Words prove useless. In the face of how it feels.

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Tim Robberts via Getty Images

 

In most of the responses to the horrifically sad news about Anthony Bourdain, people are posting links and phone numbers for suicide prevention services. They’re posting ‘you’re not alone’, and ‘you are loved’, and they’re urging those who are depressed or suicidal, to reach out.

That’s nice and all, but it’s completely useless for anyone who struggles with depression. Most people who are deeply depressed and/or suicidal, absolutely do not have the energy, the emotional strength, or even the will to ‘reach out.’ They just don’t. If they did, they wouldn’t be in such a low state in the first place.

Instead of putting the responsibility on those who are suffering, you need to take some action. If you haven’t heard from a loved one in a while, if you’re at all worried about them… PHONE THEM. Don’t text, don’t instant message, don’t email. Let them hear your voice. (If they don’t answer, keep calling until they do. Or go to their home if you can.)

Reading ‘you are loved’ and ‘you aren’t alone’ on a cold screen, is almost meaningless. Love and support aren’t nearly as much about telling, as they are about showing. Depressed or not, people need those words said warmly and directly to them. People need to be held, and seen, and heard. So speak to them. Visit them. Show them.

Taking the time to share a genuine human connection with someone, isn’t as easy or convenient as writing a few quick platitudes. Which is why it’s much more likely to actually make a difference. Even a small difference might be enough.

Don’t expect depressed people to have the ability to seek out support. Depression is crippling and isolating. If you truly want to help, stop typing empty words and instead, make a real effort to save someone you love from the dark.

 

Shine and Rise Coaching

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We Keep Going

Sympathize

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There are some of us who have been told for most of our lives that we’re weird, or different, or unique, or strange, or eccentric. Told this by unkind people, kind people, friends, family, romantic partners, co-workers, strangers. We’ve never been seen as ‘normal’. Which is hurtful at times, frustrating at times, and often isolating.

We don’t think or express ourselves in quite the same way that ‘regular’ people do. Which is something we can – and should – learn to really love about ourselves. But even if we do love and appreciate that element of who we are, it often makes us feel very alone, and feel that no matter where we are, we don’t quite belong there.

As well, for those of us who also live with constant, intense chronic pain, we not only feel isolated, we are regularly burdened by bouts of physical and mental depression.

Being ‘different’ and feeling alone because of it, is just a fact of our existence. Being in pain – and disheartened and drained by it when our inner reserves of strength and willpower run low, which they do frequently – is another fact of our existence.

These are not things we have the ability to change. They just are. What many of us have done and can do, is accept them as peacefully as we can, and then consciously choose to keep going… When we’re lonely, we keep going. When we’re deeply sad, we keep going. When our body hurts so much we can’t walk, or even stand up straight, we keep going.

It’s the only good choice we have. That doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly hard to do. Everyone who lives with mental and/or physical difficulties makes that same challenging choice about a thousand times a day.

What that means, is a lot of the time, it’s a struggle to do even the most basic, essential things involved in taking care of yourself. It’s very hard to describe this, but trust me, something as simple as making a meal, or cleaning the bathroom, or getting groceries, takes iron resolve to do, and it’s completely, blindingly exhausting. Some days are productive; some days are just grey nothing. Neither is optional, neither is predictable.

I can guarantee you that you know someone, or several someones who live this way. And you almost certainly find yourself feeling frustrated with them, or judging them for rarely socializing, for keeping unusual hours, for not being energetic, for hesitating to commit to plans, for taking too long to reply to messages, etc.

One of the most helpful things you can do, is to stop measuring those people by the standards and choices you have in your own life. Instead, remember that living with pain or illness of any kind, even living with loneliness, isn’t always a visibly obvious thing. Neither is the heroic amount of determination it takes to keep going anyway.

Shine and Rise Life Coaching

The Least Wonderful Time of the Year

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I was in the grocery store two weeks before Christmas and for various reasons, I was feeling stressed out, lonely and depressed. It was a miserably rainy, cold afternoon. I was soaked and chilly. The lights in the store were horribly bright fluorescent, the floor was slippery, the tacky displays of holiday ‘cheer’ were ugly and garish. And the in-store Christmas music was loud and incredibly irritating.

I noticed that most of the other shoppers also looked soaked, chilly, irritated and stressed. I began thinking about what a difficult month December is for more people than not. How we’ve created an expectation that we’re all supposed to feel happy and merry when really, it’s darker, colder, lonelier and more stressful than any other month.

Just as I was thinking that, the irritating loud Christmas music began playing ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.’ An extra sappy, extra cheesy version. The voices singing sounded so falsely happy and almost creepily insistent. I stopped in the middle of the aisle, raised my hand in the air and saluted the speakers with my middle finger.

The other shoppers in my aisle started to laugh. One of them did the same salute towards the speakers with the same finger and said “Hey Most Wonderful Time of the Year… Fuck you!” There were about ten of us in that aisle, all laughing and smiling at each other with shared empathy.

Two days later, I found out that a dear friend was in the hospital because they had very nearly succeeded in committing suicide. Because they were depressed and lonely and stressed out, and because it was December.

I went to see my friend right away. Looking at him in his hospital bed, the first thing I said was “I completely understand.” The second thing I said, was “I can give you two reasons not to do this ever again.” He asked what they were? I said “Love and hope.”

He started to cry and said “But I don’t feel much love and I don’t have much hope.” And I told him this…

Love and hope. Those two things are always there, even when you can’t see or believe in them. You love people and are loved by them. That’s an exceptional motivation to remain in your life.

And so is hope, which exists outside of our own consciousness and is what keeps the world in motion. Hope is so pervasive and so above and beyond us, we have it even when we don’t know it’s there.

We have love and hope even when we can’t feel them for ourselves, because everyone in our life is feeling love and hope FOR us. All the time.

I think sometimes that some of us aren’t here to have easy or particularly happy lives. I think some of us are here to help other people feel more love, more appreciation and more compassion. That makes us essential and it means our difficult lives are actually a powerful, vital force for good.

When you think about all of the best and most amazing things that have ever been accomplished or created in the history of the world, what two things were the cause of most of them? You got it. Love and hope. Over seemingly impossible odds, when despair is winning and all reason tells us to give up… Miraculous things can and do happen when we just hold on to those two things and keep living and keep trying.

There is so much love and hope put into the universe for you. It may be intangible, but it’s huge and very real. People feel it for you every moment of every day, as they know you feel it for them. Your family feels it for you. Your friends feel it for you.

Even if you don’t or can’t feel it for yourself, you are constantly surrounded by immense quantities of love and hope. We all are.

December is the darkest, coldest, most difficult month of the year. Give it the finger and know that love and hope shine brightest and warmest in the cold and the dark.

Shine and Rise Life Coaching

Turn The Wheel

We all struggle with the unhealthy habit of negative thinking. Sometimes it’s replaying unhappy moments and memories over and over. Sometimes it’s self-defeating thoughts about our ability to succeed or overcome. Sometimes it’s repetition of our worries and doubts. Most often, it’s repeated insecurities about who we are, how we look, what others think of us.

According to the majority of psychologists and neuroscientists, negative thinking strongly affects the way our brains function. Repetitious negative thinking slows down mental agility, which causes all sorts of roadblocks when we’re trying to process our thoughts and emotions. It also makes it very difficult – often impossible – to find solutions or positive outcomes.

Most of our negative thoughts are fear-based, when we really break them down to the core. And when we experience fear, the brain has decreased activity in the cerebellum and left temporal lobe. What this means in simpler terms, is that fear slows our mind’s ability to process new information, and it also messes up our impulse control, our mood and memory. Basically, fear-based thoughts make our brains sluggish, depressed, forgetful and irrational.

Getting even more sciencey… Our prefrontal cortex in particular, is what helps us sort out what’s important to us, based on how much attention we pay to a thing, and how we feel about it. So the more energy and time we spend on negative thinking, the more we train the synapses and neurons in our brain to support and repeat the habit of those unhealthy, unhelpful thoughts.

But wait, that’s actually good news…

Recent research in neuroscience has proven that focused, repetitive mental activity can create changes in the actual structure of our brain. Meaning that how we think, what we think and what we do about it, makes all the difference to who we are. It also means we absolutely have the ability to re-train our brain to be healthier and positive, permanently.

Negative thinking is a bad habit that forms over years and years of reinforcement. Just as any other bad habit, it can be broken. Those same areas of our brain can be re-trained to become positive and healthy. It’s hard work and it takes determination, focus and patience. Anybody who tells you thinking positive thoughts is easy, is probably trying to sell you something. (Almost quoted from ‘The Princess Bride’ by accident there.)

Although thinking positively isn’t remotely quick or easy, it is simple. One of the best ways I’ve found, is to visualize my hands on a steering wheel. When those negative thoughts come up again and again, I see my hands turning the wheel gently in a new direction. Doesn’t particularly matter where, just somewhere else, somewhere nicer.

Sometimes I picture a road in front of me and I choose to turn left or right. Sometimes there’s no road, I just slightly adjust the way I’m driving. The negativity gets left behind as my mind moves somewhere different and better.

Another simple way to evict unpleasant thoughts, is to remember things that make us happy. I’ll often make short mental lists of things I really like. Ten favourite books. Fifteen favourite songs. Five prettiest places I’ve ever seen. Seven nicest things anyone has ever done for me. And so on.

It works. It works amazingly well. Negative thoughts will eventually and inevitably rise up, because we’re only human and life is often painful and hard. But it’s also often beautiful and sweet and the world is full of marvels and wonders.

It comes down to a basic understanding that our thoughts are a choice. Even though it may seem involuntary, we choose to think about things that make us miserable and stressed and unhappy. Which means we also have the power to turn the wheel and choose thoughts that make us joyful, hopeful and appreciative.

Finding Light

shineAs the winter months are so close to over, I’m aware each day of the few extra minutes it stays light outside. Curtains are closed and lamps go on just a bit later every evening. The sun is warmer and everything just feels more bright.

Through the dark weeks and months of winter, I think a lot about light. How profoundly powerful a small glow can be when it radiates into utter dark. How a tiny flashlight or candle can literally sometimes save us from harm or even death.

Often when we feel surrounded by impenetrable black, we forget how to find within ourselves, even a faint bit of light. But while we breathe and think and feel anything at all; it’s always there… Twin beacons of memory and hope.

Memory is easier. Recalling moments when we truly were happy, or excited, or at peace, or felt deeply loved. Each time we do this, neurons in our brain light up like a city at night. Light inside of us, always there and just waiting to shine.

Hope is usually a more difficult thing to do when the weight of darkness pulls us down. But it’s there too, because we keep taking one breath after another.

If hoping for specifics just serves as a reminder of all you don’t currently have, then hope bigger. Hope for something huge and wonderful and far beyond the confines of your own life. Hope for something silly and fantastical. Or hope for something small and real and lovely.

I hope the cure for cancer is discovered tomorrow and that it turns out to be 12 hugs per day. I hope that Hogwarts is real and one day I’ll get an acceptance letter. I hope the garden I plant this Spring grows strong and beautiful by summer.

A simple thing to do to light up on the inside, is to smile at yourself. Stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eyes and smile. You’ll feel kind of bonkers at first, but looking at your own eyes and your mouth (overcome the instinct to look at wrinkles and blemishes), when you’re smiling, actually releases the same dopamine in your brain as you get when someone else smiles at you.

So take a minute in front of a mirror, and grin at yourself like a loon. It’s science, not insanity!

No matter how dark and bleak life can feel at times, light is always there for us. We can remember it, we can hope for it and we can create it.

http://www.shineandrisecoaching.com

Why, When and How of ‘No’

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So many of us struggle with saying no when we feel obligated, embarrassed, threatened or insecure. We feel as though our refusal will somehow hurt us, hurt someone we care about, or create a hostile, negative situation.

Unfortunately, there can be times when the power of refusal is taken away from us. This is particularly so when we’re children. However, as adults with the ability to make decisions and assess potential dangers, we can pay attention to warning signs. Listening to our inner ‘no’ is the most basic way to avoid unsafe, harmful situations if we possibly can.

Here’s the special thing about ‘No’… It’s a potent word and the saying of it usually creates a safe place of strength and self worth. When our instincts are telling us plainly that we really, really don’t want to do something, there’s almost always a good reason. We automatically create a ‘No’ response when we’re faced with things that are threatening or frightening. Our survival instinct is trying to protect us.

There are only two instances when that instinct is wrong… Being unwilling to try something new, or to go a little bit outside of our comfort zone is one of the few scenarios where ‘no’ can do us more harm than good. The only other automatic ‘nope’ that doesn’t benefit anyone, is when we ignore or refuse our impulse to help when it’s truly needed.

In just about any other situation, when we feel the urge to say ‘no’, it’s for a good reason and saying it is exactly what we need to do to protect ourselves from harm. We all have boundaries and levels of what’s acceptable to us or not. We all have an inner voice that tells us what we want and what we don’t.

Whether it’s at work, in a relationship, in a situation with someone we don’t have any reason to trust, etc., when we’re asked (or told) to do something that crosses our boundaries, saying ‘no’ is the best and only choice to make.

All of the reasons we hesitate to refuse, are based in fear. “If I say no to my boss, I may jeopardize my job.” “If I say no to my partner, I may jeopardize my relationship.” “If I say no to my friend, I may jeopardize our friendship.” “‘If I say no to this person I barely know, they’ll form a bad opinion of me.” And one of the worst ones… “I can’t say no to a family member, because I’m obligated and my refusal will make that person and my other family members angry with me.”

Those fears are valid in their way, but they’re also completely unnecessary. Because of one incredibly simple thing… Anyone, ANYONE who doesn’t respect our ‘No’, doesn’t deserve our time, our energy or our consideration.

If we work for a boss who disrespects our boundaries, we need to find another job. Even in a bad economy, other jobs are out there. Life is too short and too long to spend many hours each week, being in a situation where we feel small, worthless and resentful.

If we’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t accept and respect our ‘No’, then we need to end that relationship. Being alone is better than being with someone who treats us badly. Having respect for ourselves will result in meeting a better type of person for our next relationship. Yes, it is that simple.

Any true friend loves, appreciates and supports us. If we have a friend who punishes us in any way for saying no to them, that person is not actually a friend and we absolutely don’t need them in our life.

If strangers push us or want something from us that we aren’t comfortable with and we say no, what have we got to lose? They don’t know us, they have no impact in our daily life, what they think of us doesn’t matter on any level.

If anyone in our family asks or insists that we do something for them and we say no, that doesn’t make us a bad person. Being related does not give anyone the right to dominate or demand things from anyone else. The exact reason we so often give in to family when we don’t want to, is the same reason why we shouldn’t. These people are connected to us forever. Establishing and protecting our boundaries is essential to getting through a lifetime with our family as happily as possible.

So those are the whys, the whens, the wheres of ‘No’. What about the ‘how’?

‘No’ is one of those words that stands best on its own. It doesn’t need to be accompanied by lengthy explanations or apologies. In fact, overly explaining or profusely apologizing, reduces its power and gives the impression that we don’t actually mean it.

Long explanations are a waste of breath. The person we’re saying no to, doesn’t want to hear all of our reasons, because it’s always obvious we’re explaining in detail just to make ourselves feel better about refusing. As for apologizing, only if it’s genuinely meant. If we aren’t regretful about saying no, then don’t add in an insincere and dishonest ‘Sorry’.

A simple ‘No, I don’t want to do that’ or ‘No, I can’t do that’, is all we need to say. It’s strong, it’s clear and saying it doesn’t make us unkind or bad, it makes us honest and healthy.

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Visit the Shine and Rise Life Coaching website.