Thursday, November 7, 2013

Four Ideas for Better Living


Conversations for Overcoming Depression


Dear Internet,
I spend most of my time thinking about how I can improve myself, what I need to work on, how I'm lacking, and/or ways to combat any number of the things I've either been diagnosed with or have diagnosed myself with (SAD, dysthymia, depression, eating-too-many-cupcakesitis). This, perhaps, helps explain why I'm a counselor for a living because this sort of obsession? Compulsion? Way of being? is encouraged. And sort of what we get paid for in a way. After all, how am I to be of any assistance to my clients if I haven't done the work myself?

Because of this neurotic tendency towards growth, introspection, and being the Valedictorian of Life, I have a lot of esoteric conversations with people about navel gazey type things, the latest psychobabble research, and strategies for better living.

Recently, several of these conversations have resonated very deeply with me. So deeply, I feel the need to pass them on to you because they've shifted how I think about things and ultimately how I behave (which is sort of the whole point of psychology when you get right down to it). They've been the shot in the arm I've needed to help me get off my butt and clear the depressive fog that sometimes creeps in on me. Maybe they'll do the same for you.

>The 7/10 Rule

Part of my depression stems from the fact that I don't like to fail and have a very abnormal desire for perfection. I often get so caught up in doing it right, in winning, in being perfect that I often end up not actually doing anything at all. Because procrastination is the flip side of the perfection coin.

We set ourselves up for failure when we set the bar too unrealistically high.


Don't get me wrong lofty goals are wonderful, but at a certain point they become action prohibitive. This conversation and subsequent realization has completely changed what I do (and how depressed I (don't) feel).

Instead of having an insane, totally unrealistic goal (like going to the gym everyday for an hour and running a marathon next month), and then being totally derailed and shutting completely down when I don't achieve that goal (because come on-that's never going to happen for me), I've put the 7/10 Rule into effect.

You don't have to make a hundred on the test, all you gotta get is 7/10. So, I missed one day at the gym. Did I go six other days? Well, good enough. I'm still moving in the direction of my value. One slip up, one wrong answer doesn't matter in the long run. Because 7/10 is way better than none/10. And none out of ten is usually what happens when we get too focused on being perfect.

This rule alone has re-energized me, and served as a massive counter to the inertia I often experience (especially when it's 30 degrees and snowing outside).

>Don't Wait, Just Do It

A few weeks ago I was in one of my slumps. Instead of wallowing in bed like I usually do, I reached out to my girlfriends by sending a simple mass I miss you text message. They of course responded with witty and I love you banter that instantly lifted my mood.

Then, one of them called me. Which is sort of a rarity with this friend (we're more of the let's meet for coffee or go for a walk kind of girls). In the course of that conversation she said, "I was going to text that if you needed to talk just call, then I thought that's silly I'm just going to call her. I'm not going to wait for her to ask."

How many times have you gotten the impulse to do something for someone, but didn't? How many times have you said, "If you need something just let me know?"


Do you know how much that works for people in crisis? Not very much because they are in crisis. Also, do you know how helpful it is when someone just does something for you when you're down, or upset, or hurt, or...? It is extremely helpful.

So, don't wait. Don't make it the other person's problem. Just do it. Just make that phone call, or send that message, or fold that laundry. Action begets action. And what goes around comes around. Not to mention, being of service to others is one of the quickest ways to improve your own mood.

And since you only have to get a 7/10, you don't have to worry if your action is perfect or not.

>Actually Show Your Support

Living and working in a small town comes with a unique set of problems. People frequently complain about the lack of resources we have, or the cost of the ones we do. They do their shopping out of town, or seek out services elsewhere. Then, they complain when people don't show up or support their own venture. (And yes I've been guilty of this).

The recent closings of several of my favorite businesses in conjunction with trying to drum up my own clients, has made me consider the part I played in the shuttings. Me just liking that we have a knit shop, or bookshop, or yoga studio, wasn't enough. And that's true no matter where you live.

People need you to actually spend your money in their shops. They need you to show up for the things they plan. They need action not just kind words and prayers. 


Plus, how can we expect people to support us when we don't support them? When we don't show up for the classes they are teaching, the events they are planning, the shops they own?

I have to invest in the community not only with my time and well wishes, but with my money if I want it to invest in me.

So, if there's a shop you like. A person you know doing something cool. Go. Go, spend your money. Invest in them and they'll invest in you.

>No One's Coming to Save You

It's no secret, to those who know me well, that Maggie Mason is one of my personal heroes. So, when she posted, Amy DuBois Barnett, "Take care of your own damn self, a few weeks ago I was all, "Yeah! Do that! Take care of your own damn self!"

It was an article, (who's basic premise is that no one is coming to save you, so you best get along with your own life), that stuck with me for days. I kept vacillating between, "that's so true," and "aww that's sad, we all need support and connection."

I'm still not completely sure of how I feel about the whole thing. But I do know there's an element of truth there because I do believe we are each responsible for our own lives and how they turn out (to a certain extent). 

And if one thing's true, it's that we can control the meaning we make of the situations we either put ourselves into or that are thrust upon us. 


When we fully realize that it gives us an immense amount of freedom to make changes because we aren't waiting around or at the mercy of other people.

And that my friends feels good, especially when you don't worry about being perfect, or how your actions will be received.

As winter closes in on me, my hardest time of year, I'm trying to keep these conversations in the forefront of my mind because I find them useful tools.

What helps you? What conversations have you had that are helpful?

XO,
Sara

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