According to Joe.My.God., this short film has played in 50 film festivals. I thought it perfectly captured a bit of the experience of coming out as an adolescent. It brought back lots of memories, even for those of us who grew up Protestant!
Depression is a peculiar experience. While some people experience it as a sudden, unmistakable thing, more often it creeps in gradually, sucking the joy out of life. It damages our ability to maintain perspective — which is one reason it sometimes seems so overwhelming that it is hard to imagine life without it.
This video from the World Health Organization offers a useful perspective. Watch it if you or someone you care about experiences depression. And pay attention to the advice it offers on how to move beyond depression. If you have questions, email me.
Most of us experience it from time to time: the sense that our level of stress has exceeded our capacity for coping. People vary in their capacities to deal with stress, of course. Some people are able to soldier on through great difficulties without feeling beleaguered, while others – especially sensitive people – may find themselves responding with a high degree of emotionality to life’s ups and downs.
The feeling of being overwhelmed is more than an intellectual sensation. We experience this sort of stress in the body. The chest may tighten or muscles ache. Maybe we find ourselves feeling flushed, or our stomachs become queasy. The challenge for many people is that these physical sensations are so uncomfortable they add to the sense of anxiety, and the situation just gets worse.
What to do if you find yourself in this sort of place? Start by noticing what is going on in your body. Take a few deep, slow breaths. Deep, slow breathing triggers the body’s relaxation response. Consider getting outside to go for a walk to interrupt the buildup of discomfort and to change your surroundings – to literally change your point of view. And exercise may help build our capacity to handle stress.
Notice what you’re thinking. If you are worrying about things that haven’t happened yet, and which might never happen, you’re borrowing trouble. Our minds often scan the horizon, looking for danger. While this is helpful in some situations, in others it most definitely is not. Notice if you’re becoming your own worst enemy.
Change what you can. Are there things you can do that would make the situation better? Sometimes confronting what’s worrying us is a practical way to ease our distress. If you’re worried about money, for instance, taking action is much more likely to reduce stress than avoidance.
Accept what you cannot change. Not every stressful situation is under our control. Some days it just rains and rains. That doesn’t mean life will always be a downpour, but it does mean understanding there is nothing you can do to stop a thunderstorm.
Know when to get help. If you are experiencing distress that has gone on for several weeks, or if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed on a regular basis, consider whether it is time to call for help. You may need to learn new ways of handling distress, or there may be patterns in your life that really aren’t working for you and which need to change.Read More
My clients often come in, sit down and put their cell phone on the couch right next to them. It didn’t used to be this way; just a few years ago it was unusual to bring a phone into the counseling office. Nowadays, phones are constant companions – or constant task masters. Being separated from them makes us anxious, or just seems impossible.
While I often encourage clients to give themselves a break from technology when they come in to see me, it is often more difficult to do so at home. Technology ends up extending the workday into the evening – particularly if you’re working for an employer with offices across more than one time zone. But even people who don’t face employment pressures to be instantly available face the urge to stay electronically connected. Why? Louis C.K. offers his thoughts here:
A recent article in the New York Times offers additional thoughts and is worth a read.
I used to think that we had just gotten ahead of ourselves technologically and hadn’t figured out the emotional, relational and social implications of ever-more-intrusive technology. Lately I’ve been thinking it is less a matter of changing the way we use technology than one of how technology is changing us.
Is Louis right? Do we use technology to avoid not only loneliness, but feeling at all? Technology provides new and better ways for us to distract ourselves and fill spaces and interludes in our life. Does this really enrich us? Are we happier?
When we hear the little chime that indicates a Facebook update or a text message or email arrival, we experience a physiological response. Human beings are social creatures, and we’re hard-wired to respond when another person reaches out to us. Our attention shifts for a moment. We are pulled away from where we physically exist. Just sensing the vibration of the phone in a pocket or on a tabletop affects us.
Disconnecting can feel like disloyalty. It feels irresponsible not to respond immediately. But when we prioritize the disembodied person on the other end of the electronic connection, our face-to-face interactions suffer. That’s especially true for couples. Work/life balance has become trickier in the face of always-on life. We want to be noticed, heard and appreciated by our partners. But even the most desirable lover may find it hard to compete with the siren song of our devices. Multitasking may seem efficient, but it often means that nothing gets our full attention and we enjoy everything less than we would otherwise.
Boundaries help us maintain health; don’t let technology take over your life.
- Keep your gadgets away from places you eat. You don’t need to work or communicate while you’re eating; this goes double if you’re eating with a friend or partner.
- Keep your phone out of your bedroom to avoid distractions when you should be sleeping.
- Consider putting the stuff away (or even turning it off!) after a certain point in the evening so you can have peace and quiet.
I was recently interviewed by Brian Rzepczynski, MSW – The Gay Love Coach – on the topic “Magnetic Relationships: When Positive and Negative Meet & Mate.” You can listen by clicking here. Additional thoughts on the topic are here.Read More