Clinical depression is a scary and often overwhelming condition to face. Prior to becoming a counselor, I had a basic understanding of what depression was, but actually talking to clients who are in the midst of a depressive state has greatly deepened my understanding and empathy for what they are going through. Depression isn’t simply a mood that they can snap out of or a negative perspective that I can help them work through. Thoughts and mood certainly play a part in depression, but it’s more than that as well.
There is a marked transformation in the way that a person views the world, relationships, and themselves; Aaron Beck called this as the “negative triad,” which is a set of pessimistic and irrational beliefs that the self is worthless or flawed, the world is unfair and punishing, and the future is hopeless. As a CBT-oriented counselor (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, pioneered in part by Beck), I believe there is immense value in understanding and challenging this negative collection of beliefs and thoughts, but that’s not the whole story for every client who is struggling with depression. Continue reading
Lately I’ve been exploring something in sessions with clients that is also very personal to me: self-compassion. At first glance, the idea of self-compassion seems pretty simple: be nice to yourself, go easy on yourself, etc. Not exactly a ground-breaking concept, and while it sounds nice, I always figured there were deeper, more “legitimate” issues to focus on in counseling and in my own personal growth.
The more I talk to clients and reflect on the impact of self-compassion (or lack thereof) in my own life and in my clients’ lives, the more I realize that this idea of loving and accepting ourselves IS the deeper issue. The lack of self-compassion—the inability to accept ourselves as imperfect, flawed, limited, and real humans—is the core of so many of the problems that my clients bring into their sessions. Anxiety? Depression? Relationship issues? Guilt? Low self-esteem? Addictive or compulsive behaviors? If you suffer from any of these, there’s a chance you also have low levels of self-compassion. Unrealistically high expectations for our behaviors and performance, paired with low confidence in our ability to actually deliver those results, followed by shame and criticism for our perceived failures, compounded by the guilt of feeling that we “should” be able to do better or feel better—any of that sound familiar? Continue reading
Just wanted to share a short article with some great ideas about how to be kind to yourself and cultivate greater self-compassion and self-understanding.
If this sounds like something you need more of in your life, I’ve also included links to two books that have served as wonderful guides for me to learn and practice self-compassion in my own life.
5 Tips to Love Yourself More
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, by Brene Brown
The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions, by Dr. Christopher Germer
Check out these resources, and be kind to yourself today!
Image courtesy of Andreas Levers, via Flickr
Something that I’ve been focusing on with a few clients lately is the overall idea of mental “fitness.” There’s a lot of talk out there about mental health, but what really goes into being mentally healthy? Is it a quality you either have or you don’t have? If you aren’t mentally healthy, how do you change that? We use the words “mental health” so much that they have become more of an idea, a state, a term, rather than what they actually describe: a process and a commitment. To understand a little better what I mean, let’s break it down and think about the core element here: health.
How do we get healthy?
Our culture is so inundated with information about physical health that most people could recite in their sleep the key elements of being/getting physically healthy. Eat well, exercise, sleep eight hours a night, drink lots of water, avoid junk food, wear sunscreen, and floss regularly. Just because people KNOW how to get healthy doesn’t mean they actually DO all of those things, but most people realize that physical health isn’t just magically bestowed upon them: you have to actually make changes, create healthy habits, and stick to them if you want to lose weight, gain muscle, reduce cholesterol, or whatever your goal is. It’s a process and a commitment. Some people are naturally more athletic or thin or fit than other people, but most people have to put forth some effort or make some conscious decisions to maintain a healthy body. Continue reading