Sioux City, IA 51103
About Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Sioux City
We offer a wide range of charity, advocacy and mental health services for the community. We provide counseling services for families, adults and children. We also provide outreach services to those in need and advocacy by being a community partner.
Catholic Charities was officially incorporated as a non-profit, service agency in 1943. The Catholic Women’s league of Sioux City, the Diocese of Sioux City, and the Sisters of Saint Francis were instrumental in making this happen. Our agency is rooted in faith and service to all people.
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By Emmie Pombo | Mar. 09, 2018
Self-Help Techniques For Coping With Mental Illness
Living with mental illness is not easy. It’s a consistent problem without a clear solution. While treatments like medication and psychotherapy are incredibly helpful, sometimes people experiencing mental health conditions need to do more day-in and day-out to feel good or even just okay.
Some common self-help suggestions people receive are to exercise, meditate and be more present, which are helpful and work for many people. However, other proven methods aren’t mentioned as often. Many of them are quick and simple techniques that can easily be added to daily routines.
Finding the right coping mechanism takes time and patience, but it can enormously impact how you feel. If you haven’t had success with techniques you’ve tried, or you’re looking to add a few more to your toolkit, here are seven coping mechanisms recommended by mental health professionals worth trying out.
Radical acceptance is “completely and totally accepting something from the depths of your soul, with your heart and your mind,” according to Marsha Linehan (creator of dialectal behavior therapy). Included in this definition is the idea that no matter what, you cannot change a situation. For example, imagine a tornado is coming your way. Obviously, you can’t do anything to stop the tornado; that’s not possible. But if you accept the fact that it’s coming, then you can act, prepare and keep yourself safe. If you sit around trying to will the tornado to stop or pretend that there is no tornado, you’re going to be in real trouble when it comes.
The same applies to mental illness. You cannot change the fact that you have a mental illness, so anytime you spend trying to “get rid of it” or pretend it doesn’t exist is only draining you of valuable energy. Accept yourself. Accept your condition. Then take the necessary steps to take care of yourself.
Breathing is an annoying cliché at this point, but that’s because the best way to calm anxiety really is to breathe deeply. When battling my own anxiety, I turned to the concept of “5 3 7” breathing:
- Breathe in for 5 seconds
- Hold the breath for 3 seconds
- Breathe out for 7 seconds
This gentle repetition sends a message to the brain that everything is okay (or it will be soon). Before long, your heart will slow its pace and you will begin to relax—sometimes without even realizing it.
Opposite-to-emotion thinking is how it sounds: You act in the opposite way your emotions tell you to act. Say you’re feeling upset and you have the urge to isolate. Opposite-to-emotion tells you to go out and be around people—the opposite action of isolation. When you feel anxious, combat that with something calming like meditation. When you feel manic, turn into something that stabilizes you. This technique is probably one of the hardest to put into play, but if you can manage it, the results are incredible.
The 5 Senses
Another effective way to use your physical space to ground you through a crisis is by employing a technique called “The 5 Senses.” Instead of focusing on a specific object, with “The 5 Senses” you run through what each of your senses is experiencing at that moment. As an example, imagine a PTSD flashback comes on in the middle of class. Stop! Look around you. See the movement of a clock’s hands. Feel the chair beneath you. Listen to your teacher’s voice. Smell the faint aroma of the chalkboard. Chew a piece of gum.
Running through your senses will take only a few seconds and will help keep you present and focused on what is real, on what is happening right now.
Mental reframing involves taking an emotion or stressor and thinking of it in a different way. Take, for example, getting stuck in traffic. Sure, you could think to yourself, “Wow, my life is horrible. I’m going to be late because of this traffic. Why does this always happen to me?”
Or you can reframe that thought, which might look something like, “This traffic is bad, but I’ll still get to where I’m going. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I’ll just listen to music or an audiobook to pass the time.” Perfecting this technique can literally change your perspective in tough situations. But as you might imagine, this skill takes time and practice.
If you live in denial of your emotions, it will take far longer to take care of them, because once we recognize what we’re feeling, we can tackle it or whatever is causing it. So, if you’re feeling anxious, let yourself be anxious for a couple of minutes—then meditate. If you’re feeling angry, let yourself be angry—then listen to some calming music. Be in touch with your emotions. Accept that you are feeling a certain way, let yourself feel that way and then take action to diminish unhealthy feelings.
You can’t control that you have a mental illness, but you can control how you respond to your symptoms. This is not simple or easy (like everything else with mental illness), but learning, practicing and perfecting coping techniques can help you feel better emotionally, spiritually and physically. I’ve tried all the above techniques, and they have transformed the way I cope with my mental health struggles.
It takes strength and persistence to recover from mental illness—to keep fighting symptoms in the hopes of feeling better. Even if you feel weak or powerless against the battles you face every day, you are incredibly strong for living through them. Practical and simple methods can help you in your fight. Take these techniques into consideration, and there will be a clear change in the way you feel and live your life.
Contact Catholic Charities and let one of our licensed counselors help so you can live a happier, healthier, and more productive life.
1601 Military Road
Sioux City, IA
Being in a "blue mood" sometimes is a normal part of life. If you lose a loved one or are laid off from your job, it is natural to be sad. When you have depression symptoms because of a stress that has occurred in your life, it is called "situational depression." Most people recover from situational depression, although it may take a few days or sometimes even weeks.
However, when depression symptoms just won't go away and depression starts to interfere with your ability to function and live your life normally, this is called "clinical depression" or “major depression.” Major depression is a serious illness that may last for weeks, months, or years. It is therefore crucial that you know the symptoms of depression, so you can seek help when they occur.
The symptoms of depression are overwhelming. People may describe major depression as a "black hole" that they just can't get out of. A sense of impending doom is also common in this type of depression. You may feel lifeless, limp, and apathetic.
Symptoms of Depression: 10 Warning Signs
People with serious depression do not all have the same symptoms, but they may include:
- Sadness. When feeling sad is a symptom of depression, it may include feeling hopeless and empty. You may find that no matter how hard you try, you just can't control your negative thoughts. You may find yourself crying for no obvious reason.
- Guilt. People with severe depression may feel that they are worthless and helpless. They may even experience their depression as a sign of weakness, and can be overly self-critical.
- Irritability. This depression symptom may cause you to feel angry, anxious, or restless. Men who are seriously depressed often express their depression through aggression or reckless behavior.
- Mental symptoms. If you have trouble concentrating, making decisions, or remembering details, these could be symptoms of depression. People with depression may feel that their thought processes have slowed down.
- Physical symptoms. People with depression often have aches and pains, headaches, or digestive problems that do not seem to have any other medical cause and do not respond to treatment.
- Loss of energy. If you have depression, you may feel tired all the time. People with depression may feel that their physical abilities are slowed down.
- Loss of interest. A common depression symptom is a loss of interest in pleasurable activities like sex, hobbies, or social interactions. This may also show up as neglecting your responsibilities and your physical grooming.
- Sleep changes. Waking up too early in the morning, not being able to fall asleep, or sleeping too much can all be symptoms of depression.
- Appetite changes. Changes in eating habits due to depression can result in eating too much or too little. A weight gain or loss of more than 5 percent of your body weight in one month is one of the warning signs of depression. Some people experience a loss of interest in food, while for others food becomes a way of compensating for feelings of depression.
- Suicidal thoughts. Having thoughts of harming yourself is a serious symptom of depression and always needs to be taken seriously. If you’re thinking about suicide, you need to get help immediately.
Symptoms of Depression: No Shame or Weakness
If you have some of these classic symptoms of depression and the symptoms are severe and have lasted longer than a few weeks, you should seek help. The best place to start is with your doctor.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates depression affects roughly 17 million Americans a year. In many cases, depression that could be successfully treated goes undiagnosed and untreated because symptoms of depression are ignored.
Depression is not a sign of weakness or a reason for shame — it is a serious illness. The positive news is that even in serious cases of clinical depression, treatment is usually very successful. And the earlier treatment is started, the more successful it is. So don't wait.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, don’t wait. Contact Catholic Charities and let one of our licensed counselors help so you can live a happier, healthier, and more productive life.
1601 Military Road
Sioux City, IA