Who hasn’t found themselves pummeled by life on occasion? Life is a mixed bag, comprised of lovely, joy-filled moments and some very difficult losses and disappointments. Each day we may wake up to daunting new challenges, or be bathed in blessings. How we chose to balance those two realities of life will factor into our overall wellness, but especially our mental health.
When you are struggling with life, it helps to have some helpful strategies that can fuel you through a difficult patch. Using this proactive approach is highly preferable to the alternative, which is finding yourself frozen in self-pity or negativity. It is totally appropriate, of course, to spend some time wallowing when experiencing a downturn in life, but you don’t want to get stuck there. Knowing some actions that can help you bounce back will assist with moving forward and getting to the other side of the struggle.
Sometimes, however, there is a larger obstacle involved, such as a depressive disorder or an anxiety disorder that is preventing your ability to rebound from a negative life event. When a mental health disorder causes symptoms that keep you struggling with life on a daily basis, it is time to see a therapist who can offer some guidance. Both depression and anxiety are highly manageable when you apply the tools that a licensed therapist can provide.
6 Things You Can Do When You are Struggling with Life
Not knowing what to do when a bout of the blues hits can be very disconcerting. The same thing applies to stressful situations that trigger feelings of fear and worry. Having some useful strategies for managing stress and emotions will come in handy as we navigate the bumpy road of life. Here are 6 useful tips:
- Pamper yourself. Sometimes a little self-pampering can go a long way. Self-care during a rough patch in life may not even appear on your radar, but it should be a priority. By tending to your wellness, through such things as getting a therapeutic massage, taking baths with aromatherapy, filling the room with soothing music, or cooking yourself delicious but healthy meals, can make a tremendous difference in your attitude and outlook.
- Choose to let go of your story. It is common to latch onto a challenging time emotionally, meaning that you begin to find solace in your unhappiness. It becomes your story, what you identify with and want to present to others. The sad person to whom life has done wrong. Break free from that negative narrative and rewrite your story with a hopeful, positive plot.
- Take charge. Instead of passively waiting for life to improve, why not help the process along by taking control of your quality of life? Take responsibility for your own happiness by making necessary changes that will improve the situation, if it is something within your power to change. This empowers you and takes you from being a victim to circumstances to being in control of your destiny.
- Set new goals. Sometimes just setting fresh new goals will help you move through a tough period in life. Focusing outward toward new aspirations instead of dwelling on the current difficult situation helps you to keep moving forward. Set some new short term and long-term goals, such as learning a new skill or planning a trip or learning a second language, and make a plan for achieving them.
- Get active. Even though you may not be in the state of mind where you want to exercise, try to battle through that and do it anyway. Exercise is incredibly beneficial to our mental health. Try to incorporate some form of exercise or physical activity into each day, even if it is just a 15-minute walk, and you will begin to see your mood improve.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness can be woven into your daily life and accessed whenever you feel yourself drifting back into negative thought patterns. Mindfulness involves training yourself to redirect your thought distractions back toward the present moment. By teaching yourself to pay close attention to the sensory experience, such as what you can feel, smell, hear, and touch, while engaging in focused breathing you will reach a state of relaxation.
Am I Just Struggling with Life or is it a Mental Health Disorder?
Everyone goes through ups and downs in life. We all experience negative events from time to time, such as relationship problems, loss of a job, health issues, financial setbacks, and loss of a loved one. These are the unavoidable casualties of being on the planet. Any of these events can lead to feelings of sadness or stress, but when the emotional symptoms do not ease up after so many weeks a mental health disorder has possibly developed. Get to know the signs and symptoms of some of the most common mood disorders so you will recognize when it is time to get some professional help:
The anxiety spectrum of disorders includes:
- Generalized anxiety disorder: Features constant excessive worry for much of the day, resulting in headaches, muscle tension, nausea, and trouble concentrating. GAD is the most prevalent form of anxiety in the U.S.
- Panic disorder: Sudden and unpredictable feelings of terror, causing heart palpitations, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Many who experience panic disorder become isolated to avoid having another panic attack.
- Specific phobias: Irrational fear of a specific thing, place, or situation. To manage this fear, the individual will begin to avoid triggers. Agoraphobia, for example, which is the fear of being trapped in a place or situation, can lead to isolation.
- Trauma disorder: Unresolved trauma can lead to avoidance of people, places, or situations that trigger memories of the traumatic event. Flashbacks, nightmares, or repeated thoughts of the trauma stoke anxiety symptoms. Those with PTSD may avoid exposure to things that trigger the traumatic memory, and are prone to substance abuse as a form of self-medicating.
- Social anxiety disorder: Intense and irrational fear of being judged or criticized. Because of the fear of being humiliated in public, people with social anxiety may avoid social situations completely.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder: Obsessive worries about such things as germs, causing harm, or a need for order can fuel compulsive behaviors in an attempt to manage the symptoms of intense anxiety caused by the obsession.
The depression disorders include:
- Major depressive disorder. MDD is the most common depressive disorder and features persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or despair, fatigue, weight gain or loss, change in sleeping habits, loss of interest in usual activities or hobbies, slowed motor movements, and suicidal thought or attempts.
- Post-partum depression. Post-partum depression affects 3 million new mothers per year and lasts about three months until the hormone levels normalize. This form of depression can disrupt bonding with the baby due to feelings of sadness, extreme irritability, change in eating habits, insomnia, mood swings, and even thoughts of harming baby or self.
- Dysthymia. Dysthymia, also referred to as persistent depressive disorder, is a milder but chronic form of MDD that lasts more than two years. Dysthymia features low mood, loss of interest in activities, feelings of hopelessness, reduced appetite, feelings of low self-esteem, problems concentrating, and sleep problems.
- Bipolar depression. Bipolar disorder is an affective, or mood, disorder that features extreme and unpredictable shifts between depressive periods and manic periods, with bipolar II featuring milder manic periods but more severe depressive periods.
When to Seek Help for a Mental Health Condition
When you suspect that your symptoms are more serious than simply feeling like you are struggling with life, it is a good idea to contact a mental health provider who can conduct a psychological evaluation. This involves an interview with a licensed therapist or psychiatrist who can collect enough information about your current symptoms and state of mind to hopefully make a diagnosis.
Generally, treatment for a mental health disorder like depression or anxiety will include medication, such as antidepressants, plus psychotherapy. Regular therapy sessions will help you work on changing negative or irrational thought patterns that keep you from living your best life.
The therapist might also encourage regular exercise and healthy dietary suggestions. Support groups can also be suggested, which allow small groups of individuals who share a common condition, such as depression, to discuss their personal struggles and support each other. Other complementary activities a therapist might prescribe could revolve around stress reduction, such as taking yoga classes or trying acupuncture.
Residential Treatment for a Higher Level of Care
For those individuals who continue to suffer from the mental health condition despite the outpatient interventions, a higher level of care is indicated. The residential setting offers a unique opportunity to take a break from daily cares and stressors and just focus on getting better. Residential mental health programs provide a much more customized and intensive treatment approach.
Treatment elements include:
- Acute stabilization for individuals in crisis who need 24-7 monitoring.
- Evidence-based psychotherapy using such modalities as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, and psychodynamic therapy.
- Group therapy sessions facilitated by a clinician.
- Adjunctive therapies such as eye movement desensitization reprocessing or TMS therapy.
- Medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety drugs, and antipsychotics.
- Holistic therapies such as massage, meditation, art therapy, or equine therapy.
When your mental health does not improve using lifestyle and attitude tweaks, then it is appropriate to seek out psychological support from a mental health professional.
The Treatment Specialist Provides Free Online Resources for Mental Health
The Treatment Specialist is an online resource for informative articles on mental health conditions and treatment options for adults, teens, and families. For more information and guidance please contact the team at (866) 644-7911.