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Because sometimes feeling sad is the right thing to feel

sad

There is nothing to feel ashamed about when you still feel sad despite recognising the more rational and positive perspective in a situation- we all have times in which we do!

Ever feel frustrated because others are telling you not to worry about a situation or that you should focus on the positives and what you have when really you just want a few minutes to feel sad?

While challenging negative and irrational thoughts is one of the most successful techniques in managing depressed mood- it doesn’t take away all of your sadness. You can be rational and sad at the same time!

Many of my clients ask me when they are thought challenging whether it is ok if there level of emotion doesn’t change significantly shortly following a thought challenging activity. My response is YES- it’s healthy and appropriate. The goal of thought challenging is to adopt a more rational perspective and to help yourself to cope with situations from the most healthy headspace- it doesn’t however change the fact that the situation happened in the first place and that this situation has triggered sadness for you.

Whether your sadness is due to an argument with your partner, some negative feedback from an employer, not getting a grade you were working towards, losing control with your children or another month of falling to fall pregnant unsuccessfully, if you didn’t experience some negative emotion around these things (at some level) you would be abnormal and possibly unhealthy!

I caught up with a girlfriend of mine this week and when I mentioned to her that I was going to blog about this over the weekend she said to me “feeling sad is ok- but wallowing isn’t”.

It is so accurate! There is a difference between allowing yourself the space to experience emotion (including sadness) and “wallowing” in it. It is important that you are kind and compassionate to yourself and that you give yourself some space to experience emotion, even when it is upsetting. Allowing yourself to be preoccupied by it and to invest ongoing periods of time ruminating about what happened and refusing to engage in life as usual because of it isn’t healthy however.

As a psychologist I would recommend that you allow yourself time to experience the sadness and emotion but keep it contained enough that it doesn’t impact negatively on your mood or ability to function in the medium term. Crying all night and allowing yourself to be preoccupied with a situation for days doesn’t provide positive function. Contain the negative emotion where possible and focus on a positive way forward- but don’t forget to leave a little room for being sad if it is warranted!

The right amount of time differs between individuals and situations and may range from 5-10 minutes to 24 hours or so. More than a few consecutive days of preoccupation however is usually not helpful (other than in situations similar to below). That doesn’t mean that the sadness doesn’t return a few days later- rather it then provides yourself with an opportunity to once again rationalise the situation, allow a further short period of sadness and then to push forward again. The ‘sad’ expressions and times should become shorter however over time.

Please note: this post is written for people challenging day to day negative situations, not people who have experienced significant trauma. If you have experienced a trauma that has been life changing including the death of someone very close to you, a diagnosis of a chronic illness, etc, it is appropriate and healthy to experience more significant and longer amounts of sadness. While moving forward will likely involve a similar process to the above, this needs to happen at a time that is right for you.

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How you deal with everyday stress can have along term effect on your mental health

 

There has been a growing amount of research to indicate that how you respond to small irritants or stresses can affect whether you later develop depression or anxiety.

Life’s small problems may be small but they are common if not daily occurrences.stressed-out

In my clinical practice it striking how often people reach their limit not through one major problem, such as death or divorce, but more often through lots of smaller problems coming along at the same time, like buses.

If the stresses had been more spread out the person would probably have coped with each problem but by coming together their coping skills were overwhelmed.

How we deal with small matters may be more important that how we deal with the bigger problems of life in whether we develop depression.

 

In 2013 Susan Charles and her team  [1] asked their 711 research participants to record their level of stress and the effect it had on their mood over eight consecutive days.

Those with increased levels of negative emotion on days which were not massively stressful, but contained life’s smaller irritants, suffered from greater levels of mood problems when they were reviewed 10 years later.

Susan Wenze and her team [2] asked her subjects to rate their mood using a PDA regarding the events of everyday life. Those who showed a stronger momentary negative mood and negative thoughts to these events were more likely to be depressed 6 months later.

This aligns with earlier research from Suzanne O’Neill and others  [3] who in 2004 studied college students and found that mood reactivity to daily interpersonal stress predicted later depressive symptoms .

These and other research papers show the benefit of learning to cope with a variety of events that occur in life.

One needs to learn how to deal with them effectively, efficiently and without due distress. This can come about through CBT, ACT and or meditation.

 

[1] Susan T Charles  et al

Psychological Science May 2013 vol. 24 no. 5 733-741

 

[2] Susan J Wenze et al   Dec 2010

Cognitive Therapy and Research    Vol. 34, no. 6, pp 554-562

 

[3] Suzanne C. O’Neill  et al   April 2004.

Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology: Vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 172-194.

 

 

 

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Managing Antenatal and Postnatal Depression and Anxiety

Perinatal Depression and Anxiety

Managing Antenatal and Postnatal Depression and Anxiety  

If you have been experiencing depression or anxiety during pregnancy or following the birth of your baby, you are not alone. Approximately 15-20% of women experience depressed mood and/or anxiety in the perinatal period. Research suggests that both medication and psychological therapy can greatly improve mood and stress and also suggests that the earlier you receive treatment and support, the easier it will be to get things back on track.

The most effective forms of psychological therapy for women in the perinatal period are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). These two types of therapy aim to teach a number of different strategies to improve mood and reduce anxiety and may include activity scheduling, problem solving, thought challenging, improving mindfulness, relaxation, sleep hygiene, communication training and challenging unhelpful beliefs about yourself (self-esteem related).

Some initial recommendations for better managing your mood and anxiety if pregnant or are a parent to a young infant

  • Maximise sleep where possible. Both pregnancy and being a parent to an infant can significantly impact on sleep quality and quantity. Sleep directly impacts on both mood and anxiety management. Maximise number of hours of sleep where possible including napping, going to bed early, getting your partner to assist with night feeds.
  • Exercise: Research has clearly substantiated the benefit of exercise for mood and anxiety. Engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise regularly with that exercise matching where you are at both physically and in your energy. A walk is a great start!
  • Seek Social Support: While you might feel too tired or low to socialise and engage with others it is important that you seek support wherever possible. This might be through family, friendships, mother’s group and community health staff and groups.
  • Communicate with your partner: Relationship difficulties are more common in the perinatal period. Try to communicate with your partner about where things are at for you and to express any concerns that you might have. Remember that many are defensive to criticism so communicate gently and approach it as positively as possible. It might not change behaviour or outcomes but will be good for them to know where you are at and what you need.
  • Challenge negative and irrational thoughts: we all have a tendency to consider situations with negativity and/or irrationality. Make efforts to keep your thoughts in perspective and as functional as possible.
  • Mindfulness: Rather than focusing your attention and thoughts on past or future events or concerns, try to engage in the moment (here and now). You can do this by focusing on your breath, by noticing something in your environment or in being present during your morning or afternoon routine.
  • See professional assistance: Perinatal depression and anxiety often requires professional support and treatment. If you are really finding it difficult to manage your mood and/or anxiety, speak to your doctor or specialist.
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