Talking Things Through – Part 5 – Mindfulness

Last week I told you a bit about the importance of moderation in your conversations with people struggling with depression.  Not badgering them with your questions or trying to force them to answer and combining all that with the personal touch: getting to know them so that you can utilise that knowledge to help them.  Today we’re going to take that a little deeper and look at mindfulness.

Mindfulness Unpacked

When I say mindfulness, I’m sure those of you who have done some form of therapy will be thinking of some of the techniques they use.  Mindfulness in that sense means knowing what is going on both inside and outside ourselves moment by moment.  I’d like to put a different spin on it, if I may.

I’ve said it before that there is a time and a place for your conversations about depression and anxiety.  In part 3 we talked about the importance of sensitivity in those discussions and how the wrong time and wrong place can have a disastrous effect.  Being sensitive to their state can have a far better impact than going in fully loaded though.  But what about being mindful?  Is that not the same thing?  Not quite.  Not to me, at any rate.

Imagine a coin.  It has two sides, doesn’t it.  Well sensitivity is one side of that coin, mindfulness is the other.  With mindfulness, you’re partly looking at the time and the place for your discussions and where that person is in that discussion but there is a greater emphasis on some other aspects.  These are as follows:

  • Who or what is talking?
  • What words are being used?
  • Avoid triggers.

Let me break these down for you a little.

Who or what is talking?

This might sound strange, as though we’re straying into schizophrenia territory but bear with me on this.  Sometimes when I get particularly anxious or particularly low, it’s almost as though I have a fog enshrouding my brain.  I don’t react in the usual way or I may say things differently to normal.

An example of this would be back when I was still working. One of my friends used to come and take me for drives at lunchtime just to get me out of the office.  I remember one day I was on a particularly bad spiral and just wasn’t hungry at all so wasn’t eating.  My friend insisted that I needed to eat something.  Uncharacteristically, I turned round and snapped that if she told me that again, I’d get out the car and walk back to the office.

As I said: it was uncharacteristic.  My black cloud drove me to snap instead of being calm and kind about it.  Unfortunately it happens sometimes.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t an excuse as I should have known better but sometimes it does happen.  I’ve heard a number of people say similar things have happened to them: people react differently to normal.  It can happen, so please try and bear it in mind if a reaction is uncharacteristic.

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What words are being used?

As I’ve mentioned, last week we looked a little at persistence and how asking the same question numerous times can lead to someone feeling pressured or badgered.  Similarly, it is important to be mindful of your choice of words when talking to someone.  Some words are definitely best avoided.  Examples of these are:

  • Need/needn’t
  • Should/shouldn’t
  • Must/mustn’t

These all go hand in hand.  If you’re trying to encourage someone to do something, definitely do not use them.  They leave people feeling pressured and that can start them on a spiral of thinking they should be doing better than they are. Consider the possibility that they are moving as quickly as they can or doing the best that they can.  I dare say they already know what they need to do, they just need the encouragement to get them there.

Other words to avoid are ones that might make them feel worse about what they are or aren’t doing.  Expressing disappointment, disgust, extreme unhappiness and other such things will only serve to push them down further.  By all means tell them you’re sad that they feel the way they do but do not emphasise it.  I’ve had people express the above emotions towards me based on my self-harm and it’s served to push me back towards the blade as it mirrors some of the feelings I’ve already felt.  It might not be true for everyone but please do bear that in mind.

Avoid Triggers

Again, this one goes back to last week’s post where I mentioned the personal touch.  Many people going through depression and anxiety will be looking for triggers so that they can better cope with their conditions. These triggers manifest themselves in many different forms, which is why I say you need to get to know the person and learn what triggers them.

An example of this for me would be crowds.  I’m not great with crowds of people but I’m reminded of a place I was in where my family and I were coming to the end of a session at an event and we were going to leave early.  My depression immediately told me not to bother saying anything so, stupidly, I didn’t.  I allowed them to walk me out…in front of 3,500 people.  Unsurprisingly I got that feeling that everyone was watching and my anxiety exploded.  Needless to say, I don’t think we’ll be walking out early again any time soon.

As you get to know the person, you can begin to identify some of their triggers.  This will help you when trying to look out for them, as you will know when they will need support, but it also allows you to try and avoid certain words or situations when dealing with them.  After all, triggering an anxiety attack or a depressive episode won’t get anyone anywhere.

Next Week

In next week’s post I shall be looking at apologies, as that’s one thing I’ve noticed a lot of people with depression do. Between now and then, I would be interested in hearing from you and some of your stories.  Do you know anyone who apologises constantly for being the way they are?  Perhaps you’re that person.  Would you mind sharing with me some of the reasons behind those apologies?  (All anonymously, of course).  Feel free to message over Facebook or email and we can get back to you.  Thank you!

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Author: Alex Davies

Alex Davies is the creator and writer for Pushing Back the Shadows. Find out more about his journey here and connect with him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

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