Although Halloween today revolves around trick-or-treating and costume parties, in the past masks were worn to placate the evil spirits. You may not believe in witches and goblins, but when was the last time you thought seriously about ghosts that haunt you?
Your thoughts are mental products although they don't necessarily reflect an absolute reality. However, for you, they do represent how you feel. The bad feelings you have may be due to normal temperament, stress overload, situational sadness or even clinical depression. Did you know that 1 in 4 people actually suffer from depression at some time in their lives and close to 50% do not receive treatment? If you have had extreme sadness or feelings of helplessness and hopelessness for over two weeks, it's best to schedule an appointment with your medical professional to assess your symptoms and, if necessary, refer you to a specialist.
When there is no obvious trigger, do you minimize, ignore or dismiss how you feel? Instead, here are some ideas to help you better understand your negative emotions. You can learn how to reframe your thoughts and take better care of your emotional self. Begin by following these social support and self-care tips:
Honor your body to improve physical and emotional wellbeing. Pay attention to your exercise routine, your sleeping pattern and what gives you pleasure. Try to stay away from situations that cause stress and increase the ones that make you feel more relaxed and alive.
Focus on what you can accomplish rather than on what you can't. Look on the bright side of difficult situations as you create a balance between caring for others and your own needs. Take at least half an hour and read a book, listen to music or call a friend - it may help to mark it in your schedule until it becomes a regular part of your day. Although you can't always control external circumstances, you can control how you handle them.
Knowledge is power. Gather information about ways to deal with how you are feeling - explore Internet search engines and sites or the self-help section of your local bookstore. And talk with friends and family who understand and whose opinions you respect.
Gratitude and forgiveness are compelling emotions. Use this to your advantage. Tell your partner, kids or parents about their positive qualities and what they mean to you. And forgive others who are important to you for some past wrongdoing or misunderstanding. Watch their reactions and see how that makes you feel.
Support is crucial – connect often. Enroll in a class or workshop through a university extension program or mental health center. Join an ongoing support group or attend a weekend retreat to share concerns, problem-solve and gain new perspective. A therapist or coach can be a sounding board and guide - someone to validate your ideas and help you follow through with your plans.
It can be difficult to maintain a sense of optimism when your circumstances are complicated and perhaps even painful. But you owe it to yourself to begin to better cope with your changing moods. Recognize strengths and skills that are already an integral part of you. Release tension through humor to help you bounce back. And notice how a positive attitude supports what you do and who you are.
Beginning to talk about depression can increase your awareness, reduce the stigma and help minimize your symptoms. Think about exorcising your demons, once and for all. Don't disguise your true feelings, no matter what time of year. And this Halloween, take off your mask and commit to feeling emotionally stronger.