Peace

I long for peace against me anxiety. I long for the comfort of Purpose. Many times, I go through my day wondering what purpose I have, what to do that has meaning. What can I possibly give this world of myself?

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Times like these I breathe in and out and consult Wise Mind (God.) Mindfulness is about living in the now-not the future-not the past-not the wonders of purpose, more, the wonders of “being.” I imagine myself surrounded by God’s love. I feel the power as I breathe. I let my mind wander acknowledging the feelings and thoughts as they pass. I am enveloped in love.

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“..The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in Him.” Psalm 31:10

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We all long for peace, no one wants heartache and worry. Though we may have many trials, we can take a moment and evoke peace through Mindfulness of God. Rumi said, “The wound is where the light enters you.” This remind me of Jesus’ wounds. He gave Himself so that we may have light and, in my mindfulness, I feel that light shining through my wounds.

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In my mindfulness I feel the peace seeping through the scars. Jesus left us with peace. The first thing He said to his disciples after His resurrection was, “Peace be with you.” How many times do we hurry along our day frazzled and tense without evoking this peace?

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It takes focus to be mindful. Do your thoughts wander when you pray? It may be Wise Mind (God) showing you what to pray. Pray about whatever your mind in telling you but be aware that God might just be telling you to stop your mind from wandering and focus! You can watch the thoughts go by and maintain your focus, or you can pray about the thoughts. Nothing is too small for God to hear.

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It all depends on what you are trying to do. Are you emptying your mind so you can accept God’s peace or are you praying in order to be close to God and release your anxious thoughts unto Him?

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If you are emptying your mind, you may want to close your eyes and focus on your breath. Watch the thoughts pass but don’t linger on them and re-focus on your breath. Invite God’s peace into your heart, staying there with it as long as you like. Each time a thought comes into your head, watch it pass. I heard it once described like a train of thoughts. The train goes by but it doesn’t have to stop at a boxcar of thought. You don’t need o board the train- you are just watching it and re-focusing on peace.

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If you are praying to release anxious thoughts, then pray about each thought that comes into your mind. Consider why these thoughts are coming up and pray to be let go of the stress. You must guard your thoughts and not let negative thoughts take root and put limitations on what God wants you to be. Allow Him to water the seeds He’s planted and ignore the seeds your negative thoughts have sown.

Pretend

“Your worst battle is between what you know and what you feel.” I read that on Twitter: Amazing Facts @factsoup. Ain’t it the truth! I’m always battling what I feel. I have a good life but I’m anxious. I watch the beauty of my backyard from my porch but I’m depressed.

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I’m always fighting to be the “ideal.” Smart, funny, honest, well-spoken, in charge, respected, but in reality, I say the wrong things; I’m not always smart and I’m not sure that anyone would respect my handling of this jumbled up life that became mine. I’ve begun to think of that jumble as a patchwork quilt. Some patches have tears, some have smiles, some are black with depression and some have a cartoon bubble of laughs, “Ha ha ha!”

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In DBT we look to change the emotions we do not want. There are skills to look at emotions as just emotions, passing by. We make a choice to be mindful of current emotions, act on them and problem solve or do not act on the emotion urge and consider opposite action.

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I read a novel called “Pretending to Dance” by Diane Chamberlain. In it the father is a psychiatrist that practices “Pretend Therapy” in which you pretend you are happy or that you love something that you hate or are afraid of. Although this is a fiction novel, the premise of pretending seemed like a smart idea to me.

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It’s kind of like my “Be a Word” strategy where I pick a word that encompasses what I want to be and then all day I try to become that word. It’s practicing opposite action where you do the opposite of what you’re feeling like doing when what you feel like doing might be harmful or not the best choice. This is easier said than done and like all DBT skills it takes practice, a practice I have not yet beat.

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But that doesn’t stop me from trying to beat it. It doesn’t stop me from looking at the true facts of my life instead of the feelings. From separating my feelings from me. They do not define me!

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It’s getting a grip on reality by making a choice to put aside those debilitating emotions and embrace the day. Staying happy and enjoying being with God is a choice. God created us with an enormous capacity to enjoy Him. Don’t let things that people say or do rob you of your happiness.

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Start to pretend to see the beauty of something and mindfully allow emotions to come and go. In some of my Mindfulness exercises I take a Bible verse and play it out in my mind, inserting myself into the story. That’s a form of pretending. But it can be so meaningful as you imagine yourself sitting with Jesus or walking on water.

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You may think that true facts and pretending are opposite things, but when your emotions don’t fit the facts of the situation, pretending you feel as the true facts deem you should feel is really embracing reality and fending off those lying thoughts.

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Does your mind always go to the worst conclusion? That’s a negative form of pretending. You are pretending you know the outcome and expecting the worst. Isn’t it easier and more calming to let Jesus take on worrying about your future? We don’t have to pretend that He already knows what’s in store for us because we know He does. His word tells us not to worry about the future. His word tells us that we can be calm in His presence. No need to pretend at that!

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Emotions don’t always fit the facts. The facts are what’s going on right now-not what might happen in the future. My sister Sherri is going through the worst surgery of her life. She has an aggressive tumor and needs to have her jaw removed. She will be in ICU, she will have to have a feeding tube, she will need to learn to swallow and talk all over again. A million things could go wrong, but Sherri is determined to beat the odds. She will beat the timeframe of the feeding tube. She will beat the amount of time she stays in the hospital. She will beat the goals to swallow and talk. She says she is “above average.”

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I guess you could say she is pretending that she will overcome the odds. Pretending can lead to action which leads to reality. Faith is a big part of her life. Sure, she could be wallowing in self-pity and thinking the worst, but the facts are that the worst hasn’t happened and may never happen. With her positive mindset and her faith, the odds are with her.

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“Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.” Mark, 11:22-23

Mindfully Living This Day

Quiet sharing with God can be a delightful mindfulness experience. Slow down. Quiet your motions. Bask in His glory. What would you become today if you let God control your actions? Would you be more helpful to people? Would opportunities arise beyond your wildest dreams?

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Ask God to show you His true peace as you go about your daily activities slower, contemplating Him. As you mindfully run your errands, bless people along the way. Take time to talk and really listen to those you come in contact with. Pray for them.
Be mindful as you work, opening up your thoughts and actions to the Lord. Always looking for God in your life can open your senses, slow your heart rate and observe your life in a different way. Fully participate in what you are doing.

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DBT goals for Mindfulness are to Reduce suffering and increase happiness; Increase control of your mind; and Experience reality as it is. What would life be like if you had less strain and tension? By trusting God, you give that strain over to Him. Stop letting your mind be in control of you. God tells us to not worry- to not live in the future but live in the present with Him. He tells us to learn from our mistakes but don’t let the past control us.

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Live with your eyes wide open, don’t just go through the motions, live the life God wants you to live, in communion with Him. Experience the reality of your connection to Him, to His essential goodness. Validate your life, take each moment as it comes and feel the blessings in it.

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Mindfulness is living with intention, being aware in the present moment. Accept the simple grace of each event that occurs in your life. Wake up from the rote behaviors that become life. Participate and be present in every moment. And don’t judge! Let go of evaluating everything that you say and do. Instead of suppressing a moment, ask God to help you discern the consequences and make wise choices.

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All you need to do is pay attention to the moment. It can be done anywhere and anytime. Embrace your life with all its ups and downs. Acknowledge the difficulties and don’t avoid them.

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“Join me, everyone! Trust only in God every moment! Tell Him all your troubles and pour out you heart-longings to Him. Believe me when I tell you-He will help you!” Psalm 62:8

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Let the power of continuous prayer help you throughout your day. Allow yourself to experience His constant presence. Engage in spiritual mindfulness practice with a centering prayer, “Lord guide me.” “Stay with me Lord, throughout it all.” “Lord, bless this person.”

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While meditation can also be mindfulness, to really experience your life is the true meaning of the word. Describe the moments to God and implore Him to help you. That is truly living in communion with Him. When worries abound, learn what is real and what is not real by asking God (Wise Mind) to help you acknowledge the worry but give it up to Him.

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Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live each moment as it is without worry about the future or regrets of the past? I am reminded of the story from Jewish history when the Israelites were in the desert and God supplied them with Manna for substance. Just enough Manna was given each day with a whole new batch each morning. We should take our Manna of the moment and trust God to give us just enough to make it through each moment, with no worries of the future and no regrets about the past.

Sensory Awareness in Crisis

An excellent DBT exercise when you need to calm down.

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Make a recording of your voice talking through this Sensory Awareness Step by Step. (Allow about 5 seconds between each step) Sensory awareness step by step

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1. Can you feel your hair touching your head?
2. Can you feel your belly rising and falling as you breathe?
3. Can you feel the space between your eyes?
4. Can you feel the distance between your ears?
5. Can you feel your breath touching the back of your eyes while you inhale?
6. Can you picture something far away?
7. Can you notice your arms touching your body?
8. Can you feel the bottoms of your feet?
9. Can you imagine a beautiful day at the beach?
10. Can you notice the space within your mouth?
11. Can you notice the position of your tongue in your mouth?
12. Can you feel a breeze against your cheek?
13. Can you feel how one arm is heavier than the other?
14. Can you feel a tingling or numbness in one hand?
15. Can you feel how one arm is more relaxed than the other?
16. Can you feel a change in the temperature in the air around you?
17. Can you feel how your left arm is warmer than the right?
18. Can you imagine how it would feel to be a rag doll?
19. Can you notice any tightness in your left forearm?
20. Can you imagine something very pleasant?
21. Can you imagine what it would feel like to float on a cloud?
22. Can you imagine what it would feel like to be stuck in molasses?
23. Can you picture something far away?
24. Can you feel a heaviness in your legs?
25. Can you imagine floating in warm water?
26. Can you notice your body hanging on your bones?
27. Can you allow yourself to drift lazily?
28. Can you feel your face getting soft?
29. Can you imagine a beautiful flower?
30. Can you feel how one arm and one leg are heavier than the other?

Crisis Survival

You are in crises when the situation is highly stressful, and you feel like you must act on or resolve the crises right now. It’s an intense feeling, one you can’t shake unless you do something this moment.

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It may be intense anger. You want to lash out at someone-something immediately, so you can feel better. It may be desolation. You want to end the feeling by using drugs or alcohol- anything that will make you feel better.

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It’s really hard to stop yourself. This is crises and one thing to keep in mind (if you can) is it’s usually short term. DBT states that crises survival skills (known as Distress Tolerance) should be used when:
1. You have intense pain that cannot be helped quickly
2. You want to act on your emotions, but it will only make things worse.
3. Emotion mind threatens to overwhelm you and you need to stay “skillful.”
4. You are overwhelmed yet demands must be met.
5. Arousal is extreme, but problems can’t be solved immediately.

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A really effective skill to use is called STOP. I’ve used it in times of anger when I wanted to lash out at my job. I wasn’t being treated right. I wanted to get angry at everyone. I wanted to say things I would regret. I just wanted to feel better- to justify myself.
The STOP skill works like this:
Stop. Do not react. Freeze and don’t move a muscle. Stay in control. Your emotions are telling you to act, but before you do, just STOP.
Take a step back. Take a break, a deep breath, take yourself out of the situation. Even for just a moment, do not act impulsively.
Observe. This one can be hard, but you have to notice what you are thinking and feeling as if you are watching it like a movie. What is the situation? What are your feelings about it? What are others saying or doing?
Proceed Mindfully. Act with awareness. Which actions will make it better and which actions will make it worse?

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Once we left for vacation on the anniversary of my son’s death. We thought it would be good to get away during that time especially since I didn’t handle the previous anniversaries so well. In the car I had a panic attack. The STOP skill helped me to take a step back and observe what was happening to my body. I took deep breaths and the attack seemed to end quicker than normal. I didn’t cope by using anything and I waited it out. I know in my Wise Mind that it would end. It always does.

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Distress Tolerance skills are especially helpful when we are out of control. Once I was so distraught during a therapy session that I was crying uncontrollably. My therapist chose to use a skill called TIP. Which is controlling through temperature, intense exercise or paced breathing with paired muscle relaxation.

We chose the temperature route and she got a pitcher of ice which I placed on my forehead with a paper towel. This calmed me down fast as the change of temperature changed my body chemistry. Fifteen to thirty seconds should be enough time for this “dive reflex” to set in. Some members of my DBT group have also used ice on their wrists or they held their breath and submerged their faces in cold water. As you do this, your blood flow is redirected to your heart and brain. This is for use when you are having a very strong, distressing emotion.

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Intense exercise can be used in the same way. Do some jumping jacks even if it’s for a short amount of time. Or run down the street and back. Expend your energy on something physical. People who run regularly often say that it makes them feel good, gets the endorphins going. This is the same principle.

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Paced breathing is slowing down your breath. Breathe deeply and breathe out more slowly than you breathe in. Pair this with muscle relaxation. As you breathe in tense your muscles. Notice where the tension is and say “Relax” in your mind as you breathe out. Let go of the tension and notice the difference in your body. Do a body scan while using this skill by starting with tensing your hands, then your lower and upper arms etc.

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It’s good to have these skills in your toolkit so when you are in distress you can try them and use whatever works.

Distorted Thinking

Being depressed means I have a distorted way of thinking sometimes. My worries are multiplied, my thoughts tend to go to the negative. Research shows that this way of thinking can trigger or worsen the experience of depression.

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I have unrealistic ways of looking at a situation, even pessimistic, which can exaggerate the negative and de-emphasize the positive or promising aspects of an event. I often think negative thoughts about myself and judge myself unfairly. I am critical of myself.
I know now that it is the depression talking to me and not really me. Even when things are going well my mind searches for something wrong. It’s hard-wired probably from my days as a manager when my job was to compare things to a standard. The standard I place on myself is too high.

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Even through all this, I have hope. Hope lifts my perspective a little and opens up my soul to Jesus, who has promised to hold my hand every minute of every day. Things may seem hopeless, but I am holding His hand and I can see a shift in the clouds of depression.

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“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” Psalm 71:14

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I know that my depression is a chemical imbalance, certain neurochemicals in my brain are less active, and I have medication to offset it. This too came from God as He led me to my doctors for their knowledge.

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God doesn’t want me to just endure life- and that is how I sometimes feel, as if I am getting through the day-enduring. My distorted thoughts are unrealistic and negative about the future which, of course, is not hope. If I can just get a flicker of hope each day I know I will be on the path to betterment.

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God said to Job: “You’ll forget your troubles; They’ll be like old, faded photographs. Your world will be washed in sunshine, every shadow dispersed by dayspring. Full of hope, you’ll relax, confident again; you’ll look around, sit back, and take it easy.” Job 11:6-18

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I will wait for that day, never giving up hope. I will fight back when everyday problems are overcome by the depression. I will make plans and goals to bring joy back in my life. Solving problems takes energy and I will get my energy-my hope- from God’s Word.

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I will talk back to my distorted thoughts, challenging them when needed. I will not cling to those thoughts but use my DBT skills to turn my mind and think more realistically. I will not succumb to the lies I tell myself but will listen to my Wise Mind (God) and believe only truths.

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I will be mindful of my emotions and determine how I want to act-effectively. I will accumulate positive emotions and increase joy throughout my day. Reading the Bible props up my hope and leads me to more positive thoughts.

Prayers for Sherri

Today my sister Sherri is going to get some tests and have a consultation with a surgeon. She has a tumor in her mouth, that same mouth that went through dozens of surgeries due to the effects of Bells Palsy.

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She hates people working on her mouth as she went through so much trauma with it throughout her life. She will have to have surgery to remove the tumor, which is made of bone. This trip today to Minneapolis will be a trial for her. She has so much strength and love of God that I know she is praying and counting on Him for the best results.

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First, she will have a test to look at her Creatine levels, then she will be strapped with an IV that will push contrast through her system for one more CAT scan. The doctor has all her records from way back to the Mayo Clinic where most of her surgeries were done as a young girl.

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Lastly, she will meet with the surgeon who will explain what needs to be done.

Will you pray for Sherri today? Pray that she remains strong throughout the consultations. Pray that the outcome will be better than ever.
Thank you.

Emotion Myths

Here are some emotion myths from DBT:
1. Letting others know I’m feeling bad is a weakness. Challenge: Letting others know I’m feeling bad is a healthy form of communication.
2. Negative feelings are bad and destructive. Challenge: Negative feelings are natural responses. They help me to create a better understanding of the situation.
3. Some emotions are stupid. Challenge: Every emotion indicates how I am feeling in a situation. All emotions are useful to help me better understand what I am experiencing.
4. Extreme emotions get you a lot farther than regulating emotions. Challenge: Extreme emotions can often cause trouble for me and for other people. If an emotion is not effective, emotion regulation is a good idea.
5. It is inauthentic to try to change my emotions. Challenge: Change is itself authentic. It’s part of life.
6. My emotions are who I am. Challenge: Emotions are partly but not completely who I am.

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I like these challenges to the myths. I think they illustrate how to look at an emotion and determine if it is working for or against you.

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When we are stuck in emotion it’s good to analyze what the emotion is doing for (to) us. An emotion may create urges such as withdrawing from people when we’re grieving or arguing with someone when we’re feeling irritated. When an emotion causes us to take action that makes the situation worse is the best time to analyze and understand the emotion.

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It is through doing this that I was able to see my grief as a normal passage in life. A person has to grieve and although grief takes different forms in different people, it is still the path that I am on. I used to judge my grief, but like the myths above I found that I needed to challenge that thought.

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Others didn’t think less of me for grieving, but I felt like they wanted me to be done with it earlier than I was ready. That got me to start judging myself in the same manner. What was my sadness doing to me? It was making me withdraw from others, embarrassed that I was still so sad after the loss of my child. What was my sadness doing for me? Healing me. Grief is a natural progression and as long as I was progressing, it seemed that I could get a grip on my own timetable and continue healing.

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Do you tend to judge yourself because of how you are feeling? Or act out without positive intention making things worse? The DBT process of figuring out your emotions is a little like self-analysis. What is this emotion and what is it motivating me to do? In my case withdrawing from people.

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What is my emotion communicating to others? That I don’t care about them or that I need tender loving care. Since these two things are opposite, I may need to clarify what I am communicating with my emotion. “I care about you, but I don’t want to be around people right now.” Or “Yes, I’ll come over because I need to be with people but just please have patience with me.”

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What was my emotion saying to me? I am so sad. I am alone. No one understands. But when I check the facts, and when I reached out, I found that people do care, they just sometimes don’t know how to act around me.

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These questions can be valuable when trying to change or regulate your emotions. Good communication is key if you want or expect something from others. We all just want to be understood. When we’re able to observe and describe our emotions we can better determine what we want to communicate to others. We can also see better how acting on impulse may not be the best idea.

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When we are emotional our face and bodies show others something. Is it what you want them to know, or is your body saying something different? You can make that determination and express in words and action what you wish to convey.

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Think about the myths and understand that emotions are not bad. They provide a function to alert us to what’s happening. The more we increase our communication, identify our feelings and choose to act or not act effectively, the more level we will feel.

Reactivating my Life

Ever since I can remember I have been anxious. I remember being a little girl and making my sisters walk up flights of stairs at my dad’s office because I didn’t want to get in the elevator. I was fearful. In schools I would become frightened about a subject and have my mother come and pick me up.

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These days my anxiety manifests itself in a different way. I am fidgety, constantly moving my feet and hands. I’m anxious about those blocks of time when I am nothing to do, worrying that the depression will sink in. Almost every day I have little interest in life and this has gone on for weeks. That’s depression.

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It’s trying to fend off the depression that causes the most anxiety, I’ve lost a lot of weight (not so sad about that!) and I feel worthless. I know that my major depressive disorder began with the loss of my son, but as I stated earlier, I’ve always had some form of it especially the anxiety. The grief just compounded, and I began to feel overwhelmed with no ability to ease it. I began to withdraw from being with others. “They don’t understand my grief anyway,” I told myself.

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So I am working on “reactivating my life” through a self-help workbook and the help of my doctors.

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I read that depressed people suffer from anhedonia, which means that activities that used to be fun are no longer fun. In this instance practice at doing fun things can bring back enjoyment of them, so part of my self-care therapy is to write down activities that I like to do and find ways to increase them in my life. I have made a list: Organizing things in the house, writing, baking. According to theSCDPAntidepressantSkills I’m doing, this will remind me of things that are of interest to me as well as provide rewards as my depression starts to lift.

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I have made an agreement with myself about self-care: showering, shampooing my hair, putting on make-up, getting enough sleep, and taking my medication. Helping others by volunteering and taking the dogs for walks (they enjoy it more than I do!) This is meant to remind myself that I am competent, and it directly enhances my sense of physical well-being.

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Because depressed people have the tendency to procrastinate more than others, I have started to engage more in activities that help out the household: Doing laundry more often, sweeping and mopping more often, running errands. By doing this I increase my sense of control and reduce tension with others.

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Involvement with family and friends will give me a sense of connection, a chance to provide support to others and it will take me away from being alone with my depressive thoughts. So, I will start answering my phone and go to meetings with my husband. My self -imposed isolation is affecting my mood.

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This is a lot to do in one fail swoop, so I will choose a couple activities to focus on and complete them. And when I get the urge to do one of these activities I will take the opportunity to do it and not deliberate over it, anguish over it.

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It’s a process, to deal with depression. I wish I could follow others’ advice and just get over it. (That is usually said by people who don’t understand depression.) It’s a process I choose to follow with God by my side. God knows me. I can look to Him and thank Him for the transformation He is making in me. Even the small victories are shared with God. The fact that I am writing is a victory. Each small step is to be celebrated with God.

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“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

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Little by little I’m cleaning out those stones in my heart as I reactivate my life

Childlike

I changed the birdseed and now I’m not sure the birds like it as much as the usual type. This new seed has bigger pieces of fruit and nuts and not so many small seeds. I thought they would go bananas for it! But they didn’t. I don’t have the big flock of little birds I used to have. Are the pieces too big?

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And the bigger birds have trouble grasping onto the little ledge that surrounds the feeder so even though they would probably like the bigger pieces, they can’t stand on the ledge and pick at the seed like the smaller birds can.

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These birds have been a big part of my Mindfulness practice as I sit on the swing and watch them fighting each other to get the seed. But now, I just worry. I’ve made a mistake with the seed and they don’t want to come to my bird restaurant anymore.
Mindfulness is being in the Now. It is accepting what Is. I spread some of the new food on the ground, so the bigger birds could enjoy. Now I see a cacophony of birds-all enjoying their new food.

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DBT has three types of Mindfulness: Observe, Describe and Participate. These three things are done separately. You choose which you want to be mindful of during your session.

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When we are mindful we observe without judgement. We let go of distractions as they arise and come back to the moment. It’s like being a guard at the gate of your mind, being aware of the feelings and thought that come into the gate, but not assessing them. Acknowledge and then go back to observing what you are seeing, feeling and doing. Letting the worries slide off like your mind is made of Teflon.

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When we are mindful we describe what is happening as if we are a narrator. Without getting sidetracked by the feeling or worry. You might notice the worry by describing the feeling such as, “My teeth are grinding.” Then let it go. I find the describing part to be the most difficult because I start thinking about the worry and try to solve it instead of just describing it. I have to constantly move my thoughts back to describing. This is a work in progress.

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When we are mindful we participate in what is happening. Just throw yourself into the activity completely forgetting yourself, your worries. You respond with spontaneity, whether you are talking with someone or dancing, just be in the moment. This can be called being “one-mindful” because you only focus on what you’re doing in that moment.

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The purpose of Mindfulness is to enjoy life as it is. Every moment is brand new- it’s never happened before. You are like a child having fun in all you do. I often hear the children in my neighborhood playing in the early evenings. It’s so wonderful! Their voices are always raised and there is excitement in all they are doing. What a great way to live!

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As a child of God, He wants us to have that type of excitement in what He has created for us. Cast your worries aside and give them to Him to carry and play out your life like a child, always expectant of the next fun thing God throws your way.