out. 

If both of you are in a place of little stress, plan how you will deal with stress once it increases. Help to identify each other’s stressors and stress patterns. Look for ways to reduce stressors before they take over.

Reduce your stress. 

You can’t help your spouse if you can’t help yourself, so identify what reduces your stress. When I feel overwhelmed, I like to go for a run. It’s time to decompress, soak in the fresh air, and clear my mind. Maybe it’s exercise, music, or getting in nature. Communicate to your spouse what you need to do to reduce stress. Make sure you both have time to de-stress and refresh. (Read How Couples Can Help Each Other De-Stress and Improve Their Relationship)

Prioritize your relationship. 

You’re a team! Commit to each other and to ensuring that stress will not take over your relationship. Dr. Michael Mantell, an Advanced Behavior Coach, puts it this way: “Help each other remember you cannot control the uncontrollable, to always look for victory not defeat, to agree to set aside time to talk and be each other’s defense attorney, not prosecutor.”

Ask for help. 

Your partner can’t provide for all your needs. Putting that expectation on each other isn’t healthy. Sometimes we need help, whether that’s a trusted friend or a therapist. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Protecting your relationship must be the priority. 

Stress is a reality. You can’t make it go away, but you can manage stress so that it doesn’t kill your relationship. What will you do today to reduce stress in your life?

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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How to Protect Your Family’s Mental Health

These things can help when life seems to be out of control.

Nothing seems normal these days. Many people say, “I just keep pinching myself thinking I’ll wake up and this nightmare will be over.” Sometimes life can take a real toll on everyone – both physically and mentally. As you continue to navigate through these times, there are ways you can be intentional about protecting your family’s mental health.

For starters, it’s important to continually remind ourselves that when we’re going through something that’s very unusual, we remain in a heightened state of anxiety and stress that impacts our mental and physical health.

family's mental health

One thing that can help you regain your footing is to establish routines, rituals, and structure.

In times of high anxiety and stress, the consistency of routines and structure is soothing to everyone. 

Make your home a peaceful place—a refuge from all the craziness going on in the world.

Spend some time thinking about things you can do to create calm. Play calming music, light a lavender candle and let the sunlight in. Encourage your children to find a comfy spot where they can read or play with their toys.

Be self-aware.

Your children are like sponges. Whether you notice it or not, they’re watching your every move, your facial expressions and even listening to your conversations that don’t include them. They’re quick to pick up and take on your stress and anxiety. Have adult conversations out of the hearing range of your children. Be proactive in dealing with your emotions.

Be open and intentional about having conversations about things that are going on in your world.

Ask your children to tell you what they know or have heard. Use their information as a platform to affirm accurate information and correct inaccurate details. Assure them that your job is to make sure they are cared for and protected and you are doing that.

Exercise, getting enough rest and eating right are three essentials for protecting your family’s mental health.

This is like the trifecta right here! Walk as a family and insist that people get the rest they need. Involve everyone in creating fun, healthy meals.

Limit the amount of time you and your family members watch the news.

This one action can dramatically decrease the anxiety, stress, anger, fear and drama in your home. Mentally and emotionally, our brains and bodies aren’t meant to live in a constant state of stress, but that’s exactly what happens when we watch news nonstop.

Think of ways you can be helpful to others.

During difficult times, it’s easy to become focused on yourself and all that’s wrong with the world. A great way to combat this as a family is to look for ways to help others. Deliver food, do yard work, run errands, bake bread or cookies and share them with your neighbors. (Let your kids do a ring and run when they deliver. It can be your secret!)

Make play a priority.

Seriously. Play releases all the feel-good hormones that promote an overall sense of well-being. Heaven knows we could all use a triple dose of that right now. Ride bikes, go for a hike, play hide and seek, tag, kick the can, four square, hopscotch, double dutch jump rope or any other active game you can think of. Just get moving!

Remind yourself and your family members there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

This is hard and there are parts of dealing with life right now that are not fun, but together as a family, you can do hard things. When one person’s having a hard day, other family members can be encouraging and affirming to help them get through it. Having healthy relationships with each other is one of the best ways to protect your family’s mental health.

When parents model and lead using these strategies, children learn how to navigate through hard times in healthy ways. It shows you believe they have what it takes to keep going even when things get really challenging. This builds self-confidence and helps them learn how to think and be creative in the midst of change. 

A side note: if you feel like members of your family aren’t handling all that is going on well, don’t hesitate to seek help. Talk with their pediatrician and/or a counselor to seek guidance on other ways you can help them.

If you or someone you know is struggling and you need immediate assistance, you can find 24-hour help here:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Hotline: 800-662-HELP (4357)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988 or 800-273-TALK (8255)

Photo by Elly Fairytale from Pexels

Sometimes life just seems to be getting harder. For many, most days feel like slogging through thick fog and it’s really hard to see the road ahead. 

Perhaps you or someone you know is really struggling at the moment and you’re wondering if the sadness is due to a single life circumstance or if something bigger is going on like depression or some other mental health issue.

First, let me just say, you’re not alone! We’re living in a moment in time where everything—marriage, parenting, work, socializing with friends, even the most normal things—seem more difficult than they should be for many people.

Second, regardless of whether you or someone you care about is sad or dealing with something else, the good news is, help is available.

Sad? Depressed? How do you know the difference?

Glad you asked!

Feeling sad and down about things like job loss, finances, marital issues, a child giving you a run for your money, or a breakup is normal for a period of time. But, when you:

  • Can’t seem to shake those feelings and you begin to feel hopeless and desperate; 
  • It feels impossible to think clearly; 
  • Making a decision seems out of your reach;
  • Work is consistently challenging;
  • Things that used to bring you joy in life don’t anymore; 
  • Food doesn’t interest you or you are eating way more than normal; and 
  • You’re either not sleeping enough or you are sleeping all the time and still feel like you don’t get enough rest.

These are like blinking caution lights warning you something is not right. There are some things you might be able to do to help move you to a different place, though.

Here Are 5 Ways to Work Through Depression

1. Surround yourself with a supportive group of friends.

Not necessarily people who are experiencing the same thing you are, but people who seem to be mentally and emotionally healthy right now. Ask them to walk this road with you and help hold you accountable for changes you’re trying to make.

2. Create a new bedtime routine.

Lying in bed watching television or scrolling through social media doesn’t count as rest. Stop all screen time at least an hour before you plan to get some shut-eye. If silence makes it hard for you to sleep, download a white noise app or purchase a white noise machine. Maybe you could try a simple fan in your room. Don’t use your bed for anything other than sleeping… and well, those things that you typically do in bed (like sex). Otherwise, keep your bedroom as kind of a safe place where your body knows it’s time to relax and rest. 

3. Get moving.

Exercise has been shown to be one of the BEST ways to combat depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise releases feel-good hormones that can make you feel better about yourself. It also can help you get out of the negative thought cycle that feeds depression. Exercising on the regular can give you more confidence, it’s something you can do with others and it is a super positive way to cope with and manage depression. Don’t forget, being outside, getting enough vitamin D, drinking plenty of water, and fueling your body with healthy foods are all powerful weapons for fighting depression. 

4. Pay attention to how much news and negative information you take in every day. 

Remember, the motto for the newsroom is, “If it leads, it bleeds.” Their whole goal is to be sensational to draw you in. The more you are drawn in, the more it will affect you. It’s a vicious cycle. Your brain doesn’t know it’s the fifth time you’ve seen information about the plane crash, murder, latest political blunder, or car wreck. All of this impacts you mentally and physically whether you realize it or not. Put a time limit on how much news you watch. The same applies to social media.

5. Eliminate as much stress as possible.

Think through all you have on your plate. Is there anything you can let go of for a while to reduce the stress in your life? If you can’t let go of certain activities, can you ask others to help you? 

In addition to doing all of these things, be bold and ask for professional help. Plenty of counselors are providing telecounseling and Zoom sessions right now. If you don’t know where to look for help, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline is 1-800-662-4357. 

If you’re worried about someone you care about, don’t be afraid to step up and say, “I see you. How can I help?” Guiding them through all the above is a great place to start if they’re open to your support. 

Photo by Inzmam Khan from Pexels