Fall Back and Regroup
Posted On Dec 01, 2016
The people I work with- they are fighters. Just showing up to session shows me that they are strong enough to face living with trauma, depression and anxiety symptoms. But one thing that I have noticed is that it is incredibly difficult for strong people to accept that sometimes you should take a break from the fight. In fact, you may end up better for it.
December is often a tough time of year for people. We go to work and return home in the dark. The holidays are in full swing, increasing the demands on our time, money, and emotional resources. This year, after our high-conflict election, many of us are feeling the effects of seasonal stress even more. It is a good time to remember that sometimes it is best to take a step back and regroup.
Having a fall back plan can be helpful to getting through a rough patch with the quickest recovery time. The trick is to cut yourself a break without increasing the length or intensity of symptoms. Here are some strategies to get through a low period:
Give yourself permission to slow things down but set a time limit and know what do you will do. Binge watch your favorite series on Netflix for three days? Blackout media for a week? Take a walk with a friend for an hour? Take a sick day? At the end of your set time period you will begin to regroup- which is done by taking one proactive step a day, however small, and adding another step the next day.
Don’t skimp on the basics. Breathe deeply several times a day. Drink water. Rest. Eat something good for you. Get some exercise. Take a long bath or shower. Avoid alcohol and other drugs. I know this is easier said than done when symptoms are approaching a peak level. In fact, what looks like a bare bones existence that most people take for granted can feel like forced labor on those days. But taking care of our physical selves provides energy and endurance for the mental and emotional work ahead and our mind and body are way more connected than we fully understand right now. You don’t have to face the day with a dehydration headache on top of everything else you have going on.
If this is a particularly difficult episode for you, take some time to think about how you will meet daily needs and again, add one proactive step a day. If you took 3 minutes to breathe deeply yesterday, then repeat that action and add drinking plenty of water today. Add one more activity tomorrow. It is better to take small, easily achievable steps in this period than to overdo it and give your inner critic more fuel for the fire. The inner critic has more than enough ammunition this time of year!
Stick to your routine as much as possible. Stability is important, and knowing what to expect from our day is crucial to our well-being. If you haven’t had a stable routine, start thinking about what you want it to be and implement it gradually.
Manage your thoughts by reflecting on what they really are- thoughts, not necessarily facts. We know that when symptoms increase, your internal critic is even less trustworthy than usual. When your self-critic starts in, notice it. Name those negative thoughts, i.e. “That’s depression talking” or “There goes my personal Voldemort.” Make it a phrase that works for you. The truth is, there is no one on the planet that doesn’t experience self-doubt, who hasn’t made mistakes, who hasn’t experienced guilt, shame, sadness. Why is your brain kicking you while you are down? It probably thinks it is protecting you, but that is a blog for another time.
Spend at least 15 minutes talking to someone every day- really talking with them, not just being in the same room. It doesn’t matter if you talk about your problems, or how you feel, or what is going on with you- although you could. But we are social beings, and isolating yourself is one of the worst things you can do for your mental health. If you are finding it too difficult to have a conversation for 15 minutes, then I encourage you to seek professional help.
If you are using these strategies and you are not noticing any improvement, please consider professional help. If you are thinking about suicide, please call the national suicide helpline at 1-800-273-8255, or get on the website for more information or a chat at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Marsha Jones, MA, LMFT is a therapist in private practice in Lynnwood, Washington. She works with adults and teens, specializing in treating depression and complex trauma/PTSD. She enjoys working with veterans and military families and served as a US Army MP. She loves to read anything but especially fantasy, and her nearly grown kids say that she spoils her cats too much. Her husband is also her business partner and you can learn more at www.buildingskillswa.com