Many clients have asked me that question as they agonize over the present circumstances. in their lives. My response is always the same-it was a series of decisions that created the downward spiral, rarely is it one mistake.
This is not to say that there is no such thing as bad luck, mean people, and circumstances beyond our control. But more often than not, it is our choices which create misery. The wounds are self-inflicted. What I have always found fascinating is that people who are seemingly in the most dire of circumstances, are often those who assure me they will fix their lives. They come to me for a tuneup, not a major life overhaul.
The people who find life the most challenging tend to look outward and blame the universe, “Why me?” Almost all will admit they knew a situation or relationship was not healthy but went ahead anyway or simply stayed stuck. Ignore the red flags at your peril, your well-being is at stake.
The first step is to take full responsibility for your life. If it’s not working, then continue to make changes until it does. I am forever encouraging clients to do something different. As one of my good friends says, “I am always course-correcting.” If it was a series of bad decisions that led to a less than satisfactory life, then a serious of good decisions will pull you out of a slump.
It may seem obvious, but adequate sleep and vigorous exercise are vital to optimal health and psychological well-being. If you are sleep deprived, no change or intervention will work as well. Vigorous exercise will also help you sleep.
One question I always ask is how much alcohol and recreational drugs? Many clients say they use drugs and alcohol to help them relax. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, if you are depressed, count on it to depress you further. Marijuana? Maybe it will take your mind off current circumstances-then what? Where’s the problem solving? Alcohol and drugs do not solve problems, they create additional ones. The Centers for Disease Control ( cdc.gov/alcohol) has specific guidelines for alcohol use/abuse. It has a superb website for health in general.
Some of the takeaways from the CDC include: No more than 1 drink/day for women, 2 for men. Binge drinking is considered to be more than 5 drinks in one setting for men, 4 for women. Beer and wine are no better for you than hard liquor. I am leery of the current fondness for microbreweries. It seems as though excessive beer intake is par for the course when socializing at pubs.
In summation, here are my top six suggestions to get out of a rut or a mild/moderate depression:
- Take responsibility for your thoughts and behaviors. You created this life, you can create an improved version.
- Eliminate or significantly reduce alcoholic drinks and recreational drugs.
- Exercise vigorously for 30 minutes at least 3x per week.
- Get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
- Do something different, visit someplace new, volunteer, get out of your comfort zone. Novelty and newness is good for the brain, especially if you’re depressed.
- Seek therapy if you’ve been stuck for a while with little or no results.
Lastly, don’t give up. Keep making positive choices until your life works!