It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.George Harrison
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”Haldir, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
Written by: Kayla Mason
It’s no secret that during the emergence of the Covid-19 virus, anxiety and depression rates have skyrocketed.
Rates of anxiety and depression among U.S. adults were about 4 times higher between April 2020 and August 2021 than they were in 2019 (Deangelis).
In 2020 and 2021, I talked with people that I had known for years who, for the first time, were now speaking to me about their mental health.
As much as I, and possibly the whole world, wish this virus had never been sprung into our already chaotic lives, it has, and though we cannot control the virus, we can control how we cope.
Here are 5 ways to help ease your depression symptoms right now
1. Write A Gratitude List
You always hear people say the common phrase, “Life is over in a flash!”… Or, at least, I’ve heard it a billion times in my thirty-year lifetime. Anyway, that phrase is a fact, and life is indeed short. It does pass us by fast, and we often take advantage of that.
Writing down people, places, and things that you are happy to have in this life, prompts us to remember better times in our lives.
more here: https://www.psycom.net/how-to-be-happy
2. Take Care of Yourself
There have been periods in my life when I’ve not showered for days. I’m not proud of it; actually, I’m really embarrassed.
So, I can understand when others struggle with maintaining adequate daily personal hygiene.
Like anything, there can be many reasons people do not care to shower, bathe, brush their teeth, etc.
People or families may not be able to afford hygiene products or may not have access to these products.
Taking care of yourself is more than just focusing on the physical. Other types of self-care include focusing on your emotional health, work-life, or finances. Balancing all of these aspects of our lives ensures a healthy lifestyle.
3. Connect With Others
According to Williams (2019), socializing not only staves off feelings of loneliness but also helps sharpen memory and cognitive skills and increases your sense of happiness and well-being, and may even help you live longer.
I am known to isolate in my own home for various reasons. I struggle to leave the house because of intense anxiety focused on socializing. It’s tough to push myself out the door to connect with people. I can absolutely understand people’s struggles with socializing with others and maintaining relationships.
What is important to remember is how you feel when connecting with people outside of your household.
If you feel apprehensive, anxious, or scared, then maybe you have some inner work to do with your relationships.
If you feel refreshed, joyful and accomplished, then maybe you are ready to dive into the world and explore what kind of relationships fit you best.
4. Get Outside
I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve had a mental health professional ask me, “Have you gone outside today?” which is usually followed by the roll of my eyes.
Then something magical happens. I literally drag myself (the worst feeling!) out of my apartment, whether it’s to walk to the car or to Dunkin Donuts and…..I FEEL BETTER.
I notice the air and how it feels. I see the sounds all around me and they feel familiar; they feel right. It feels good to be outside, AND it feels good that I pushed myself out of my dungeon and into a garden of sorts.
So, honestly, try to go outside. Even for a few seconds. How do you feel?
Research shows that visits to forests, rural areas, and parks can improve mental health and thinking skills, even in people with depression. Exposure to natural environments can also help fight mental fatigue and reduce stress.
5. Meditate and Visualize
Like being told to go outside, I’ve continuously been told that meditation is extremely helpful in treating mental health symptoms. Last year, I meditated more than I ever have and found joy in it. Although, I also found discomfort. It’s not comfortable to face your thoughts head-on, quietly, while being mindful.
I personally find that guided meditations are the most helpful, especially for someone who has dealt with complex trauma throughout their life. It’s easier and more beneficial to focus on what the meditation teacher is saying vs. reoccurring intrusive thoughts flying around at hyperspeed.
Another way to meditate safely could be by visualizing a happy time in your life or by envisioning a safe place in your mind where you can be present. What does your safe place look like? What is around you? Where are you? Will anyone join you here?
Kayla Mason is a Communication student at Southern New Hampshire University who is majoring in New Media and Marketing.
She belongs to the Freelance Union, which provides support through policy advocacy, benefits, resources, and community while raising writers’ voices to make sure they are heard. She also belongs to the National Writers Union. The purpose of the N.W.U. is to promote and protect its members’ rights, interests, and economic advancement, organize writers to improve professional working conditions through collective bargaining actions and provide professional services to members.
DISCLAIMER The materials and content contained in this website are for general information only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users of this website should not rely on the information provided for their own health needs. All specific questions should be presented to your own health care provider.
FOR IMMEDIATE SUPPORT If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
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Deangelis, Tori. “Depression and Anxiety Escalate during COVID.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, 2021, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2021/11/numbers-depression-anxiety.
“Mayo Clinic Minute: The Benefits of Being Socially Connected – Mayo Clinic News Network.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 Apr. 2019, https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-minute-the-benefits-of-being-socially-connected/#:~:text=Socializing%20is%20good%20for%20your%20mind%20and%20body.&text=Socializing%20not%20only%20staves%20off,connecting%20via%20technology%20also%20works.
Monaghan, Elizabeth. “For Optimal Mental Health, Add a Regular Dose of Nature.” PSYCOM, https://www.psycom.net/mental-health-wellbeing/mental-health-benefits-nature/.
Sitting here, in my car passenger seat, waiting for my signature espresso drink, I’m full of self-hatred.
I’ve let just about all of Facebook and social media know that I struggle with mental health issues, along with friends, family, etc. Although they know I struggle, I assume they also see me as a functioning adult who inspires others to be more open about their mental health and stability.
Most days, I understand that helping and inspiring others who struggle with what I do is a gift. It’s enlightening to see people blossom!
Today though, I need to be one of those I help. I need assistance; I need someone like me to listen or to take the place of a caregiver I never had and am still grieving over. I need someone to soothe me. (Even though I know only I can do and am responsible for that.)
I’ve had a lot of validation in my short life that confirms I am too much.
Today, it really feels like I am.
I stop for a moment and look up.
In front of me, I see a square window surrounded by chipping paint flakes and coated in a deep brown color; similar to the dark color of my soul.
The curiosity reels me in, and I’m standing directly in front of the window now, so close that I can open or close it.
I look up. There it is, I think. Above me was a round and majestic glowing figure that seemingly met me here, at this same spot, for years now.
Some call it The Moon.
To me, I don’t care what it is called, as it puts me in a trance when it’s around.
I’ve…fallen in love with this…thing.
It never fails me, nor abandons, nor shames.
It just exists and lets me live next to it, without any judgment.
I hear my wife calling from the porch across the way. I hope she gets tired and gives up with that yelling. Her voice used to spark a flame in me; now, sometimes, it extinguishes it.
I look up one more time before I must go.
The Moon has drifted farther from where it last was, and a jolt of sadness arises in me.
“Edmund! Get over ‘ere I need yah!”
I take a deep breath in and one breath out. My hands are clenched, yet I slowly let the stress from my body go.
This is why The Moon and I meet every night.
We are not involved in some scandalous love affair; no, we are engaged in a community.
When I am with The Moon, I create and build mastery in my life. I build what I’ve lost with my wife…
We never may know where we go one day to the next – or what may happen tomorrow, or a minute from now.
At least I know the Moon stays consistent for me, and I for it.
I break my gaze with my new lover, shuffle over to the barn door, and see Millie on the porch, in her nightdress, looking beautiful. The way her hair naturally swayed in the wind was memorizing.
Until she opened her mouth.
As I headed across the field towards the house, I couldn’t seem to focus, because our home was now glazed over in Moonlight, like the Moon was giving me a gift of departure.
We will meet again, My Moon. Until tomorrow.
sitting, playing, silently listening
chest tightens, shoulders freeze
here she comes again
i sit with her, listening, helping, playing
she soothes me with anger and rage
I finally feel something, not sadness
I finally feel
According to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2021), complex trauma (c-ptsd) describes both children’s exposure to multiple traumatic events—often of an invasive, interpersonal nature—and the wide-ranging, long-term effects of this exposure. These events are severe and pervasive, such as abuse or profound neglect.
In the article “Understanding Complex Trauma, Complex Reactions, and Treatment Approaches”, written by trauma expert, Dr. Christine Courtois, she summarizes complex traumatic events and experiences as stressors that are:
(1) repetitive, prolonged, or cumulative
(2) most often interpersonal, involving direct harm, exploitation, and maltreatment including neglect, abandonment, or antipathy by primary caregivers or other ostensibly responsible adults
(3) often occur at developmentally vulnerable times in the victim’s life, especially in early childhood or adolescence, but can also occur later in life and in conditions of vulnerability associated with disability, disempowerment, dependency, age, infirmity, and others.
Symptoms of complex trauma can include but are not limited to:
Reliving the traumatic experience
Avoiding situations with reminders of abuse
Changes in beliefs about you and others
Inability to regulate emotions
Negative self perception
Difficulty with relationships
Distorted perception of abuser
Treatment for complex trauma (c-ptsd)
- -internal family system work
- -exposure therapy
- -cognitive behavioral therapy
- -dialectical behavior therapy
eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
Complex Trauma Resources
Deep breathing has always helped me calm and center myself. When I first started singing lessons in middle school, my music teacher always told me to breathe into the diaphragm, into my belly, and my voice would radiate better. She was right.
Now, I use breathing as a calming tool. I particularly like tactical breathing (4 square breathing)!
Breathing involves your diaphragm, a large muscle in your abdomen. When you breathe in, your belly should expand. When you breathe out, your belly should fall.
I am consistently self soothing. Whether it’s fidgeting with something, taking a shower, or sipping a hot drink, these activities help ground me into the present moment.
These coping strategies focus on improving your mood and reducing anxiety and are sometimes described as self soothing or self-care coping strategies.
As the years go on my social anxiety has gotten worse, especially during Covid! When I do spend time with people who are caring and understanding of my mental health, I feel refreshed and connected! It’s a great feeling.
Research has found that finding support from others can be a major factor in helping people overcome the negative effects of a traumatic event and PTSD.
Ahhhh mindfulness. The one thing I am terrified of is the one thing that will ultimately help in my healing process! Mindfulness heals.
Mindfulness is about being in touch with and aware of the present moment.
Clearly, writing is an expressive tool in my life. Writing emotions down is easier for me than speaking them.
In PTSD in particular, expressive writing has been found to have a number of benefits, including improved coping, post-traumatic growth (the ability to find meaning in and have positive life changes following a traumatic event), and reduced PTSD symptoms, tension, and anger.
Being a trauma survivor myself, mindfulness has always been integrated into my treatment.
Recently I was enrolled into a mindfulness based CBT group where I’ve met like minded people who are struggling with trauma and struggling staying present.
So, what is trauma and why is mindfulness so important in regards to it?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event.
Ultimately, any event might be considered traumatic if you have experienced and/or witnessed a threat to your life, your body, your moral integrity, or had a close encounter with violence or death.
So why would a trauma survivor want to be mindful when flashbacks may be running their daily lives?
There is an immense amount of data that supports mindfulness as a treatment for people diagnosed with PTSD.
In brains of people with PTSD, deregulation occurs in the area of the brain that is associated with emotional regulation and memory. In the brain, the amygdala represents a core fear system in the human body, which is involved in the expression of conditioned fear. When an person is suffering with PTSD, the amygdala becomes over activated.
Mindfulness meditation is correlated increase in gray matter in the hippocampus, a decrease of gray matter in the amygdala, and neuroimaging studies have found that mindfulness meditation also helps to activate the pre-frontal cortex.
Mindfulness can help people train themselves to get unstuck from a vicious cycle of negative thinking, often a cornerstone of trauma.
Wolkin, J., PhD, B. G. B., Pratt, M., Whitney-Coulter, A., Naidoo, U., Smookler, E., Staff, M., & Kira M. Newman and Janet Ho. (2018, June 8). The science of trauma, mindfulness, and PTSD. Mindful. Retrieved October 3, 2021, from https://www.mindful.org/the-science-of-trauma-mindfulness-ptsd/.
I stare off and focus on a spot in the room. The image becomes fuzzy or non-existent and I’m instantly transplanted into my mind – into the scenarios I have been ruminating on.
I am back in my room from middle school. I’m surprised at how well I remember where everything is and what everything looked like. I am back there now, floating through the room to room, recalling the emotions I felt while here.
Despair, confusion, anxiety, connection, sadness, anger, frustration, fleeting happiness…
I come out of the dissociative and flashback episode quickly. I am left with lingering images, thoughts, and feelings from the episode for hours if not days.
A flashback is when memories of a past trauma feel as if they are taking place in the current moment.
When I go to sleep at night, I fall asleep fast – sleep gives me a break from reality and my deepening depression.
Since my mom transitioned, my sleep is filled with monsters. Images of family and relational ruin and gore fill my dream state with blips of my personal life replaying itself over and over.
Learning skills and tools to cope with these flashbacks is essential for me and essential for those dealing with PTSD on a daily basis.
Here are a couple of tips that I’ve learned to lessen flashback intensity and lessen them all together.
What can you do to help flashbacks?
–Tell yourself you’re having a flashback.
-Breathe! Take deep and slow breaths. Use box breathing. Inhale for 4, Hold for 4, Exhale for 4, Hold for 4. Repeat.
-Return to the present moment by using the five senses.
–Distract yourself by watching a film, taking a walk, calling a friend, etc. Do something you enjoy doing!
–Use DBT TIPP Skills:
More About TIPP Skills Here: https://www.manhattancbt.com/archives/1452/dbt-tipp-skills/
How can you prevent flashbacks?
• Be aware of warning signs. This can help you manage or prevent flashbacks.
• Identify what triggers you and make a plan on how to avoid or overcome these triggers.
Happy healing my friends. We can do this together.