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Some Information on the Highly Sensitive Person

Roughly 20% of the population struggle with high sensitivity. Typical traits include the following:

1. As students, they work differently from other people. They often pick up on subtleties and may think deeply about a subject before sharing in a discussion or contributing in a classroom setting. (This does not necessarily mean they don’t understand the material, or are too shy to speak in public. It has more to do with the way the person processes information.)

2. They tend to be highly conscientious in their work. They notice and pay attention to details, and they think things through very carefully. Also, often being highly sensitive is equated with higher levels of intelligence, being highly intuitive and having a vivid imagination. Highly sensitive individuals work and learn best in quiet and calm environments.

3. Highly sensitive students and employees generally underperform when they are being evaluated. They are highly conscious of being watched, and this inhibits their ability to function at their peak.

4. Although some individuals who are born with this trait may seem to be more introverted by nature, being introverted and highly sensitive do not always go together. Instead, environmental factors have a greater influence on how the individual feels and reacts.

5. People with high sensitivity are more sensitive to both negative and positive experiences. Thus, they are more affected by rough treatment, pain, heartaches and insensitivity from others … but also seem to benefit more from being treated with kindness, care and thoughtfulness.

6. Other common characteristics of the highly sensitive person being easily over-stimulated (hence the need for quiet and calm), being more emotionally reactive than others, and having higher levels of empathy.   

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Tips for Coping with a Dreary Mood

1. Accept that we all feel low at times (but recognize that’s different from clinical depression.)

2. Don’t beat yourself up about feeling miserable. Remind yourself it’s normal to feel this way sometimes. (That is, we all feel bored, discouraged or a failure at times.)  

3. Be real and acknowledge that today is a bad day so it’s going to be harder to keep your motivation.

4. Think about one thing you can try or do to interrupt your thinking and take your mind off things.

5. Get up from sofa, or switch off your computer, and make the small commitment to take some form of action. For example, just going for a walk can start to lift and change your mood.

6. Smile at yourself, and other people you encounter. You’ll start to feel more human, and things won’t seem so bad.

7. Don’t keep looking back, or going over what went wrong. That won’t help your feelings, or help to move you on.

8. Think of things that make you happy, or people you enjoy, or all the many things that you are grateful for.   

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Feelings come and feelings go. There is no need to fear them and no need to crave them. Be open to your feelings and experience them while they are here. Then be open to the feelings that will come next. Your feelings are a part of your experience. Yet no mere feeling, however intense it may seem, is your permanent reality.
Ralph Marston

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Tips for Coping with a Dreary Mood

1. Accept that we all feel low at times (but recognize that’s different from clinical depression.)

2. Don’t beat yourself up about feeling miserable. Remind yourself it’s normal to feel this way sometimes. (That is, we all feel bored, discouraged or a failure at times.) 

3. Be real and acknowledge that today is a bad day so it’s going to be harder to keep your motivation.

4. Think about one thing you can try or do to interrupt your thinking and take your mind off things.

5. Get up from sofa, or switch off your computer, and make the small commitment to take some form of action. For example, just going for a walk can start to lift and change your mood.

6. Smile at yourself, and other people you encounter. You’ll start to feel more human, and things won’t seem so bad.

7. Don’t keep looking back, or going over what went wrong. That won’t help your feelings, or help to move you on.

8. Think of things that make you happy, or people you enjoy, or all the many things that you are grateful for.    

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How to Gain Control of your Emotions

Controlling your emotions doesn’t mean ignoring them. It means you recognize them and act on them when you deem it appropriate, not randomly and uncontrollably.

1. Know your emotions. There are a million different ways you can feel, but scientists have classified human emotions into a few basics that everyone can recognize: joy, acceptance, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger, and anticipation. Jealousy, for example, is a manifestation of fear - fear that you’re not “as good” as something else, fear of being abandoned because you’re not “perfect” or “the best”.

2.Recognize that emotions don’t just appear mysteriously out of nowhere. Many times, we’re at the mercy of our emotions on a subconscious level. By recognizing your emotions on a conscious level, you’re better able to control them. It’s also good to recognize an emotion from the moment it materializes, as opposed to letting it build up and intensify. The last thing you want to do is ignore or repress your feelings, because if you’re reading this, you probably know that when you do that, they tend to get worse and erupt later. Ask yourself throughout the day: “How am I feeling right now?” If you can, keep a journal.

3. Notice what was going through your mind when the emotion appeared. Stop and analyze what you were thinking about, until you find what thought was causing that emotion. Your boss may not have made eye contact with you at lunch, for example; and without even being aware of it, the thought may have been in the back of your mind, “He’s getting ready to fire me!”

4. Write down the evidence which supports the thought that produced the emotion or against that thought. When you begin to think about it, you might realize that since nobody gets along well with this particular boss, he can’t afford to actually fire anyone, because the department is too short-staffed. For example, you may have let slip something that you should not have said which angered him, but which it is too late to retract.

5. Ask yourself, “What is another way to look at the situation that is more rational and more balanced than the way I was looking at it before?” Taking this new evidence into account, you may conclude that your job is safe, regardless of your boss’s petty annoyances, and you’re relieved of the emotion that was troubling you. If this doesn’t work, however, continue to the next step.

6. Consider your options. Now that you know what emotion you’re dealing with, think of at least two different ways you can respond. Your emotions control you when you assume there’s only one way to react, but you always have a choice. For example, if someone insults you, and you experience anger, your immediate response might be to insult them back. But no matter what the emotion, there are always at least two alternatives, and you can probably think of more: (i) Don’t react; do nothing. (ii) Do the opposite of what you would normally do.

7. Make a choice. When deciding what to do, it’s important to make sure it’s a conscious choice, not a reaction to another, competing emotion. For example, if someone insults you and you do nothing, is it your decision, or is it a response to your fear of confrontation? Here are some good reasons to act upon:

a) Principles - Who do you want to be? What are your moral principles? What do you want the outcome of this situation to be? Ultimately, which is the decision you’d be most proud of? This is where religious guidance comes into play for many people.

b) Logic - Which course of action is the most likely to result in the outcome you desire? For example, if you’re being confronted with a street fight, and you want to take the pacifist route, you can walk away—but, there’s a good chance that burly drunk will be insulted if you turn your back. Maybe it’s better to apologize and keep him talking until he calms down.

Source: http://www.wikihow.com/Gain-Control-of-Your-Emotions

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If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.

Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.

Stephen Fry

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Understanding Depression in a Friend or Family Member

- Depression is a serious condition. Don’t underestimate the seriousness of depression. Depression drains a person’s energy, optimism, and motivation. Your depressed loved one can’t just “snap out of it” by sheer force of will.

- The symptoms of depression aren’t personal. Depression makes it difficult for a person to connect on a deep emotional level with anyone, even the people he or she loves most. In addition, depressed people often say hurtful things and lash out in anger. Remember that this is the depression talking, not your loved one, so try not to take it personally.

- Hiding the problem won’t make it go away. Don’t be an enabler. It doesn’t help anyone involved if you are making excuses, covering up the problem, or lying for a friend or family member who is depressed. In fact, this may keep the depressed person from seeking treatment.

- You can’t “fix” someone else’s depression. Don’t try to rescue your loved one from depression. It’s not up to you to fix the problem, nor can you. You’re not to blame for your loved one’s depression or responsible for his or her happiness (or lack thereof). Ultimately, recovery is in the hands of the depressed person.

Signs that your friend or family member may be depressed

· He or she doesn’t seem to care about anything anymore.

· He or she is uncharacteristically sad, irritable, short-tempered, critical, or moody.

· He or she has lost interest in work, sex, hobbies, and other pleasurable activities.

· He or she talks about feeling “helpless” or “hopeless.”

· He or she expresses a bleak or negative outlook on life.

· He or she frequently complains of aches and pains such as headaches, stomach problems, and back pain.

· He or she complains of feeling tired and drained all the time.

· He or she has withdrawn from friends, family, and other social activities.

· He or she is either sleeping less than usual or oversleeping.

· He or she is eating either more or less than usual, and has recently gained or lost weight.

· He or she has become indecisive, forgetful, disorganized, and “out of it.”

· He or she is drinking more or abusing drugs, including prescription sleeping pills and painkillers.

How to talk to a loved one about depression

Sometimes it is hard to know what to say when speaking to a loved one about depression. You might fear that if you bring up your worries he or she will get angry, feel insulted, or ignore your concerns. You may be unsure what questions to ask or how to be supportive.

If you don’t know where to start, the following suggestions may help. But remember that being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. Encourage the depressed person to talk about his or her feelings, and be willing to listen without judgment. And don’t expect a single conversation to be the end of it. Depressed people tend to withdraw from others and isolate themselves. You may need to express your concern and willingness to listen over and over again. Be gentle, yet persistent.

Ways to start the conversation:

· I have been feeling concerned about you lately.

· Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.

· I wanted to check in with you because you have seemed pretty down lately.

Questions you can ask:

· When did you begin feeling like this?

· Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?

· How can I best support you right now?

· Do you ever feel so bad that you don’t want to be anymore?

· Have you thought about getting help?

Remember, being supportive involves offering encouragement and hope. Very often, this is a matter of talking to the person in language that he or she will understand and respond to while in a depressed mind frame.

What you can say that helps:

· You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.

· You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.

· I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.

· When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold of for just one more day, hour, minute — whatever you can manage.

· You are important to me. Your life is important to me.

· Tell me what I can do now to help you.

Avoid saying:

· It’s all in your head.

· We all go through times like this.

· Look on the bright side.

· You have so much to live for why do you want to die?

· I can’t do anything about your situation.

· Just snap out of it.

· What’s wrong with you?

· Shouldn’t you be better by now.

Source: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/living_depressed_person.htm (abridged)

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Understanding Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, are episodes of intense panic or fear. Anxiety attacks usually occur suddenly and without warning. Sometimes there’s an obvious trigger— getting stuck in an elevator, for example, or thinking about the big speech you have to give—but in other cases, the attacks come out of the blue.

Anxiety attacks usually peak within ten minutes, and they rarely last more than thirty minutes. But during that short time, the terror can be so severe that you feel as if you’re about to die or totally lose control. The physical symptoms of anxiety attacks are themselves so frightening that many people believe they’re having a heart attack.

Symptoms of anxiety attacks include:

· Surge of overwhelming panic

· Feeling of losing control or going crazy

· Heart palpitations or chest pain

· Feeling like you’re going to pass out

· Trouble breathing or choking sensation

· Hyperventilation

· Hot flashes or chills

· Trembling or shaking

· Nausea or stomach cramps

· Feeling detached or unreal

Self-help for anxiety attacks and anxiety disorders #1: Challenge negative thoughts

· Write down your worries. Keep a pad and pencil on you, or type on a laptop, smartphone, or tablet. When you experience anxiety, write down your worries. Writing down is harder work than simply thinking them, so your negative thoughts are likely to disappear sooner.

· Create an anxiety worry period. Choose one or two 10 minute “worry periods” each day, time you can devote to anxiety. During your worry period, focus only on negative, anxious thoughts without trying to correct them. The rest of the day, however, is to be designated free of anxiety. When anxious thoughts come into your head during the day, write them down and “postpone” them to your worry period.

· Accept uncertainty. Unfortunately, worrying about all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make life any more predictable—it only keeps you from enjoying the good things happening in the present. Learn to accept uncertainty and not require immediate solutions to life’s problems.

Self-help for anxiety attacks and anxiety disorders #2: Take care of yourself

· Practice relaxation techniques. When practiced regularly, relaxation techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing can reduce anxiety symptoms and increase feelings of relaxation and emotional well-being.

· Adopt healthy eating habits. Start the day right with breakfast, and continue with frequent small meals throughout the day. Going too long without eating leads to low blood sugar, which can make you feel more anxious.

· Reduce alcohol and nicotine. They lead to more anxiety, not less.

· Exercise regularly. Exercise is a natural stress buster and anxiety reliever. To achieve the maximum benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days.

· Get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can exacerbate anxious thoughts and feelings, so try to get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep a night.

Source: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/anxiety_types_symptoms_treatment.htm

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You Can’t Trust Your Feelings

Although we would all like to trust our feelings, they are not a good guide for the ways things really are. They are often fickle and irrational – and not an accurate measure of reality. As you’ve probably discovered:

1. Feelings vary depending on our health. If we’re sick we often feel despondent and blah.

2. Feelings vary depending on our hormones – which is why doctors recognize and treat PMS.

3. Feelings vary depending on events and the changing circumstances of our life. If things are going wrong, or we’re highly stressed, we feel inadequate and overwhelmed.

4. Feelings are affected by relationships. If we fall in love we feel happy and elated; if a relationship breaks up we feel rejected and depressed.

5. Feelings vary depending on the weather. If it’s sunny we feel happy and optimistic; if it’s cloudy and grey, we feel morose and negative.

6. Feelings can depend on the way we’re being treated. If someone in a store is rude to us, we may react with anger, or even feel ashamed.

7. Feelings are affected by our actions at the time. If we do something kind we feel good about ourselves; and if we’ve hurt someone’s feelings we may feel some regret.

So don’t react and respond based on feelings alone. Always use your mind as well – and check your thoughts are accurate.

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How to Cope with Guilt Feelings

1. Try and work out why you feel so guilty. Make a list of all the things you feel guilty about. Try and work out which item sparks the strongest reaction. That’s probably the item to focus on.

2. Rate it on a scale of 1-10. That will help you to assess how bad it really was – as sometimes we feel guilty about stupid, minor things.

3. Think through what you can do. Think of actions you can take to try and make things a bit better – even if deep down you know that you can never make things right. It will bring some relief, and will strengthen your resolve to do things differently another time.  

4. If your guilt is “false guilt” (so you just generally feel guilty), consider working with a counsellor. You may have developed a shame based personality - so you basically feel worthless and inadequate.

5. Forgive yourself. You can’t turn back the clock. What’s done is done. But you can start again and try to be a different person. Let it go, don’t think about it. The future is what counts. 

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Teenage Depression

Teenage depression can look very different from adult depression. The following symptoms are more common in teenagers:

· Irritable or angry mood – Irritability is often the predominant mood. A depressed teenager may be grumpy, hostile, easily frustrated, or prone to angry outbursts.

· Unexplained aches and pains – Depressed teens frequently complain about physical ailments such as headaches or stomach aches. 

· Extreme sensitivity to criticism – Depressed teens are plagued by feelings of worthlessness, making them extremely vulnerable to criticism, rejection, and failure. This is a particular problem for “over-achievers.”

· Withdrawing from some, but not all people – While adults tend to isolate themselves, teenagers usually keep up at least some friendships. However, teens with depression may socialize less than before, pull away from their parents, or start hanging out with a different crowd.

Teens may also “act out” in an attempt to cope with emotional pain. This is seen in:

· Problems at school. Depression can cause low energy and concentration difficulties. At school, this may lead to poor attendance, a drop in grades, or frustration with schoolwork in a formerly good student.

· Running away. Many depressed teens run away from home or talk about running away.

· Drug and alcohol abuse. Teens may use alcohol or drugs in an attempt to “self-medicate” their depression.

· Low self-esteem. Depression can trigger and intensify feelings of ugliness, shame, failure, and unworthiness.

· Internet addiction. Teens may go online to escape from their problems. But excessive computer use only increases their isolation and makes them more depressed.

· Reckless behavior. Depressed teens may engage in dangerous or high-risk behaviors, such as reckless driving, out-of-control drinking, and unsafe sex.

· Violence. Some depressed teens become violent.

Teen depression is also associated with eating disorders and self-injury.

Source: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_teen.htm

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