Saturday, November 10, 2012

Marching to a different drum....


I march to a different drum, do you? I am not a 9 to 5er. As a psychologist in private practice I get to set my own hours, decide what days I work and when I take time off. My partner is a consultant who also works from home.

Sometimes I feel a little out of step with the world. I was recently telling my osteopath what my day was like: I get up, I have the time to exercise – which means driving to the mountain for a run, or walking up to the summit – both taking an hour plus in the morning. I come home, shower up, eat and then relax (or run errands) – often I am on my laptop (spending too much time on Facebook!) writing for this blog, or for the Argyle Institute creating their newsletter. I go to work in the afternoon – and most nights of the week I work till 8 pm or 9. I come home, eat a light dinner, read and go to bed. Personally, this sounds kind of sweet to me. It’s low stress, a relaxed pace, what’s the problem? But when I shared this with my osteopath he had a strong reaction about my working that late into the night – asking incredulously how I get anything done.

And somehow – that got me unsettled – albeit momentarily. Sometimes people think there is only one way to live, or a "right way" to live. Sometimes we get caught up in being like everyone else, or living in a socially prescribed way. Sometimes when my husband and I are out walking in the morning and I see all these folks getting on buses, or in cars, and going … I feel left out, or different, at least a wee bit uncomfortable .. until I remind myself, this is ok, what I choose is good, its good for me.

I have clients who have a very difficult time living with the ”status quo”. As such, they have sought out different lifestyles to cope – and even though they may be successful they are often reprimanded by family and friends for not living “like the rest of us”.

Marching to a different drum has got to be ok. The world needs diversity. People need several alternatives by which to work, live, play, heal, and connect. Celebrate your differentness! And next time someone says why are you like that you can say with confidence – because I choose to be and it’s good for me!

Monday, November 5, 2012

'Tis the Season ....


Now that summer is really officially over, I mean, I can’t even deny that anymore and I worked hard at it this year – going barefoot in my shoes till last week! – it is time to talk about how the change in seasons affect us. Many suffer at this time of year, whether from a lack of energy, a tendency toward feeling sadder, or outright Seasonal Affective Disorder – a type of depression that sets in once the temperature drops, light fades, and winter begins to set in.

The brain is a brilliant thing. When it starts to think something it looks for all manner of proof to reinforce those thoughts. So, if your brain believes things are getting harder in life, it will seek out proof to confirm that. If it thinks things are getting scarier, it will find loads of reasons for that to be true. A depressed brain will look outside at a sunny day and bemoan the fact that there is a risk of getting skin cancer, that since it’s so nice more people will be outside and that might make things hectic. A depressed brain might see the change in season and daylight saving time as a terrible obstacle… darkness much earlier, colder weather, the isolation winter tends to bring around. To the depressed brain it’s all a burden, it’s all difficult and it’s all something to endure.

As the temperature drops and winter sets in, many of us give up the activities that are natural defenses against depressive thinking and feeling. We exercise less, get less day light (lets remember that it gets dark earlier – it’s not that it gets dark and stays dark for six months!), eat less healthy (scientific fact), probably drink less water, and are less social. All these things combined make it very easy indeed for the brain to believe it’s depressed. Negative behaviour begets negative thoughts and feelings.

I don’t want to minimize depression either. I work with folk who suffer greatly. However I have also worked with those, like  myself, who due to the changes in the weather, have changed their behaviours and habits and thus have found themselves depressed and anxious.

Before you go to the doctor for medication – have you tried spending your lunch hour outside? Walking a minimum of 30 minutes a day? Yes it’s colder – dress for it, the technology to go out in the winter and stay warm is available. Have you eaten healthy today? Have you slept well? Have you called a friend? Made contact with a loved one? Have you done something positive for yourself today? Have you spent a moment reflecting on what you might be grateful for?

These are small steps that cumulatively affect the brain in a very positive way. Positive behaviour begets positive thoughts and feelings. Each step challenges the brain to believe that things are good, ok, manageable, and possible. Each step confirms your own ability to cope with less light and with the changing season. Each step challenges your brain to see what is right with you and your world.

Be positive! It works!