Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC
Question: My family member has been acting really sad lately. How do I know if she is depressed or if it is something they will just get over?
Answer: Your family member is fortunate to have you there for her. Sometimes people can become depressed as a result of a situation and their mood will improve over time. Some signs that he or she is dealing with clinical depression are changes to eating or sleeping habits. For example someone who is experiencing symptoms of depression may have insomnia or even hypersomnia (meaning they sleep excessively) as well as significant weight loss or gain without dieting. You may also have noticed that she is not interested in doing things she used to enjoy, like a hobby or activity. The person may be feeling empty or hopeless or present as irritable more often. You want to reach out to your loved one and let her know what you noticed and ask her how she is feeling. Let her know that if she is feeling depressed she can get help from a professional the same way she would get help if she had a sore throat or a broken ankle. Letting her know that there is help and that you continue to care and support her can motivate her to reach out to a professional to determine if treatment is needed.
Question: I have been hearing so much lately about meditation and mindfulness and want to try it, but every time I try, my mind just won’t slow down.
Answer: That is very common for all of us. Our minds want to think. People believe that they need to clear their minds of all thought to be doing it “right” when that is just not true. As you sit and focus on your breathing, you will notice your mind begin to wander and think about lots of other things. That is okay and normal. The moment you catch yourself thinking, just say to yourself “thinking” and then refocus your attention on your breathing. Notice what the air feels like as it goes in and out of your nose. Pay attention to the way your stomach moves up and down with each breath. As your mind wanders, which it will, you just kindly and gently bring it back to your breathing. This may happen 100 times and that is all normal. The more you practice the easier it gets, like riding a bike or any other skill. If you are like me and think you need some help to get started you can look for local meditation classes or download simple phone apps to guide you through a few minutes a day. I particularly like the apps: calm, headspace, smiling mind and insight timer.
Question: How do I deal with a friend who is always negative?
Answer: Ideally you want to surround yourself with people who have a positive and motivating influence on you. You will find that when you are around positive and uplifting people, you feel happier. When you are around people who are constantly complaining you can get easily sucked into the negative energy they give off. You want to first see if you can limit the amount of time you spend with that particular negative person. If you have to interact with them, such as a coworker or family member, try and guide the conversation by starting it off on a positive note. Give them a genuine compliment or begin conversation pointing out something positive. You can also prepare yourself for interactions with some affirmations and positive self-talk before you engaging in conversation. Reminding yourself that their attitude or experience is not necessarily your experience.