Mind Align: Depression & Positivity

Many of us will experience some form of depression during our lives, whether it be a mild bout during the winter, a more major episode that requires treatment, or through an encounter with a loved one battling the disorder. Major Depressive disorder affects more than 14 million American adults each year. Whatever our experiences with depression are, the more knowledge and awareness we have around the disorder, the better equipped we can be when we face it.

Understanding the symptoms, knowing when to seek help, even having some resources at your fingertips, are all ways that we can help to erase some of the stigma surrounding the disorder, all the while arming ourselves with some valuable tools to work on our own mental wellness.

Let’s work together to fight the stigma associated with depression!

Most of us feel sad, lonely, or depressed at times. It’s a normal reaction to loss, life’s struggles, or injured self-esteem. But, when these feelings become overwhelming, cause physical symptoms, and last for long periods of time, they can keep you from leading a normal, active life.

Sign and Symptoms:

  • Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
  • Pessimism and hopelessness
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in things once pleasurable
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won’t go away
  • Digestive problems that don’t get better, even with treatment
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

If you are concerned about your own or someone else’s mental well-being and think they may be experiencing symptoms of depression, complete this Depression Screening tool and find out some helpful next steps in seeking help.

The great depression of 2004! That’s what those who are closest to me call it. It was like any other workday when one of our salespeople approached me to discuss a worker in Canada. It was an ordinary question about rates or benefits but, for some reason, tears started welling up in my eyes. Why was I crying about Canada? I instantly turned around and looked out my window while my employee sat across the desk wondering what was going on. My mind was racing trying to figure out why I was crying (I’m not a crier…I’m a laugher). So, I continued the conversation with my back to my employee, my eyes full of tears and a flurry of emotions over nothing, or so I thought. The day continued with random moments of emotional tears, but I figured I just needed to eat or sleep.

That night my friends came over to play Halo and eat Mexican food. It was a typical routine of ours with one weird exception; about an hour into the game I was winning, I got up and went to bed. My heart was empty. I was done, depleted, didn’t want to be anywhere or do anything. I turned off the lights and went to sleep. That’s when it started – a mild form of depression. Unexplainable, empty, hopeless for no real or rational reason. No words could help, food didn’t matter, I was in a permanent dark and overcast day without the consolation of snuggling on the couch with a good movie.

I slept for 12 hours that night which is a very long time for me. The following day, I went to work and just sat there comatose, staring out the window and aimlessly at my monitor. I skipped lunch, I didn’t talk to anyone, no smiley faces, no joy, none of the typical behaviors that everyone was accustomed to seeing by their fearless leader. Everyone would ask “How are you doing? What’s up? You seem different.” But my answer remained “I’m fine”. What else was I going to say? I’m miserable, lonely, hopeless and I just don’t want to be?

I went home and the cycle repeated for several days. UGH, I thought to myself, I can’t even muster up a smile or the energy to go out with friends. On Sunday I was sitting on my bed and was sick of myself. I thought “I have to do something. I can’t live the rest of my life this way. I must fight. Fight? Yes, fight!” So, I did what I knew how to do, I put on my running shoes and got on my elliptical for two hours straight. I started to feel better. It was a slow progression, and nothing changed overnight, but things were going in the right direction. I exercised again the next morning, read some bible verses, went to breakfast with a friend and before I knew it…the great depression of 2004 was gone. I made it!

Those two hours on the elliptical have translated into a lifetime habit of regular exercise. Exercise keeps our health in check, releases the stress of the day and keeps our anxiety at bay. It’s not about your waistline, it’s about your LIFE. We are WHOLE individuals and if one part of us is failing, it will impact the rest. Get your diet in check, work out, go outside an get some fresh air, laugh a little and seek help if you need it. Not everyone is in a place to be able to do this on their own, but the first step is to ask.

Questions to ask yourself:

What are your thoughts and stigmas about depression?

Have you ever felt depressed? When? Did you ever journal about it?

How do you feel around others that are depressed?

Depression fighters: Regular exercise, good diet, fresh air, personal improvement reading, unplugging from social media, regular health check ups, good sleep, gratitude list, prayer and/or meditation, focused activities

When most of us think of celebrities, we think of their public persona – the image of perfection they portray via their social media accounts, on the red carpet, etc. It’s easy to assume they have it all. But, behind closed doors, many celebrities have battled with depression. In recent years, many have decided to open up about their struggles in order to help others who are fighting the disorder, encourage people to get help, and to work on tearing down the stigma.

Here we have rounded up a couple celebrities who have been very candid about their struggles and have made great strides in bringing awareness to the disorder.

Kristen bell first encountered depression in college, she explains how the disorder affected her, “I felt plagued with a negative attitude and a sense that I was permanently in the shade… it gave me a complete and utter sense of isolation and loneliness. Its debilitation was all-consuming… I felt worthless, like I had nothing to offer, like I was a failure.”

Luckily, Bell’s mom had prepared her for this by discussing depression and therapy openly which allowed her to seek help without shame when the time became necessary. Because of her mother’s candidness, Bell felt that she didn’t want to remain silent about her experience. She understood that her status as a celebrity put her in a unique position to spread the word and start the conversation.

Many of you are familiar with Brandon Marshall, a Wide Receiver in the NFL. But you may not know that Marshall has struggled for years with his mental health. Marshall describes his depression as “catatonic.” He withdrew from doing the things he loved, from spending time with the people he loved. It wasn’t until Marshall had multiple friends approach him and advise him to get help that he finally decided it was time, years after his symptoms first appeared.

Marshall opened up about his depression and his Borderline Personality Disorder for the same reason many other celebrities have chosen this same path, “I decided that I wasn’t going to remain silent. I had the revelation that it was my purpose to help bridge the gap in the mental health community, and football was my platform to accomplish that…To give people the courage to seek help. To raise awareness. To break the stigma.”

It takes a lot of strength and courage to admit that you are depressed and to get help. With the work of celebrities like Kristen Bell and Brandon Marshall, the stigma of depression and mental health is diminishing, but there is still a lot we can do to contribute to the fight. We can all help by increasing our knowledge about depression and mental wellness and by being a positive and open part of the conversation.

To learn more about Kristen Bell and her decision to break the silence, read her article here: http://time.com/4352130/kristen-bell-frozen-depression-anxiety/

Marshall and his wife founded Project 275 with the sole purpose of eradicating the stigma surrounding mental health. You can read more about his story here.

Increase Your Positivity

Making an effort to engage in activities that foster positive affect can help fight against symptoms of depression. Listed below are two mindfulness activities and a video that encourages you to do a random act of kindness. Pick one, two, or three of the activities to practice and notice any shifts it brings to your overall sense of well-being!

Mindfulness is a state of being fully aware of our thoughts, feelings, and environment. The concept is simple enough but achieving this state of mind takes a lot of practice. The practice of mindfulness offers many benefits – from becoming more self-aware and present to building our self-confidence. When we include some basic mindfulness exercises into our daily routines, we will notice a drop in our anxiety, we will watch as our negative thought cycles have less power, we will see we have greater control over our impulses.

We have gathered a few simple mindfulness exercises to incorporate into your daily mental wellness routines. Try performing at least one of these each day for a week. After a full week, check in with yourself and take note of any positive changes.

The first exercise is called The Five Senses. It is a very simple practice that requires no tools or experience. This exercise can be performed when you first wake up, or when you are experiencing any anxiety, stress, or even a depressed mood.

First you will want to look around the room and take note of your surroundings, then you will:
Notice five things you can see, look for things that you wouldn’t normally notice.

  • Notice four things you can feel, like the temperature in the room, or the texture of a wall or table.
  • Notice three things you can hear, such as the sound of a keyboard, or the buzzing of a light.
  • Notice two things you can smell, like your coworker’s coffee, or the smell of the rain.
  • Notice one thing you can taste, like a piece of gum, or your ice water.

This exercise is a quick and easy way to re-center yourself and bring awareness back to the present moment.

The second exercise takes a little more time, concentration, and would work best in an environment where you can lie down comfortably.

  • First, you will want to lie on your back with you palms facing up. If you are unable to lie down, you can sit comfortably in a chair with your palms on your legs and your feet on the ground.
  • Then you will bring awareness to your breath, become aware of the rhythm, the sound, the feeling of your breath entering and exiting your body.
  • Then bring awareness to your body, the feeling of your skin, your clothing, the temperature in the room.
  • Take a moment to notice any particular parts of the body that are feeling sore, warm, tingly, etc.
  • Then we start the body scan, beginning with our toes, moving to our feet.
  • We bring awareness to each part of the body as we ascend from toes to the top of our head.
  • Once we have completed our entire body, we can slowly begin moving our hands and feet, slowly bringing movement back into our body.
  • Then we can open our eyes and move to a seated position.

This exercise can be a great stress relief and works in many different ways, both physically and psychologically.

If you would like to learn a little bit more about mindfulness and how we can use it to improve our lives, here is a short animated video you can check out:

Random Acts of Kindness

Samer, and the culture at TCW, believe in giving back. Serving others is not only an amazing way to help the community you live in, but it fosters connections and emotions that we might not otherwise be aware of as we move through our busy day-to-day routine. Watch the video below to find out just how beneficial giving back can be to others and your own mental well-being! Challenge yourself to engage in your own random acts of kindness whether it be once this month, once a week, or once a day! Get your tissues ready, be happy, and spread kindness!

Pep Talk

If engaging in the above activities is not for you, that’s okay. At least watch Kid President’s pep talk and let it give you some words of encouragement, a few laughs, and maybe a tearful reminder that you matter and you can help make the world an awesome place.

Animals are scientifically proven to provide us with a variety of health benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 68% of U.S. households have a pet. From fish to guinea pigs, and dogs to cats, they all contribute to our physical and mental well-being. The following list is composed of specific ways we may benefit from having a furry, slimy, or scaly companion:

  • Reduce blood pressure and Cortisol (stress) levels
  • Increase immune function, heart health and fitness levels
  • Promote the production of Oxytocin (mood booster)
  • Increase social skills
  • Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Help with disorders and illnesses such as Chronic pain, Autism, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Diabetes and PTSD

If you’re interested in gaining the health benefits and companionship of adding a pet to your family, don’t forget about TargetCW’s Adopt-a-Pet program. You can get reimbursed for up to $100 of your pet adoption fee! For more information check out our site here: https://www.targetcw.com/benefits