Scripps Ranch and Bankers Hill Therapist Sara Cole.
If you were to think back over your life and find a period when you had the most social and emotional turmoil, what would it be? For me, it's definitely my teenage years. Junior High and High School aged kids are going through one of the most challenging parts of their development. They are growing into adult bodies, hormones are flooding their brains and bodies, the rules about so many things in life are changing. This is when you really start to think about who you are and who you want to be. Social life takes a huge amount of your time, thoughts and emotions.
If you watch a junior high school student, you can almost see them vacillate between grownup and child. Freedom and independence are nice, but responsibility and heightened expectations can be daunting. Mom is the most embarrassing person in the world one minute and the next, mom is the only one who can help. Do you still like barbies or are they so immature? It probably depends on the given moment.
I have always thought it would be so cool to go back and do high school over again, but this time, with the knowledge I have now as a *$ year old woman.
First of all, I would know that a lot of the things that seemed the most important, really aren't. I would know that I could relax and I would definitely have more fun. I wouldn't let my anxiety, shyness and need to be perfect, hold me back. If I could talk to the beautiful, smart girl, I would tell her that even though you think they are, everyone is not making fun of you. They don't all think you are weird and quiet and bitchy. In reality, a lot of them are probably too busy with their own anxieties and worries to even notice you. Some of them probably like you and would like to be your friend but don't know how to do it. One embarrassing moment is not the end of the world. You don't have to do what everyone else does. You can be you and love you and others will think that's pretty cool, if you do it with a little confidence.
I can't go back and have a redo, but I can apply those things I learned, to who and where I am now. I can tell the next generation of teen girls what I have learned. I can show them how great they are. I can tell them they are beautiful and talented. I can encourage them to go for it. I can help them slog through the social and emotional obstacle course. I can tell them over and over that they will be ok. Things really do get better. What an opportunity!
This is why I adore working with teen girls. They are open and vulnerable and looking for a guide. They are amazing. They are at the beginning of a great adventure. I love being there for them, with them. Even if they make big mistakes, grownup mistakes, things really can turn out ok. And best of all I get to show them how imperfect I am and that I still love myself. I can show them that perfect is boring and not real. The best parts of people are their likes and dislikes, their quirks, their passions. So let them shine.
Have you ever thought "it would be nice to take a break" or "I could really use some help" or maybe "I can't do this anymore"? But then comes the "but". "But it could be so much worse". You might even feel guilty that you acknowledge your struggles. There's no need to feel guilty for being human.
Why should things have to be worse than they are, in order for you to get some relief?
If you cut your hand, do you put a bandage on it? If you are bleeding, yes you do. But if the above logic applies, you should just let it bleed, because after all it could be worse. You could have cut your hand off, and that would be worse. But that doesnt even make sense. How have we come to believe that, in essence, we don't deserve help or relief... because it could be worse?
It seems that this is specifically applied to situations of emotional and mental struggles.
I cannot count how many times I have heard women say they are depressed, overwhelmed, stressed out but then, basically dismiss their struggles by saying "but it could be worse", as they wipe tears away.
I understand that it is a way of saying that they are thankful for what they have in their lives and that they know there are millions of people in the world who have harder struggles. That's great. It's good to be thankful and to acknowledge the real struggles of others. BUT, are you living your best life? Are you less deserving of relief than any other person? Just in case you aren't sure how to answer this, let me tell you the correct answer. No you are not less deserving. You should not sacrifice yourself to the stress, depression and anxiety gods.
You can want your best life. You can live your best life. That's not selfish. The better you care for yourself, the better you are at caring for those you love. If you are completely drained, you have nothing left to give.
The strongest, bravest thing a person can do is to ask for help, acknowledge their struggles, ask for and accept help. Don't suffer in silence. Don't look forward to your shower because that's where you "ugly cry", so no one sees or knows your sadness.
Therapy is a wonderful way to get help, be heard and understood. Some people wait until crisis to start therapy, but others avoid crisis by seeing a therapist on a regular basis in order to maintain their emotional and mental health. Consider trying therapy. You might be so glad you did. Oh, one more thing. Yes, it could be worse. But really, isn't it bad enough? There is no reason to wait and see how bad it can really get.
Sara Cole is a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego. To learn more about how she can help you or a loved one visit www.saracolemft.com.
1. Sleep. This may be obvious but it is crucial. Most people do not get enough sleep. The average adult requires 6-8 hours of sleep per night on a regular basis. The quality of the sleep is also important. Some things you can do to help improve the quality of your sleep are to make sure your room is dark, quiet and cool. Sleep at around the same time each night so that your body gets into that rhythm. Avoid screens for at least an hour before going to bed. The light they emit throws your brain out of sleep mode which will make it hard to fall asleep. Try doing something calming and relaxing before bed. Good sleep equals more energy. If you are having frequent interruptions to your sleep, you will notice the effects. These could be depression, anxiety, fatigue. New moms can totally attest to this.
As a bonus fact, did you know that sleep loss reduces mental functioning. More quality sleep can actually improve not only your mood and energy, but also your mental functioning. Wow! Right?
2. Exercise regularly. This may sound counter intuitive because exercise requires a lot of energy. When you are tired the last thing you want to do is exercise right? But the crazy good news is that exercise actually gives you more energy and improves your mood. Exercise works in the short term to wake you up and get your blood pumping, but it also works on a long term basis. It can help you sleep better, improve your mood and give you a great energy boost when done on a regular basis because your health improves and your system works more efficiently. Oh and you may like the way you look in those jeans a little more as well.
3. Do something you enjoy. Do you like doing puzzles or painting? Maybe hiking or juggling are your thing. The key is to do something you get excited about and brings you joy to do. It doesn't matter what it is or if you mix up the things you do. Awaken your passion for something and that can reawaken your passion for life. The feel good parts of your brain get activated. You feel good about yourself. All of these side effects of doing something that brings you joy, add up to energy and motivation in other areas of your life.
4. List the good things in your life everyday. There is always something good you can come up with. Sometimes they will be big things and other days they might be small things. Write it down or just make a mental list. If I am feeling down, sometimes I start listing things and keep going until I am not feeling sorry for myself any more. Ipromise it helps. If you have a hard time getting started with this practice start close and then move out. For example, you might say "I am thankful for my healthy lungs, my beating heart, my eyes that let me see so much beauty, the hugs I get from so and so, my ability to taste so many different foods, the house I live in, my kids, my friend, that flower over there, the sound of birds singing, my job, rain, sunshine, etc.
Give it a try and try to remember to do it everyday. A positive outlook and a sense of gratitude will boost your mood which will boost your energy. Sadness, anger depression, stress and anxiety are energy suckers. So change the outlook and you will change the flow of energy.
If your are doing all of this and still feel like you can't live the life you want to live, consider seeing a therapist to get support and additional resources because that's what we do. We help people feel better. You were not meant to just survive. You can totally thrive.
Sara Cole has been providing mental health services in San Diego for 15 years. Sara specializes in working with women and teen girls to overcome trauma and major life changes, including postpartum depression and anxiety. She is also passionate about providing treatment to those whose lives are affected by the addiction of a loved one.