Tag: mental health

hugging

Why touch is so important for mental health

Did you know that humans become nearly unrecognizable without touch?

I found this interesting story. “Over two hundred years ago, French scientists spotted a creature resembling a human running through the forests. Once captured, they determined he was 11 years old and had run wild in the forests for much of his childhood. Originally the child, “Victor,” was determined to be an idiot; French physicians and psychiatrists eventually concluded he had been deprived of human physical touch, which had retarded his social and developmental capacities.”

hugging

Fascinating, huh?

Here’s some other things I learned:

  1. Decreased violence. Less touch as a child leads to greater violence. A child left unhugged, unembraced, feels insecure. Think of any child who has a temper tantrum. One of the best ways to calm a child down is to hold them snugly. Why? Because a firm embrace makes them feel loved. It’s just that simple.
  2. Greater trust between individuals. Touch helps to bond people together. Neuroscientist Edmund Ross found that physical touch activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, that links to feelings of reward and compassion. A simple touch can trigger release of oxytocin, aka ‘the love hormone.'”
  3. Decreased disease and stronger immune system. Physical touch may also decrease disease. According to research conducted at the University of North Carolina, women who receive more hugs from their partners have lower heart rates and blood pressure: “Hugs strengthen the immune system…
  4. Overall well being. Adults need human touch to thrive. In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.

      6. Less loneliness would add that the more a person is embraced, (hugged, pat on the shoulder, holding hands, etc.) the less lonely they feel even if they are alone.

7.  Older people need touch even more.  A dear friend of mine suggested I hug my mom every time I said good-bye. My mother was not the “touchy-feely” type so I didn’t know if she would be receptive. But by that point, her dementia was getting worse. Not only was she receptive, it did a lot for me as well.  I so wish I had pushed beyond her resistance years before that.

I am thankful for all the embraces I receive but I’m as thankful for all the ones I can give.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of touch to change someone’s day, maybe even save their life.

God bless and have a good day.

Alphabet of thanks, “E”

(Hey, I had this ready to publish this morning. I did not miss a day. But I just caught it now, so am sending it on its way to you.)

I am thankful today that I can Exercise. That means I’m healthy enough to do so.

My husband and I walk forty-forty five minutes every day. When we can’t because of inclement weather, we use our treadmill. I feel downright sluggish when I don’t.

Excercise is good for just about every illness. It helps prevent strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, dementia, etc. And it certainly doesn’t have to be forty minutes. Thirty minutes is just fine.

And the best part is, it’s free. No expensive gym memberships. One can just walk out the door and begin.

While exercise is good for almost every medical condition, it really helps promote good mental health. I’ve written many posts about the importance of exercise in treating and preventing depression and anxiety. You can find some of those posts here, and here.

For me, to be able to walk for forty minutes is a real gift. I have very bad feet (five surgeries to prove it) and sometimes I would rather not walk but I know that I am able to walk because I do walk.  I’ve always remembered what my doctor told me a number of years ago.

If you don’t routinely walk most days of the week, you will find that eventually, you won’t be able to walk. You will go from a cane, to a wheelchair, to being bedridden.

So I walk. When my feet hurt, when my back hurts, when I just am not in the mood. If you have to start out with two days a week, do it. I can almost guarantee that after even one walk, your mood will improve. You will sleep better, too.

So today I am very thankful for exercise. It has made a huge difference in my life.

 

Psalm 40

Depression isn’t for “sissies

I see I posted twice yesterday.

But the whole “thought my kitten was lost” really had me frazzled. I thought I had everything in order and the post entitled “why overreacting doesn’t help depression” hadn’t even been edited. I’ve since corrected it.  It was a post from a few years ago that I thought bared repeating. I hope you found it helpful.

So because it did publish I felt I should continue the theme. The truth is that depression isn’t for “sissies”. What is interesting about those that suffer from depression is that it’s almost never the “bad”, “mean” or “shallow” person that experiences depression. You have to be kind of a “deep-thinking” person, a sensitive person to suffer this mental illness. And “mental illness” doesn’t always mean what we think it means. Depression is an “illness” that involves the  “mind”, therefore it’s a mental illness.  What is the matter with our society that we still don’t understand this?

My heart aches for anyone who suffers depression and/or anxiety. It’s horrible. And I think more people suffer from the disorder than don’t. But there is still such a stigma that many people never talk about it. Instead, they stand at the edge of a precipice never knowing when they are going to fall in the pit. That feeling of impending doom clouds their very existence and life becomes shrouded with fear and dread.

You would almost prefer to fall in the pit rather than standing at the edge worried that any minute you might drop into the dark hole and disappear.

(I realize this isn’t a photo of a “pit” but they were all too scary-looking so I chose this cliff instead. Same concept though, right?)

edge of a cliff

It’s like feeling dead inside but pretending to be alive. The effort of trying to act like everyone else is almost more than you can bear.

I get it.

If I thought I was heading there again, honestly, I would be terrified.

For a little while.

“Why for only a little while?” you ask.

Because while I have a history of depression, I also have a longer history of recovery. I’ve learned a lot from my battles. Mostly, that God will get me through if I cooperate.

Would he get me to the other side anyway? Probably. But it would take a lot longer and if I were rescued every time, I don’t develop the skill set necessary to keep me from succumbing the next time.

Psalm 40

I’m never one to tell anyone that all one has to do when faced with depression is to trust God and just like a magic Genie, everything will get better. While God can heal instantly and he often does, it’s no guarantee.

Besides, we develop a great deal of resilience when we cooperate with God instead of letting God do all the work.

My understanding of God’s dealings with people throughout Scripture is that cooperating with God is always God’s first choice. It’s kind of like God wants us to have a stake in our own growth. It has been proven time and again that people who have a vested interest in something appreciate it more.  I think God created in us the desire to claim some responsibility for our own lives.

When Moses balked at God’s command to speak to Pharoah because he didn’t think he could (for whatever reason and the jury is out on that reason), God said that Aaron could be his mouthpiece. How much personal growth did Moses give up right then? I would say, a lot.

So if you are on that precipice, you don’t have to fall in. I have no idea the faith walk of any of my “followers” so I can’t really give you steps 1-10 to keep you afloat. I can only tell you what I do.

I will try to share more tomorrow but here’s a preliminary list (in no order) without much detail:

  1. I pray and read Scripture.
  2. I exercise. If I’m struggling with a current depressive episode, I might walk longer and/or more than once a day.
  3. I stay distracted. If you are employed, this is easier. If not, just start moving and doing something, anything, and that will spur you on some more. This is very hard when you’re feeling down. Do it anyway.
  4. I should’ve started with this: Make your bed. I’ve been saying that much longer than the recent hype over the commencement speech of the same title and the subsequent book.
  5. Talk to someone today with your “voice” not your fingers.
  6. Avoid negative people.
  7. Don’t go to bed tonight without having accomplished something. (See # 3)
  8. Keep up with your personal grooming. You should look in the mirror and feel somewhat better by the image you see.)

That was a very cursory list.

Apparently, I’m on a roll, so I’ll try to keep this up for the rest of the week.

It’s hard for me to write about depression when I’m not actively experiencing an episode. But it’s also hard if I am.

Anyway, God bless and have a good day.

(PS. You can always check out my menu under the heading “depression”.  I have lots of material there that you might find helpful.)

 

 

 

depression

Tailor-make your depression recovery plan

Here’s the thing.

Everyone’s different. No surprise there, huh?

Everyone’s different “looks” and feels different. Maybe a little surprise there.

There are certain hallmark strategies for recovery that will benefit most people on their way to recovery. No surprise there. But just like the unique people we are, some of the recovery strategies that you will develop will be totally unique as well.

Just as everyone’s depression does have similarities, so do they have their differences. Some people find sleeping difficult, some sleep a lot. Same with eating. For example, when I suffered clinical depression, o functioned pretty normally. But I felt like the “walking dead.” Nothing drew my interest; there was no joy in anything. I felt like I walked in a fog all the time.

For example, when I suffered clinical depression, I functioned pretty normally. But I felt like the “walking dead.” Nothing drew my interest; there was no joy in anything. I felt like I was in a fog all the time.

The worst part was grocery shopping.

Seriously.

I don’t know why grocery shopping was excruciating but it was.  For one thing, I couldn’t avoid people. And I just knew that everyone could tell I was depressed. Plus, it seemed everyone was happy. Also, I couldn’t make decisions about what to buy. It was overwhelming.

The next hardest experience was simply being around other people whether at church, birthday parties, family gatherings. I felt so disconnected from everyone. Back to the whole “walking dead ” thing. Again, I just knew everyone knew what a mess I was.

These were all my perceptions, but they were very real to me.

For my own recovery, there were certain strategies that worked best for me. Exercise was crucial for me to keep my depression at bay, as was (and is) keeping my “gut” operating as normal and regularly as possible. My spiritual life and keeping “short accounts with God” was also crucial. (Keeping short accounts with God means keeping a constant “communing” with God, especially in regards to forgiveness.)

I also made my bed everyday. Watch this video for someone else’s opinion about this. It’s really good.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxBQLFLei70

Something else I did was to make sure I was presentable when if you’re depressed is pretty darn hard to do. But I would look in the mirror and at least do my best.

Other people might find it’s what they’re watching on TV or what they’re reading that is the trigger for them. Some people find it’s other people that trigger their episodes because they are so negative. So they avoid them when and if they can.

Someone else I know finds that keeping busy works. A different person I know finds controlling their thoughts is their first line of defense. (This is a big one, by the way, for everyone. Some just find it easier to reign in their thoughts.)

I think the point is that while the symptoms of depression are the same for everyone, they are tolerated differently. Recovery from depression always means a different way of thinking and adapting to our world, and yet the how and the timing is different for everyone.

As Dorothy Rowe writes in her groundbreaking book called simply “Depression”, “depression is a prison we create for ourselves. So if you think of it that way, there are many different ways to break out of a prison, aren’t there?

I hate depression. I hate it for you. I hate it for me. I hate it for everyone I love. Does that make it clear enough?

But…..

Depression is not a death sentence. Most everyone survives it. And sometimes, there are some great lessons we learn.

You know that eclipse we all watched yesterday. To me, it was very spiritual. It reminded me that no matter how dark it gets, God is still there shining his love on us and leading the way.

More tomorrow.

God bless and I really hope you have a good and happy day.

jumping from a plane

Jumping from a plane when you don’t have a parachute.

That would be foolish, huh?

Who jumps from a plane without a parachute? No one. Unless, of course, they have a death wish.

(Of course, some people have but I stick with my previous statement about having a death wish and those that did had either a net to catch them or another skydiver to “catch” them.)

But there are people who do much the same thing all the time. They spend money as if there were a never-ending supply, as is there really were a “money tree.” They spend energy as if they have supernatural strength. They “share” their bodies as if doing so guaranteed they will be loved. I could go on. But you get it, right?

And I think we all do it all the time. We simply don’t think of the consequences.

We jump before we think.

jumping from a plane

We don’t think we need a  “restraint” parachute.

Let me use a recent example. I will pick on Kathy Griffith. Did she break any laws? Nope. But did she jump without a parachute? Yep.

How did she get to a place where she didn’t realize how awful her actions were? I would suggest it’s because she’s been jumping without a parachute for a long time and she finally landed hard.

That’s what jumping without a parachute will do.

Every time.

Or the woman I know who has no regular income yet goes to the casino when she does manage do come up with a few bucks. That’s also jumping with a parachute.

Or like me, when I spend every bit of physical energy I have working hard on something that doesn’t need to be done all in one day.

As my mother was dying I knew I had a choice about where I invested my emotional energy. I could’ve jumped without a parachute and tried to meet everyone else’s emotional needs, or I could grab a parachute so I could glide and meet my own needs. I chose to do the latter.

This was my mother. Only my brother and I were losing a mother. Some were losing their grandma, great-grandma, etc. But we were losing our mother.

When I could, of course, I tried to help others with the loss they were feeling but, and I’m being painfully honest here, I chose to concentrate on me. I have not regretted that for one minute.

I think one of the healthiest things we can do sometimes is to know what our need is and be sure that need is met.

It isn’t that we don’t meet other people’s needs as much as we can. It only means that it’s easy to get out of balance when we give of ourselves to the point of depleting our own emotional, physical, and mental health.

If we keep jumping out of our plane without a parachute we won’t be flying high for too long. We will eventually free fall.

It’s a guarantee.

I’ve known a lot of people who find themselves in a dead heap on the ground because they never plan on the safety a parachute provides.

God bless and have a good day.

 

 

 

 

 

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