Relationships, family, career, trauma and illness can sometimes impact our lives in ways that cause us to suffer and become stuck. Sometimes our friends, family and own best efforts are not sufficient to help us move forward.
Depression is often experienced as a failure to meet our personal expectations, leading us to turn in and on ourselves. It can sometimes be due to a circumstance/change in circumstances or pattern of thinking that has emerged. For some, it is a common or familiar state that has been present over time. I believe the most predominant symptom of depression is a loss of pleasure or joy in the experience of living life.
Other lasting symptoms may include:
- Negative thinking
- Sadness, irritability or anger
- Lack of self-care
- Disconnection or withdrawal from others
- Changes in sleep or appetite
Anxiety can be understood as the experience of a heightened lack of control or mastery over life. It can cause a person to feel frightened, distressed or uneasy in situations where others might not.
Anxiety can take various forms:
Obsessions and compulsions
This behavior includes repetitive, intrusive, irrational and unwanted thoughts known as obsessions and/or behaviors that seem impossible to control, known as compulsions.
Sudden feelings of terror that can strike unexpectedly. Also commonly known as “anxiety attacks,” physical symptoms may include: chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, feelings of being disconnected and fear of going crazy or dying.
This is an intense aversion to social situations often due to an irrational fear of being shamed or embarrassed for saying or doing the wrong thing. This kind of anxiety may include symptoms of panic, as well.
This behavior can be seen when a person engages in an activity that, although optional and pleasurable at first, with continued use or action over time, becomes required and necessary to maintain. Often with diminishing returns, this kind of behavior leads to growing levels of interference with a person’s life responsibilities and self-care. Common addictions include: sex, alcohol, drugs, eating, work, shopping and gambling. Though the focus may be distinct, issues of shame, guilt and often a chronic sense of unworthiness come to underlie all addictive behavior, as it worsens.
Mindfulness can be understood as a mental state which comes from focusing awareness on the present moment, at the same time as acknowledging and accepting the feelings, thoughts, and sensations that can and do arise. The use of this conscious approach to the moment-by-moment unfolding of our experience is not the way most of us live our lives. Usually, we are not present to our immediate experience but focused on either what has happened or what will happen. We are engaged easily by our minds, which can lead us to repetitive and/or negative thinking. Being more aware in the present can lead to an increased knowing of who we are, choices that resonate for us, and a sense that all is well.
How do we live truly well as human beings? What goes into the experience of being satisfied and fulfilled with who we are and the choices we make? How do we bring about those things in life that actually matter to us? These questions are, perhaps, the most relevant ones we have. We do not often know how to answer them or we seek results from sources outside ourselves. Beginning to inquire is exciting and can forward our lives in new directions.