Accepting Help Doesn’t Make You Weak

From Medium

When it comes to mental health, a DIY approach might not be the best option

I’ve been leading support groups for a while now, and one of the more interesting themes I’ve noticed is a DIY (“do-it-yourself”) attitude toward our mental health work. Overall, this is healthy and true. We are each responsible for our own emotional experience, and activities such as journaling, meditation, and mindfulness are typically solitary experiences.

In truth, these more solitary activities are foundations for the bigger work that comes down the road for us. As we start to heal our little wounds, we gain confidence in the process and the capacity to approach some of our deeper hurts. (I like to use the onion analogy: We start by handling all the surface layers, and as we make our way through each layer, we get closer and closer to the central issues of our lives.)

Eventually, we start to see outward evidence of our healing. Maybe we begin to engage with our friends more frequently, or perhaps we start looking for a new job. Inevitably, someone who knows us is encouraged by the progress we are making and offers a helping hand. “Hey, I know someone who is hiring; want me to make a recommendation?”

For the emotionally healthy, the default response here would probably be, “yes, please.”

But those of us in a storm might kindly refuse.

I’ve crossed paths with this specific scenario multiple times, both in my work and my personal life. Those who refuse the help will typically explain the decision with something like, “I want to know I did it on my own.”

I think this is, at least partially, a cultural response: Here in the United States, we worship at the altars of Ayn Rand and the proverbial bootstraps. We adore the self-made success story, holding them up as examples of what a little hard work and determination can achieve.

We rely on societal structures to help protect us, guide us, and meet our fundamental needs.

But no one succeeds in a vacuum. We are all inter-reliant upon each other. To deny this core truth is to deny our essential humanity.

Listen to the story, or click here to read more.

Accepting Help Doesn’t Make You Weak

From Medium, by Teresa Colón

When it comes to mental health, a DIY approach might not be the best option

I’ve been leading support groups for a while now, and one of the more interesting themes I’ve noticed is a DIY (“do-it-yourself”) attitude toward our mental health work. Overall, this is healthy and true. We are each responsible for our own emotional experience, and activities such as journaling, meditation, and mindfulness are typically solitary experiences.

In truth, these more solitary activities are foundations for the bigger work that comes down the road for us. As we start to heal our little wounds, we gain confidence in the process and the capacity to approach some of our deeper hurts. (I like to use the onion analogy: We start by handling all the surface layers, and as we make our way through each layer, we get closer and closer to the central issues of our lives.)

Eventually, we start to see outward evidence of our healing. Maybe we begin to engage with our friends more frequently, or perhaps we start looking for a new job. Inevitably, someone who knows us is encouraged by the progress we are making and offers a helping hand. “Hey, I know someone who is hiring; want me to make a recommendation?”

For the emotionally healthy, the default response here would probably be, “yes, please.”

But those of us in a storm might kindly refuse.

I’ve crossed paths with this specific scenario multiple times, both in my work and my personal life. Those who refuse the help will typically explain the decision with something like, “I want to know I did it on my own.”

I think this is, at least partially, a cultural response: Here in the United States, we worship at the altars of Ayn Rand and the proverbial bootstraps. We adore the self-made success story, holding them up as examples of what a little hard work and determination can achieve.

We rely on societal structures to help protect us, guide us, and meet our fundamental needs.

But no one succeeds in a vacuum. We are all inter-reliant upon each other. To deny this core truth is to deny our essential humanity.

Read more here.

5 Ways to Simplify Your Life

From Psychology today, by Amy Morin

I’ve spent the majority of the last two years living on a boat. Life on a sailboat has required me to think about what I actually need to be happy in life.

I discovered that having less stuff, fewer obligations, and more time makes room for the most important things. I have more space in my life for people I love, things I appreciate, and opportunities I want to take.

And while living on a boat has lots of benefits, it definitely isn’t for everyone. But no matter where you live or what you do, you can take steps to simplify your life.

Here’s why simplifying your life is important — everything in your life takes up space. Whether it’s mental space, physical space, or calendar space, you only have so much room.

Everything you own, everything you do, and everyone you spend time with costs you something. And when you have an abundance of stuff, it costs you a lot.

Simplifying your life will give you more time, space, and energy. The more space you have, the freer you’ll be to truly enjoy everything. Here are five ways to simplify every area of your life.

1. Declutter your house.

Your environment affects how you feel physically and psychologically. Whether you waste time looking for misplaced items, or you grow overwhelmed every time you open your closet, having too much stuff wastes your resources.

A clean, organized space helps you feel more productive and energetic than when you’re living among heaps of clothes, stacks of papers, and piles of dishes.

When you have fewer items to worry about, you’ll feel lighter. You’ll also have energy to care for the items that you keep. Start decluttering one room at a time, and see for yourself how much better you feel when you get rid of things you don’t need.

2. Get rid of bad mental habits.

Bad mental habits carry a lot of psychological weight. Feeling sorry for yourself, dwelling on the past, and giving away your power are just a few of the unhealthy habits that will drain your mental strength.

Clear the mental clutter and unnecessary chatter. Make space for healthier thinking habits — like gratitudeself-compassion, and realistic self-talk.

When you catch yourself engaging in toxic thinking habits, take a deep breath, remind yourself it’s not helpful, and proactively conjure up a more realistic inner dialogue.

Read more here.

Tibetan Buddhism Course

From Embodied Philosophy

COURSE SUMMARY

We are witnessing a time of great geo-political, economic and ecological upheaval. At the same time a spiritual revolution is emerging, with burgeoning interest in methods for expanding human consciousness. As more people grow dissatisfied with materialistic culture, and taste the benefits of meditation, yoga, and plant medicines many are becoming increasingly committed to the deeper contemplative sciences and embodied philosophies that underpin these practices.

This four-part course surveys Tibetan Buddhism, specifically it’s unique practices of visualization, renunciation, and compassion grounded in its scientific world-view of interdependence.  The course asks not only how do Buddhists understand and relate to our current global predicament but invites you to personally consider how to become fully human. Each class will address the most salient existential questions we each face: how to learn, how to let go, how to love and how to lead. Content is presented through an interdisciplinary lens, using the idiom of psychotherapy and neuroscience to make ancient principals and practices even more relevant to our modern mindset.

About Your Teacher

Miles Neale, PsyD, is a Buddhist psychotherapist in private practice, and faculty member of Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science, and Tibet House (US), all initiatives that aim to preserve and assimilate Tibet’s rich curriculum of awakening into contemporary life. With more than twenty years integrating the mind science and meditative arts of Tibetan Buddhism with neuroscience and psychotherapy, Miles is a forerunner in the emerging field of contemplative psychotherapy, and offers public teachings and professional trainings worldwide. Miles is coeditor of Advances in Contemplative Psychotherapy (Routledge, 2017) and author of Gradual Awakening: The Tibetan Buddhist Path of Becoming Fully Human along with its companion audio course The Gradual Path (Sounds True, 2018). He is based in New York City. Visit milesneale.com for more information.

See more here

Coping With Depression is a Challenge—For All Of Us

From Crooked Media

One night, this is what I did. I drove home from a dinner. I was on a back road which had a sharp turn around a huge cliff, surrounded by pine trees and in the center, a tall, wall of New England granite. It was just me in the car and that was my mistake. I hit the gas pedal. Gripped the steering wheel. Watched the speedometer tick up: 40, 60, 80. My headlights caught the yellow sign, warning drivers to slow for the curve. It got closer and closer. I unclipped my seat belt. I remember my arms tightening, my legs preparing for impact. Then, for reasons that escape me, I eased up on the accelerator, turned away from the wall of rocks, swerved through the curve, and stayed alive.

Maybe I told myself that I would fail at this and end up paralyzed instead of dead. Maybe I thought about my dogs and how no one would let them out for hours. Maybe I stopped because I feared that reincarnation was real and I’d have to wear Danskin outfits, watch the TV show Manimal, and listen to John Ashcroft belt out Let the Eagle Soar all over again. Whatever came over me, I made it home. Let my dogs out, and slept with them in a weeping heap on my bed.

Soon after that night, I checked myself into a hospital and stayed there until a course of Electroconvulsive Therapy had its intended effect. It bought me the time I needed to find the right medication, which saved my life. It took 14 pills to get there, but I did and I went on to become a speechwriter in politics and a writer for TV shows. I was a witness in a federal criminal trial, supported our national responses to disasters in Haiti and the Gulf Coast, and helped the new young leaders of the March For Our Lives.

Depression hits people in unique and brutal ways. Some can’t leave their beds, let alone their homes. Some get angry. Some use alcohol and drugs to suppress crushing or suicidal feelings. And others, like me, can function at a high rate. I have learned to cover it up when I am in public. I can smile, write, or talk about policy, and you’d never know that I’m also thinking about dying.

For those blessed enough to never experience their brains misfiring this way, it is often impossible to understand why millions of people like me don’t get help sooner and more often. It seems like it should be easy to call 9-1-1, get to an emergency room, try different medications, and see a therapist. But understand that if “hope is the thing with feathers,” as Emily Dickinson wrote, then depression is the thing with daggers. Every attempt to escape it hurts.

There’s the cutting sense of shame of acknowledging that I didn’t break the cycle in my family’s history. On both my father’s side and mother’s side, there have been questionable overdoses, there has been a suicide with a shotgun, and other relatives who struggled with scary thoughts. Between what I inherited from them, the nurturing I lost to their multiple divorces, physical abuse, and mistakes I made on my own, I consider myself lucky that I can get by with occasional bouts of serious depression, and nothing more. But I often keep quiet about that history because it feels easier to just ride it out.

When there’s a high-profile suicide in the news, I stay busy. It’s true that suicides hit me differently than other untimely deaths. I don’t get angry or emotional. I get quiet because I know what it’s like at that fateful moment. Think of your greatest moment of despair, then multiply that by a thousand, and you’re still not quite there. There’s a lot of shame and sorrow, too. Sorrow about my one failed attempt and the three other times I contemplated trying again. Shame that I lived, while others did not.

The recent deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, or Jeff Loeffelholz, the Broadway actor from the musical Chicago and Ellie Soutter, the 18-year-old British snowboarding star, have made for a rough few weeks.

Most people sharing their experiences talk about them in the past tense. I’m in it—not suicidal, but in it. I have told no one until now. Shared this with no one close to me because part of it is situational. I feel bad because my life isn’t a bucket of chuckles. During the day, I am a caretaker for my mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. I give her medicine in the morning, help with meals, do laundry, keep the house clean, and I thank God for the three hours a week when a wonderful woman comes by to help her take a shower.

As I try to piece together the story of how she got to this place where her brain is shrinking and failing—from a long line of Dr. Feel-Goods, who over prescribed her opioids and benzodiazepines, to her lost financial fortune, to the more ordinary stresses of her life—I know that I cannot afford assisted living or in-home care. I am doing fine, but not another $10,000-a-month fine. There will be no relief from her disease, or from this final role as her daughter.

While I know that millions and millions of Americans are in similar caretaking positions, it still doesn’t ease the loneliness and despair I feel every single day. Most weeks, I dream about running away. But I know that I can’t, and I understand why there is a thing called “caregiver syndrome,” and why those who have it often die before the chronically ill people they care for do.

I don’t know why it becomes paralyzing to reach out and ask for help when the brutal, relentlessness of life becomes too much. Sometimes it feels like another chore to do and I convince myself that I’d be burdening the burdened, who probably don’t know how to respond anyhow. But I do know that words like “cheer up,” “look at the blue sky,” “you have so much to be proud of,” “do some charitable work,” “you are loved,” do little for me.

Yes, I know about 800-273-8255, and the great people on the other end of the lifeline number. Call them if you need them. They are lovely and will help you. Just know that people like me are doing our best and are determined to survive. Maybe just say that to someone who’s in the battle, “Stay. Keep fighting.” What I tell myself is this, “You don’t want a permanent solution to a cyclical problem. It too shall pass.”

I have been able to find treatments that help me, but the fact that so many of us have loved ones who suffer from depression, and so few of us know how to help them, is a sign of a more systemic problem.

In the days since the Bourdain and Spade deaths, more than 6,200 people have died by suicide. While the news that week opened up a more searching and honest dialogue about depression and suicide —about our brains—the frenzy has subsided and the structural signs that our country thinks very little of struggling people have reasserted themselves.

Last year, our leaders proposed cutting mental-health spending by more than $400 million a year. They reduced care for addiction and counseling in the middle of a growing opioid and drug crisis. They are trying to make it harder for people to enroll in Medicaid. Look at the best hospital in your city and then compare it to the nearest psychiatric hospital? Would you want to go there? Then why would I? Often, when I reach out to a doctor, I’m told the wait will be three months or longer. Look at who is in our prisons. They have become the largest institutions in our country for those struggling with brain disorders. If we cared deeply about treating these illnesses, then we wouldn’t step over the homeless or rip children from their parents’ arms on purpose. Our society is telling us: “What you have, what you are going through is shameful. Second rate. Doesn’t matter. Keep quiet.”

The latest CDC numbers on suicide tragically show that 45,000 people in 2016 couldn’t ask for help either. Most died without ever speaking up about a previous problem. It’s 2018. We know about neurotransmitters now, and the life-long consequences of trauma, and can invest in the science of the brain to figure out why mine and many others don’t always fire right.

Read more here….

Yale’s Most Popular Course in History Teaches You to Be Happy—and It’s Available Online

From Town & Country Mag

“Psychology and the Good Life” attracted nearly one out of four Yale undergraduates. Now you can enroll.

When Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos launched “Psychology and the Good Life” on the New Haven campus earlier this year, 1,200 students—about one-fourth university’s undergraduate population—enrolled. And now Santos is taking the course to an even wider audience as it’s set to launch online this month.

Rebranded as “The Science of Well-Being” on the platform Coursera, the class will feature lectures by Santos on things people think will make them happy but don’t along with things that actually bring lasting life satisfaction. In other words, she’ll teach students how to be happy.

“Laurie is a rock-star professor,” says Belinda Platt, assistant director of digital education at Yale’s Center for Teaching and Learning. “She came to us with this idea and said, ‘I’m proposing this course that I want to teach on campus, and I’m doing a pilot run with a small group of 20 to 30 students in my residential college. Why don’t you come film it and then we can use that material for an online course?'”

Click here for more

It’s Never Too Late To Start Over

For Thought Catalog, by Marissa Donnelly

It’s never too late to start over. To hit the pause button. Breathe. Then begin again.

You don’t need to lose yourself in the shuffle, get caught up in your mistakes and your fears and your anxieties. You don’t have to hold onto your anger or your sadness and carry it with you in a little jar. You are more than a little jar, waiting to be filled by unsatisfying things—material things, superficial love, addictions and vices and so many other negatives that leave you feeling emptier than before. You are more than that little jar you feel defines the person you are, so much so that you try to fit yourself in its glass walls, try to keep contained within the edges and not overflow.

Life is imperfect. It’s beautiful and complicated and burdensome and messy. And you are a part of it, a part that grows and changes and laughs and loves and gets broken and comes back together. But there will never be a time when you can’t just step back and start all over.

Read more here.

Expecting a stressful day may lower cognitive abilities throughout the day

From Penn State by Katie Bohn

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — There may be some truth to the saying “getting up on the wrong side of the bed,” according to Penn State researchers who say starting your morning by focusing on how stressful your day will be may be harmful to your mindset throughout the day.

The researchers found that when participants woke up feeling like the day ahead would be stressful, their working memory — which helps people learn and retain information even when they’re distracted — was lower later in the day. Anticipating something stressful had a great effect on working memory regardless of actual stressful events.

Jinshil Hyun, a doctoral student in human development and family studies, said the findings suggest that the stress process begins long before a stressful event occurs.

“Humans can think about and anticipate things before they happen, which can help us prepare for and even prevent certain events,” Hyun said. “But this study suggests that this ability can also be harmful to your daily memory function, independent of whether the stressful events actually happen or not.”

Read more here.

Miserable in your 40s? Don’t panic, it’s perfectly normal

From Marketwatch by Alessandra Malito

Like Frank Sinatra sang, “The best is yet to come.” Author and journalist Jonathan Rauch agrees, and he has science to back him up.

In his book, “The Happiness Curve,” Rauch says new research has found people tend to hit their midlife slump in their 40s, but will almost always be happier as they age. Seems counterintuitive, perhaps, but it makes sense as people’s values and the circumstances in their life change.

Not everyone feels the manifestation of happiness in their old age. There are instances when bad things do occur — illness, lost jobs or forced retirement and general ageism toward them. Plus, older people tend to feel lonely more of the time.

Read more here.