Dr. Colleen Cira is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who specializes in Women and Trauma, and has worked with hundreds of people struggling with mental health issues.
Talking Points from Dr. Cira
On How to Cope When You’re Feeling Discouraged:
Why People Hate (Or Believe They Hate) Their Lives
There are so many reasons for this. A history of childhood adversity, toxic stress and/or trauma, a difficult season in their life, a genetic predisposition to experience mood disturbance, experiencing microaggressions, marginalization or oppression due to racism, patriarchy, sexism, or homophobia. The list goes on and on and on.
Emotions That Signal One Is Discouraged or
Frustrated With Their Current Circumstances
Feeling discouraged and frustrated are good starts! And then I think we tend to vacillate between feeling anxious, irritable, edgy, difficulty focusing, etc., and then we tend to crash into feelings of sadness, numbness, hopelessness, helplessness, apathy, unmotivated, anhedonia, etc.
Actions We Can Take to Move Forward
1) Figure out the source of your discontent. If you have a history of childhood adversity, toxic stress or trauma, you should find a therapist and start there. I’m defining childhood adversity, toxic stress as histories that include abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal), neglect (physical and emotional), chaotic childhood households (witnessing domestic violence, parental separation/divorce, a parent/caregiver who suffered with mental health problems, substance abuse and/or suicidality, etc.) as well as experiences of discrimination, marginalization and oppression due to racism, the patriarchy, sexism and homophobia. If you’ve experienced any of those potentially traumatic events, please go see a Trauma-Informed Therapist.
2) If you haven’t experienced any of those events OR you have, but are not ready to see a therapist, there are still things that you can do.
- Once you’ve figured out the source of your discontent, really feel it. So often with big feelings, we try to escape them and push them away. But fighting big feelings is like trying to escape quicksand: the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. So if you’re sad about a loss, cry about it. If you’re angry about a betrayal, yell about it. If you’re frustrated about work, vent to a trust co-worker. Really FEEL your feelings; the only way over them is through them.
- Once you’ve really felt your feelings, only then are you able to think about the problem logically. If you try to problem-solve too soon, your emotions will cloud your judgement. But once you’ve gotten some of that emotion out—like opening the spout of a tea kettle—you’ll experience less uncomfortable pressure and more clarity. Now that we’ve got your logical brain back online AND you know how you feel, you can use both sources of information (rationality and emotions), to figure out what you want to DO about it.
- While your solutions should be specific to your particular problem, there are a few things that are always helpful:
Mindfulness: Being in the here and now, using your senses to ground you in the present
Meditation: Taking even just 5–10 minutes a day to sit in silence. If this feels too overwhelming, check out the apps “Calm” and “Insight Timer” for lovely guided meditations
Nutrition: Be mindful of what you put in your mouth: Are you eating and drinking things that nourish your mind, body, and soul? Or, rather, things that make you feel high and then crash? Or things that tank your energy or stress your organs? Eating primarily whole foods and drinking water is imperative to good mental health.
Alone time/Down time: Take more time for yourself. Period. It’s a crazy, chaotic stressful world. It’s essential that our brains and bodies have time to recover from all of that stress and stimulation.
Pleasurable activities: Are you doing at least one thing a week that brings you joy? Something where you get lost in the activity, think of nothing else, experience pleasure while you’re doing it, and you’re not even aware of time passing? It is incredibly important to have at least one of these activities that we engage in regularly. And the more the better!
‘Get outside: Especially in Winter! Being in nature is incredibly healing for our bodies. So even if it’s cold, bundle up and take a walk . . . or sit on a bench . . . or lay on the grass. Anything that gets you in nature for even a short while can give you a boost.
When Your Feelings Are a Symptom of Depression
or Another Mental Health Condition
When your upsetting thoughts, feelings and/or behaviors are around most of the day, or more days than not, and/or are negatively impacting your ability to function (doing the things you need to do), it’s time to seek professional help. Or better yet, go before you can’t function and PREVENT this from happening entirely.
Available for Interviews: Dr. Colleen Cira
Dr. Colleen D. Cira, Psy.D. received both her Masters and Doctorate from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology and has been practicing in the field since 2001. Dr. Cira is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and the Founder and Executive Director of Cira Center for Behavioral Health, PC a boutique group practice with locations in Chicago and Oak Park that specializes in Women’s Issues/Health and Trauma. Dr. Cira is a trauma and anxiety expert, clinical supervisor, writer, speaker, consultant, activist, wife, and Mommy to two little ones.
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