Depressed, Stressed or Anxious? Take this Self Assessment Quiz

Complete this quick and easy questionnaire to find out whether you could have symptoms of anxiety or depression. These are  very common mental health problems that affect most of us at some time in our lives, either directly, or indirectly through family and friends.

In Britain, it is estimated that 1 in 9 people will have a mental health disorder in any one year, with depression and anxiety being the most common  of these. The World Health Organisation has estimated that over 40% of disability world wide is due to depression and/or anxiety.  These conditions frequently go hand in hand, with a mixture of anxiety and depression being the most common diagnosis given for an anxiety disorder.

If your responses to the following self assessment test indicate that you might have symptoms of depression or anxiety, please take steps to address them. If you only have a few minor symptoms, and they are not affecting your life, then perhaps you  could read some helpful articles on line, including on this site. [Go to the SEARCH box on the top right of the webpage.] If your symptoms are many, or if any of them are interfering with your life, please take some steps to see a professional.

Go ahead, take the quiz now. It’s fast, free, and totally confidential. The results are at the bottom of the test page….




How to Protect Your Children from Family Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety can spread through families like contagious diseases, and children are the most vulnerable to contamination.

Sure, genetic predisposition plays a part too, but a lot of it has to do with what we are exposed to as children. That means you can influence how much your children are affected.

How Depression is Spread

Partners of people with depression often complain of feeling as if they are living near a black hole which is draining their life force. They gradually lose energy and enthusiasm, their lives become restricted, and their home becomes a dark and dreary place.

Children of depressed parents can be even more affected. On top of this ‘black hole effect’, children learn how to interact with the world largely by observing other people, especially their parents. So if a child witnesses a parent consistently looking glum, or repeatedly talking negatively about problems, they are likely to copy that behaviour. Our behaviour affects the way we feel, so children of depressed people are at risk of internalising their parents’ view that the world is a negative place that holds little joy.

Depressed people have a tendency to withdraw from others, so they sometimes find it difficult to listen to their children and to respond consistently and positively to their emotional and psychological needs. This can lead to the children feeling confused and unloved, and can in turn impact on their self esteem and happiness.

All of this is a recipe for… you got it… another generation of depression.

How Anxiety is Spread

Anxiety can also be passed on through families. Children are programmed to learn what to be afraid of from parents in order to survive. A highly anxious parent typically sees the world as a scary place that cannot be trusted. They may well pass on their fears to their children as warnings, and become over-protective in an attempt to keep them safe. This can lead to the children internalising their parent’s fears and becoming overly anxious.

Also, remember that children mimic their parents, so a parent who is tense and easily stressed, is likely to inadvertently teach their children to behave in the same way.

How to Break the Cycle

You can take steps to protect your children from the negative effects of your anxiety and depression. Here are a few simple ways to start…..

  • Be aware of what you teach your children about the world. Do you paint a scary or dark picture? Try to relax, lighten up, and look on the bright side.
  • Think about how your children witness you interacting with others and them? If you want your children to be calm and positive, make sure you are a calm and positive role model.
  • Make an effort to connect with your children in a consistent way. Get interested in their thoughts and feelings. Listen well, and try to respond in compassionate and positive ways to their problems.
  • Be affectionate and warm, and praise your children liberally.
  • Make the effort to enjoy fun interactions with your children. Family games can be great bonders, and laughter is a wonderful antidote for depression and anxiety.
  • Exercise is also a natural antidote; so, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing, try to do something regularly as a family that involves physical activity. Fun outdoor activities improve mood, and getting everyone out in the world can help you all combat fears.

Get Help ASAP

It is important that you take steps to deal with your own depression or anxiety. Focusing on helping your children should have the added bonus of helping you, but you might need to do a bit more to move into a consistently healthy state.  There is plenty of useful information out there in books and on the internet, but if depression or anxiety is continuing to limit your life, please make sure you get some good professional help without delay, for your children’s sake.


How to Disentangle from Destructive Thoughts

Thoughts, images and feelings are all a normal part of our internal human world, and we wouldn’t want to be without them. They can fuel our creativity, they can drive and motivate us, they can keep us safe, and they can bring us passion, joy and contentment.

But sometimes they can be an absolute pain in the bum. They can haunt us, or annoy us, or demoralise us, or rile us into a frenzy of anger or guilt. They can scare us into a frozen state of avoidance, or bring us down into the depths of depression and apathy.

It’s Not That Easy to Switch Off Negative Thoughts

In the past we psychologists have told our clients that once they have identified the destructive thoughts and images in their heads, they can simply change them to positive ones. Although this idea has merit and works for some people, it is not as easy as it sounds for the majority of us. Failed attempts to block or throw away the negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts, have led to frustration and a heightened sense of failure and inadequacy in many of the people who have attempted this method. It is simply very hard to stop a thought, particularly one that you have been replaying for a long time, and if you do manage it, they can often sneak back with a vengeance.

Psychologists are now realising that, rather than trying to disperse unhelpful thoughts, it is fine to just allow them, as long as you don’t get caught up in them; as long as you don’t believe them to be the truth; and as long as you stay mindful of what they really are… just sounds, pictures and feelings.

‘But how do I do that?’ I hear you ask in an exasperated voice.

Eastern Wisdom

Western psychology has recently started to take notice of the ancient teachings of our eastern brothers who have long said that the best way to stop thoughts controlling us is to witness them as just thoughts, and one of the best ways to do that is to practice meditation.

Meditation is both simple and difficult, but you don’t have to be a master of it to begin to feel the benefits. Anyone can learn to meditate. You could learn by going to a meditation class, or by reading a book, or listening to an audio, or even by watching one of the many YouTube videos on the topic.

How to Meditate

All you do is sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed and notice your breath and the sensation in your body as your breath enters and leaves your body. I personally like to focus more on the out-breath, as this is the side of the breath that is most linked with relaxation, but the traditional way is to just notice the breath going in and out without judging or controlling it.

Now, of course, many thoughts and images, memories and plans, and all the accompanying emotional paraphernalia, will invade your mind while you are trying to focus on the simplicity of your breath. But the trick is that you allow them all to come and go, without getting caught up in them. And if, as is inevitable, you do get carried away with a thought about the process, or your work, or relationship, or what to have for dinner, become aware of this little side-trip as soon as you can, and gently bring your attention back to your breath and your body.

Freedom to Choose

The process of witnessing thoughts images and emotions, and allowing them to come and go by bringing ourselves back to our body and breath, allows us to disentangle from them. We are then able to realise that the thoughts are not the essence of who we are: they are just static noise and don’t need to be given attention and power.

That awareness frees us up to be able to make decisions and take actions that our unhelpful thoughts and feelings have stopped us undertaking in the past.  We don’t have to stop and block our unhelpful thoughts to reduce their power over us, just recognise them for what they are, and chose whether or not to buy into them.

Lorri Craig

How to Feel Happier

Feeling depressed and unhappy can really bring you down.  Rates of depression in our population are increasing radically. In the USA rates are ten times higher than they were in the great depression of last century, and people are getting depressed much earlier in their lifetimes.

We have an abundance of technology that should help us have easier, happier lives, but our artificial lifestyles seem to stress us out, bring us down, and reduce our happiness. It’s fair to say we are having a bit of a depression epidemic.

Many people believe that it is impossible to lift their mood, to climb out of depression, and to be happy, without medication. But, to the contrary, research has shown that it is possible to improve our baseline happiness by actively and consciously taking steps to turn our mood around. This is the science of positive psychology.

WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO FEEL HAPPIER?

Well, apart from the obvious, when we are happier, we perform better and tend to become more successful.

Children who were encouraged to recall a happy experience before doing a task outperformed their peers by fifty percent. Similarly, adults who are primed to be positive and happier before completing an intelligence test, or thinking task, perform significantly better than their un-primed peers.

Research has shown that happy people are healthier and live longer than unhappy people too. This makes sense, as mood is known to affect our immune systems.

HOW TO FEEL HAPPY

According to Shawn Anchor from Harvard University, we can increase our general state of happiness by doing some really simple stuff.

  • Write down five things you are grateful for every morning. If you do this for 21 days your baseline happiness levels should improve for the next 6 months.
  • Write about a positive experience every day for 30 days. This has been shown to boost immune system and increase your sociability.
  • Do one thing at a time, rather than trying to multitask. Multitask increases stress and we know that stress affects us physically and emotionally.
  • Work out what you are good at and use these strengths in your everyday life. This will increase your self esteem and productivity, and so positively affect your well being.
  • Exercise. This reduces stress levels and improves mood, and is much better for you than anti-depressants.
  • Meditate. This has been shown to affect brain waves, reduce stress reactions, and increase happiness.
  • Smile. The more we smile on the outside, the happier we feel internally.

When my depressed clients to do this simple stuff,  it makes a significant difference to their general mood.

CHANGE THE DIRECTION OF YOUR ENERGY

On top of these homework strategies, I often show clients how to control the energy in their bodies to create a more positive mood.

Think for a minute about how you feel when you are low or depressed. People usually feel a heavy feeling moving down through the lower half of their bodies.

Now think of a happy or exciting experience. Where do you feel the energy? What direction is it going?  Usually up and out from the heart.

So now go back to feeling sad and low. Feel that heavy, sinking energy.

Now take that feeling, and imagine it moving up your body. Imagine it coming up through the earth, through your feet, up your legs, through your belly, into your heart, where it’s transformed into positive energy. You might be able to feel the energy as light, glowing or tingling stuff.

Then feel that positive energy expand in your heart. Imagine it expanding to fill your whole chest in a warm, yummy way. Now imagine it continuing up your spine, up through the back of your neck, through the back of your head, and up and out the top of your head.  YES! YES! YES!!!!

THINK POSITIVELY

Another really important strategy for increasing happiness and productivity is to think positive thoughts. Become aware of your internal dialogue: the things you say to yourself about a situation or experience, or your life. Identify the negative or pessimistic ones, then simply change your head.  Let go the negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts. Simple.

GET OUT IN THE SUN

Sunlight is known to increase happiness and health. Scientists believe this is, at least in part due to Vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced in our skin in the sun. It’s known to play a significant role in switching our genes on and off, so is vital for health and well being. People who are deprived of enough sunshine can fall victim to low mood caused by SADs, or seasonal affective disorder. This is why so many of us suffer depression and low mood in the winter.  So, whatever the weather, make sure you get out in the daytime at least once a day. Failing that, or if it’s too cold to expose much skin, take vitamin D supplements.

BEGIN NOW

I realise it is often very difficult to motivate yourself to make changes and try new things when you are feeling low or depressed. But if you force yourself to apply all, or even some, of these strategies for a few days, starting today, you will be on your way to being happier, healthier and more productive.

So stop what you’re doing, get out a pen and paper, and write down five things you’re grateful for. It could be anything from a beautiful sky to a loved one, or the crunchy apple you had for lunch. Next, spend five minutes writing about a positive experience that you have had. Then go for a walk with a smile on your face. Do that every day, and you should start to feel a difference very quickly. Simply suck it and see.

Have fun.