Depression, Anxiety, and Sense of Self Issues
By Toby Mautz, LCSW
Depression, anxiety and sense of self issues consume millions of humans around the world. Individuals since the beginning of time have been recording ideas relating to survival, philosophy, science, medicine, sociology, psychology, and theology. The strides in encouraging clients to remain engaged, hopeful, active and alive when the depression and anxiety take hold of their lives is evident. Despite this the overwhelming feelings continue for many and more remains needed to support those throughout our families and communities as they struggle.
For the past 20 years I've observed clients depression and anxiety quantifying as their sense of self depletes. This often leads to an increase in the primary areas of concern and also the increased probability of substance abuse, relationship difficulties, oppositional behavior, school and work struggles, and overall physical health deterioration. To complicate matters as we age so too does the effectiveness of our previous coping mechanisms. What may have worked earlier in life may not remain effective with the current complexities you or your children are facing.
Depression and anxiety are two areas where it seems our heads don't always lead us to the best outcomes. For example, if one wakes up feeling anxious or depressed they may try to think and figure out why it is they are feeling this way. This approach takes them out of their emotions into their thoughts which may very well lead clients to intellectualize added reasons and justifications for the feelings they are having. This leads to more emotional entrenchment. A slower growth process follows as more time is spent locked into intellectual and emotional issues and it seems sense of self issues perseverate. In addition ones body is likely not being addressed or worse contributing to the added negative feelings one is having. This could continue for days, weeks, or even years if one is not able to break this pattern of dysfunction. As this continues so too do the side effects which follow as the compounded paralysis intensifies.
My experiences and exploration with both depressed clients and loved ones has revealed what can happen when we react differently and go “physical” during times of depression and anxiety. Just the opportunity of having another outlet sometimes in itself is a step in moving out of the emotional entrenchment. Let’s say one wakes up and feels depressed about the lack of energy, personal excitement, or healthy connection they have with others. Instead of reinforcing this intellectually, the individualI decides to get out of bed, get a glass a water, have breakfast, and stretch or walk for minutes. By taking this course of action before the depression has a chance to fuel up intellectually, the body is already pushing in another direction. The first decision leads to an accomplishment simply by moving and as this increases our bodies and other parts of ourselves naturally will yearn for more. Positive fuels off positive and engagement within ourselves follow. As this increases our chance to see and experience alternative approaches to our struggles increases exponentially.
Through learning about anchor points and utilizing these in your life you'll begin to give yourself tangible benefits for your own sense of self issues and also an opportunity to better understanding and support those around you who may be struggling. An anchor point can be a physical, intellectual, or emotional outlet. Some examples include, any form of exercise, cooking, painting, writing, reading, biking, hiking, yoga, meditation, walking your dog, playing an instrument, listening to music, fishing, playing a game, etc. Anything which allows one to connect intellectually, physically, or emotionally in a healthy way can be considered an anchor point. There are many of these which may trigger all three areas of the self, however; this isn't required as anchor points meant to be individualized regardless of ones history, capability, or background.
Individuals struggling with sense of self issues who apply anchor points are able to begin finding strength outside of the emotional, intellectual, or physical distress they are feeling. Often these individuals experience more success understanding themselves, communicating with others, and in turn more begin to experience more personal acceptance. Those who choose to engage with these outlets often find productive outcomes beginning to manifest and engagement and success follows.
We encourage our clients and loved ones to find heathy outlets in the face of the emotional storms which arise in life. As individuals begin to engage in these activities or experiences the sense of self issues will likely be tested and one is left with a few choices. Self sabotage which allows things to stay the same or working through the discomfort of growing into something one is currently uncomfortable with and adapt to a new way of life. As we age it seems many forget the significant pain which comes from the growth process. It makes sense to avoid this discomfort to push back to what we've become accustomed to. This can be seen if you take an overly active individual who is constantly on the go. Ask them to not exercise, leave the house, or do any household chores or projects for seven days. This would likely lead to real discomfort and they may push to distract themselves or bend the rules and thus miss out on many of the mindful activities or added opportunities which would have required decreased physical movement. The same is also true for the for individual whose been accustomed to a more sedentary life as the thoughts, endorphins, and emotions begin to engage in a different way. Regardless of where you may fall in the examples provided keep in mind the one next to you likely has a different perspective and being open to getting outside of yourself will be beneficial both for you and others as you go through the growth process.
There are things you can do today to support yourself or others struggling with depression, anxiety, or sense of self issues in general.
Intellectually: Already you've put yourself in success mode by making it to this part of the article. Feel good about that.
Continue to research ways to learn more about these issues.
Read more today than you did yesterday.
Realize when you may be entrenched with your thoughts and give yourself a pass to come back to it another time when you’re feeling less saturated.
Follow your doctor’s and therapist’s suggestions to take advantage of the expertise they are offering you.
Watch a movie or listen to music that inspires you or gets your thoughts moving productively.
Physically: Understand you are alive and have an opportunity today to breathe.
Establish a routine with sleep, nutrition, and movement.
Try to balance your diet with three meals and some snacks in-between.
Have more physical outlets today than you did yesterday. Stretching, walking, consciously breathing and being aware of your space; anything that allows your body to feel engaged in some way.
If you can, go outside do. Breathe natural air or find a park or trail near by to remove yourself from the day to day pressures. If this isn't an option visualize doing this and allow yourself to remember a time when you were in a natural environment and found success engaging with nature in a positive manner.
Emotionally: Accept there are things you can do about this.
Face the challenge in front of you and commit to doing something different about it.
Stagnation leads to more entrenchment. Commit to carry on and imagine a healthy feeling you're seeking not the current feeling your experiencing.
Go easy on yourself and give your growth some understanding. We often judge ourselves more harshly than we would others. Conversely push back when this inundates you and limits your abilities. Know you can heal.
I encourage you to push up against the way you're feeling and do not submit. Continue to strive to find new and more effective outlets to the life you are leading. For those who are constantly on the go, take it a bit easy and see what growth comes from that. For those who feel they could be a bit more on the go, get up and try something different. Regardless it's important to understand depression and anxiety are very significant diseases which lead to more struggles and impacts than most. Understanding the issues more as a kaleidoscope which needs to be turned for different perspectives is important to remember for yourself and those around you.