Tim O'Rahilly Life Coaching

Archive for November 2016

Mindful Monday: You Don’t understand.

I have written a lot about depression this year. There has also been much more publicity about the subject in the past year and yet for too many people it remains a taboo subject, poorly understood and readily dismissed. This situation makes it difficult for those suffering from depression to talk about it. Most people still don’t fully understand depression unless they have experienced it first hand and so there are many misconceptions about it:

  1. You don’t look depressed. Depressed people are very good at hiding their symptoms so don’t be surprised that you didn’t know.  For some this causes it’s own challenge because those who find the strength to talk about their depression may find that others discount it because have not seen and signs of it.
  2. That’s not what depression is. Just because you have read about depression or a depressed friend has described their symptoms to you, don’t assume that you understand all depressions. This condition comes in many different forms and may not always present itself in the way that you think it should. Many people still think that the depressed have no interest in anything, are completely withdrawn and are unable to get out of bed. where depression sufferers don’t fit this image they are often not believed.
  3. So are you always sad? Sadness can often accompany depressionMan-with-depression but most depressed people describe themselves as detached from everything and simply feeling nothing at all.
  4. You are a positive thinker so just decide to be happy. It does not work like that. Depression is a real medical illness, an imbalance in the chemistry of the brain. You can lessen the symptoms but you cannot just wish it away or think your way out of it.
  5. Come on just get up you’ll be okay. If only it was that easy. As already described, a common symptom of depression, is having a numb feeling with no interest in anything at all. For this reason it often appears as if there is no point in getting up. In fact this can lead to a feeling of chronic fatigue leaving you without the physical strength to do anything.
  6. I thought you were going to talk to someone about this? For many sufferers the desire to ask for help comes and goes with many thinking that to do so will mean appearing weak. Unfortunately that feeling is all too often confirmed by the reactions of others. The depressed need to understand that there is strength in disclosure.
  7. But I love you so let me fix you. Love cannot fix a head cold or a broken rib so it cannot cure depression. Loved ones however can be an enormous positive support just by being there without judging. The flip side of this is that the depressed person may already be feeling guilty because they want to get better for the one they love.
  8. I’ve heard that exercise can cure it? There is no magic bullet so no exercise will not cure it. For some it does help since it increases serotonin levels in the brain. Putting this kind of pressure on a sufferer who is unable to exercise can feel like blame and add to the stress.
  9. Why are you scared of it? Because I hate not being in control. I hate not feeling myself, but I just don’t know how to get over it. It really frightens me.
  10. What do you mean you want to give up? The suicide rates are really high among the depressed because they just become exhausted struggling against this thing every day. They can tire of fighting a battle that they don’t seem to be winning. The sufferer may end up feeling that it would be better for everyone if they just gave up.

Mindful Monday: Take a Breath

A couple of weeks ago I talked about some simple techniques for focusing the mind (Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness) Those techniques took advantage of nature and the beautiful Autumn season. Today I want to describe a simple, easy to master, technique which also dispels the notion that you need to set aside long periods of time for mindfulness meditation.

The Three Minute Breathing Space.3

First minute: First of all you need to focus on your location. Whether you are sitting on a cold garden bench or a warm fireside chair just pay close attention to where you are and what bodily sensations you are feeling.

Second minute: Now shift your attention to your breathing. Be aware of it but if your mind wanders (perfectly normal) first acknowledge where it has drifted too and then gently pull it back to the present moment.

Third minute: Once your attention has settled on your breathing, the next minute is spent moving your attention to the effects of your breathing has on your body as a whole. Notice the feeling of your lungs filling and emptying and the way that you chest and ribs expand and contract.

That’s all there is to it. Three minutes of your time and a breathing space just for you. Let it become a regular daily activity. Go on, give it a go.

Mindful Monday: Coping with Stress

I have written before about strategies for coping with stress and there are probably as many hints about this as there are stressed people. When I came across a teacher’s list a couple of months ago I knew it would be worth reproducing at some point.

Psychology teacher Brett Phillips has been handing out this typewritten list to his new class at the start of the school year for many years now. He understands how stressful teenage life can be and wants to help them to learn simple ways of coping. The difference this year is that one of his California High school pupils shared the list on Twitter and it quickly went viral.

I am reproducing the complete list here with grateful thanks to Mr Phillips and to his student, Alina Ramirez who brought his work to our attention. I believe that this applies to a lot more people that just Californian teenagers:-
  • Get up 15 minutes earlier
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    SMILE!

  • Prepare for the morning the night before
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothes
  • Avoid relying on chemical aids
  • Set appointments ahead
  • Don’t rely on your memory… write it down
  • Practice preventative maintenance
  • Make duplicate keys
  • Say “no” more often
  • Set priorities in your life
  • Avoid negative people
  • Use time wisely
  • Simplify meal times
  • Always make copies of important papers
  • Anticipate your needs
  • Repair anything that doesn’t work properly
  • Ask for help with the jobs you dislike
  • Break large tasks into bite-size portions
  • Look at problems as challenges
  • Look at challenges differently
  • Unclutter your life
  • Smile
  • Be prepared for rain
  • Tickle a baby
  • Pet a friendly dog/cat
  • Don’t know all the answers
  • Look for a silver lining
  • Say something nice to someone
  • Teach a kid to fly a kite
  • Walk in the rain
  • Schedule play time into every day
  • Take a bubble bath
  • Be aware of the decisions you make
  • Believe in yourself
  • Stop saying negative things to yourself
  • Visualize yourself winning
  • Develop your sense of humor
  • Stop thinking tomorrow will be a better day
  • Have goals for yourself
  • Dance a jig
  • Say “hello” to a stranger
  • Ask a friend for a hug
  • Look up at the stars
  • Practice breathing slowly
  • Learn to whistle a tune
  • Read a poem
  • Listen to a symphony
  • Watch a ballet
  • Read a story curled up in bed
  • Do a brand new thing
  • Stop a bad habit
  • Buy yourself a flower
  • Take time to smell the flowers
  • Find support from others
  • Ask someone to be your “vent-partner”
  • Do it today
  • Work at being cheerful and optimistic
  • Put safety first
  • Do everything in moderation
  • Pay attention to your appearance
  • Strive for excellence NOT perfection
  • Stretch your limits a little each day
  • Look at a work of art
  • Hum a jingle
  • Maintain your weight
  • Plant a tree
  • Feed the birds
  • Practice grace under pressure
  • Strand up and stretch
  • Always have a plan “B”
  • Learn a new doodle
  • Memorize a joke
  • Be responsible for your feelings
  • Learn to meet your own needs
  • Become a better listener
  • Know our own limitations and let others know them, too
  • Tell someone to have a good day in pig Latin
  • Throw a paper airplane
  • Exercise every day
  • Learn the words to a new song
  • Get to work early
  • Clean out one closet
  • Play patty cake with a toddler
  • Go on a picnic
  • Take a different route to work
  • Leave work early (with permission)
  • Put air freshener in your car
  • Watch a move and eat popcorn
  • Write a note to a faraway friend
  • Go to a ball game and scream
  • Cook a meal and eat it by candlelight
  • Recognize the importance of unconditional love
  • Remember that stress is an attitude
  • Keep a journal
  • Practice a monster smile
  • Remember you always have options
  • Have a support network of people, places and things
  • Quit trying to fix other people
  • Get enough sleep
  • Talk less and listen more
  • Freely praise other people

Bonus: Relax, take each day at a time… you have the rest of your life to live.