Low Grade Depression

Photo Credit: NPR

Recently, Michelle Obama launched her own podcast, which is already successful with many people tuning in each week. The most recent episode has her discussing her “low grade depression.”

Actually, the statistics suggest that 1 in 3 Americans are suffering from a similar low mood, given all the stress we are under in our personal lives and the collective society. If you are having a consistent low mood these days, know that you are not alone.

For Obama, she noticed that she is slower in what she is doing, going to bed late, waking up in the middle of the night, not always working out — and trying to go easy on herself and accept how she is feeling in the moment without feeling guilt or shame about not getting to everything as she used to.

She notes she combats her low grade depression with exercise, routine, rituals such as eating dinner together, and finding ways to connect with her family on a regular basis. These are all sound steps to finding a rhythm that honors the current mood, but also allows one to be in the low mood without pressure to have to get out.

Americans are taught on some fundamental level that mental illness, like depression, is not real. Rather, we control our capacity to not feel depressed. If we are feeling this, there is something wrong with us. We are not positive enough, we are suffering from a condition that is not real, and more. So many of us have to pretend that we are not depressed in order to meet society’s expectations otherwise we are judged and dismissed.

I am grateful to Obama for naming her low grade depression to help name something that many, many people experience, especially during a pandemic where our lives have been significantly curtailed. I appreciate her normalizing that a low mood is something common and to be present to it rather than push it away. Naming it, being present to it, and taking action to help one’s self ease the depression are all keys to feeling better.

So, if you too are experiencing a low mood, make space for it. Create rituals and routines that will care for yourself. No need to push it away, but recognizing it and being honest that your are in a low grade depression is essential. Yes, engage with people. Yes, take a news diet. Yes, engage in activities that promote your mental health well-being. The list goes on and on, but do not deny or run from it.

If your low mood continues to persist or it worsens, seek out therapy to treat your depression. Sometimes working with a counselor can help alleviate your symptoms as well.

Be well!

Doomscrolling

Doomscrolling. What a clever word for something many people are doing today.

Most of us were attached to our phones before the pandemic and political craziness of 2020 had taken hold. Yet, now something different is happening when we reach for our phones. It’s like the Temple of Doom.

We turn it on, head to our favorite social media sites, and go down the doom tunnel. A horrific article about the politics of the day to the ever-widening death toll from the pandemic to the economic havoc and mayhem — and that’s just the start. Another critical part of the doom scroll is reading all of the comments. I often think the comments grab us into doom more than the news itself.

All of a sudden, we are reading, scrolling, getting amped up, becoming anxious and depressed all at once — and it just keeps going. Compulsively we continue the doomscroll barely able to take a breath away from all we are reading. Someone told me he finally stops when there is no new doom to read. Seven hours in he takes leave of his phone!

This article in the Washington Post lays out what doomscrolling is and how to reign it in so you aren’t relying on the doom all day long. Some ideas in the article include changing your screen color to gray, spending limited amounts of time on-line in these ways, finding places on the Internet that offer the exact opposite of doom – like cute pictures of animals.

A few more ideas – actually purchase a real newspaper and read it. So old fashioned I know. Here though you can enjoy all of the news of the day without reading the comments of doom. Further, it provides space for your own good thinking about the article. Also, you are deciding what you will read in depth, skim, and skip altogether. Online reading is much more difficult to discern which is which for you on any given article as you may not be so interested, but you do want to hear what others think about it. Taking a more solo path can keep the doom at bay.

Also, choose your time of day for a good doomscroll. One where you are awake, active, and alert and not seeking rest and relaxation. Align yourself with the most energy you have to take it in and then leave plenty of time afterwards to let it all go. At night, keep your phone outside of your bedroom. Do not mindlessly reach for it, but keep in mind and value your sleep and rest over the doomscroll. Don’t worry all of the doom will be there waiting for you tomorrow.

We are wired to latch on to the bad and then worry to the nth degree about it all. We also our communal beings — we are drawn to know what someone else is thinking and then perhaps try that stance on and see if we feel the same way or not. However, this muddies the waters of knowing our own minds and trusting how we are thinking for ourselves. Reading without adopting how others are thinking about something is creating space for your own independent thinking. More important than ever these days.

Finally, doomscrolling is a time suck. It sucks you right down into the temple of doom and doesn’t let you go to actually live your life. There is less time for you. Sometimes I read the comments on news and its just on and on fighting and fighting and I think to myself do people really have so much time to fill arguing with strangers? Everyone is always saying how busy they are — is this what people are busy with? Or is doomscrolling a way to escape life that feels miserable? Sometimes I feel like attracts like. We feel our personal lives are doomed and so we seek out external doomscrolling to match this internal feeling.

Take a break and take stock. Life is lived in reality. Put the phone down, pick up a real paper, after a little bit of time, put the paper down, and go out and embrace your life. May it be full of Joy Living — hopefully steps — even miles — away form the doom.

Business Talk Radio Interview

Business Talk Radio Interview

A Business Talk Radio Interview in 8 hot NYC minutes!

This was the opportunity that came my way recently. A producer was perusing Being Seen, a directory of therapists, when he found my profile. He ended up reaching out to me to invite me on to a segment on Business Talk Radio to discuss my private practice and what I am seeing during this pandemic time.

Wow! I was certainly excited to have the opportunity to come on to the show and talk about my practice. In a previous life, I had been a national kids’ party planner and did many interviews on TV and radio across the country and so the opportunity felt familiar in one sense. Yet, in another sense, completely new as this was a new business for me after all.

The interview lasted a very few minutes – eight to be exact – and it indeed focused on the business of being in a therapy practice. A few moments were given to what I was seeing during this pandemic time, but the focus was certainly on being a therapist in private practice and on myself — why did I choose this profession, why would people seek to work with me, and what am I hearing when people call me.

It was exciting to experience the familiar rhythm of a media interview, but the new challenge of focusing on my new professional practice. The old and the new met in an exciting and interesting way for me. How often do we get to have such an opportunity? It came along and I ran with it.

I was particularly excited to be interviewed in the NYC area as states like NY and NJ have relaxed some of their rules around who can practice in their states during this emergency so that people’s needs are met. As I prepped for this opportunity, I applied for my temporary license to practice in NJ and I know I am able to do so in NY right now as long as I have a valid license in my home state. So, not only could I be interviewed, but also serve people in the region as well.

If you are interested in this quick NYC media minute, listen here:

Dear Therapist: Tired of Watching Shows

Tired of Watching Shows

Dear Therapist:

I am tired of watching shows during this time at home. I never thought I would admit this as there is so much good TV and content to watch out there, but hour after hour and I actually feel really tired and lethargic. I used to watch a few hours per week, now it’s a few hours morning and night. Are there any other alternatives to watching shows during this stay-at-home time?

Sincerely, Boob Tubed Out

It seems like this would be the perfect time to sit and watch shows, shows, and more shows. There is so much content out there right now and so much of it is exceptional. It seems like it would be so easy to sit there on the couch hour after hour and watch the shows without limit. It feels almost counter-intuitive to think watching shows is exhausting. Yet, it is.

If you are interested in watching stuff, but not shows, you are in luck as there are many, many options:

  1. Street Walks
  2. Opera
  3. National Theater
  4. Art Museums
  5. Historic Homes
  6. Broadway Shows

This is a time to armchair travel your way to great cities, museums, and cultural events in ways that we never could before. It is something completely different and a true delight. Yes, you are seated, but your mind is free to take in something new to feed your mind, interests, and senses.

After this, go out for a walk and let your mind be full of the wander you took – it can also serve as inspiration as you plan your next trip.

Limiting the time you use to watch shows is necessary. Give that hour or two to yourself when you really don’t want to do anything else except watch a TV show or movie. We all have those moments, but it is not something that can be sustained for days at a time.

Just say no to passive watching and yes to activities that have been taken on-line.

A Suitable Girl

A Suitable Girl Movie Poster
Looking at Marriage from an Eastern Perspective

A Suitable Girl is a documentary on Amazon Prime video that follows three women and their journeys into married life. It is a great film to think about love and marriage from a completely different perspective than we have in the west. I am always amazed at how vastly different the approach to love and marriage is between the two cultures.

This documentary drops you into the East Indian values with immediacy as you meet the three women and learn their family situations and what is going on regarding getting married. It is true that in India parents prepare from the moment a daughter is born to lose her to her future husband and his family. This is a given from the start of any girl’s life in India.

From that fundamental tenet, we meet the three women who are all living with their family of origin and in vastly different situations. One is preparing to marry a man she chose herself – they were high school mates – and move away to a different state. A second one is an intellectual and highly educated, with a Mother who is a matchmaker, except she cannot play this role for her daughter. And, last, is a woman who is turning 30 and has been in the marriage matchmaking game for several years with no results.

Unlike in America, in India the family is heavily involved with this decision of whom their daughters will marry. From taking pictures for the marital ads to attending marriage meet-ups, to meeting a prospective suitor and his family over tea, this is a family affair. The whole family is invested in making the very best match it can for the daughter. For families with daughters, they are looking for money and status. For the families with sons, often beauty and light skin are named as desirable qualities. Very traditional — even in 2017.

In America. it is on the individual man and woman to meet, determine if the person is a potential mate, date/live together for a time, and then marry one another. This process can take years and is often founded on the idea that “being in love” and “physically attracted” to the other as the paramount qualities to deciding if two will marry one another.

In India, as you will see if you watch this documentary, love hardly factors in to this decision at all. Rather, the couples’ horoscope should match, the man should be from a “good” family and have high earnings, and the woman can be educated, but also beautiful and fair-skinned, as well as one who appreciates the traditional wifely duties of cooking and caring for elders. After all, she will leave her parents and join him, often in his parent’s home to take care of them. Matches are set within minutes of meeting.

Which way is right? Which way is wrong? Being a bi-racial woman made up equally of Caucasian and East-Indian identities, I believe both ways have merit and each view is a way to meet and marry. The latter is far more communal and practical, but I think more of this in the western way we choose our spouses, would be a good thing. Simultaneously, infusing a little more time to get to know the other with some space away from one’s birth family would also be a good thing for the way toward an Indian marriage.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this review of A Suitable Girl in Variety that slams the Indian way toward marriage. Being half Indian, I am offended by this review and complete criticism of the film and these three women’s lives as they journey toward marriage. Yes, it is constricted by tradition, but it is also tradition that guides their lives as well. It’s hard to keep any type of open mind with these types of reviews.

I suppose the women each have their own “happy” ending. Whether in the East or the West, I think this is a Disney promise that often proves to be elusive. Nothing can prepare a person for marriage and all that comes with it no matter how societies try to approach the landmark decision in one’s life.

I believe there is merit in watching such a documentary to expand our minds as to the different ways people approach marriage around the globe. Feeling stuck in the western way? Get out of yourself and see a new perspective.

Virus Anxiety

Anxious Woman

The times we are living in are anxiety-provoking in general. Politics, resources, climate, and every day stressors seem to increase on an almost daily basis. And now, a pandemic comes along and hits our lives as well as the people we know and love in our community with full force. People are sick and a virus is spreading like a wildfire.

Many of us have been ordered to work from home, children are also being kept at home from school, nursing homes and hospitals have quarantined their residents, and large gatherings of people are no longer permitted. Beyond that, the economic impact is being felt by many who need to go to work to get paid, who do not have childcare options, who do not have insurance — quite simply put, most Americans know it is too expensive to get sick.

From the business angle, many people are just not going out to shop, to eat, to watch movies or just about anything else. The grocery stores are busy with people stocking up on supplies for at least two weeks, but that’s about it. A ghost town effect is severely hurting the ability of local business to stay open. Our communities may not look the same after this virus recedes with so many closings.

If you have anxiety brought on by this recent virus, it is understandable. The Washington Post just ran an article about it and I don’t think you necessarily have to have been diagnosed with an official anxiety disorder to feel anxiety about this virus. Will we get it? Do my loved ones have it? That cough I just coughed, is that the virus? When will things get back to normal? Will any of it be normal again? How will I pay my bills? All of these questions and more can make our minds and bodies extremely anxious.

Top tips for relieving anxiety are discussed in the article above, and I want to add a few of my own:

  • You may be isolated in your home from your work community and friends, but technology is wonderful in times like these. Make a point to reach out and check in through tech on a regular basis.
  • Go to your breath and breathe. Four counts in through your nose and four counts out through your mouth will help to slow you down. Your breath is always available to you for free. Let it help keep you calm during this time.
  • Try to keep some things normal for yourself. Walking your dog, getting some errands done, keeping to your daily routine of waking up and heading to bed, and other parts of life that can be maintained as you would normally would live will help give you something concrete to hold on to during this time.

There are many ways to calm anxiety from meditation, to nutrition, to exercise and more. Choose one or more that works well for you and do it. All things pass in due time. Keep this in mind at all times.

Be well!

Be A Lady, They Said Video

Cynthia Nixon recites the impossible standards women and girls face in Be a Lady They Said video.

Be a Lady, They Said is a video that has gone viral. More than 4 million views and counting at the time I am writing this. Cynthia Nixon gives a brief recitation of the impossible standards that girls and women face in society each day of their lives. From food intake to emotional pain to wight gain and loss to sexual freedom that may lead to being a hoar. This little six-minute video says it all.

It is exactly how Nixon delivers the message that packed a punch in my gut. She lists all the messages – and they go on and on – and each is displayed with its own powerful image to match what people have said about being a lady. I will admit I have heard every one of these statements either in regard to myself or another whom I know.

The litany of ironic messages had my head swirling. Is it any wonder that any girl or woman can grow up in society feeling safe, secure, and knowledgable of herself in her own skin? Nah, too many mixed messages coming in from everywhere to distort truth.

As I watched the video, I wondered about all of the girls I know who are in middle or high school today. I was horrified to think they are receiving these same messaged and are trying to navigate them in an ever-changing, fast-paced world that holds little value for critical thinking and conversation.

However, Nixon has given us an opportunity for us to watch this video with our girls and discuss these messages and how they are seen, felt, and understood and how will they handle the pressure of ironic messages. How will we as adults put aside these messages — some we may even abide by – in order to help our girls sort out the implicit messages given on an explicit level.

Although difficult, the video packs a punch that should not be ignored by anyone.