Tag Archive: depression



Why Self Esteem? Experts appear to agree that a healthy sense os self worth and value helps contribute to better health, physically and emotionally, improves cognitive function, and general performance, while a lack of self esteem, or low self-worth, or even self-hatred, contribute to a host of problem areas, including:

Depression
Stress & Anxiety
Entering into abusive or unhealthy relationships
Alcohol Abuse
Eating Disorders & Unhealthy Dieting
Poor communication
Hostility
Low performance & achievement
Dependency
Withdrawal, Isolation & Loneliness
Preoccupation with Problems.

It’s amazing how the way we view ourselves can affect so many areas of our life. It also amazes me how many of us struggle with being our own worst internal critic, sabotaging ourselves by believing messages that simply aren’t true of ourselves, and judging ourselves harshly and over-critically, rather than showing ourselves compassion.

Kristin Neff, author of the book, “Self Compassion”, suggests that when wrongdoers are treated with compassion rather than harsh condemnation, cycles of conflict and suffering can be broken!” She also openly claims that “if we were perfect, we wouldn’t be human; we’d be Barbie & Ken.” acknowledging the weakness and imperfections of our humanity. She sites Jesus as an example when he said “Let him without sin cast the first stone’, and later, as he hung dying on the cross, he said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ The message was clear: we need to have understanding and compassion for even the worst wrongdoers, ourselves included.”

Why are we such harsh critics of our weaknesses, failings and mistakes? Doing so only leads to greater depression, self hatred, addictions, and further self sabotage and pain. When we grow up in a less than thriving environment, it is as if our brains are hard wired to be drawn to repeat those same patterns throughout life. Abused, we either become abusive or look for abusive relationships, subconsciously, as an example. While this is not always the case, as there are exceptions, generally if we grew up with a lack of nurture, sense of safety, role reversal relationships, abuse, excessive alcohol use, we grow up in an environment that lacks the proper breeding ground for our brains to function with a positive self image. See my previous articles on brain re-training to understand how our brains work and the information they take in, and how they are able to re-wire previous negative circuitry of the brain to involve higher brain functioning to overcome the negative patterns of thinking that decrease our sense of self worth. While this is a fascinating subject to me, and I will likely blog more on this topic in coming months, I do not want to get too far of track by getting too technical in this blog!

Here’s a little self esteem checkup taken from the book, “The Self Esteem Workbook”, which I highly recommend you to read if you struggle at all with self esteem.

Rate from 0-10 how much you believe the following statements. This will give you an idea of where you are currently in you sense of self esteem.

1. I am a worthwhile person.
2. I am as valuable as a person as anyone else.
3. I have the qualities I need to live well.
4. When I look into my eyes in the mirror I have a pleasant feeling.
5. I don’t feel like an overall failure.
6. I can laugh at myself.
7. I am happy to be me.
8. I like myself, even when others reject me.
9. I love and support myself, regardless of what happens.
10. I am generally satisfied with the way I am developing as a person.
11. I respect myself.
12. I’d rather be me than anyone else.

Next rate yourself from 0-100 on a scale from total lack of self esteem, to total fullness of self esteem.

Where does you gut tell you you fit on that scale? Now ask yourself why that is. See what answers come to the surface. This is the beginning of paying attention to what your core needs are.

For the next month, I will be spending every Friday blogging about self image and self worth.

Today is simply an intro on how to build self esteem.

I will leave you today with a definition of what self esteem is, and the foundations of building self esteem. Next Friday we will delve a little deeper.

What is Self Esteem?

“Self Esteem is a realistic, appreciative liking of oneself. Realistic means accurate and honest. Appreciative implies positive feelings and liking.” – The Self Esteem Workbook

Self Esteem involves self confidence. A belief in one’s abilities. It involves accepting yourself, having compassion for yourself, looking at yourself as neither less than or greater than others, with proper humility and awareness that all of humanity involves weakness and imperfections, with grace for both ourselves and others mistakes.

The Foundation of self esteem involves three things; like building blocks, these three attributes build self esteem:

1. Unconditional Worth.
2. Love
3. Growing

These three building blocks help build a proper, healthy working sense of self esteem.

Stay tuned. Over the next few weeks I hope to equip you with some solid tools to get your sense of self worth out of the gutter, and moving in a more positive direction! It IS possible to retrain our brains, it’s just like physical exercise, it takes work to examine what we are thinking, and consciously taking an effort to think more positively of ourselves. Visualize yourself in the ideal situation, that your needs are met, that you are happy and fulfilled… Apparently, according to research, simple exercises like this DO help. Even if you don’t believe it, spending a few minutes thinking like this, empowers our brain to feel happier, in just the same way that smiling, even if forced, “activates significant areas of the brain – good mental therapy. So at least once in a while, force yourself to laugh or smile, even if you…are smiling through your tears… Get your facial muscles moving!” – Susan Anderson, Taming the Outer Child, A revolutionary program to overcome self-defeating patterns. (Also another highly recommended read!)

That’s it for today, so go ahead… Smile. Even if it’s forced, it triggers neurons in your brain that help the process of retraining our brains to live a healthier lifestyle, and move up the ladder of self esteem.

I will leave you with one last piece of food for thought… To get you thinking about your needs and how to show self compassion to those needs. Take a look at the photo below from Maslov’s hierarchy of needs:

Have a great day!


Last night I wrote a poem that I wanted to share on an issue that is relatively a big deal – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Originally, it was thought that PTSD was something only military personnel experience coming back from experiencing the trauma of the horrors of war. Now while this is most certainly the case, and very true, in more recent years, the condition of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been enlarged to any traumatic experience people go through, experiencing the same types of symptoms common to PTSD.

Anything from a major car crash, to being robbed, molested or raped, experiencing a natural disaster of some kind, major relationship betrayals or abuse, finding out your partner has been having an affair… On and on it goes. The only qualification is that the symptoms of PTSD MUST be present for more than one month.

I will not get into the symptoms in this blog, except for those which are mentioned in the poem I am about to share with you, but you can google the symptoms, or check back with me and ask, as I will eventually get to a whole series on PTSD at some point in the future. I think I have it slotted for November at this point in my Friday blogs! In the meantime, enjoy the poem I wrote just yesterday on the subject.

Locked In

My life just crashed
And fell apart.
Left for broke
I was on my own,
Locked in a cage
Of isolation & fear.
No hope of rescue.
Despair consumed me.
Out of the depths I cried out:
My God, My God
Why hast thou forsaken me?
Locked in a cyclone Of turbulence
Between anger, fear, rage
Forgiveness, hope, despair,
Comfort, isolation, disorientation
Numb, aching, anxious,
Sad, depressed and alone.
Longing for intimacy in private moments,
Guarded from everyone
Not letting a single soul in.
Locked in a cycle of sabotage,
Of self, relationships and love.
Alone, at risk for injury,
Despairing of life, hopeless, anxious
Avoiding, crying, numb again.
Who have I become?
Where did I go?
Why can I no longer feel love?
This is the face of PTSD.
Trauma destroys, demoralizes,
Shreds apart hope for normalcy.
Am I safe?
Can I trust?
Can I risk again?
Flashbacks, nightmares,
Coping mechanisms.
How do I accept this tragic event
That tore from under my feet
The last shreds of belief
That the world was relatively safe
And love was good?
Irresponsible, reckless, wish to die
How can I hide from this awful terror,
This darkest night of my soul?
I awake to relive it over and over again
And wonder will it ever be over?
Will I ever be whole?
Will I be forever changed by it?
Transformed to this new being
So dissociated from life and
All that is around me.
Nurture… Will I ever feel it?
Loved… Will I ever truly believe it?
Disillusioned again by
This whole cycle of life,
Will I ever recover enough to truly sing
‘this could really be a good life’?
“Wake up!” I yell inside myself
Facing a shell that dulls the sounds around me, locking me in a cage alone
Shell shocked and distanced from what is around me
I live, but do not truly live.
I am a shadow on a wall,
Where did I go?
Who am I?
Locked in my cage alone.
Balls drop, nothing is normal.
The new normal is anxiety at little things that are not a threat,
But the threat feels real.
It interferes with my waking hours, my work life, my social life,
All activities.
Can’t seem to keep everything functioning as it did before.
And I don’t even care.
Deadlines, call backs, follow through… Responsibility eludes me.
Trauma consumes me.
Somebody please, reach out and grab hold of me before I fall
Into a pit of darkness
And forever fall into oblivion.
God help me, God help us all.
Reach out and save me,
Breathe life
Into this broken, dying, empty shell.
Bring hope.

If you identify with this, I’ve developed a Trauma Recovery Program for training on tools to help cope with past trauma.  I’d love to hear from you!

————-

If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach


“From the brain and brain alone arise our pleasures, joys, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrows, pains and griefs.”

 – Hippocrates

Last Wednesday I blogged about some cognitive distortions, or lies that we tell ourselves, that when told repeatedly, become a pattern that eventually forms a belief. What we think about and dwell on, really DOES affect our beliefs! I also mentioned that I would discuss this week a little more in depth the research and studying I have been doing on the brain and how to rewire our brains from negative beliefs to become happier overall!

Breakthroughs In Modern Science

“Until recently, scientists believed that the human brain and it’s structures were formed during gestation and infancy and remained pretty much unchanged through childhood. You had a given number of neurons in a specific brain structure and…once you were done with childhood development, you were set in a mold. Your connections were already made, and the learning period of your brain was now over. In the last decade, however, researchers have found significant evidence that this is not so, and that something called neuroplasticity continues throughout our lives.” – Teresa Aubele, PhD, Stan Wenck, EdD, and Susan Reynolds. (Train Your Brain to Get Happy).

Neuroscientists now believe that the brain has the ability to change, to be molded, to repair damaged regions, grow new neurons and and get rid of old ones, to rezone regions that performed one task and give them the ability to assume new tasks and change the circuitry that weaves neurons into networks that allow us to remember, feel, suffer, think, imagine, and dream. Basically, our brains can continue to learn and achieve throughout the duration of our lives.

The part of my research I found most interesting was the recognition that we can rewire our brains from depression, worry, posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disease etc. to becoming happier. For instance, if you worry a lot, you are accessing certsin types of pathways due to habit. But habits can change! I guess old dogs can learn new tricks! You can learn to retrain your brain to quiet the nervous pathways and strengthen others so that you don’t automatically go down the worry path!

If your typical pattern to facing problems is to feel depressed, your brain will continue that habit. However, we can instruct our brain to come up with creative solutions to our problems, thereby opening new pathways for our brains to use instead. If you program your mind with images of you being happy, and visualize the desired images long enough, your brain will associate happiness with them as the brain is not completely reliable at distinguishing actual events from fantasy or perception.

“The more you ask your brain to think happy thoughts, the more your brain responds by forging new…neural circuitry to light up your happy board, and by weakening the neuronal pathways that drain your happy thoughts.” (Train Your Brain To Get Happy).

 “If you routinely dwell on your resentments, regrets, and other negative emotions, the neurons involved in that particular mental activity will fire busily at the same time and automatically start wiring together as well. This process will add one more bit of neural structure to feeling discontented, angry or sad. On the other hand, if you regularly focus on the good feelings around you and inside you, like kindness, compassion, empathy, and patience, then the neurons involved in those thoughts will wire together and take up more space, stitching together more hopefulness, confidence, and happiness into the fabric of your brain and yourself (and taking away space from the negative paths!).

Last week i talked about negative thinking. Here’s what happens when we get stuck in negative thought patterns. Negative thoughts literally can make our brains dysfunctional! Certain brain configurations cause people’s emotions to repeat themselves, without decreasing in intensity. If the thoughts and feelings involve sadness or despair, it can lead to depression. Our brains were not meant to function for prolonged periods of time on negative thinking. Getting stuck in negative thought patterns makes it harder for a person to rebound from negative thoughts and emotions which makes it difficult to control these responses.

It is important to think about what we are thinking about! As I mentioned last Wednesday, the bible was onto something when it says of our thought life that

“whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
Philippians 4:7-9

The authors of the book “Train your brain to get happy” most certainly agree that “on the flip side, being focused on positive, happy, hopeful, optimistic, joyful thoughts produces chemicals that create a sense of well-being, which helps your brain function at peak capacity.”

“Negative thinking slows down brain coordination, making it difficult to process thoughts and find solutions. Feeling frightened, which often happens when focused on negative outcomes, has been shown to decrease activity in the cerebellum, which slows the brain’s ability to process new information, and the left temporal lobe, which affects mood, memory, and impulse control.” (Train Your brain to get happy).

I can certainly identify with this. Whenever I am down in the dumps, it is more difficult to think of anything positive. In such times, when I try a “gratitude exercise” of trying to find 5 things I am grateful for that day, I struggle to come up with even one or two. But on a good day, I can think of so many things to be grateful for! As Napolean Hill said:

“As a man thinketh, so is he.”

Our minds have the ability to control what type of thinking we allow to go on. So go ahead… Get happy! Think some happy thoughts today! Dwell on the good things in life, even if it is a simple pleasure, like your favorite dessert, or a day at the beach, or your last vacation… Ahhh!!! Summer! Sleeping in, going out for breakfast with a good friend, reading a good book, watching a great movie, doing something kind for someone else, sitting by a fireplace in the winter, campfires in the summer, good uplifting music….

Think your way to happiness, feel your way to happiness, sleep well, eat well… Things will start to look up!

Some quick tips on good brain foods before I sign off for today… Whole grains, bananas, tuna, beans, barley, sweet potatoes, nutrient rich fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts. Dark green vegetables and dark orange vegetables like carrots and yams are excellent choices. Red peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, even red wine are powerful antioxidants!

Cancer preventing veggies: Bok choy, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, rutabagas, turnips, and watercress.

Brain superfoods: Salmon, blueberries, apples, nuts, quinoa, oats, soy, chocolate!!!!

On that note… I’m getting hungry! Gonna go raid the fridge and see what I can eat to get my brain happier!

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Personal Development Program which will help you overcome depression, unhealthy thought patterns and so much more!

————-

If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach


Sometimes in life we go through events that are or at least seem catastrophic at the time, or we keep running across the same negative situation in life over and over again, and we begin to develop distortions in our thinking. We begin to believe things like “I must be cursed”, or “every decision I make ends in failure”, or “I’m not lovable because people keep abandoning me. What’s wrong with me anyway?” Sometimes we believe that we are a mistake, or that we are not beautiful enough, or strong enough, or good enough. Sometimes we believe it is our fault when someone else has wronged us. Sometimes we sabotage ourselves by speaking negative things about ourselves, such as “you are ugly” (talking to yourself) or “you don’t deserve any better, look at what you did… Believing we must punish ourselves for our mistakes, or even believing that God is punishing us for not having been perfect or making the right decisions.

Sometimes we involve ourselves in what psychologists refer to as ’emotional reasoning’, essentially meaning that we believe our feelings are actual fact. Sometimes we magnify a situation and believe based on our faulty understanding that the situation is bigger than it really might be. Sometimes we can’t see any positive possibilities because all we see are the negative situations. Sometimes we jump to conclusions before we have examined all the options, sometimes we catastrophize, expecting the worst case scenario to happen. Sometimes we take everything personal, or label ourselves based on our real or perceived mistakes. Sometimes we use polarization, or black and white thinking, clinging to extreme opposites, like all or nothing, great or awful, never or always. All of these patterns and more are what’s referred to as ‘distorted thinking patterns.’ Basically, the lies we believe.

Now I know on Wednesday’s I blog about my own experiences, my life, etc. Now part of that includes the things I’m thinking about. There have been two major things that have been occupying my attention over the past couple weeks or so, this subject of distorted thinking and cognitive reasoning, as well as researching…and now I’m really gonna reveal how nerdy I really am – the brain and new studies on how to retire and retrain our brains, remapping so to speak. Perhaps I will blog about that next week, as it does relate to this topic about how to change our belief systems.

I’ve been really trying to examine my own distortions and examining how certain repeat situations that occur in my life first build a faulty belief, and then solidify it over time as similar circumstances and life events seem to ‘prove’ my theories and beliefs are true. But as they say, “what you think is what you are.” Do we do it to ourselves by believing a certain way which ends up becoming a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy?’

But what good is it to believe myself unlovable for instance? Or that I will always be betrayed or abandoned? What good is it to self sabotage rather than to have self compassion, and nurture the areas that have felt wounded or betrayed? Does this not add more fuel to the fire?

How much does it benefit us to dwell on the negative beliefs and distortions we hold to so firmly as a belief system? Why do we allow experience to dictate the truth? Why are we often our own worst enemy?

Let’s take a quick look at some of the physical symptoms that can arise simply by worrying or choosing to believe and/or dwell on the negative circumstances in life. For instance we all know that worry, anxiety and depression can result from dwelling on the negative situations in life (albeit some depression is merely a result of lowered serotonin levels for sure), but how many of you are aware that harboring bitterness can cause certain types of cancer, or that self bitterness, self rejection or self hatred CAN be the cause of coronary artery disease or strokes? Fear, anxiety and stress can cause angina or high blood pressure, or heart arrythmias, or ulcers?

Anger, rage and resentment can cause all sorts of physical problems over time. Everything form hemorrhoids to tension headaches, to a lowered immune system, to gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea or constipation, overeating, depression and insomnia. Of course, not all of these symptoms are ALWAYS a result of anger or fear etc. sometimes people have constipation because it is a side effect to a medication they are taking for instance. The point is, we are a whole being, spirit, soul and body, interwoven together so delicately and simultaneously complex. Is it any wonder that some of the issues in our spirit and souls would affect our health, just the same as a lack of physical activity does?

Perhaps God was onto something when he said to “forgive” those who have offended us, as he knew the natural consequences bearing such a heavy weight on our shoulders could have on our mental, emotional and physical health? Maybe there is good reason why the bible says:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.”
Philippians 4:7-9

For more information on some root causes to physical symptoms, please check out Henry Wright’s book “A more excellent way to be in health”. I confess I started thinking about other possible causes to my back pain than something just ‘physical’ when the orthopedic surgeon looked at my X-rays and CT scans and MRI’s and could not see the reason why I would be in such severe pain with a mild degenerative disc disease. He did mention that it will get progressively worse over time and I may need surgery later on in life, but as he said he couldn’t see why I had such excessive pain, I think I had a little “aha” moment that maybe this was something spiritual, or a root of some kind of lie or belief system I hold onto. Like unbelief for instance. I have always wrestled to believe in miracles because my own experience had not experienced it personally. Perhaps I am stubborn, as I HAVE witnessed others become healed of diseases, but why does my own mind still reject this truth, this reality that it is possible? What is that faulty belief system I hold onto? These and other questions have had me on a quest to find out what other faulty belief systems I hold onto, what lies and distorted thinking patterns I believe, in an effort to reframe my mindset to believe the truth and not a lie.

I have been examining cognitive therapy to make connections between environmental changes/life situations interact with our physical reactions, thoughts, moods and behavior.

For example: environmental situation: death of a father. Physical reaction: cold sweats, pounding heart, breathing difficulty. Moods: anxiety, panic. Behavior: Avoiding places that remind you of him. Thoughts: ‘Something bad will happen to me.’ ‘He died young, and so did my grandfather, so maybe it runs in the family and I will die young too’.

The above example was fictitious… Not a personal experience of mine (although my father did die young, but I don’t hold onto that belief system).

The reality is, our thinking is very important. It is essential to pay attention to what we are thinking about. Our thoughts left to their own devices take on a life of their own, believing any wild connection they make with the circumstances and situations we encounter. Not only our thinking, but our emotions can rule us as well as mentioned earlier about believing that the way you feel reflects reality. Ie. “I feel frightened right now, so that must mean I am in real physical danger.”

Aiko Horman, a Japanese brain specialist, now in her 70’s, did extensive research on early childhood memories and trauma and how to re-route or rewire the brain to overcome painful traumatic childhood memories. There is now so much research on the neuroplasticity of our brain’s nervous system’s ability to develop new neuronal connections, to essentially work toward healing and retraining the brain. This is my intro for next week’s discussion on what I am learning about the brain’s ability to repair itself. But for now, let’s just leave it at this: negative thoughts can actually CAUSE our brain to be dysfunctional.

The good news is: our negative thoughts and negative emotions CAN be rewired, changed, healed. The brain is capable of regenerating itself for repair! Until next week when I get a little more in depth on how the brain works in conjunction with what we tell ourselves and choose to believe, I invite you to make a list of your own cognitive distortions, or the lies you believe about yourself, and hopefully over the next week or two I can unpack further what I’m learning and some tools to apply to rewire our brains! I’m super excited about this, because I have some of my own patterns of thinking that I desperately want to conform to truth.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Think of a situation you were in that caused you distress, anxiety, fear, etc. where were you? Who were you with? What were you doing? Describe the mood you felt (usually a mood is describable in one word), and what were the automatic thoughts that crossed your mind?

For instance, you might have been on a first date, and you were feeling like it wasn’t going very well, so suddenly your mood is nervous, or gloomy, etc, as you begin to think about your automatic thoughts like “He looks bored”, “He’s going to think I’m so clumsy because I’ve done one or two things over dinner that were clumsy while feeling nervous” or “This is the same restaurant I came to when my last boyfriend broke up with me”, etc. Pay attention to each of these things, your automatic thoughts, your mood, and present or past situations that may be acting as triggers to your current mood. Ask yourself the following: what was going on before I started to feel this way? What am I afraid might happen? What is the worst thing that could happen? What does this mean about how the other person feels about me? What images and memories do I have? All of these things help a person to begin to think about what you are thinking about and out the pieces together as to why you are feeling the way you do, or thinking what you are and what caused it. Oftentimes when we begin to examine our automatic thoughts we see how negatively or self sabotaging or self critical we really are. These automatic thoughts, left unchecked, can form belief systems that are untrue or debilitating to our self esteem.

This is precisely what I’ve been up to in my spare time – trying to determine my thinking distortions, find the origins, retrain my brain in its errors of reasoning, and understand other related factors, such as the mental, emotional or spiritual roots to physical ailments. It bears repeating… I’m a nerd. But I love it! Next Wednesday I will come back to this and explore it further…. I believe it’s an important subject to live a life that is full and meaningful. No point in believing lies when the truth sets us free. Negativity only causes us all sorts of harm.

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Personal Development Program which will help you overcome depression, unhealthy thought patterns and so much more!

Cheers!

————-

If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

%d bloggers like this: