Last week I attended one online class about depression, how to recognise it, what kind of treatments are there and some general knowledge stuff. You know, like all of the free classes these days, it was more about selling their program, subscription and classes, and even if I don’t like this new advertising idea sometimes it gives valuable tips. And this one did. It raised one question that I couldn’t stop thinking about for a few days.
How can I help myself?
This question is not only about being depressed (although it can be used too), but I am talking more about helping yourself in general. How can you help yourself whenever you feel stuck, you feel sad, or angry. How can you help yourself when you don’t know what to do? How can you help yourself when you don’t understand why you feel one way or another? How can you help yourself when you feel that you need help?
Life is amazing because you never know what tomorrow will bring, but it can also be very scary and bring us to difficult or challenging periods in our lives. Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions, to say goodbye to a loved one, to get out of our comfort zone, or to burn the bridges and start new chapters. And that is ok.
But what to do when you do not feel that it is ok?
How can you help yourself?
Please note that I am not a medical professional and this blog is based on my own experiences and discoveries. I am very passionate about this subject and I gather everything that I learn about self-love and self-healing, but I can’t give you professional advice. If you feel that you need more help, please please please, contact professionals in your area.
And, is it really possible to help yourself?
The answer is yes, it is possible to help yourself. It is possible to get out of the bad mood, of sadness, anger, feeling lost, helpless, even treat the beginning or light for of depression (but, of course, it depends on how heavy it is).
BUT. It is important to remember that self-help might not work too. Even though the internet is full of information, it can’t replace the human being, known as a psychologist, therapist, counsellor, who dedicated years of learning and studying about the human mind, and how the brain works, and who can advise or create a personal program to healing according to what he notice in your thinking patterns and behaviour.
Helping yourself is a complex of different tools and actions that can be used to change your thoughts, feelings, emotions, behaviour, perception, life.
It is complex or various tools. There is no one magic pill for your worries to go away. It is a long process of discoveries, of highs and lows until you find what works for you. Because if Selma can use a high-intensity cardio-HIIT workout to sweat out her anger, it might not work for you. So it is important to try and see what works for you.
SO, how to help yourself?
1. Question your thoughts.
There is a famous proverb “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” You should read that again. This proverb says that the way we see and understand the world is based on our inner selves. And we are very complicated. Our thoughts, our perception, behaviour and attitudes were formed by the people we grew up with, the society and culture, laws, friends, relationships, nature, even experiences. Over the years we took little pieces of information and built a whole world inside of us. That inner world is the way you see things, and it is different from the way I see them. So what I want you to understand is that your thoughts are… just thoughts. I am not saying that what you think and what you feel is not important, has no value, and you should be ashamed or feel guilty of having them. No no! That is your reality and it is totally fine. But I want you to understand that what you think is not the truth. Your perception is not the truth, nor a lie. It’s just perception. And a good thing is that perceptions can be changed. If you are thinking that you are worthless – that is just your thoughts, it is not reality. If you think that you are a loser – it is just your thoughts, not a reality. If you think that you won’t ever find love – it is your thoughts, but not a reality. Do you get where I am going? This is why it is so important to question your thoughts. Am I really stupid? Am I really not worthy of love? Am I really happy here or just afraid of a change? Make yourself think a little bit differently, look at the situation from a different angle and look for a piece of counter-evidence. Is it really the truth?
2. Learn to step aside
One of the most powerful tools for me was learning to step aside from the thoughts and feelings that I have and look in the bigger picture. This tool isn’t minimizing your thoughts, feelings and emotions, but it helps to evaluate them more objectively. It’s a very similar tool to Questioning Your Thoughts, but I encourage you to imagine physically detaching from your worries. Sometimes we get too caught up or trapped in those thoughts or feelings, it seems like there is no way out, or “that’s the way it is”, but the bigger picture helps us to see that maybe it’s just a little err in the process, or that we are wrong and there is another way to think about it, make a different choice or even a bigger step or change a direction.
3. Remember you values
I don’t know about you, but for a bigger part of my life, I lived without values (I know, so rude!). I don’t know why I never heard about that, or why I never cared about it, but honestly, I never thought about how I want to live my life and what is important to me. I was just blindly following the crowd. And that was the main reason why I felt so confused and lost (not to mention all the other disturbances I developed). I listened to my parents, I followed the rules, I learned to be silent and good. I didn’t know who I am, what am I doing, why am I here. I was completely lost. I didn’t know what is life, how does it work, what I have to do. I didn’t have a voice. I was ashamed of my self, I had very low self-esteem, I was angry, I was depressed. What I learned is that what is important to you, might not be important to me and that is totally fine. If you want to open your own business and I don’t want to, or vice versa, it’s ok. If you want to marry and have kids and I want to be single and have five dogs or vice versa, it’s totally ok. With social media, it’s very easy to get lost in the lives of others and construct false beliefs about what we have to do to create a happy life. That why I encourage you to set your own values. Forget the world, forget other people and ask yourself what is important to YOU? Write down somewhere how do you want to live? What do you want to do? What do you love? Remember “Where the focus goes, energy flows” and whenever you start thinking or feeling bad, sad, angry, stuck, lost, unsure, etc, remind yourself what is important to you. Because it is your life, and it’s you are allowed to make it beautiful for yourself. (and bonus tip is that if you are in your own sunlight and shinning from within, you shine the light on those around you.
4. Identify the cause.
When you want to help yourself it is very important to understand the roots of it all. Why do you feel the way you feel? What is the reason for that? To help answer these questions and go to the root cause I would recommend using the “5 WHY” technique. Sakichi Toyoda, the Japanese industrialist, inventor, and founder of Toyota Industries, developed the 5 Whys technique in the 1930s. And even if this technique was created to determine the root cause of a defect or problem in manufacture or business, it is also widely used in psychology as it helps to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. It helps to drill down through the layers and determine the very root problem. We don’t realise that the feelings of anger or sadness are not related to the present events. It might be the past experiences or trauma or fears that make us react in a particular way. And sometimes it’s completely different thoughts create the current response.
Like, if feel bad that I often procrastinate on tasks.
Why do I procrastinate? Because I think I need to learn more before doing things.
Why do I need to learn more? Because I need to feel that I know and can control the process.
Why do I need to control? Because I fear being judged as a failure.
Why am I afraid of judgement? Because I was often judged as not being good enough or capable to achieve something.
Why do I feel I am not capable of achieving things? Because my parents didn’t trust me with responsibilities.
You don’t have to stop with five questions, stop when you feel that you have something solid. might be a little bit difficult to answer this question because it involves your emotions and feelings which sometimes are hard to acknowledge or accept, but each time you ask yourself “WHY” you set a base for another discovery and it might end up with surprising results of the real cause of your worries, stress, apathy or anger.
5. Thought Ladder.
This method was offered (or at least I found just there) by a wonderful human being Kara Loewentheil, founder of “Unfuck your brain” and “The Clutch” community, host of the podcast “Unfuck Your Brain.” She says that it’s hard for most of us to change our thoughts because we try to jump from our reality to something that we don’t even believe. We fail because we try to jump from “I hate myself” to “I love myself” in one go.
Even if this is your goal and you want to feel the love for yourself, instead of doing one huge step train your brain to think a little bit better. Create a 10% more positive thought. Maybe instead of “I love myself” try to set a thought “I am OK” or “I am a human being” or “It’s ok to make mistakes” (it depends on the thought you have).
There is also an option to help yourself with physical activities like running, exercising, drawing, singing and etc… For some people, all sorts of activities can help to release emotions, calm down the buzzing thoughts, and find the answers they need. Or it can also be used as a healthy distraction until you find the strength to come back to your worries again.
Helping yourself is possible but it is important to remember that it is a complex and slow process. Like a flower doesn’t grow overnight, your state of mind won’t change in a minute. But the slow pace means sustainable growth and change and that is important.
Again, I want to encourage you to let yourself be the way you are, forget the SHOULDS and WOULDS, remember why you do this and focus on slow and steady healing. When you start feeling good inside yourself – you share the goodness with all the world.
Sending you lots of love