Category: Self-Improvement

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 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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Depression: My Story

Depression My Story

There are some demons we fight that never leave bruises, cuts, broken bones, or other physical signs of struggle. These are sometimes the most difficult to overcome. They usually leave us feeling alone, inside our own minds, with nothing and no one to comfort us.

As a young child, I witnessed some things that I pray my children never have to see. Some of those images cannot be erased from my memory. I still have nightmares about them. I still find myself having to catch my breath when I see or hear something that reminds me of those experiences. I cannot write about this without getting emotional because it is something that has so deeply affected my mind and heart.

I have decided to share these experiences not to scare people, convince them to feel sorry for me, or make them feel uncomfortable around me. I share them with the hope of raising awareness about the reality of mental illness and hopefully offer some comfort to those currently in the trenches, fighting to get help.

In a strange way I am almost grateful for my experiences. I have learned some important skills that have turned out to be very useful. Because of that, I have a better understanding of how to teach my children those skills without them having to experience what I did. I also hope that I can be some kind of resource or encouragement for people going through similar struggles. This was a big part of the reason I wanted to start this blog.

I have seen many therapists and been on many different medications throughout my life. Just last year I was working with a therapist who diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of the many symptoms of this much larger problem is anxiety and depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) shows the results of a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the year 2014. It shows that 15.7 million U.S. adults suffered at least one major depressive episode in the previous year. That is 6.7% of all U.S. adults. When you consider how devastating and even dangerous this disorder can be, that is a huge number of people. 

Looking even deeper, the NIMH states that women are more likely to suffer from depression than men, including an estimated 10-15 percent of women who, after giving birth, experience postpartum depression. This is a serious problem and deserves our attention in order to bring more awareness, understanding, and better treatment for those who suffer from it.

My depression and anxiety started as a young girl with odd, obsessive and compulsive behavior. In my unpredictable and turbulent world I was fighting for some control. As a result, I developed some tendencies that I still struggle with today including compulsive overeating and binge eating, obsessive thoughts and behaviors, a disproportionate desire to please other people, and severe anxiety in situations where I do not feel safe or in control.

I also experienced physical symptoms that were aggravated by anxiety. These included bedwetting, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which brought with it a whole slew of digestive problems including extremely painful colon spasms.

I used to think about how much I wished my symptoms showed up as bruises and broken bones because at least people would be aware of my struggle and maybe they would be more understanding and I wouldn’t feel so alone in my own head.

After escaping the dangerous environment of my early childhood, I went through the rest of my young life, being embarrassed about my past and my “issues” but managed to cope enough to get by and live a fairly normal life. I would occasionally go through downtimes and see a therapist for a while, even try different medications but nothing ever seemed to help and most medications caused side effects I couldn’t deal with.

After decent success in high school in my many endeavors I received an excellent scholarship to the college of my choice. I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to attend the university I had dreamed of but knew I could never afford. I set out on my own, with total confidence and thinking I had control over my mind and my life. Little did I know, I was on a straight path to total breakdown.

After some unfortunate and traumatic experiences that brought me back to feeling like a scared child again, hiding in my closet, I barely survived my first year of school. It was suddenly brought to my attention that maybe I had made a bad decision. I was completely and totally overwhelmed and my anxiety was on full force. As a result, the deep depression I fell into was an act in the story of my life I hardly even remember. Most days, I didn’t so much as get out of bed.

My roommates would try to encourage me in different ways. Sometimes they would do it lovingly, other times more direct and offensively. One roommate in particular felt it necessary to add insult to injury when she nonchalantly commented one day while we were all in the kitchen, “I can’t stand people who waste their scholarships. I have to pay my own way through school and so I work hard to get good grades. Yet there are people who have scholarships where someone else is paying for it and they don’t even go to class.”

Of course what she said was true. But that didn’t help motivate me. In fact, it made me feel even more guilty and more worthless and…more tired. So I went back to bed.

I would sometimes wake up hysterical and crying and want to punch myself to wake me up out of this fog I was in. It was incredibly debilitating and frustrating. Some days I lost the will to live but was too exhausted to do anything about it.

As a result of all of this, I lost my scholarship, my acceptance at the school, my job, and my entire identity. I slowly sunk into what felt like a never-ending hole that I would never be able to get out of. I can see, while many people absolutely cannot, how there are people in this world who feel like taking their life is the only way out.

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It is difficult for many to understand why we depressed people just can’t see the brighter side of things. When you’re in the hole of depression, everything looks black. You don’t see the entrance nor do you see the exit. Your biggest fear is that you are stuck in that black hole, with only your own terrifying thoughts, forever. You begin to feel that everyone in your life would be better off if you just weren’t here. They could move on and stop depending on you and being disappointed when you don’t get out of bed and show up. They could stop worrying about how to help you.

Luckily, I have an amazing mother who finally got to the bottom of my aloofness and realized I was in a very dark place. She suggested I move home in order to try to get back on my feet.

Moving home saved my life. I was once again in my “safety zone” and my anxiety was turned down tremendously. I had to start over essentially. I started over at a different, much smaller school, with good friends from my childhood who buoyed me up and helped me climb out of that black hole.

Turning my focus back to my faith in God was vital in my transformation. Although I had never lost it completely, I relearned how the atonement of Jesus Christ can help us overcome absolutely anything, including climbing out of the black hole of depression.

Through therapy with the right therapist and finally a medication that actually helped, I was able to rebuild my life. Soon after, I graduated with my associate’s degree and decided to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

My mission was truly the highlight of my life up to that point. I was extremely apprehensive about my ability to stick it out the entire 18 months because I knew it was another drastic change, taking me out of my “safety zone”. Fortunately, and much to my surprise, I was able to manage my anxiety and depression by continuing with my medication and learning to rely on my Savior. I made many new friends and learned more about my relationship with my Savior and myself than I ever could have otherwise. It was life-changing and prepared me more for the rest of my life than any other experience.

It is also because of my mission that I was able to meet my husband.

Dating had never been a big thing for me. I never really had a steady boyfriend and frankly, trusting men was never something I felt like I could do. I felt incredibly anxious around them and an unhealthy obligation to please them. I enjoyed having guy friends but could never allow them the privilege of holding my heart because I knew how fragile it was, especially in the hands of a man.

Somehow my husband convinced me otherwise. I fell in love with him as a person before I ever fell in love with him as an eternal mate. I respected him in a way I had never respected any other man. All that he had been through made me admire his strength and I felt safe in his presence. He became my new “safety zone.”

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Since marrying my husband I was able to successfully wean myself off my medication. I am not convinced that I will never need it again but I am committed to going without it as long as I possibly can. I have learned new and more effective coping skills to deal with my anxiety and am more aware of that downward spiral that quickly leads to the black hole of depression. With my excellent support system that includes my husband, my kids, and my close-knit family, I have been mostly successful without depending on medication.

This month I would like to create a series about depression and hopefully offer some help to both the victims of depression and the loved ones of those victims. Depression is kind of a general symptom of many mental illnesses. It is different for everybody and there are all different kinds, causes, and levels of severity.

Please note that I am not qualified, nor would I ever claim to be, to offer advice or treatment for people suffering from mental illness. I only offer my story, strategies that have worked for me, and the always undercurrent counsel to seek professional help. Therapy and medication were what essentially saved me when I was in the depths of depression and I would always encourage anybody I know in similar situations to seek counsel from a doctor or therapist.

The topics I intend to cover this month are warning signs of depression, strategies to keep you from going down that rabbit hole, advice for loved ones trying to help, and hopefully some strategies that might help people who suffer from anxiety that tends to lead to depression. Again, professional therapy and medication are often necessary and very helpful and I am not against them in any way. If you or a loved one is suffering from severe anxiety or depression, please talk to your doctor.

I hope you will join me in the fight against mental illness by being more open in our communication about it. It is scary to talk about our thoughts and what we feel when we are in the depths of these things but it is the most secure way to climb out of it as well. I hope what I share this month will either help encourage you personally or that you will share it with someone you believe might be encouraged by it.

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Do you or someone you know suffer from depression and/or anxiety? What has been your experience and what has helped you?

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10 Ideas to Stop Drifting and Be Intentional with your Time

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It is depressing to know that I have spent so much of my life just floating along, with no real direction or purpose. Even as a mother, I hardly remember the first year of Liliana’s life. I think between postpartum depression and severe sleep deprivation, it has become nothing but a foggy dream.

My brother has a little wooden block in his room that reads, “Every day matters.” I remember reading it a while back and for some reason it was kind of a revelation for me. I was living each day as if I were just waiting for the next. It went something like this: Monday, “Why didn’t I get to bed earlier last night? I am so exhausted! I need my sleep so I’ll just sleep in…tonight I’ll go to bed earlier and then I’ll be able to get up earlier tomorrow.” Later that day as I’m mindlessly scrolling through channels on the TV, “I really am so tired, I’ll do something productive tomorrow.” Then Tuesday, “I don’t feel like doing anything today, in fact, I might be sick. I’ll relax today and tomorrow the kids and I will go to the park.” Then Wednesday, “I forgot that today we have a dentist appointment so I’ll relax until then and we’ll go to the park tomorrow.” And so it went, all week long.

Every Day Matters

I had a lot of goals and things I wanted to accomplish but I was living each day doing the bare minimum. Part of that is the season of life I was in, I suppose. Newborns have a tendency of throwing us into survival mode. It was so refreshing to have this revelation that “Every Day Matters” and that I don’t want to “wait until tomorrow” to do something meaningful.

So I am working on living with more intentionality. And since “time” really is the only universally equal gift that we share, it’s important to make it count.

Here are 10 ideas to help you get your life back by being intentional with your time:

1. Track

Just like when you need to know what your mindless eating situation looks like you are told to track it and write it down, so it is with the mindless way we spend our time. Laura Vanderkam has a great document to help you get started. Just print it out and use it for 2 weeks. Write down what you’re doing every 30 minutes or so. It can seem annoying but it will make you mindful of how you’re spending your time. Which is the first step to change.

2. Be mindful

We can’t change something we aren’t aware of. If you can’t figure out why you’re getting to bed so late every night and then you realize (probably through tracking your time), that you’re spending an extra hour on your phone at night watching YouTube videos, you can easily work on changing it now that it’s come to your attention. True story.

3. Budget

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Just like we budget our money, we can budget our time. You can use the same document you used to track but use it to plan out your day ahead of time. You see that, it’s being intentional about our time. It’s acting instead of reacting. It’s being proactive, which is the first habit of highly successful people.

4. Have a bigger “Why”

I had the great fortune of attending the Build Your Blog Conference last year in Salt Lake where we got to listen to Jason Meade talk about “Your Why.” Wow. Can I just say it was an absolute revelation inside of me. We got free access to Simon Sinek’s Why Discovery Course and I was on that like a fat kid on cake. I was devouring the course before I even got home from the conference!

The point of this course and the book for that matter, is to help people figure out what their mission is in life. Of course, I have my own beliefs about what God wants me to do but this helped me to really narrow it down and put my finger on why certain things are so important to me and how I can make a difference in the world with my one passion in life. You can read the book and purchase the course if you want. I totally think it’s worth it. Even if you don’t though, make it a goal to figure out what your one thing is in this life. It will give you a greater purpose and make you a much better person in every role you are struggling to fulfill.

5. Set goals

After figuring out your “Why” you can easily set goals to help you accomplish what it is that will be most fulfilling to you in your life. There’s a 30 day video course you can get for free from Chalene Johnson that teaches you how to set a “Push Goal.” It’s a fascinating topic that will have you setting one 90-Day goal that will work as a domino effect and making all of your other goals much easier to accomplish.

6. The Focusing Question

What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” This is a slightly different take on Chalene Johnson’s “Push Goal” and comes from the book The One Thing by Gary Keller. Either way, it’s a critical question to make sure you’re asking yourself on the daily in order to be intentional about your time.

7. Eat that frog

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Once you figure out what the ONE thing you need to do is, do it first. Brian Tracy’s book “Eat That Frog!” is based on a quote by Mark Twain that goes something like this,

“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

Most often the frogs we need to eat in the morning are the ones we constantly avoid. They are the biggest dominoes and are what will move the needle the most, yet we resist doing them. Figure out what that is for you, and do it first thing. You will not only feel accomplished, you will actually be accomplishing your most important goals.

8. Time Thieves

We all have them. Mine is my phone. Maybe yours is the TV. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Find them on your tracking document and work on minimizing them or eliminating them altogether. Make sure you spend that recovered time working on your most important goals.

9. Be flexible

Just as with anything in life, be sure to have an open mind and be flexible. If your time budget doesn’t go as planned, just pick up where you left off and ask the focusing question again, “What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” Or in other words, “What is the most important thing I can be doing right now, in this moment.”

10. Routines and Systems

Eventually, you will develop your own routines and systems. The more mundane tasks you can put on autopilot the more energy and time you will have to spend on the most important things in your life. A morning and evening routine are essential to starting and ending your day right. Anything you can automate or systematize will save you brain power and allow you to focus on what you’ve been avoiding for so long.

Don’t allow yourself to float through life with no direction. What do you want to think of yourself and your life when you’re old? What do you want people to say at your funeral? Commit yourself to act, not to be acted upon. Make a difference.

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Do you use your time intentionally? What are some of the things you do to accomplish your goals? Do you find it difficult to work on your goals? Do you feel like you’re living without a real purpose? What are you going to do differently now?

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