Category: Health

5 Things I Learned from Cutting Ties With a Toxic Family Member

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I believe that the family is the most divine institution on the face of this Earth. It is through the trials that we endure with, and sometimes because of, our family members that we become more refined and more like the people our Father in Heaven intended us to be. Clearly, family means the world to me.

This is why I recently had to make one of the most painful decisions of my life when I decided to completely cut ties with a certain family member. It isn’t something I take lightly and it isn’t something that happened over night. 

On the contrary, it was something that built up from the time I was very small and didn’t actually come to a climax until I had my own children and realized that I was responsible for more than myself now. I had to pick a side, essentially. Was I going to continue to work toward making amends and trying to help this person, or was I going to protect my children? It sounds like an easy decision but letting go of a family member, no matter how toxic, is a very difficult process. 

I have learned a few things throughout this process. I am nowhere near an expert in this field and if anything, I’m probably the poster-child for what NOT to do when it comes to toxic family members. All of the mistakes I made throughout my life in respect to my relationship with this person have accumulated into a reservoir of thoughts and hopefully warnings for people who may be struggling with something similar. 

1. Recognize manipulation for what it is

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I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I think most of us do. It’s easy to make excuses for someone if you love them. However, it’s important to know the warning signs of manipulation and not to excuse people for using these tactics to get what they want. 

Some common warning signs of a Master Manipulator include:

  1. They offer help with the intention of “holding it over your head.” They continually remind you of all they have done for you. This tactic is to guilt-trip you into complying and giving them what they want.
  2. They make you feel guilty for things they have done. Master manipulators are good at transferring blame and always being the victim.
  3. They’re only sorry when they believe it will get them what they want. If it doesn’t, their state of remorse quickly morphs into a fit of anger. 
  4. They completely lack accountability. It is never really their fault and they will find whatever way they can to convince you of that. Lying is second-nature to them to the point that they often genuinely convince themselves of their own false story. 
  5. Conversations often turn to their problems, amplifying their role as the victim at all times. They are always worse off than other people.
  6. If you find yourself apologizing to and/or for this person more often that you do for anyone else, you are most likely being manipulated. 
  7. If you go against your better judgement to help this person when you don’t feel good about it, you are most likely being manipulated. 

 2. Remember that your responsibility lies with your own family now

Growing up, I always felt responsible for this person. I felt like I was their only chance. The only one who would listen, help, or encourage them. I was sure I could convince this person to get help. Now I can see how I was manipulated into feeling that way. 

The truth is, if you are anyone’s last chance at a loving relationship, there’s a reason for that and it’s not your fault or your responsibility. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want help.

I finally realized that if I were to allow this person to be in our lives continually, I was putting my own children at risk for being manipulated just as I had been my entire life. Not only that, but I wasn’t emotionally able to handle the relationship which wasn’t allowing me to be the mother I wanted to be.

Before I had children, I vowed I would never allow this person to be part of their lives because I knew how much damage they had created in mine. However, manipulation can be very powerful and most of the time we don’t even know it is happening. 

My loyalty lies with my husband and my children now. I had to step back, with the help of my husband, to see how long I had allowed myself to be controlled by this person without even knowing it. Together, we made the decision that we were not going to allow our children to grow up the same way. 

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3. It’s much easier to prevent a relationship than to end it

Looking back, my biggest regret is allowing my children to become attached to this person. It is extremely difficult to explain to a child why someone they love might make really bad choices. How do you explain the dangers of manipulation? The emotional trauma that comes from being around unpredictable and volatile people?

I have to remember that no relationship is better than a bad one. Even if that relationship seems fine now, I know the inevitable damage that continually follows in the wake of this toxic person. My kids have plenty of good people in their lives, family members who love and adore them and would never put their own happiness or desires ahead of my children’s. 

4. You can forgive and still learn from the past

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My mother and I discuss this topic all of the time. How do you forgive someone who has caused so much heartache and pain in your life? She has much more warrant to hate this person than even I do. But we are taught to forgive and forget. Seventy times seven times. How do you do that and still prevent yourself from continually being hurt?

I believe more than anything, that this is a matter between you and God. I can’t tell you the cumulative hours I have spent throughout my life, on my knees with uncontrollable tears trying to forgive and forget what this person has done and continues to do. True mortal forgiveness rarely helps the perpetrator. I believe the healing magic of forgiveness is for the victim. 

I finally believe myself to be at a point where I don’t hate this person anymore. I feel more of a pity and sadness for them than anything. I can’t imagine waking up in the life this person has created and possibly finding a reason to get out of bed. It is sad, but it isn’t my fault or my responsibility. I put forth the effort I could to help this person and now have turned my energy and focus on raising my kids, not helping a grown adult find their way in life.

So I believe I can forgive without having to allow myself, or anyone else in my family, to be hurt anymore. It has been a matter of prayer and I feel good about the decision I have made. In fact, for the first time in my life, I have felt relief when it comes to my relationship with this person. We are probably both better people when we are apart. I could attend this person’s funeral someday with sincere sadness and grief even if I won’t allow him to be in my or my family’s presence. 

5. Seek legal and/or professional help when necessary

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If the toxic family member in your life has broken the law or tried to harm you or your family, it is vital that you seek out the proper authority to take care of the situation. I had to get over my embarrassment and guilt that I felt about this person’s behavior and go to my local authorities for help.

The other person may find a way to jump through hoops and avoid consequences. Even if you believe that will happen, do your part to get it documented. The more documentation you have of the potential harm this person can cause, the more protection you will receive. Save messages, voicemails, letters, and any other kinds of evidence. File police reports when necessary and if you need to get a restraining or protection order, find out what it will take.

You may also want to consider getting therapy to find out how you can break free from the years of manipulation of this person. 

Remember that you are not required by any law, both earthly or Heavenly, to allow people in your life who hurt you, even if that person is a family member. If a person is toxic to you, you have the choice to remove yourself from their circle of influence. It is easier said than done but it is vital that you recognize a damaging relationship when you see one and to protect your children from harm both physically and emotionally.

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Have you tried to cut ties with a toxic person? How did you do it?

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Depression: 10 Do’s and Don’ts to Help Someone Drowning In It

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Empathy can be difficult when you’re trying to understand something you have no experience with. We can understand lots of things intuitively and still have no real comprehension of what it’s like or how to deal with it in real life.

Depression is no different. While so many of us struggle with it, an added struggle is trying to explain it to people who have never experienced it. They just assume it’s about perspective and it doesn’t seem that serious. “Life is all about ups and downs you know?” “Just try a little harder,” they say. 

I’m going to attempt an analogy that seems appropriate for my experience with depression and hope it might resonate with some of you who have never struggled with it. 

I know all too well that rising feeling of drowning in depression. It’s like floating in a large lake where there isn’t a sidewall to grab ahold of, the boat is far away in the distance, and you’re sinking. Not quickly, but slowly, giving you time to think about why you didn’t just grab ahold of the boat, or why you didn’t bring a life jacket, or why you can’t just kick your legs so that you can at least stay above water a little longer.

The feeling of the water starting to trickle in your ears causes you to snap your mouth shut tightly. You start to feel the water approaching your nose and you instinctively hold your breath. At the same time you’re thinking, “Swim you idiot!” But for some reason your legs and arms won’t work. You know how to swim, you’ve done it in the past, but your limbs are full of lead and you just can’t today. It’s incredibly frustrating to try to convince yourself to do something you just can’t do, even though you know intuitively that you should be able to.

There are people on the banks of the lake who are genuinely worried and they’re shouting to you, “Just swim! Kick your legs!” And you’re sarcastically thinking, “No, really?” You’re so ashamed that you just can’t pull it together and get your dead legs to move. So you frantically look around for anything or anyone that might be able to help you and you realize, everyone else is too far away and they’re on land. You’re alone in the lake. Alone and drowning. You give one last mental push to get your legs to move. Nothing. After glancing around one more time, you just can’t take letting down all these people who want you to swim and you can’t make yourself do it. So you close your eyes and let yourself sink. 

You might totally identify with this. I know some of you are nodding your heads, while others are scratching theirs. It’s so difficult to understand something like depression unless you’ve lived it. People who don’t understand it might think it’s an immature way of getting people’s attention or a lack of positive thinking. Maybe depression comes from a lack of faith in God or in His power to heal. I’ll tell you what it is. It’s a real feeling of being totally incapable. It’s feeling guilty about being incapable. It’s being ashamed that you can’t make yourself do anything or even care that you can’t. It’s a neurological problem.

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Recently there was a great tragedy in our community when a loving wife and mother, battling postpartum depression and anxiety, gave up her life, leaving behind an adoring husband and 5 precious children. It literally eats at my soul how devastating this is and how real the feeling is, whether rational or not. We can look at it from the perspective of the people on the banks of the lake and say, “How tragic! How could she just give up? A little perspective could have changed it all. Had she realized how much she had going for her, maybe she wouldn’t have given up.” 

It is easy, and natural, as people from the banks to say this. However, for this precious daughter of God, it wasn’t that easy. 

This woman’s family has started a Facebook page called Nurture the Light that is aimed at raising awareness and helping others to understand how to help victims of depression and other mental illnesses.

One in seven women experience depression in the year after they give birth. This is frightening. For those of us who have experienced it, it might be a little comforting. We aren’t the only ones in the lake.

Some of these women have battled depression, or other mental health issues, for years. It is sometimes worsened after childbirth. Others have never had an episode until after having children. There are some women who also experience it during pregnancy. Depression rears its ugly head in so many different ways and seasons in life. It is different for everybody. What is similar though, are the feelings of helplessness and shame.

As the people on the banks, there are a few things we can do to try and help the drowning people in the lake. There are also some things we should definitely not do. Here are 10 Do’s and Don’ts for helping loved ones with depression.

1. Don’t place judgement

As illustrated in the analogy above, one of the worst things you can do is place more shame or guilt upon someone struggling with depression. If you make snide comments about how they look, act, are raising their kids, how ungrateful they are, or anything else about their life you are only dumping buckets of water on this person’s head. You may think you’re trying to get them to “wake up” but I assure you, you’re making the situation worse.

2. Do learn about depression and be compassionate

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A little compassion can go a long way for someone with depression. Compassion will not come if you do not try to understand the illness. There are a million resources out there, from reputable people and organizations that are offering information about depression and how you can help. As soon as you lose the belief that this person can snap out of this fog on their own, you will be in a place to help.

3. Don’t make them feel like a project or burden

As people drowning in depression, the next worse thing you can do is focus so much attention on us that you make us feel like a project you are trying to fix. This just makes us feel like a burden because in our heads, there really isn’t any fixing. We start to feel guilty that you’re worrying so much so we try to shrink away in the hopes that you will focus on something else and move on with your life. 

4. Do offer hope

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One of the scariest things about depression is the belief that it will never end. Sometimes, instead of judgement, what a depressed person really needs to hear is that there is hope for them, a genuine reassurance that this will not last forever. 

Encourage them to get professional help. Explain that you wish there was something you could do but you know even if you can’t, there are definitely professionals that are helping to treat depression in millions of other people everyday. There is no reason why those professionals can’t help them.

5. Don’t abandon them

Depressed people are hard to be around. Don’t think we don’t know it. That’s one of the hardest parts of depression. This simultaneous feeling of not wanting to burden anyone but also wanting companionship. When someone close to us says they just can’t handle our negativity it makes us feel like there is literally no one who can handle us. It’s hard to explain how alone that makes us feel. 

6. Do love them

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Never let them doubt of your love for them. Offer your encouragement in their choice of treatment, offer a listening ear, offer your hope for the future and your determination to stick by their side no matter what. Ask them what they really need, if they need you to stay or if they really just want to be alone. Offer help with mundane tasks and do it with complete and total selflessness. Any hint of grudge will heap on more guilt and shame for the depressed person. If you truly love them, you will continue to love them and make sure they’re aware of that.

7. Don’t ever take suicide lightly

If you get even a whiff that this person may be suicidal, do not take it lightly. It’s hard to do sometimes when people are constantly crying wolf and we sometimes interpret suicide threats as cries for attention. However, just remember you would never forgive yourself if you didn’t do something when you could have. The old adage, “Better safe than sorry” is the overarching belief we should all have when it comes to suicide.

8. Do take every precaution when it comes to suicide

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I found this to be an excellent resource for recognizing a suicidal person or situation and how to deal with it. Get help and offer love, encouragement and hope in the meantime. Let them know that you are taking this seriously and that you are there for them.

9. Don’t give them treatment advice unless you are qualified to do so

Telling someone who is depressed that your great aunt’s brother cured his depression by drinking the blood of a skunk while standing on his head under the light of a full moon is not going to offer hope. While there are natural remedies that some people have found success with, it is more important to encourage someone to get professional help. Depression can be a complex problem that requires a complex solution. Professional treatment programs including medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes have proven over and over to be the most effective treatment for people with severe depression. 

10. Do offer to help to find treatment

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Sometimes the idea of setting up an appointment and doing all the little things required to actually make the appointment can be overwhelming for someone with depression. A little help from a loved one could make the difference between getting treatment and continually wallowing in the lake of depression. If you are willing to help search out a doctor, set up an appointment, and even take this person to their appointment, you may have done the most helpful thing anyone could do.

If you know someone who is struggling with depression I hope you realize how much influence you can have on them, either for better or worse. Sometimes it can make us feel helpless when someone we love is struggling with something we don’t understand. Have patience, have faith that the Lord can help you know the best way to help this person, and don’t give up. 

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What are your suggestions for being there for someone with depression?

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5 Ways to Workout With Your Kids

Workouts squareMaking exercise a priority when you have kids can be really difficult. Long gone are the days of heading to the gym whenever you wanted. You have meals, school pick ups and drop offs, naps, soccer, piano, and play dates to work around. Sometimes trying to fit in exercise just seems like more work than you can handle at this stage in your life.

Dedicating a precious hour of my day to solely working out gives me a little anxiety because I feel like I don’t have the time or the energy to compartmentalize my life like that. I know some of you are screaming through your computer screen at me, “but the benefits far outweigh the hassle!” I believe you. Which is why I have found a way to integrate my life as a mother and my fitness goals.

Enter my plan to work out with my kids. I know, most people use exercise as an escape and their time to decompress after being with the kids all day. However, I see some amazing benefits to working out with your kids.

  1. You can do it whenever you can fit it in (aka no excuses)
  2. Your kids learn that being active is important
  3. They see that being active can be fun
  4. They get to be your cheerleader
  5. You have your “why” staring at you in the face

If you want to develop healthy habits like daily exercise, you’ve got to have a “why.” My biggest one is my kids. I want to help them develop healthier habits than I did. I want to have the energy to play with them, teach them, and live out my energy-zapping role as a mother. So working out with them keeps that vision front and center.

I’ve found some fun and creative ways to workout with your kids that we have been loving lately. These workouts are totally customizable to your level of fitness, the amount of time you have, and how involved you want to get the kids. Another plus? They’re all totally free 

1. Dance

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Apart from the crazy dance sessions I have with my kids in the kitchen at any given moment, we also like to do YouTube Zumba or Dance videos. My kids love to dance around and try to follow along. It totally boosts your confidence when you don’t have to keep up with the slender, ripped, 19-year-old girl dancing circles around you in class. Your toddlers are just as lost as you are.

I make playlists on YouTube and it makes it easy to turn on my TV, go to YouTube, and directly to my playlists to do some dance workouts. Some of our favorite channels for zumba are: Live Love Party (if you can get past the guy in the tutu, really?!), Club Fitz, and Shine Dance Fitness. You can also just search for a song you like and add “zumba” to the end of your search.

2. Obstacle Course

Ok, I haven’t tried this yet but it just came to me and you can bet we’re going to try this today. Do you remember making obstacle courses with your friends when you were little? We used to make up these random courses with whatever was lying around the yard. Then somebody would choose how you were to go through the course and in what order. Then we raced to see who could do it the fastest.

Oh we are definitely trying this today.

 3. Playground

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I was pretty disappointed in myself last week when we went to the park and my son crossed the monkey bars without any help and then asked me to do it…Sadly enough, I couldn’t cross even one bar for fear the joints in my arms would be ripped clear to shreds 

Clearly, I am out of shape. Then I remembered I told myself I was going to try these playground workouts I saw once and thought they were genius. The trick is finding a time and place where you can be by yourself with your kids. Good thing the elementary school playgrounds are free during the summer 

4. Strength Training

Who needs a personal trainer when you have kids?! Just give your oldest a whistle and a timer and watch how motivated you are to impress your kids. 

I pick random videos on YouTube and turn them into a playlist for different kinds of workouts. My 5-year-old is an exceptional cheerleader and when I start slacking off he’ll say, “Mom, she’s still going, you can’t stop.” 

We’ve tried the Women’s Workout Channel, although I’m kind of tired of looking at all the butt shots. This one looks a little more promising and I think I’ll be trying it next. The truth is, YouTube is an amazing free resource where you can find pretty much any kind of workout you’re looking for. Some even use your kids as weights 

 5. Walk/Run

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Walking with my kids is just as fun for me as it is for them. I love to look at and admire old houses in our little town when I walk and my kids have picked up on it. Now my 2-year-old daughter will point at a house and say, “Mommy, I wuv that house.”

You can also kill two birds with one stone and ask a friend if she wants to go. You get your socializing with adults while you spend time with your kids and exercise! Wow…now that is multitasking.

If you’re a little ahead in the game, you may want to run. For me, at this point, it’s more of a joke. My kids will say, “Run mommy!” and I’ll run across the intersection only to be totally out of breath by the other side while they’re laughing uncontrollably. 

As a mom, I get so tired of thinking of ways to keep my kids entertained while I “get stuff done.” I don’t want exercise to be just another thing that takes away from quality time with my kids or even quality time with myself. Integrating exercise and involving your kids can bring boat loads of benefits for all of you.

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Have you tried working out with your kids? What’s your favorite activity to do?Signature Yellow2Workouts FB

Depression: 10 Ways to Get Out of a Slump

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I sometimes have days where I just wake up tired, my legs feel like lead and I don’t have any ambition for the day. The child in me just wants to lay around all day and do nothing. Some people will say, “Go ahead and ride out the slump. It’s ok to have a bad day every once in a while.” I have found this is not an effective solution. Whenever I try to “ride out the slump” it ends up turning into days and weeks and I get behind on my life! This tends to unmotivate me and brings on depression in a bad way.

I’ve found that it is much more effective for me to work on getting out of a slump before that slump takes over my life. Depression prevention is much more effective that depression treatment. While not all instances of depression are preventable, I have found 10 ways to keep myself in check and help me to avoid going down that slippery slope.

1. Sleep

When I feel absolutely exhausted these days, it usually means I’m sleep deprived. Even an hour of sleep deprivation has a huge effect on me. Since I know this is a trigger for my depression, I try to guard my sleep like the treasure it is. However, there are still nights where I’m up several times with scared or sick kids or I get to bed late because my husband and I can’t stop chatting after a week of hardly seeing each other. 

When I can pinpoint sleep deprivation as the root cause to a slump, I lovingly give myself permission to sleep in, go to bed early, or take a nap when needed. Long gone are the days where I try to white-knuckle it through the day on less than adequate sleep. It drives my anxiety through the roof when I do that and ultimately, it only decreases my and my family’s quality of life when I am not well rested. 

Check how rested you are and if you know sleep deprivation is your problem, make a plan to get more sleep. If insomnia is a problem for you, study it out and ask your doctor for help. 

2. Get hydrated

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Most of us don’t drink enough water. Dehydration carries with it a slew of problems that are actually similar to sleep deprivation. Make it a goal to drink plenty of water, more than normal, each day. When you notice you feel like you’re in a slump, immediately reach for a glass of water. Sometimes the mental fog we feel can be greatly reduced just by hydrating ourselves.

If you don’t particularly like water and you’re trying to hydrate yourself solely on diet coke, get a grip. Soda is not the same as water when it comes to hydration and can even have the opposite effect and dehydrate you. Make water more enjoyable by adding a little slice of lemon, essential oil drops, or buy an infuser to add all different kinds of flavors to your water.

3. Move outside

Laying on the couch and ruminating about being in a slump will most likely never get you out of it. If you want to change you’re going to have to move. Get up and go outside. Go for a walk if you can, even if it’s just doing laps around your house. The fresh air, sunshine, and movement will change your physical state in a big way. 

4. Play with kids

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If you get up and go outside, take your kids with you and play for a little while! I swear, when my kids are laughing and having fun, I can’t not be in a better mood. Even if you can’t stand the thought of moving your lifeless body around and playing with your kids, promise yourself you’ll do it for only 5 minutes and then you give yourself permission to stop. Chances are, 5 minutes will either be enough or you’ll lose track of time. 

Focus on those little faces and how they light up when you suggest playing together. I can’t stand seeing the bored look on my toddler’s face when I can’t seem to do anything with myself. I feel like the crappiest mother of all time. When I start to play with her, my whole mood changes. It doesn’t have to be super physical if you just can’t muster the energy, but even a little hand clapping game can be fun and distract your mind.

5. Eat a snack

Sometimes our energy is low because we legitimately need fuel. If we consciously try to refuel our bodies with healthy snacks, it can give us the energy boost we need.

Focus snacks on complex carbs and protein to avoid an energy slump later on in the day. Some good ideas are: hummus and red peppers or carrots, small green salad with meat, hard-boiled egg, or a small amount of trail mix.

6. Listen to fun music

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Nothing boosts my energy more than fun, fast-paced music. I used to listen to music constantly when I was younger. Now I usually prefer to listen to silence if I have the chance to listen to anything. But every once in a while I turn on some music and it immediately busts through my fog. Extra credit if you dance with your kids while listening 

7. Set one very small goal

It’s easy to fall into a slump when we feel overwhelmed. For me, that’s because I have a lot of aspirations and goals in my mind but if I stop and look at everything I need or want to do, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and give up completely. 

If I force myself to write one small thing on a To-Do List, it gives me a sense of empowerment when I accomplish that. For example, when I’m overwhelmed because my house is disgusting, I will set one small goal related to that. It might be, “do the dishes” or even just “gather all the dishes and put them in the sink.” I always give myself permission to stop after that one small goal if I want to, but usually it empowers me to keep going. 

The goal is to get yourself to do something, ANYTHING! By giving yourself permission to stop after that one goal if you want to, you at least get something done and that will help improve your outlook for the day.

8. Write out a gratitude list

gratitude2Nothing busts through negativity like gratitude. Maybe your one small goal will be to write 10 things you are truly grateful for. As you write them, think about people you know or know of who don’t have the things you do. This will reinforce your gratitude because it shows us that having a roof over your head or little humans to snuggle at night are not just a given in this life, they are a gift. 

The mere acknowledgement of these blessings can take your mood to a whole new level. Make this a daily ritual and you’re on your way to a much more positive life.

9. Connect with a friend

Companionship is important in life. We thrive on feeling part of something bigger. When you connect to a friend it’s hard not to change your frame of mind.

You can text them, meet up for a walk or lunch, or just talk on the phone. Try talking to them about their life and asking meaningful questions. This is a great distraction from your own lack of focus and just might motivate you to do something productive.

10. Do a small service

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Anytime you can get yourself out of your own head and to focus on helping someone else, you are bound to make big changes in your mood. Get the kids involved and make some cookies for a neighbor, dinner for an elderly couple, a card for a sick friend, or a basket of baby stuff for a new mom.

Doing service helps us to notice the blessings in our own lives and boosts our gratitude which also boosts our mood. Service gives us a purpose outside of our own selfish desires and blesses others while changing our mindset. 

If you can catch yourself before you start falling down that slippery slope of depression, you are much more likely to come out of it than if you try to “ride it out.” Talking yourself into doing just about anything other than obsessing over your unproductive day can help you to snap out of it before it’s too late.

If you find that after trying these suggestions you still haven’t seen any improvement and it persists for a couple of weeks, consider seeing your doctor to study out other options. 

Don’t let depression rule your life and rob you of the joy we are meant to have while on this earth. 

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What do you do to get yourself out of a slump?

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Depression: 4 Ways to Boost Your Physical Health

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**As always, these ideas are merely suggestions and if you feel you might have depression, talk to your doctor. I am not qualified to diagnose or treat any kind of mental or physical illness. 

Don’t you hate it when you go to the doctor, for anything really, and the answer they give you is: diet and exercise? I swear every single doctor I saw during my “dark days” told me to exercise and eat right. I would stare at them blankly like, “What? You want me to workout and meal plan when I can’t even muster the strength to get out of bed to go to work or school?”

I wish I could tell you that I found a way to get myself to exercise and eat right when I was deeply depressed but I can’t. Even though I knew, intuitively, that those things would make me feel better I literally felt incapable of making myself do it. However, hindsight is 20/20 and now that I’m out of the “black hole” I can see some options and ideas that I didn’t try. I have used these ideas to prevent me from getting depressed.

It took the right medication to pull me out of that dark place in order for me to feel capable of making changes to my diet and movement. But if you find yourself starting to slip into that dark place, these few ideas might be your first line of defense. Don’t ever forget how very connected your mind and body are. Taking care of your body will in turn, help take care of your mind.

1. Exercise

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I have had to consciously work on my attitude toward exercise. For a long time I didn’t count it as exercise unless it was a long run or an exhausting trip to the gym.

My new definition is “moving with motivation.” This means, hoofing it up and down my stairs to do my laundry totally counts. I love to take walks even though I didn’t use to consider it exercise. I don’t necessarily sweat that much and it doesn’t usually make me sore afterwards but it absolutely gives life to my body. Being out in the sunshine and fresh air is a definite plus. 

If you can find a buddy to just walk with you, it will give you even more reason to get out. Just be careful you don’t ask someone who is going to make you feel worse than you already do. Instead, think about someone you know who could be compassionate and if you try to bail on a walk, that will be helpful and encouraging instead of critical and judgmental. 

2. Healthy Eating

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Eating healthy is extremely difficult for someone who feels depressed because again, if you can’t hardly get out of bed how are you going to prepare a meal? The pressure to take care of our families can bring with it an added layer of failure that we feel when instead of cooking healthy meals at home, we resort to McDonalds or pizza just about every night of the week.

Instead of spending that money on take out or expensive pre-made meals at the store that are mostly junk, what if you just hired someone for a little while to cook for you and your family until you’re able to feel a little better? I doubt it would cost as much as you think it would. I’m positive it will cost less than eating out every night.

You could put up a quick ad on Facebook, KSL, craigslist, etc. Or, if that seems like too much work, ask a friend or family member if you could hire them to cook twice the amount they would for dinner to help you care for your family while you’re going through this tough time.

Chances are, they’ll want to do it out of the kindness of their hearts but if there is any way for you to afford it, I would suggest you insist on paying them. Paying them will get you around that feeling of being a burden and help you offer work to someone who could benefit from the extra money. As a bonus, hopefully the healthier food will help you work your way out of a slump. 

3. Sufficient Sleep

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Everybody responds to depression differently. Some don’t get enough sleep while others oversleep. The trick is getting sufficient sleep, not too little and not too much.

I was an over-sleeper. I could sometimes sleep for 14-16 hours a day. That’s equivalent to the amount of time we should be awake in a day! The result was constantly feeling groggy and wanting to escape my life by going back to sleep. Now that I have kids, that would never be an option. Although I have at times, gone through the day half asleep and hardly moved from the couch. 

Just like any other habit, creating a routine and sticking to it is key. Explain to your family how important it is for you to get to bed at a certain time and enlist the help of everybody to make it happen. Follow good sleep habits to ensure you get to bed and have the best chance of falling asleep on time. Then create a morning routine and give yourself an appealing reason to get up on time.

My new favorite alarm is an app called Kiwake and it literally makes it impossible for you to miss it, skip it, snooze it, or otherwise ignore it. It makes sure you’re totally awake and annoys you to the point that you have to be. Works for me!

If you can get out of bed before anyone else, try doing something you love during that alone time. Savor it to take care of you emotionally. Whether this is when you take your walk, read, write, paint, or dance around the kitchen, it doesn’t matter. Just pick something that excites you and makes getting out of bed easier.

4. Light Therapy

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Sometimes all we need to feel a little better is to head outside and let the sun’s rays boost our mood. For me, nothing brightens my day more than just being outside for a little while. It is proven that sunlight boosts our serotonin levels which helps lift our mood.

For some of us, the struggle with depression worsens during the winter months when the days are shorter and the amount of sunlight in a day drops significantly. Especially in a place like Utah where the sub-freezing temperatures keep us from heading outside most days. I know for me, cold temperatures exacerbate my anxiety which can lead me to hunker down indoors during the winter as much as possible. This doesn’t do much for my mood though and has a tendency to lead to depression.

When I returned to Utah after living in Texas for a couple of years, it was a huge climate change. I came home and went straight to the coldest place in Utah to go to school, probably a 70 degree drop in temperature from the sunny Texas weather. Clearly I didn’t think about this ahead of time.

I noticed myself slowly slipping back into the attitude of wanting to stay in bed instead of walk the five blocks to school in the snow and ice. One day after grocery shopping I saw an advertisement for a tanning salon and it occurred to me that all I wanted in the world in that moment was to be warm and to feel the sun on my skin. Against my better judgement I signed up for a punch card.

Let me be clear that I do not advocate tanning beds, we all know they can ruin our skin and give us cancer. But let me tell you, those tanning bed sessions that winter were like a healing salve to my anxious-ridden soul. It was a combination of the warmth and the light that saved me.

Since then, I have done some research and found a much healthier option. I had heard of light therapy for people with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) but didn’t realize you can buy these light boxes and have one in your home. Basically, it is a small-ish box that you can place on a table and sit in front of it for 30 minutes while it fills your eyes with light. You aren’t supposed to actually look into it but rather do something else while sitting there such as get ready, read, write, crochet, whatever. 

They don’t emit the harmful UV rays but have been proven to lift people’s mood, especially during the darker months. I haven’t tried one yet but I told my husband this is a must have for next winter. 

When our bodies are taken care of it is much easier for the mind to think rationally and to pull ourselves out of a slump. Sometimes we need medication or other therapy to get us to that point. If we consciously take care of ourselves by moving regularly, eating healthy, getting sufficient sleep, and getting outside (or at least in front of a light) we can strengthen our mind/body connection and hopefully avoid some of those traps that lead us down the rabbit hole of depression. 

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Have you seen a difference in your mood when you take care of your body in these 4 ways? Which one affects you the most and how do you make it a priority even when you don’t feel like it?

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