winter blues

4 Ways To Combat Winter Blues Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

Changing seasons can be beautiful, but they don’t delight everyone. If you find your moods falling as fast as the thermometer during winter, you are not alone. Seasonal changes can also bring change to the whole sense of our well-being. While some welcome the changing leaves of the fall and fresh show of the winter, others may find themselves having difficulties to get up in the morning or to concentrate, feeling lethargic, unmotivated, or sad. We refer to this later, less pleasant group of feelings that many people experience during colder months, as winter blues.

Winter blues are fairly common – about 15% of Canadians report that they experience mild changes in their mood, energy levels, alertness, and appetite during fall and winter. So why is this happening?

When Winter Blues Join Coronavirus Pandemic

During the winter, as we all know, days become colder, shorter, and darker, and we spend much more time inside. The lack of daily sunlight can throw off your circadian rhythm. This can cause your brain to produce too much of the sleep hormone melatonin and to release less serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical that affects your mood. With winter approaching and us spending more and more time indoors due to the coronavirus pandemic, the result can be a chemical imbalance in our brains that makes us feel low and sluggish.co

Even before the winter weather arrived, we were already experiencing a lot of stress, anxiety, and emotional loss this year. Coronavirus pandemic left a bitter taste of resentment and exhaustion that we’re still experiencing. The negative effects are now maybe even more prominent than in the first wave. Holidays are canceled and, due to our global responsibility to keep ourselves and others safe, we can’t cheerfully reunite with friends and family to celebrate. Many are struggling with routine and the lack of energy, with loneliness and feeling of isolation, with disturbed sleeping patterns, with worry about the future. Our brains have been on high alert for months, and we are drained and tired. This is why winter blues can be amplified this winter season – our coping mechanisms and emotional resilience are wearing thin and it’s becoming more challenging to lift our moods, which is especially needed during the cold season.

Even though times are difficult – after all, pandemic fatigue joined winter blues, and that’s not an easy enemy to battle – we can still do many positive things to lift our moods and energy levels while staying safe. Here are some suggestions on how to combat the winter blues amid the pandemic.

1. Go outside

The fresh air and the light of the day can greatly increase your mood and energy.

One of the most common, and most significant, causes of winter blues is the lack of sunlight. It can mess with our biorhythm and disturb the normal production of chemicals in our brains that are in charge of our sleeping patterns and mood regulation. Talking yourself into taking a walk when it’s freezing outside can be hard, but the benefits are tremendous. Research shows that just a 20-minute walk every day can have a profound positive impact on our brains, helping us reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and increase attention capacity and focus. Even just spending some time on your balcony or in your backyard and soaking up the winter sun can be helpful.

winter blues coronavirus pandemic
2. Get Moving

Motivation follows activation. Lift those endorphins up.

When we are feeling mentally tired, we don’t feel motivated to take action. However, ironically, what can help us feel better and actually increase our motivation is – action. Action often comes before motivation. Engaging in an activity can help us take a different perspective, think more clearly, give us a sense of achievement and, from all that, improve our mood and increase our energy. So it often works kind of in a reverse direction.

Additionally, the positive effects of regular exercise on our mental health have been shown to be so large, that it became a very common part of treatment for depression and anxiety. Exercise reduces symptoms of depression due to the increased release of endorphin, a brain chemical related to positive mood, increased energy, and an overall enhanced sense of well-being. Therefore, including any physical activity that you like to your daily routine is something that can be really effective in decreasing the effects of winter blues.

3. Connect with others

In a time when avoiding contact is crucial, staying connected is priceless.

Loneliness and isolation tend to make the effects of the winter blues worse. In our efforts to physically distance during the pandemic, we have to put our usual ways of socializing on pause. However, maintaining our relationships, even through virtual methods, is essential for our mental health. Social support is one of the best buffers for different mood problems, depression in particular. Technology brought so many wonderful opportunities to stay in touch with our loved ones and nurture our relationships. Social networks, video calls, different messaging apps, regular phone calls – whatever virtual platform you feel most comfortable with – are all great ways to connect, share support, or just get the basic social contact we all, as humans, need for optimal functioning.

coronavirus social distance loneliness
4. Try light therapy

A special artificial light could compensate for the lack of sun during the winter.

Light therapy is a standard treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it is very effective in reducing the symptoms. It works by balancing out your circadian rhythm and increasing serotonin. If your winter blues are persistent, and especially if you are not able to spend time outside, you may want to consult your therapist and invest in a full-spectrum light box specially designed for this treatment.

Winter Blues vs. Seasonal Affective Disorder

Although you may feel more unhappy than usual, the winter blues usually do not drastically affect your ability to enjoy life or cope with everyday challenges. On the other hand, if depressive symptoms are more severe, lasting for at least two weeks and seriously disrupting one or more areas of life – from work to personal relationships – we are talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It is a subtype of major depression that usually appears and ends at about the same time every year. While winter blues can be banished on your own with some changes in your routine and habits, SAD is a serious condition that requires professional treatment. A combination of light therapy, counselling, and sometimes medication is shown to be effective in treating this condition.

If you are struggling to cope, please don’t hesitate to ask for help.

What do you do to brighten your mood and feel more energized during these cold months? Share your tips with us!

 

Sources:

Craft, L. L., & Perna, F. M. (2004). The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry6(3), 104–111.

Melrose, S. (2015). Seasonal affective disorder: an overview of assessment and treatment approaches. Depression research and treatment2015.

Xiong, J., Lipsitz, O., Nasri, F., Lui, L. M., Gill, H., Phan, L., … & McIntyre, R. S. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in the general population: A systematic review. Journal of affective disorders.

toxic positivity

Toxic Positivity: What To Say Instead of “Just Be Positive”

“Everything happens for a reason”

“It could be worse”

“Delete the negativity”

“Just don’t think about it”

“Never give up!”

You’ve certainly said or heard some of these phrases before. It’s fairly common, and people who say them usually have good intentions – they are just trying to help somebody feel better. However, as you probably know if you heard some of them while you were going through difficult times, they don’t work. In fact, they can sometimes make you feel even worse, right?

But why is that? How can too much positivity possibly be a bad thing?

When Positivity Becomes Toxic

Keeping a positive attitude during stressful times can be incredibly helpful. It can help us cope with the situation, feel hope, and keep working toward a solution. However, being positive and optimistic doesn’t mean we won’t ever feel unpleasant emotions. Having a positive attitude is a good thing. Pushing positivity to the detriment of your authentic emotions is not.

Toxic positivity is an idea that we should focus only on positive emotions and positive aspects of life. It’s an attitude that being positive, and only positive, is the right way to live your life. This implies that any unpleasant emotions are considered as negative, and should be avoided.

It would be great if it was possible to feel good all the time. However, not only that it is not, but it can be even harmful to us and the people around us. Rigid and intense as it is, toxic positivity doesn’t leave space for experiencing all human emotions and being authentic. Instead, it encourages the person to remain silent about their struggles.

be positive

Toxic Positivity Can Be Harmful To You And Your Relationships

We have all kinds of emotions. Emotions are messengers. When instead of listening to ourselves and allowing ourselves to feel, even (and especially!) when these feelings are not comfortable, we fight and resist them — we create tension in our body. Different studies show us that hiding or denying feelings, oh the irony, makes them bigger and increases stress.

Our unpleasant emotions show us where we need some gentleness and compassion. They inform us that something is not right, not necessarily in our surroundings, but in the way we see the situation as well. They encourage us to pay attention to the parts of ourselves that need healing or the places in our paths where we need to take a turn. By suppressing or avoiding some emotions, we don’t allow ourselves to fully express and be honest. The result is denial, minimization, and invalidation of authentic emotional experience. When we go into hiding like that, we deny our truth. And the real truth is – life can be tough sometimes.

Toxic positivity can be harmful to your relationships too. When somebody is sad, anxious, fearful, what they need is support and understanding. Generic positive phrases can, although unintendedly, send the message: “You are not allowed to feel this way. Stop. It’s not okay to not be okay.” This is not helpful; it can make the person feel guilty or unheard. To them, it can sound like their emotions are not valid and important, and that they are wrong to feel the way they feel.

 

How To Support Someone Without Being “Too Positive”?

Feeling connected to and heard by others is one of the most important contributors to good mental health and happiness. When someone is going through a rough patch, we may not be sure how to support them. What to say to help them feel better? What to do? How to help them recover from setbacks more quickly? You may be inclined to tell them to “look on the bright side” and to “be grateful for what they already have”. However, these monochromatic statements are usually not helpful, because they are, on the basic level, dismissive. When happiness and positivity are compulsively pushed, the person doesn’t have the opportunity to feel truly heard and accepted, understood and supported. Instead, it can seem like he or she is rushed to stop feeling the way they feel, their emotions minimized and invalidated.

If we, instead, let the other person connect to their emotions and allow them to share them with us without judgment or the urge to run away to positivity, we are giving that person much-needed space to be authentic and still accepted. We are sending the message: “You can be yourself. It’s okay to not feel okay. I am here anyways”.

With toxic positivity, although it is usually not our intention, we are showing the other person that we are uncomfortable with their feelings and that we will put ourselves in the first place, urging them to stop feeling the way they feel so we can stop feeling uncomfortable. A much better, more comforting approach, is to show the other person that we are ready to sit with them with their emotions, that they are not alone, and that we are there to patiently give them our compassion and support.  It can be truly healing.

So, what can you say instead of generic, “encouraging” sentences to support someone? Here are some suggestions:

It is important to acknowledge the reality of our emotions. Once we honor our feelings, we honor the whole of ourselves. We accept our positive parts, but also other, not so pretty sides. Accepting and loving ourselves as we are is the path toward balanced emotional life and better wellbeing.

If you like this article or think someone can find it useful, please be free to share it on your social media.

resilience and recovery

3 Things You Can Do to Recover From Setbacks More Quickly

We all face adversities in our lives. Stress, trauma, tragedy, health problems, significant changes in our lives, they are all difficult to experience. However, there is one quality the majority of people share to a greater or lesser extent and that is – resilience.

Resilience is the ability to move through adversaries and rise from them. It is a set of skills and psychological traits that allows us to cope with struggles and recover from them.

Research shows that people, in general, are more resilient than you might think. The majority of people are able to utilize their inner and outer resources to recover from failure or unfortunate events. However, some people need significantly less time to do so.

What Resilient People Do Differently?

People with higher levels of resiliency, on the other hand, approach the situation with a positive attitude and the ability to regulate their emotions. This allows them to be more objective in observing what is going on and how to overcome the situation or at least reduce the damage. Additionally, this helps them move forward without dwelling on the negative outcomes for too long, and reframe the situation in a positive manner.

Fortunately, scientists also found that resilience is something that can be built. There are certain skills that are trainable and that can increase resilience significantly, such as self-compassion, confidence in your strengths and abilities, problem-solving skills, emotion-management.

resilience to recover from failure

Here are three things resilient people are able to do that allows them to bounce back from difficult experiences more quickly and effectively, that you can start cultivating more as well:

They are able to reframe their narrative

When something bad happens, there is not only one way to interpret it. We can choose how we explain the meaning and consequences of events. Highly resilient people are able to reframe difficult situations, at least to some degree, to their advantage. They can see setbacks as a form of helpful feedback, the opportunity to learn, or as something that, in the end, led them to a good path.

They use social support

Resilient people usually don’t act “tough” or like they can cope with everything alone. They lean on their support system and let the people who care about them be there for them. Good relationships are crucial for recovery because they can provide different kinds of support, from emotional to practical.

They practice self-compassion

Being resilient doesn’t mean you have to pretend that you feel okay about the disappointments and failures. It doesn’t mean that you should suffocate your true emotions and put on a happy face. Instead, resilience is kind of the opposite. It’s the ability to accept your unpleasant emotions about the situation without judging yourself harshly. It is about offering yourself some love and kindness while learning from the experience.

recover be happy

All this, of course, does not mean that resilient people don’t feel painful emotions or that they don’t face their feelings, hiding behind the positivity. Resiliency means healthy coping, which suggests that it demands emotions to be felt and accepted before taking action toward recovery.

How easy/hard is it for you to bounce back from a setback?

P.S. We always encourage sharing our articles with your family and friends. You never know, maybe they are in a place in life where they can find it particularly useful.

Sources:

https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10608-016-9774-0

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15298860902979307?casa_token=9NN_FOQ3fxAAAAAA:qo21UDuFDZ8Pmu6OEl-x0VPi2u1fUgWbvdrEFZqXnKUz4w3Pxl3B74hMasAS4npaPkvDy3tVC24

positive psychology for a good life

How to Live a Good Life: Lessons from Positive Psychology

Do you know what ‘positive psychology’ means?

Positive psychology as a term can be a little misleading. It might sound like encouraging you to “just be positive” and “cheer up”. However, this is not what positive psychology is about, and it should not, by all means, be confused with pop-culture self-help books and motivational speakers.

For a long time, psychology as a field focused on negative aspects of human life, on people’s shortcomings and pathology. The main question was: “What is wrong?” However, about two decades ago, Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, proposed a new approach that asks: “What is right?”.

The Science of Happiness

Positive psychology is a science of positive aspects of human life. Its goal is to, using scientific methods, find and promote factors that increase our wellbeing. Hence, it puts a spotlight on topics such as happiness, creativity, meaning, wisdom, personal strengths, core values, resilience. Nevertheless, this does not mean that positive psychology neglects to repair what is ‘wrong’; it just emphasizes that building strength is equally important. It is intended to fulfill, not to replace traditional psychology.

Positive psychology proposes three kinds of a happy life:

  • Pleasant Life (“Life of enjoyment”) – Focused on experiencing positive emotions. This is how happiness is most often viewed in everyday life and popular culture.
  • Good Life (“Life of engagement”) – Focused on personal strengths, immersion in activities that have a purpose for us, and accomplishing goals. We derive happiness from being optimally engaged and from “getting lost” in activities we love. This state of being absorbed in the activity we enjoy and are skilled at is referred to as a state of “flow”.
  • Meaningful Life (“Life of affiliation”) – Aimed toward a higher purpose, how we derive a sense of meaning and belonging when we are contributing to a greater cause.

Positive psychology is a wide area encompassing a variety of different techniques that aim to encourage people to identify and further develop their positive traits, experiences, and emotions. It teaches us how to function optimally from the place of authenticity and inner fulfillment.

happy life growth

According to research, there are 5 pillars that contribute to positive well-being, the model known as PERMA:

1. Positive emotion

We all like to feel good, to experience joy, gratitude, optimism, etc. Positive psychology believes that positive emotions are more than just smiling; they reflect the ability to remain hopeful, optimistic, and creative in the face of setbacks and challenges.

2. Engagement

Our sense of well-being increases when we pursue activities that stretch our skills and in which we get so lost that the time seems to fly by. This kind of intense immersion in the activity is, as mentioned before, known as “flow”. It can be anything, from playing an instrument or a sport to solving an intellectual task or engaging in a hobby we love.

3. Relationships

We are social creatures, and connections with other people play an incredible role in our positive well-being. We derive the sense of meaning and happiness from healthy relationships, from feeling safe, loved, and nurtured, and providing those feelings for other people.

4. Meaning

A great sense of fulfillment comes from the feeling that our personal and professional endeavours have a purpose, that they contribute to a greater cause. Knowing why we do what we do leads to the feeling that our lives matter, which is a big source of life satisfaction.

5. Accomplishment

Having realistic goals and ambitions and working toward them is a significant part of positive well-being. Accomplishing a goal that required utilizing our skills and investing notable effort boosts our motivation and gives us a sense of pride and moving forward.

 

Positive psychology teaches us how to flourish and thrive. Its empirical findings are proof that normal life doesn’t have to be extraordinary to be good.

How do YOU show up in those five areas of your life? What does a good life mean to you? We would love to hear from you in the comment section below. Also, if you find this article interesting, please be free to share it on your social media.

 

Sources:

https://ppc.sas.upenn.edu/learn-more/perma-theory-well-being-and-perma-workshops

https://positivepsychology.com/what-is-positive-psychology-definition/

grief and comfort talking about feelings

Talking About Your Feelings While Grieving – What’s the Point?

Grief is one of the most painful states of all. And although it is a natural response to experiencing loss, it can really knock you off of your feet. Grief comes with all kinds of different emotions, difficult and unexpected ones, from deep sadness to disbelief, anger, guilt, confusion, loneliness, helplessness, and apathy. The pain of grief can also interfere with your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, get out of bed, or even think straight. Some people report the initial feeling of ‘numbness’ before the pain arises. All in all, there is really no order or a ‘normal’ way of experiencing grief.

Coping with the loss of the loved one is one of life’s biggest challenges.

Going through the grief process is hard, and doing it alone and quietly makes it even harder. You probably heard that talking about your feelings, especially when you’re facing difficult experiences in your life, is important and good for you. And it’s true – letting yourself feel and express your emotions helps you process and validate them. This is especially true for the grieving process. However, it’s also true that grief makes facing emotions seem like a terrifying thing to do.

Talking About Your Grief Is Healing and Scary at the Same Time

Many people are afraid to let themselves feel the sadness and pain, let alone talk about it, because they’re afraid that, once they get started, they won’t be able to stop. They fear they won’t be strong enough to handle the pain, that they will fall apart and never put themselves back together again. But the truth is, when we let the words and tears flow, we’re letting the pain out. It’s uncomfortable at first, but in the end it frees up some space in our mind and heart for asking questions, seeking meaning, and finding some form of acceptance.

grief talking about sadness after a lossGrief feels like endless loneliness and incomprehension. These two are the main reasons why grief feels so overwhelming. Feeling disconnected from the world and questioning the meaning of the event is completely normal after experiencing significant loss. What talking about it does is that it tackles down these two main problems by doing two things:

  • It connects you with another human who is ready to listen and sit with you through your pain

Knowing that someone deeply listens and truly hears you is soothing. Disconnection and loneliness take a lot of space after a loss. Sharing your pain with someone willing to understand and accept it opens some of this space for letting connection and comfort in. It won’t take the loneliness away, but it can reduce it significantly. Sometimes, if you speak to a friend, it can be hard for them to truly know what to say. They don’t want to upset you further, but even just offering you a shoulder to cry on, or asking if you want anything from the shop can make a huge difference.

  • It helps you untangle your thoughts and understand the situation, even for a tiny bit

Making sense of the loss may be one of the most difficult things to do, but it’s also essential for healing. The process of grief is a foggy experience full of hard questions. What does this loss mean in terms of who you are and where you’re going? What does it mean for your understanding of life?

Moving forward in the process of grief is, essentially, about exploring what the loss means for your present and future self. It’s about rebuilding a meaningful life after such a significant change. This is a difficult thing, because not only are these questions filled with difficult emotions that can seem too hard and scary to face, but there is also no definite answer. It’s different for everybody, and there is no ‘recipe’ or a shortcut to it.

Even if it doesn’t look like it at the moment, the pain will lessen. It won’t completely go away, it will come in waves, and sometimes you’ll feel like you’re drowning. But you will laugh again and love again and live a purposeful life again. In the meantime, give yourself a break. Give yourself a hug. Give yourself time – LOTS of it. And be kind to yourself. Seek out and accept help from someone who is willing to listen and provide support. A trusting friend, a family member, your significant other, a support group, a therapist – find what works for you, but don’t battle it alone.

If you know anyone who is experiencing grief, please be free to share this post with them, as well as on your social media.

Sources:

Lindemann, E. (1944). Symptomatology and management of acute grief. American journal of psychiatry, 101(2), 141-148. (http://www.nyu.edu/classes/gmoran/LINDEMANN.pdf)

Bukman, M. J. (2017). The development of a new identity through the process of bereavement counselling: a qualitative study (Doctoral dissertation). (https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/83637608.pdf)

therapist leaves

What to Do When Your Therapist Takes a Leave – Featured in HuffPost

We’re happy to announce that we got featured in HuffPost’s article: “How to Deal When Your Therapist Goes on Leave”. This is an important topic that is not so often addressed, and we’re glad we had an opportunity to talk about it. Read the whole article HERE.

A relationship between a therapist and a client is often incredibly deep. Leaving such a strong and meaningful connection, even if it’s just for a few weeks or months, can feel disorienting. Hence, it’s useful to know some coping strategies and practical steps to get yourself back on track. HuffPost’s article covered it really nicely, but here are also some additional tips on how to deal with your therapist’s (short or long-term) leave.

Develop a plan of action together in case of a mental health emergency

The leave of your therapist might mean that, in stressful situations where you urgently need mental health support and guidance, you won’t be able to reach them as easy as when they’re regularly working or they won’t be available at all. It is important to prepare for such situations and develop a plan for it beforehand.

This means identifying potential stressors and triggers and making a list of coping strategies you can utilize. From discussing who you should contact depending on the severity of the situation (another therapist from their practice, your support network, an emergency room, etc.), to using specific skills you’ve learned in your therapy sessions, you should try to make this plan as detailed as possible. You may not need to use it, but it’s smart to have it just in case. Besides, making such a plan with your therapist may help reduce your anxiety by making you feel a little bit more ready for what may be ahead.

coping strategies when psychotherapist leaves

Prepare for the possibility that the transition to a new therapist may not feel emotionally smooth

Most therapists will announce their leave well in advance. They will most often offer to refer you to their colleague while they’re away, so you can prepare for the change.

However, starting a relationship with a new therapist may feel uncomfortable at first. When someone knows your deepest thoughts, feelings, needs, your past, and your struggles, it can be difficult to start it all over again with someone new. Thus, prepare for a possibility that the first session or two with a covering therapist may not feel as comfortable and familiar as with your regular therapists. Give yourself some time to adjust to the new environment. However, if after a few sessions your gut still tells you it’s not the right fit, give yourself permission to find another one. That’s why it may be a wise idea to ask your current therapist to recommend a couple of their colleagues instead of just one, so it can be easier to find what works best for you.

If after a while you still aren’t sure whether your emotions toward a new therapist are “off” because of this transition or due to some other factors, THIS article may give you some clarification.

See it as an opportunity to practice skills and strengths you’ve developed in therapy

If you’re seeing your therapist for a long time, you must have learned a lot. You developed some behaviours, skills, and thinking strategies you didn’t know before.

Although your therapist’s leave can be a pretty scary thing, it’s also a space to consolidate your gains and see how far you’ve come so far. It’s a great opportunity to practice your psychological coping skills on your own and get to know yourself even better. Having a break from therapy can help you assess your progress and also evaluate areas where you’re still struggling and need to continue to work on.

The most important thing while your therapist is away is to continue practicing what you have learned in therapy, whether it’s with a new therapist or on your own.

self-care routine

It’s Time to Rethink Self-Care (+20 Simple Self-Care Ideas)

There’s been a lot of talk about self-care lately, and it’s for a good reason. Self-care is an essential part of managing stress and living a balanced life. And yet, so many people struggle with it.

But what is it exactly? For many, the first association to self-care is pampering yourself, like taking a long bubble bath or going to a massage. And yes, self-care can surely look like that, if it works for you. But it’s also so much more.

Self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.

In other words, it’s any activity that restores your energy, promotes your health, and makes you feel nurtured and taken care of. Shortly, self-care is care provided to you by you. What makes it so important is that it is a vital starting point for dealing with stress and challenging situations in life. Think of it as an armour to protect the energy you need to survive and thrive. It’s not just an escape from the daily grind, but an ongoing routine that increases your resilience and overall vitality.

Struggling With Self-Care

While a part of self-care is taking care of your physical health, it also means – and here comes the tricky part – paying attention to your needs and allowing yourself to act on them. Many of us don’t know how to practice self-care because we weren’t taught to pay attention to our inner states, trust them, and be honest about them. Instead, we learned what we’re ‘supposed’ to feel or think, and try to ignore things that are opposite to that. For example, you may feel upset about something, but at the same time you think that you shouldn’t feel like that but be strong, positive and grateful. So you suffocate your anger, sadness, or anxiety about the certain situation.

If this is something that sounds familiar, there is a chance that you apply the same mindset on self-care too. In other words, you have the idea of how self-care should generally look like and force yourself to do activities that fit into that picture. So self-care becomes a chore, which is exactly the opposite of what the whole concept is all about.rethinking self-care

Despite its huge importance for mental health, self-care still sounds a little yucky for some. The reason for it probably lies in the fact that, in our culture that glorifies self-sacrifice and ‘hustle’, it’s easy to feel guilty for wanting something different than that. We may feel wrong or shameful if we put our needs first, if we take some time to relax and do something nice for ourselves instead of helping others all the time or tirelessly working toward our goals. As a consequence, we might label ourselves as being ‘selfish’, ‘weak’, ‘lazy’, or ‘entitled’. And, of course, because we don’t want to be any of these things, we neglect meeting our needs, sometimes to the point where our body and mind beg us for it. The end destination – exhaustion and burnout.

Rethinking Self-Care

Considering its significance for our wellbeing and at the same time so many misconceptions attached to it, it’s time to rethink self-care, don’t you think? Let’s debunk some common misbeliefs about it.

Misconception: Self-Care Is Selfish
Truth: Self-Care is Necessary for Maintaining Loving Relationships And Investing in Them

Think about it like when you’re in an airplane. The flight attendants always tell you to, in case of an emergency, put your oxygen mask first, and then help others. It’s similar with mental health – if you’re not properly taken care of, there is a chance you’ll end up not helping anyone, including yourself. The lack of ‘me’ time can drain your energy and lead to resentment toward others. And that, you’ll admit, is not the most positive starting point for investing in relationships.

Self-care is the opposite of selfish. It means you’re preparing to be there for others and to give and help not out of guilt but because you honestly want to.

Misconception: Self-Care Means I’m Weak
Truth: Self-Care Is a Necessary Part of Being Strong and Healthy

Self-Care is not a sign of weakness, but a fundamental aspect of staying healthy, emotionally and physically. Practicing self-care is not proof that you can’t persevere and cope with challenges, but a sign that you’re thinking long-term. Almost everywhere we turn, there is some sort of messaging to push it harder, to stretch our limits, to go, go, go. Self-care doesn’t fit in this kind of mindset society imposes on us, and sometimes it takes courage to go in the opposite direction – to slow down and take some time for yourself. And something that takes courage is surely a sign of strength, not a weakness.

take care of yourself

Misconception: Self-Care Means I’m Lazy/Is a Waste of Time
Truth: Self-Care Boosts Your Productivity

Today, many of us are addicted to busyness. We always have to be on the move, make plans, have things scheduled in. But your energy is not limitless. If you never stop to take some rest and you neglect your needs, it is a well-known road to stress, overwhelm, and burnout, which all lower your productivity. On the other hand, self-care is a way to recharge and prepare for new challenges. It’s not a lack of self-determination, but exactly the opposite – a smart strategy to keep you in line with your goals in the long run.

Simple Self-Care Ideas to Try

Self-care routine doesn’t have to be something big, expensive, or time-consuming. In fact, it might be better if it’s not any of these things. Rather, it should be a series of small and simple actions that you can easily practice throughout your day. So, to create a self-care routine, you need to know yourself, your likes and boundaries, and act on them.

Still not sure where to start? Here are some simple self-care ideas that might give you some inspiration to start exploring what works best for you.

1. Eat a healthy meal. If you’re into cooking, prepare it yourself. Experiment with new tastes.
2. Set a date with yourself. Visit a museum, go to a cinema, or treat yourself with a nice dinner or, yes, a massage or a long bubble bath ?
3. Get a solid eight hours of sleep.
4. Go to your favourite workout class.
5. Take a walk in nature.
6. Stretch. Multiple times a day. Pay full attention to your body.
7. Take time to breathe gently and deeply. While doing that, say some kind words to yourself.
8. Switch off all your electronic devices (laptop, tablet, phone, TV), and enjoy the silence.
9. Meet with a friend whose company you really enjoy.
10. Learn something new that always interested you. Wake up that curious inner child.

self-care routine
11. Write in a journal. Get honest about your feelings and needs.
12. Meditate or practice mindfulness.
13. Practice gratitude.
14. Write yourself a ‘well done’ list at the end of the day to celebrate your achievements, however big or small they may be.
15. Curl up with a cup of tea and read a book or watch your favorite TV show. Extra points if you light up a yummy smelling candle ?
16. Tap into your creative side. Try sewing, writing fiction, painting, dancing, or buy some crayons and a coloring book.
17. Say NO to activities or gatherings that drain your energy.
18. Seek therapy.
19. Practice self-compassion. Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a close friend.
20. Practice taking ‘should’ out of your vocabulary and freeing yourself from feeling that you ‘should’ do things.

How do you take care of yourself? Let us know down below in the comments. And also, if you like this post, please share it on your social media. Let’s raise awareness about the importance of self-care.

Sources:

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kimberly_Wesley2/publication/254734813_Self-Care_Practices_and_Perceived_Stress_Levels_Among_Psychology_Graduate_Students/links/56312eec08ae13bc6c356276/Self-Care-Practices-and-Perceived-Stress-Levels-Among-Psychology-Graduate-Students.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27819888

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6080382/

sunday night blues

How to Beat Sunday Night Blues

How is it possible that it’s already Sunday night when it feels like Friday was half an hour ago?! The struggle of knowing the laid-back, weekend You has to dress up tomorrow and face the overwhelming to-do list of the working week again is real. That sinking feeling you experience on Sunday night is what millions are dealing with too – the Sunday night blues.

Why Sunday Nights are So Tough?

For one thing, Sunday night blues started in our schooldays, when Sunday evening meant the fun of the weekend is over and we have to return to our boring textbooks and homework. Even when those days are over, out body and mind remember those anxious feelings and Sunday night remains the trigger that brings this response back. The fact that, for many of us as adults, Sunday means roughly the same thing – returning to tasks and responsibilities on our workplace – additionally strengthens that familiar physical and psychological response we developed a long time ago. For this reason, even people who love their jobs are not immune to Sunday night blues.

Additional thing that probably happens is that you are thinking too far ahead. We described this cognitive distortion HERE, so you might want to take a look. In short, when you think about everything you need to finish during the next week all at once, stress spikes up and you feel overwhelmed. What you ultimately do is you’re cramming the workload of five working days, so about 40 working hours, into one moment of thinking; the result is, naturally, that it looks like too much to handle. But in reality, things are much easier while you’re actually going through them.

“You probably know it yourself – something seems so much more frustrating or difficult or boring when you think about it ahead than while you’re actually doing it.”

So, when Sunday evening comes, your body and mind habitually start familiar pattern all over again: worrying about the upcoming week, feeling of overwhelm for everything that has to be done, sadness for weekend being too short, anger at yourself or others for not doing everything as planned, irritability, anxiety, depression. You may even have a hard time falling asleep.

How to Beat Sunday Night Blues?

Sunday night sadness and anxiety may be common, but you don’t have to live with them. Here are a few things you can do to outsmart your sad Sundays and feel uplifted for the week ahead.

Keep your weekend plans realistic

You want to make your weekend as enjoyable as possible, and that’s great. However, it’s important to not get caught into the trap of setting the expectations for the weekend so high that it becomes a race of accomplishing everything on the list.

If you’re determined to finish work reports and answer some additional e-mails, reorganize your closet, meet with friends on a drink, spend time in nature with your family, read that exciting book that’s sitting for too long on your bedside table, and go to a yoga class all in the same weekend, activities that are supposed to be fun and relaxing might turn into obligations. The end result is that you’re probably going to end up either exhausted from running to achieve all of it or frustrated that you haven’t accomplished it all. Either way, your mind on Sunday night consequentially becomes, well, a not so pleasant place.

Sometimes, even the most organized people have to deal with the reality that things don’t always go according to the plan. Because of this, try to see plans you make on Friday afternoon as an outline, as a list of possible things that you have the freedom to do on the weekend, not as plans written in stone. It’s wonderful to have a variety of choices – embrace it. But don’t let can and want turn into a must.

sunday

Active leisure time

About 75% of people don’t leave the house on Sunday (source). When we combine it with the fact that “feelings of anxiety and depression are most common when the person is not particularly busy”, as the professor of psychology at Roosevelt University, Steven Meyers says, then it’s easy to recognize why Sunday becomes a perfect time for those unpleasant feelings to creep into our minds.

One good way to avoid entering this “empty space” is to replace your passive leisure time with enjoyable activities that will occupy your mind and redirect your attention. And by this we don’t mean doing some house chores – reschedule them for some other day. Instead, you want to do something you enjoy – spend time with friends, exercise, devote time to hobbies, do something creative, anything that is fun for you and gives you something to focus on.

One amazing way to spend your Sunday is volunteering. One study found that people who volunteer are happier with their work-life balance. Further, those who volunteered in their free time were less stressed and less likely to feel burned out at work. Another study shows that volunteering in our free time makes us feel like we actually have more time! It suggests that volunteering makes us feel more efficient, like we are doing something big and valuable with our time, and therefore like we are less stressed and hurried.

creative sunday active leisure time

Schedule something you look forward to for the working week

You know that fuzzy excitement before a vacation? That tingling anticipation of all the adventures that you might experience on your trip? Well, a micro version of that happens before your weekend. Having something to look forward to often serves as a fuel that helps us go through stressful times. But sometimes the weekend can feel too far away, and especially so on Sunday night.

However, you don’t have to save all your fun activities for the weekend. Scheduling little things you enjoy strategically throughout the week should give you something to look forward to, which will relieve some stress and anxiety and boost your mood and energy. When, on Sunday, you know that the next time you’ll enjoy yourself won’t be on the next Friday, but actually much sooner, already on Monday even, the upcoming week doesn’t look so long and scary. Some people find using cannabis products is a great way to destress mind week. If that is something you are thinking about getting into, then you can check out these different types of bongs to help you get started. If cannabis isn’t for you then there are many other activities you can do to help you look forward to the week ahead. These activities don’t have to be anything big – scheduling a romantic dinner on Thursday night, going out for a movie on Wednesday, or curling up in your bed with a blanket, a cup of tea and your favorite book on Monday night will do just fine.

Ask the right questions

Your Sunday night blues might simply be a product of overthinking, but they can also be an important sign. Take a step back and try to identify what’s causing you anxiety, stress, or sadness. Do you have too many commitments? Do you need more sleep? Have you neglected yourself for too long? Is your job in opposition with your personal values and beliefs? Maybe it’s time to slow down a little. Whatever it is, pinpointing the exact root of those unpleasant feelings that occur right before Monday is the first step toward a solution.

If you need additional help, do not hesitate to reach out. Your therapist can help you explore where your Sunday anxiety and sadness come from and create the right strategy to soothe them.

If you know a friend or a family member who is having a hard time on Sundays, share this article with them on social media – they may find it helpful.

How do you fight Sunday night blues? Leave a comment below!

Resources:

https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/volunteering-our-time-makes-us-feel-like-we-have-more-time-study.html

https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/people-who-volunteer-are-happier-with-their-work-life-balance.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-couch/201111/what-makes-sunday-nights-so-hard

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2169996/When-weekend-ends-4-13pm-Sunday-blues-ahead-working-week.html

living in the present mindfulness

Return To Now: Living In The Present Moment

“Live in the present moment”! How many of us would roll our eyes in annoyance of hearing that overused statement again? We heard it so many times that we often don’t even stop and think about it. But we really, really should.

Although it has become a popular topic in recent years, living in the present is not just a trendy lifestyle tip. Focusing on the present moment is a way of leading a fulfilled, happy, less stressful life that is, in fact, backed up by good science.

But instead of listing all the reasons why mindfulness makes life so much better, which you can read HERE, let’s first focus on what is real.

You Already Know How To Live In The Present

Remember the time when you were a kid. Can you recall how you noticed everything back then? The smell of the grass, cracks on the sidewalk, moving clouds on the sky, smell of new books… You were in the now back then almost all the time. Your mind wasn’t overfilled with worries and plans for the future or regrets from the past. You just existed, paid attention to your surrounding, and fully participated in your life.

So, you already know how living in the now looks and feels like. The goal is to bring back that mindset as often as possible in your daily life.

Of course, you might argue that those were the times when you had fewer responsibilities, and you would be right. As you’re growing up, you are facing more complicated situations, and that requires some advanced planning, learning from your mistakes, making priorities and balancing many different areas of life. However, all this doesn’t nearly mean that experiencing the present moment is less possible. In fact, in reality, it is the only possible time to live in. Literally.

The Only Time That Exists Is NOW – The Eternal Present Moment

You’re reading this text now. You are breathing now. If the future you’re worried or excited about comes, it can do so only in the form of the present moment, just like the one right now. It is not something mysterious that will come in a spectacular way.

Time as we know it (minutes, hours, months, days) is actually an illusion – we only use it for practical purposes. As Albert Einstein said: “The distinction between the past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”. Think about it – there is never a time when you are living in anything other than this ongoing moment.

living in the present

And yet, you often miss it. You’re often going past your own life, trapped in your head. You’re maybe making plans for the next week. Or you’re replaying the same conversation from yesterday over and over in your head, thinking about what you said wrong. Or you’re so excited about some future event that all you can think about is that and you just want it to come as soon as possible. And then you’re parking your car and have no idea how you drove to work; you were so lost in your thoughts that you don’t remember the actual drive. You just missed to experience your life and went through a part of it on autopilot.

Don’t Let Your Wandering Mind Steal Your Time And Joy

According to Harvard University study, we spend about 47% of our waking time thinking about things other than what we’re doing or what’s going on, and most of this daydreaming doesn’t make us happy. Authors of the research say: “Human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind”.

A similar conclusion comes from Eckhart Tolle, the author of the best-selling book “The Power of Now”: “Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past and not enough presence”.

The tricky thing is – in our busy world that demands constant multitasking, it can be difficult to remember to be mindful about what is happening in the present moment. However, it is important for becoming truly connected with yourself and leading a fulfilled life. Present is already here. It is going on while you’re chasing your “ideal” life or beating yourself up for past mistakes. While you’re occupied with how your life could look like, your actual life is happening.

The disappointing thing is – there is no extraordinary event outside of you that will suddenly change you and make you less unfocused and absent. You need to make a conscious decision to pay attention to what is happening in the now and remember to remind yourself to do it every day. It’s that simple. When you notice you wandered off, just gently get back to the now.

The encouraging thing is – it becomes easier with practice. Once you train your mind to operate in the “present mode”, it becomes a habit and you’ll do it almost effortlessly.

 

Of course, all this doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore your past or your future. It’s important to learn from your past experiences and plan for the future in order to reach your goals. But don’t let these two steal the now from you. Know where you want to go, but be present on every step you take toward it.

social media

Saving Your Happiness: How to Use Social Media in a Healthy Way

Today, it would be really difficult to find anyone who’s not using at least one form of social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and many more became an inevitable part of our lives. Fascinatingly, some people are even making money from using social media by becoming a social media evaluator. How crazy is that?! And it can be great – isn’t the quick way to connect with your loved ones and share your experiences with each other in seconds amazing? Isn’t the opportunity to quickly consume any type of information you’re interested in, from educational to entertaining, simply awesome?
Yes, if you have a healthy relationship with social media. But, sometimes, it can be easy to forget what it really means.

Social Media and Mental Health

While some studies claim the relationship between mental health and usage of social media is still vague, others have found that higher social media use could have the negative effect on our mental health in forms of anxiety, depression, lower self-esteem, more negative body image, and feelings of loneliness and isolation. Which effect social media will have on your mental health depends on numerous different factors, such as the way you use it or the amount of time spent on social media.

You already know that it’s easy to fall into a dark hole of scrolling through your social media feed for hours. You also know how awful you can feel afterward. But you don’t have to give up social media completely to avoid its negative effects. If you use it the right way and have a couple of things in mind, social media can have a positive presence in your life. Here are some tips to stay happy and healthy online.

1. It’s All a Filter – And That’s Okay

We all want to be loved. We also want to leave a good impression on people. It feels great when people see us as fun, smart, pretty, successful (be free to add your own ideal set of characteristics ?). That is perfectly fine. There is nothing wrong with enjoying compliments and wanting people to think good about you – it’s our natural tendency – as long as:

A) …it doesn’t become an obsession for you, where you don’t let people see anything that is, by your standard, less than perfect or socially desirable. If this sounds a little like you, THIS is the article that might be useful.

B) …you’re aware that other people have this desire too, and social media allows them to fulfill it.

When scrolling through your Instagram or Facebook, always remember that social media allows people to show you only the parts of them they want you to see. You usually won’t see the photo of your neighbor brushing their teeth or having a headache. However, you WILL see them enjoying a cocktail on a rooftop bar or receiving an award for something awesome. Your friends on social media have a bunch of amazing and also not-so-great moments in their lives, but it’s such an easy thing to forget. It’s so easy to get caught in a trap of believing that what you see on social media is the whole reality. So, what should you do?

Imagine social media as a filter between you and other people that lets through only positive snapshots of their lives. That is what you see on your feed. It doesn’t mean people are lying or they’re “fake”; it just means they’re showing you only certain, chosen parts of their lives. Always remember to approach social media with this mindset.

social media happiness

2. Comparison is a Strong Weapon Against Your Happiness

If you understand the previous point – how people show us only a filtered picture of their lives on social media – then you realize that comparing yourself to other people online makes no sense. You’re different people with different set of characteristics, abilities, connections, life circumstances and many more! Comparing your whole life, including all its ups and downs, with a polished picture of someone else’s is not a fair battle.

Comparison opens door to envy, loneliness, bitterness and a whole bunch of other unhealthy emotions you don’t want in your life. Why, then, you let the comparison do it when it won’t increase the quality of your life in any way? The answer: because it’s an automatic reaction.

Comparison is pointless – unless you want to destroy your happiness – then it’s a powerful tool.
There are two ways to fight comparison. One is to consciously choose to notice when you start comparing yourself to others and stop. Yes, simply put an end to it right that moment. Log out, tell yourself you’re doing the pointless thing again, unfollow the person.

The other way is to turn this automatism into your advantage by reformatting comparison into an inspiration. Remember that someone else’s happiness does not minimize your own, nor you’re doing something wrong for having a different life than that person. Instead, set your own goals, and let some of the social media posts you see serve as an inspiration and motivation to pursue them. Instead of getting jealous and falling down the rut of self-pity, you can be grateful for the inspiration that moves you towards your goal.

Your only competition is your former self.

3. No, You’re NOT Missing Out

Do you automatically reach out your phone because maybe something interesting or exciting is happening online and you might miss it? What if others are having an amazing time and you’re not there to see it? If this sounds like you, you’re maybe experiencing fear of missing out or, popularly, FOMO.

FOMO is the type of a general anxiety over the idea that others are having more exciting and fun experiences elsewhere while we’re not involved. This term is in use for more than 20 years, but more and more people are experiencing it with the rise of social media. In fact, one study showed that FOMO is the strongest contributing factor to social media addiction among youth.

What is often happening when you’re glued to your phone searching for fun online is that you’re trying to escape the reality around you.

Are you satisfied with what is going on right now in your life? Try to pinpoint the reason why getting lost in social media feed is more interesting than being involved in the present moment. Writing it on a piece of paper might be useful. Now, what can be some possible solutions? Running away from reality is not one of them.

Another thing that might help you combat this unpleasant feeling of missing out is mindfulness. When you’re fully present, when you’re consciously paying attention to every moment of your life without judgment, you are making the active decision to enjoy things and people around you.

Being on social media can create some positive experiences in your life, but it can also become an additional stressor. If you feel that social media is impacting your mood more than it should, or you feel like it’s taking significantly more time of your day than you’d want and you find it hard to control, consider reaching out and speaking with someone. There is always a solution, and you don’t have to search for it alone.

Sources:

https://mentalhealthscreening.org/blog/how-to-have-a-healthy-relationship-with-social-media
https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S174014451730517X#
https://www.ntu.ac.uk/about-us/news/news-articles/2018/06/fear-of-missing-out-driving-social-media-addiction,-study-suggests
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4183915/