Ideas on how to cope at Christmas while coping with a bereavement
Christmas can be a painful time whether it’s your first year without someone who has died, or you were bereaved long ago.
We know that facing Christmas alone, or whilst grieving, can be a daunting prospect. One of the things that can help can be to spend some time trying to work out, well in advance, which arrangements will best suit your needs and the needs of others who share your loss.
Some bereaved people find that they do not wish to celebrate Christmas at all, whilst some find that simply maintaining their routine and celebrating as normal is the best tribute they can pay their loved one. It may feel important to make a special effort to remember the person who has died. This can be as simple as ‘speaking’ to the person, silently or out loud, or it may involve visiting their grave, or a place that was special to them. These can be things that we do alone, or with friends or family. You may have photos or particular memories which you treasure; sharing these with others may be something that brings you together.
We know that people remember and mourn in different ways. Conflict within a family can sometimes arise when we have expectations of how others should grieve, so try to be sensitive to others’ needs, and to talk openly about what will be best for you.
The Christmas period may mean that your normal routine is disrupted, and this can make it easier to forget to look after yourself. Trying to keep to regular patterns of sleeping and eating are small things that can make a difference. We can all drink more on festive occasions, but it’s important to remember that using alcohol to escape the pain of loss provides only very temporary relief. Seeing friends or family, or volunteering for the day, can all help.
As time passes, special occasions like Christmas can help us to begin to focus on happier memories of good times shared in the past. However they can also be difficult, intensely emotional times when we need to look after ourselves and those around us.
We often find that we blame ourselves for having depression. We have thoughts such as ‘I only have depression because I lost my job, which was all my fault’. Or ‘if I wasn’t so lazy my depression would go away’. If we mull it over long enough, we can think of all sorts of reasons why depression is our fault.
Depression is an illness. It’s an illness with a complex set of causes. It’s usually caused by a combination of things. Some might be biological and some might be things that have happened in our lives. Sometimes our actions might have resulted in a consequence that does impact our mood. But, depression is an illness. It’s not our fault.
Depression can come with so many different symptoms. Many of them can be quite anti-social, or can cause us to act in ways we would never behave when well. For example, it can cause us to be extra irritable. This might mean that we snap at our others for no apparent reason. We can then beat ourselves up for snapping at them, which can set off a negative spiral of difficult thoughts. Depression isn’t an excuse – we still need to apologise if we’ve hurt someone. But we need to allow ourselves a bit of kindness; depression does make everything around us feel overwhelming and intimidating, because there’s so much internal noise. We’ll act out of character, because we are out of character.
Sometimes we can learn to manage some of our symptoms. We can learn ways to cope with our increased irritability, for example. But the symptoms themselves are not our fault. It’s not our fault that socialising feels too much. It’s not our fault that we need a lot more sleep than others. It’s not our fault that we get angry sometimes. Depression, and the symptoms that come with it are not our fault.
We tell ourselves that we should just ‘get better’. Other people have it worse. We need to pull ourselves together and stop moping around.
Living with depression is hard and horrible. Other people might have it worse, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t feel absolutely awful. There are little things we can do to help ourselves such as engaging in therapy, upping our self care, and taking medication as prescribed. But we can’t snap our fingers and immediately be depression-free.
Sometimes we don’t notice that we’re blaming ourselves for things. We can be really harsh on ourselves without realising. The dialogue in our heads becomes normal to us. We’re so accustomed to having this voice in our head tearing us down and blaming us for everything, that we barely notice it’s happening.
Talking over some of our thoughts with someone else (a friend, family member, health professional or someone else) can help. Talking can help us to identify some of our unhelpful thought patterns. Other people can point out when we’re blaming ourselves for things that aren’t our fault. Identifying them means that we can then work on forgiving ourselves for these things.
One of the best ways to tackle self-blame is to forgive ourselves. Nobody is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. There will always be things that we’re unhappy with. Depression can exacerbate this because it can make us feel worse about ourselves and can cause us to make more mistakes.
It’s time to forgive ourselves for these things. Part of this forgiveness can include taking responsibility for our mistakes, (which is different from blaming ourselves). Once we’ve done that, we can forgive ourselves, ask for forgiveness from others, and move on. Nobody is perfect. Making mistakes is often how we learn in life; we didn’t walk the first time we tried, we stumbled and tumbled, again and again.
Having depression isn’t a ‘slip up’, or a mistake that we’ve made. It’s an illness. Blaming ourselves for depression means that a lot of energy is being used up on giving depression power; it loves us to feel crappy about ourselves as that keeps us where we are.
We are important and valuable. We are wonderful people with unique personalities and quirks. We have our good bits and less-good bits, just like anyone else. We are a work in progress. We will slip up. We will make mistakes – and that’s okay! We can forgive ourselves and ask for forgiveness from others if need be.
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How to be productive at work while suffering with depression
Mental health problems such as depression are one of the leading causes of absences and productivity issues among employees. In 2010, a survey conducted by the UK IDEA (European Depression Association (EDA) revealed that 26 per cent of people in the UK have depression, and this mental illness is costing the government £105.2 billion each year – which covers the direct cost of mental health services, lost productivity at work, and reduced quality of life.
Staying productive at work is one of the biggest challenges that people with depression face. One day you are perfectly doing well and meeting your deadlines, the next day all you did was to look at your computer screen for eight hours. Overcoming depression is not an easy process and sometimes, it takes months (even years) of therapy to overcome this debilitating condition. The good news is that you can still manage to be productive at work and perform at your best even though you are depressed. Here’s how a few ways to help you:-
Take one step at a time
People with depression easily get overwhelmed even with simple tasks at work. Because of the vicious cycle of negative thinking, you may even find it hard to know where to start and how to deal with the problem at hand. One good strategy is to break big projects into smaller, achievable tasks. It can be helpful to create a to-do list or a chart that outlines the things you need to do and their expected completion dates. This helps reduce the anxiety you feel which is common during depression.
Take regular breaks
Taking a break is probably the last thing you want to do when you are anxious and afraid of not completing a task on time. But really, it can help ward off mental fatigue that prevents you from performing well at work. During breaks, avoid staying on your desk and take the opportunity to unwind a little. Go out for a cup of coffee, or stroll outside. Chat with your work buddies or call a friend. Trying to bust negative thoughts can consume a lot of your energy. Give yourself time to recharge.
Learn some relaxation techniques
It’s usual to experience burnout when you are depressed. The workweek may have just started but it may feel like you’re already in the middle. Relaxation techniques are very practical tools to reduce feelings of anxiety, fear or restlessness that you may experience from time to time at work. Among the best techniques are meditation, deep breathing and stretching. When things are getting too overwhelming, close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Shift your focus to your breathing pattern and to the sensations you feel in your body. And slowly release the tension. You will be surprised of how calming this simple exercise is.
Personalise your workspace
If your desk is full of clutter, it’s likely to worsen your depression. You want your environment to be as calm, beautiful, peaceful, fresh and organised as possible. Hang a picture of your family on your wall or post inspiring motivational quotes. The inspiration you get from these things can really ramp your productivity levels.
Give time for regular exercise
Not only will this fuel your energy at work, it will also help reduce symptoms of depression. A 30-minute daily exercise routine will do you a long way. But if you can exercise more, much better!
Make the most out of your rest days
Weekends only constitute two days so make the most out of it! As much as possible, avoid doing anything that’s work-related and stay away from your laptop or mobile phone (as they can make you feel like you’re at work). Rather, go out with friends and family. Spend your rest day staying physically active by playing a sport, backpacking or engaging in adventurous recreational activities.
Lastly, don’t forget to seek professional help. Talk to a therapist and know your options. Depression does not only affect your work but all other aspects of your life, including your personal and social relationships. Remember that depression is a treatable disorder which many others have been successfully recovered from and you can too.
The goosebumps we get when we listen to music, is mainly caused by the brain releasing dopamine while anticipating the peak moment of a song.
Your heartbeat changes to mimic the music you listen to.
Music has been thought to help cure Parkinson’s Disease. Music Therapy has been shown to energize the network of Neurones.
Negative thoughts and how to beat them
Meditation or doing yoga focusing your attention of breathing and moving so your mind doesn't have to space to focus on negative themes. It helps you stay in the present moment instead of jumping into the future and what might happen, dwelling on past events that haven't turned out how you wanted them, etc.
It really does help change your mood and relieve stress. You can trick your brain into thinking you are happy because you are smiling .... so it starts thinking you are.
3. Surround yourself with positive people
For example, instead of thinking, “We are going to have a hard time adjusting to our living situation,” think, “We will face some challenges in our living situation, but we will come up with solutions that we will both be happy with.”
5. Don’t play the victim. You create your life—take responsibility
6. Help someone
It’s easy to dwell on your mistakes. The voice saying 'I felt terrible that I acted this way' or 'I wasted that opportunity'. The only thing you can do now is learn from your mistakes and move forward.
Try belting out along with the radio. You don't have to remember all the lyrics but the deep breathing involved, the chance to show our feelings and be loud can be an amazing stress relief.
9. List five things that you are grateful for right now
10. Remember this quote
Here's a quote from Winston Churchill:
“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”
I have found it to be very true in my own life. I worry about lots of things which don't ever happen, so when you feel worries starting to pop up ask yourself this:
How many of the things I feared would happen in my life did actually happen? If you are anything like me then the answer will be - very few if any. And the very few ones that actually happened were mostly not as painful or terrible as I had expected. I survived them because I am still here. I got through it. Worries are most often just monsters you build in your own mind. The more time I spend thinking about them, the more they feed on it and grow.
I find that asking myself this question regularly and reminding myself of how little of the worries that actually came to life makes easier and easier to stay calm and to stop a worried thought before it becomes a big snowball of negativity.
Another thing I try to do is to guess what the other person is thinking.
Trying to read someone’s mind usually doesn’t work too well at all. Instead, it can very easily lead to creating an exaggerated and even disastrous scenario in your mind. Try to choose a way that is less likely to lead to worries and misunderstandings. Can't think of a way - try communicating and ask what you want to ask.
By doing so you’ll promote openness in your relationship and it will likely be happier as you avoid many unnecessary conflicts and negativity.
I have also found that people don't spend as much time thinking about what I am doing, how I am getting on with my life or what I plan to do in the future. Most people think a bit like me, of what they are going to cook for tea, their plans for the weekend, buying a loaf of bread on the way home from work or, oops, I forgot to do that thing I meant to do and will try to remember to do it tomorrow. I don't have much thinking space to micro analyse my friends and I guess they are the same to me - they take me as I am!!
If I do have particular worries, I try to nail it straight away by talking it through with a friend. If there isn't anyone around and it can't wait, I journal it (write it down in a book) so it is out of my head. Very often talking it over with a loved one gives it another perspective that I hadn't seen or another angle that makes it easier to think about. Whatever it is, I have found that it usually helps.
Another thing that I do is try to be in the present moment instead of far into the future or ruminating over past conversations or events. When you spend too much time in the future then is also easy to get swept away by disaster scenarios. So focus on spending more of your time and attention in the present moment.
Two of my favorite ways to reconnect with what is happening right now:
Building a better relationship - things to try
With all the daily stresses and responsibilities we face each day, it can be easy to lose track of our relationship and get disconnected from our partner. Yes, keeping a relationship strong requires great effort. But there are simple, proven exercises that couples therapists recommend to deepen your relationship and make it more fulfilling.
If you have tried couples therapy before, you probably have encountered several of these.
Many times, a simple conversation could lead to a week-long of cold war or simultaneous arguments. That is why a lot of couples therapy exercises are designed to make both partners ‘active’ listeners. Active listening doesn’t only make discussion of sensitive issues easier, but also allows both of you to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other. When practising active listening, it is important for the speaker to remain focused on a single thought or point, and for the listener to concentrate on sharing their partner’s perspective. Here are simple rules to follow when practising active listening:
Spare a few minutes daily to practise this exercise and see how it can enhance many aspects of your relationship. Whatever the issue is, the best way to practise active listening is to do it with patience and love.
Study after study shows that grateful couples are happier and more resilient. Appreciation is vital to a relationship. But sometimes, especially among long-term couples, appreciating becomes a rare thing. If you’re lacking of this, there’s a very simple exercise that couples therapists recommend and it only requires making a list. Here it goes – daily, for five days, write down things that your partner did for you that you appreciated. They don’t have to be grand. Simple, sweet acts would do, like taking your dog for a walk, watering your plants, preparing your breakfast, making you smile, massaging your pounding head, etc. After the five days, exchange lists.
It is very easy to feel that you are being taken for granted and feel that your partner doesn’t recognise your efforts and the little things you do for him/her. This simple exercise can help both of you see and appreciate small gestures of love and care that you have for each other.
Using Positive Language
Miscommunication is a common problem among couples. Many of us often make false interpretations of what our partner is saying. This can lead to arguments, emotional disconnection and feelings of rejection. Couples therapy exercises can greatly deepen your bond and help you tackle even the most complicated issues without lashing or arguing. One of the best exercises for better communication is using positive language. A good communication exercise is using "you said" and "I heard" statements during conversations. In this exercise, you and your partner take turns repeating the other person’s statement and explaining your own interpretation of the message. Beginning your sentence with “I heard” makes your partner feel that you pay attention to and care about what he or she is saying. Saying these two words is like saying “I’m listening to you because what you have to tell me is important”.
Many times, we get too caught up doing things that we think our partner would really love and appreciate that we forget to ask ourselves – is it what he/she really desires? We need not always do or spend so much to please our special someone. Sometimes, it’s again the little, sweet acts that matter to them. Whilst surprises and gifts are really so romantic – sometimes, it’s the affectionate gestures like running errands for him/her, sitting with your partner to watch the same movie over and over again, or kissing him/her before leaving for work and the moment he/she comes home are enough to make your partner feel loved by you. A great exercise that therapists usually ask couples to do is to write down five things your partner can do, or does to make you feel loved.
Lots of couples stop dating after marriage, which is wrong. Dating is essential to keeping the fire burning and retaining the kind of excitement you both have experienced before. Maintaining relationships require hard work, and can be really stressful at times. Therefore, it is important for you and your partner to relax and unwind. Arranging a trip with your partner can be one great way to practise the above exercises whilst having a little fun. It doesn’t have to be a grand vacation. A simple getaway will do as long as you are in a place where you can relax – away from the things that remind you of your work, responsibilities, and all others that stress you out.
When you already have kids, intimacy becomes much more of a challenge. Intimacy is about being emotionally close to your partner. It’s also about being able to bring your defences down and accept and share in your partner’s thoughts and feelings. It’s about being able to share your “inner world” to this person. Intimacy is basically one of the most rewarding aspects of a relationship. Many couples start out their relationship thinking that they have achieved the highest level of intimacy that they have never experienced before. Yet, as years go by and they go through the highs and lows of marriage, they tend to discover a series of deeper levels in their intimacy. And each discovery only makes their relationship deeper and more rewarding.
A great intimacy builder routine, which you can do daily, involves sitting facing each other and closer that your knees are almost touching. Take a minute or several minutes to look into each other’s eyes. Assess your own reactions and thoughts. And share them with your partner. Feel the moment. Experience the closeness. This exercise is one way to connect with your partner after a hard, tiring and busy day.
Every relationship goes through rough waters. Incorporating all if not some of these basic couples therapy exercises can greatly improve many areas of your relationship and help you and your partner deal with issues more effectively, and grow closer. Marriage counselling exercises can also help you revive intimacy, strengthen the bond between you two, and maintain a healthy, happy and lasting relationship.
A large body of research tells us that happiness go beyond material things.
It’s true that a new car or house, a luxury trip, or some designer clothes and bags can give us an instant feeling of joy and gladness. But the positive emotions brought by these things quickly wane and if we cling on them as our major source of happiness, we could find ourselves lonely, discontented and disconnected at the end of the day.
If it’s not money, fame or fortune, then what makes us happy? There’s no secret formula to lasting happiness. But numerous researches suggest that happiness could be a product of the following things combined together:
An illness doesn’t only drain our wallet, but also destroy our energy and zeal in life. Therefore, the body must be treated well and given its needed nourishment, love and care. When you are healthy, you could focus more on what you do and be able to deal with problems much better. We can opt to live a healthy lifestyle by engaging in regular exercise, getting enough sleep, eating right, and learning to manage stress.
Humans are social beings. Therefore, it is a basic human need to look for affection from others. We all need to feel loved and cared for. It is crucial that we have at least one person to share our life with. Research published in 2001 in the Journal of Counselling Psychology found that people who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. They also have higher self-esteem, and are more trusting, empathic and cooperative with others. As a result, the number of people who love them increases.
Sufficient Source of Income
As mentioned, happiness goes beyond material things. But in order to have more time on things that give us lasting happiness, we also need to work hard to get a sufficient source of income. This reduces our worries about where to get our basic needs and concentrate more on things that truly matter – like health, family and social relationship. Whilst we can always aim for higher status in life, it should not be our motivation to be happy.
The cliché “the more you give the more you receive” is true. People usually feel good when they donate to charities, help someone in need, and reach out to others. Compassion is critical to happiness. When our hearts are filled with love for others, our sense of well-being dramatically increases. Not only that, it benefits our brain too. A research by Jordan Grafman, a neuroscientist from the National Institute of Health found that the "pleasures centres" in the brain, or the parts that are active when we experience pleasure from food, money or sex, are equally active when we observe someone giving money to charity as when we receive money ourselves.
In life, we should have a clear idea of what our goals are. Goals are what give direction to our lives. They motivate us to do better, keep learning, exceed our limits, and work harder. After setting our goals, we must make a clear plan on how to achieve them.
Without being grateful, it’s very difficult to be happy. A bulk of studies confirms that gratitude is vital to happiness. “Thank you” is a simple yet powerful phrase that can uplift our spirit and touch other people’s lives.
Optimism and Resilience
Seeing the glass half full has a significant effect on our happiness levels. Optimism is what gives us hope to move forward despite the adversities we experience in life. It goes hand in hand with resilience – which is the ability to handle difficulties effectively. The world is full of imperfections. No one in this world has ever experienced any problem at all. Challenges are part of life. But they shouldn’t be a hindrance to our happiness.
Unless we incorporate all these things to our life, we can never be completely happy. Not practising one of them is like forgetting the secret ingredient that makes a recipe stand out. Good health, affection, sustainable income, compassion, defined goals, gratitude and resilience – all these things are essential to happiness. And the good news is that they are something we can learn and master over time.
Mindfulness - what is it?
The Wikipedia definition is as follows:-
….. mindfulness is defined as moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, characterized mainly by "acceptance" - attention to thoughts and feelings without judging whether they are right or wrong.
Whether you think that sounds simple or incredibly difficult then you are right! Trying not to judge ourselves, trying not to imaging how other people perceive our actions or not second guessing what we ‘should’ be doing in a situation can be incredibly hard for some people. We all have an inner voice either urging us on or questioning our abilities so image you can just ‘be’. Can you begin to think how it would feel if that questioning voice was just a whisper which we could pass over and get on with our lives – enjoying every second of it?
Mindfulness encompasses various methods of reminding ourselves of the moment-by-moment feelings, thoughts, emotions and physical sensations so we can be more in tune with our bodies. Maybe during these darker months when we can’t get out and about so much, how about getting ‘in’ more – in tune with ourselves.
On YouTube there are 1000s of mindfulness videos guiding you though body scan meditations, relaxation techniques, explanations of processes, in fact anything you might want to learn. Why not treat yourself and go somewhere exceptional?
There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage.
Even couples who say they are happily married go through ups and downs, occasional fights and misunderstandings. But many end up with divorce not because the love is gone but because they wait until it’s too late to get the help necessary to save their marriage. If the flow of your relationship is going through lots of bumps, consider the following self-help tips to get your marriage back on track.
Identify what the real issues are.
When we are angry at our partner, we tend to dig deeper into the past, looking for the past mistakes they have done to us. This habit however, can stray you away from the real issues your marriage is facing in the moment. Create an honest list of problems that your marriage has, including those you have never brought up yet to your spouse but you think is essential to your relationship.
Assess the weaknesses and strengths of your marriage.
In the past years you were together, what had been the greatest hindrances or issues you encountered? What are the qualities that make your marriage special? What can be done to reduce the issues and increase the quality of your marriage?
Focus on what you can do.
No one likes being told that they are doing things wrong, or that they are a bad person. When dealing with marriage problems, we tend to focus on what our partners should do or change. But this can just lead to further misunderstandings. Try not to focus on your partner’s flaws, rather on what you could do differently.
Stay in the calm zone.
Avoid snide remarks, sarcasm, criticism, anger, blame, accusation, etc. If you really can’t stop yourself from saying hurtful things to your partner during a conversation, then just leave. Get some fresh air. If you let yourself be flown away by your emotions, you might end up saying or doing things you will just regret in the end.
Learn to express concerns constructively.
Avoid beginning your sentence with "You always…” or “You never…” Remember, you must focus on fixing issues on your end. Instead of saying “I would like you to…” say “I would like to…”, or “My concern is…” etc.
Set up conversation rules.
Try not to interrupt until your partner is done speaking, and avoid raising your voice. As for clarification if you need to, so you can check they completely understand what you are trying to tell them or what he or she is trying to tell you.
Create positive experiences together.
Touch more. Kiss more. Smile and laugh more. Talk more. Have sex more often. Spend more time together. Don’t last a day without giving your partner a nice compliment. Give more praise and show more gratitude. Go out for a romantic date. Travel together. Do the things you used to do when you were first dating. One positive experience can overthrow ten negative experiences.
Seek professional help.
Many marriages have been saved by counselling. If you can’t avoid arguing when discussing issues in your marriage, maybe you need the intervention of a qualified therapist.
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