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What Is Resiliency?

A 12 Step Plan to Increase your Own Resilience When Life becomes Overwhelming

Author: Stephanie Camins - MA, LPC

Resilience is referred to often in emotional wellness circles but typically without adequately describing the importance of having or attaining this quality. Any challenging life circumstance that creates a flood of emotion and a perceived loss of control can challenge our ability to cope. Resilience is the human ability to rebuild or come back from difficult situations.

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We all cope in some way to extraordinary life events. The positive psychology movement has long focused on the skills people use to navigate major life events. Sometimes negative events such as loss and sometimes positive events such as marriage or a promotion can challenge our ability to cope.

What’s the point of this movement? Why is this important?

The answer lies in the extraordinary number of people who cope in self-destructive ways, ruining relationships and sabotaging anything good in their lives.

Resilience theory states that we all have the ability to cultivate these positive characteristics and traits. Building resilience is a skill set involving thoughts, behaviors and actions which can be learned. It is an important component of PTSD Recovery, as well as, recovering from depression and anxiety. With these skills in place you not only manage the distress caused by PTSD or other major life events, but also inoculate yourself from the adverse effects of negative life events in the future.

Resilient People Display the Ability to:

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  • set and move toward realistic goals
  • ​have an ability to look long term
  • accept change as part of life
  • ​engage in active decision making
  • ​engage in self-discovery
  • ​communicate and problem solve
  • actively learn new things
  • ​have an optimistic outlook
  • ​have a realistic perspective of themselves and the world around them
  • ​accept and manage the presence of strong feelings
  • be flexible
  • ​have a positive view of self
  • ​actively engage in self-care
  • build connections with others

As you begin your journey down this road to resilience, focus on your own strengths. Remember what has worked well for you in the past. Who did you reach out to? What activities did you incorporate to reduce stress and anxiety? How have you overcome obstacles in the past? What gave you hope and purpose? Use the list below to develop and execute your own personal plan. The Road Map to Resilience is a task list to increase resiliency. Take your time focusing on each step. It will be helpful as you move through this process to create a journal to keep track of your emotions, thoughts and the actions you take.

Road Map to Resilience – A 12 Step Plan

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  1. Develop Caring and supportive relationships that are filled with love, trust, encouragement and reassurance.
  2. Manage your feelings You will feel strong emotions. Give yourself space to feel them. You can regulate emotions by focusing on positive emotions, such as, hope, courage, and happiness and decreasing the focus on negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, frustration, anger, and resentment. To decrease these uncomfortable emotions, it’s important to remember to give yourself permission to feel these feelings, get support when needed and then shift your focus. Denying feelings only intensifies your reaction. Feel and release is a good rule of thumb here.
  3. Build on your strengths Remember to celebrate small achievements.
  4. Have positive expectations and expect things to turn out for the best. Visualize what you want rather than focusing on a negative outlook. Reframe negatives to positives, look for the silver lining in situations, others and yourself. Difficult life events happen. What lessons can you learn from adversity? How can you help others in a similar circumstance?
  5. Practice positive self-talk rather than engaging in self-sabotaging thoughts.
  6. Engage in activities which increase self-confidence including hobbies, personal development and work projects. Do what you love, what you’re good at and take action daily.
  7. ​Increase positive physical behaviors such as exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep habits. Develop regular routines.
  8. Create meaning and purpose
  9. Set SMART goals to increase and enhance your sense of self-control, mastery and competence, break tasks down to achievable parts, prepare and plan for setbacks, commit to hard work. Identify one thing you can accomplish today in the direction of your goal.
  10. Be flexible Create a list of alternative thoughts, feelings and actions by looking at things from different or opposing perspectives. You may need to shift your goals or direction in your life as a result of events that arise in life. Focus on the road in front of you, and adapt.
  11. Create a social support system Seek and accept help, access community resources, volunteer in your community, work toward positive communication and problem solving with those around you, actively engage in a social network, share your feelings with someone you trust.
  12. Forgive others and yourself

Following this road map, you will be able to identify not only your own personal map but also what your roadblocks are. This process involves deep emotional work and may require the assistance of a professional counselor. Life is a journey! Embrace your strengths!

Can Depression Be Cured ?

Author: Stephanie Camins - MA, LPC

What is Depression?

Depression is a persistently low mood which includes feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, lack of joy in activities, decreased motivation in addition to changes in sleeping patterns and appetite. See the article Why Am I Depressed for more on the depression checklist.  Can depression be cured? This is a common question that I am faced with so I put together a few steps that can help you find the answer.

Can depression be cured?

What to Do About Depression

Treating depression is a three pronged strategy focusing on thoughts, feelings and actions.

Strategy 1:  Change Your Thinking

Change your thinking.  You’re brain forms entrenched pathways based on those thoughts you engage in repeatedly.  As a result, if you are constantly thinking depressed thoughts, your brain becomes better and faster at this pathway. It’s harder to access a wellness plan when your brain is in the habit of thinking negatively. The goal is to form a new thinking habit that is positive, solution focused and driven to a productive purpose. To reverse the negative thinking process, focus on recalling happy memories and proud moments. This is easier said than done. The following techniques can help you to get started.

Use the Broken Record Technique to form a new, happier thought pathway. Write down your positive thoughts, your purpose driven goal statements and recall and repeat them whenever you find yourself thinking low thoughts or find yourself in a low mood. List and honor your strengths. The goal is to increase the frequency in which you are thinking positively. Remember the times you aren’t or weren’t depressed. Write down what is different in these moments. Recall and repeat them often.

Identify and correct distorted thinking patterns which reinforce the negative thought pathway. This includes your self-defeating beliefs. Use the Detective Technique to refute these beliefs. What is the evidence these thoughts are true and what is an alternative explanation for these thoughts. How often are you misinterpreting situations due to a negative lens? If you look at the same situation with positive lenses what alternative thoughts can you identify? Is there another way of looking at the situation? If your best friend was struggling with this same situation, what would you advise them to do?

See “How to Control Anxiety - 10 Tools for Managing Stress” for additional strategies.

depression in women

Strategy 2: Accept Your Feelings

Accepting all feelings as they happen, even the negative ones will help prevent overreacting to low moods or dissatisfaction. You are less likely to get stuck in a negative feeling state if you accept that “right now, I feel sad, but it will pass.” Feelings are fluid states, consequently feelings ebb and flow. They are inherently not a permanent state. Coming from a place of acceptance prevents you from falling into a negative thought loop while repeating your self-defeating tapes. The more you think about a depressive circumstance or event, the more you will sink into depression.

Strategy 3:  Increase Positive Actions

Set measurable goals. The goal to "be happier" seems smart,  but it can backfire and add to the depression and feelings of helplessness simply because it is not a well-defined goal. What specific measurable steps can you plan to increase feelings of happiness? Goal creation can be self-defeating if you become overly focused on unattainable goals. Developing smart goals is a skill that once learned will provide a steady direction while propelling you toward a life purpose you define and work toward every day.

Develop an Action Plan. Identify healthy lifestyle choices you can make and track them in a wellness journal. This should include physical activity, social activity, a sleep routine along with a work schedule. Your work schedule includes time for professional activity and work on your personal goal development.

Treating depression without medication can be effective when you consistently engage in a wellness plan which includes assessing environmental factors. This includes lifestyle choices, stressors, sleep routines along with physical activity routines which contribute to low or anxious moods. Practice the strategies for combating negative thinking patterns. Develop realistic, achievable goals which focus on purpose. Build your resources and practice your wellness plan daily.  

In conclusion, the road out of depression involves changing how we think, our goals, our relationships, our environments and our physical wellness through sleep, diet, and exercise. Getting over depression requires the daily practice of wellness not just a plan to reduce symptoms. Counseling services provided by a qualified psychotherapist are often necessary to implement these strategies. Most noteworthy, depression can involve serious thoughts of harming oneself and suicide. If you have any of these serious symptoms of depression, contact a mental health professional immediately.

Why am I Depressed?

Author: Stephanie Camins - MA, LPC

I think I have depression is a sentiment expressed by nearly 35 million American adults. Why am I depressWhy am I Depresseded? is often the followup thought that may never really get expressed or vocalized. Approximately one in five of us will struggle with depression at some point in our lives. Symptoms of depression in women are identified at the rate of 33 percent as compared to 27 percent of men. The increasing demands on our time and energy have a direct impact on our susceptibility to low moods. Our busy lifestyles have decreased the amount of sleep we get, decreased the amount of physical activity we get, decreased the amount of sunlight we get, and decreased our availability to connect in meaningful relationships. Chronic dissatisfaction and lack of defined purpose have developed in part from the pressures of a cultural focus on performance and achievement. Environmental factors such poverty, hunger, abuse, violence and instability increase the symptoms of chronic depression.

Depression Hurts

Depression hurts you and your loved ones. A person’s perspective which is unrealistic, overly focused on negatives, highly self-critical or highly anxious contribute to the effects of depression and affect your relationship with yourself and those around you. Depressed people tend to exhibit self-defeating patterns of thinking and behavior. When we become fixated on unattainable goals, we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment. You may be impacted by lifestyle choices, environmental stressors, negative family or social situations, physical illness, hormone changes such as menopause depression and post-partum depression, or a negative personality type. The more you understand about the causes of your depression the better you can learn to combat depression and move toward a happier state of being.

What is Depression?

Symptoms of depression vary somewhat by individual and typically include persistent low mood, feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness, lacking joy in activities, changes in sleep patterns, changes in appetite, difficulty focusing, isolation, irritability, self-destructive thoughts, agitation, low libido, low energy, excessive guilt and negative attitude. Physical signs of depression can include an increase in headaches, stomach problems, weight loss or gain, and chronic aches and pains. If you recognize yourself in some of these symptoms you may be wondering how to diagnose depression. This depression checklist is used by counselors to diagnose levels of clinically significant depression along with assessing the degree to which these symptoms disrupt your daily functioning.

What to do About Depression?

How you react and cope with negative mood states is directly correlated to depression. Learning to incorporate healthy lifestyle choices into your routine, change negative thought patterns, connect in meaningful relationships and work toward a positive purpose in your life will reduce your depression significantly. Increasing your support network will help you to learn and maintain healthy ways of coping with the ever increasing demands of life. This support network can include friends, family, clergy, doctors and counselors. Your physician may help you with an appropriate medication protocol if your symptoms are severe and unremitting. A psychotherapist or counselor can help you identify your level of depression as well as aid in a plan to climb out of the depression. Depression can be very serious, sometimes involving suicidal thoughts. In this case seek professional help immediately. For more information on treating depression stay tuned for my next article, “Can Depression Be Cured?” If you’d like to be notified by e-mail when this article is posted, sign up for the e-mail newsletter on the homepage of this website.

A Therapists Journey Through Grief

Author: Stephanie Camins - MA, LPC

I have many roles in my life. I am a therapist, as a profession, but I am also a daughter and a mother. As a therapist, I spent many years training in counseling others in a multitude of different issues, one of which was the treatment of grief and loss. I learned about the stages of dying, the stages of grief, and grief recovery. My focus here is to share some of my personal experience with anyone going through the loss of a loved one.

Given my schooling and my experience counseling others through grief, I thought I was well prepared for the loss of my mother. Imagine my surprise when I absolutely was not. A little about my Mom, she had been sick for several years with a combination of health problems. Each time she was hospitalized, she got progressively worse. Due to the length of her illness, my grief journey started long before she passed away. Grief happens not only when a loved one dies but from the initial diagnosis through the long journey to passing on. Like many others who witness a parents declining health, I had periods of denial, anxiety, depression, anger, fear and confusion.  Sometimes the loss of a loved one is sudden and unexpected. Sometimes it is a long, grueling journey. I’ve been asked many times which I thought is harder to process. My answer is that they are both equally difficult in their own ways. Mine was the lingering process, constantly hanging like a black cloud over my head. I tried very hard to appreciate the time I had with my Mom and was able to do that at times, but largely, I was so overwhelmed with my grief that it was hard to focus on the present. As a therapist, I will tell you that focusing on the present and appreciating every moment is important, but I know from my own experience it’s very hard to do without letting the negative emotions of grief take over.

The stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance apply to the entire process, from the initial diagnoses to death. They are presented in order, however like waves in the ocean, they ebb and flow, often overlapping, and moving between and amongst each other. They are not distinct stages that progress from one to the next. Knowing this did not prevent me from feeling the “grief crazies”. My emotions were all over the place all the time. The following list of coping skills will help you keep your feet on the ground, while wading through the journey of grief.

Grief Recovery

  • Use your support system
  • Take care of yourself
  • Delegate tasks
  • Ask for help
  • Keep things simple
  • Prioritize your tasks – not everything is essential
  • Get plenty of rest – but not too much
  • Get some exercise
  • Don’t isolate yourself – talk with others
  • Back to basics – eat enough, hydrate enough
  • Stay away from unhealthy escapes such as alcohol or drugs
  • Keep your schedule written down – your memory will not be normal
  • Maintain a list of important tasks
  • Remind yourself that you will be OK
  • Attend a grief group
  • Plan for “anniversary” dates
  • Allow yourself specific times to grieve
  • Journal