What Is High-Functioning Depression–and Could You Have It?

Here's what to do if you’re missing out on family, friends, or fun because you're blue or fatigued.

To the outside world, you’re a productive citizen. Some might even say you’re highly successful. But when the workday is done, your internal resources are spent. You beg off dinner with friends because the best you can do is plop onto the couch or dive into bed so you’ll be ready to take on tomorrow.

That’s what life is like when you have what’s sometimes called high-functioning depression. You make do, you get by, you appear to be handling things just fine–but you’re suffering inside.

High-functioning depression isn’t a true medical diagnosis; you won’t find it listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of the mental health profession. But it is popping up on treatment center websites and health blogs as a way to characterize people with low mood, low energy, and anxiety, experts say.  Read more from Karen Pallarito in Health Magazine.

 

Why Isn’t There a ‘Gym’ for Mental Health?

by Alexa Meyer

Back in March 2017, I decided I wanted to seek out a therapist in San Francisco. I felt unsure, uneasy, and pretty overwhelmed with the whole process. Was therapy even something I needed? Why was it so hard to find a therapist? Why isn't there just a space I can drop into (like a walk-in clinic) when I feel like talking to someone? I felt incredibly frustrated that there wasn’t dedicated space for mental health so I started my company, Orchid and began to host Mental Health Pop Ups across the country.

The Mental Health Pop Up makes it easier for people who are wondering if therapy is right for them, want to learn to better manage their emotions, or just those who are seeking a quiet space to unwind.

What happens at the Mental Health Pop Up?

  • Try and Find a Therapist - curious about therapy or wondering if it’s right for you? Meet with a therapist to try it out!

  • Group Workshops - improve your mental clarity and decision making in a guided group workshop

  • Tea & Kombucha Lounge - unwind in a relaxing space with unlimited tea, kombucha, and reading material

The next Mental Health Pop Up is on February 7th at WeWork Civic Center. I hope you’ll join us to try therapy, or just attend a workshop and unwind in relaxing space for the day.

Space is limited. Register today with the discount code “2minutemindcheck”.


About Alexa:

 Alexa Meyer

Alexa Meyer

Alexa Meyer is the founder of Orchid - a company that makes it easier for people to try and find a therapist in their city. She also is the creator of the Mental Health Pop Up -- a dedicated space for mental & emotional health where people can try therapy, participate in group workshops, and unwind in quiet space. Alexa was formerly Head of Marketing and Growth at Keen IO, a Sequoia-backed analytics startup, where she took the company through Series A and B. Prior to that she worked to deliver brand strategies for Fortune 500 brands at Interbrand.  She's a proud Canadian currently living in San Francisco. Learn more:

twitter.com/alexakmeyer

https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexandrakmeyer/

Why Depression Is Rampant in our Times

When British journalist Johann Hari was 18 years old, he became so depressed he went to his family physician for treatment to end his despair.  Hari’s new book, "Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions" (Bloomsbury) zeroes in the social change that is needed to restore better relationships on the job, in families and in the neighborhoods we call home. The book is part memoir, part investigative report and part expose of the ways consumers have been hoodwinked into relying on medication to relieve emotional distress.

Hari spoke to AlterNet contributor Eleanor J. Bader via Skype in late January, several days after "Lost Connections" was released. Read the interview in AlterNet.

 

20 Shades of Sadness: Why Do We Get Depressed?

Depression is one of the most common mental disorder in the United States. The statistics collected by the National Institute of Mental Health on depression in the United States are very concerning. In 2016, 6.7 percent of all U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode (16.2 million). If we focus only on teens, the prevalence jumps to 12.8 percent. The rates are even higher in adolescent females, 19.4 percent. In other words, almost one every five female teens have experienced a major depressive episode.

Why do not treatments alleviate the suffering of more people? Is there any way we can increase the success rates of medical and non-medical treatments of depression?

Read this post by Marwa Azab Ph.D. in Psychology Today.

 

Depression, Anxiety Affect More Than One-Fourth of WA State College Students

Nearly one-third of Washington college students have experienced depression in the last year, and more than 10 percent have had thoughts of suicide, according to a new survey of young adults attending schools around the state.

The survey of more than 10,000 students at 13 of Washington’s two- and four-year institutions shows the need for mental health services on campus, advocates say, especially as the state Legislature considers two bills that would fund suicide-prevention resources in higher education and additional mental health counselors for college students who are veterans. It was the first time the Healthy Minds Study was administered to students in Washington.  Read more in UW News.

 

The Real Causes Of Depression Have Been Discovered, And They’re Not What You Think

Writer Johann Hari writes, "Across the Western world today, if you are depressed or anxious and you go to your doctor because you just can’t take it any more, you will likely be told a story. It happened to me when I was a teenager in the 1990s. You feel this way, my doctor said, because your brain isn’t working right. It isn’t producing the necessary chemicals. You need to take drugs, and they will fix your broken brain.

I was startled to discover that many leading scientists believe the whole idea that depression is caused by a “chemically imbalanced” brain is wrong. I learned that there are in fact nine major causes of depression and anxiety that are unfolding all around us. Two are biological, and seven are out in here in the world, rather than sealed away inside our skulls in the way my doctor told me. The causes are all quite different, and they play out to different degrees in the lives of depressed and anxious people. I was even more startled to discover this isn’t some fringe position – the World Health Organization has been warning for years that we need to start dealing with the deeper causes of depression in this way."

Johann Hari is author of Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions.

Read more in the Huffington Post.

10 Questions Your Therapist Wants You to Ask About MDD Treatment

When it comes to treating your major depressive disorder (MDD), you probably already have a lot of questions. But for every question you ask, there’s likely another question or two you may not have considered.

It’s important to remember that the client and therapist construct and direct the psychotherapy process together. Indeed, therapists prefer to use the word “client” rather than “patient” to emphasize the active role of treatment seekers throughout the course of care.

Here’s what a therapist wishes clients who have MDD asked during their sessions.  Read more in Healthline.


Majority Of U.S. Physicians Say They're Burned Out Or Depressed

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. physicians report feeling burned out, depressed – or both – with one in three physicians admitting that their feelings of depression have an impact on how they relate to patients and colleagues, according to the first Medscape National Report on Physician Burnout and Depression.

With more than 15,000 practicing physicians responding across 29 specialties, the majority of physicians reported experiencing burnout (42%), depression (15%) or both (14%), with higher rates reported by women and mid-career physicians. The Medscape report defined burnout as feelings of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion, frustration or cynicism about work, and doubts about one's experience and the value of one's work.

Regarding depression, 12% of physicians said they "feel down," and 3% said they experience serious depression. Recent statistics for the general U.S. population show that 6.7% of adults experience depressive feelings.1  The majority of physicians citing depression in the Medscape report said their work was the cause. In fact, a separate Medscape survey on Physician Lifestyle and Happiness found that most physicians are happy when they aren't working.

The highest rates of burnout were found among family physicians, intensivists, internists, neurologists, and ob-gyns. The lowest rates were among plastic surgeons, dermatologists, pathologists, and ophthalmologists. Burnout rates were higher among women (48% vs. 38% for men) and physicians ages 45-50 (50% vs. 35% for younger physicians and 41% for those ages 55-69.)  

Impact of Burnout, Depression on Patient Care
Research has shown a consistent relationship between higher levels of physician burnout and lower levels of patient safety and quality of care.2

The Medscape Physician Burnout and Depression Report also found that depression affects patient care. One in three depressed physicians said they are more easily exasperated by patients; 32% said they were less engaged with patients; and 29% admitted to being less friendly. Nearly 15% admitted that their depression might cause them to make errors they wouldn't ordinarily make, and 5% linked it to errors they had made that could have harmed a patient.

Even larger numbers of physicians said that depression takes a toll on their relationships with colleagues, with 42% reporting exasperation, another 42% indicating less engagement, and 37% reporting they express their frustrations in front of staff or peers.

"The Medscape Report on Physician Burnout and Depression shows that there is still much to be done to support physicians around these issues," said Leslie Kane, MA, senior director of Medscape's Business of Medicine.  "Physicians are still struggling with the impact of burnout. Additionally, depression among physicians is a concern. Experts are beginning to view both conditions as inter-related, with burnout perhaps being a type of depression that physicians feel more comfortable acknowledging."

Causes of Burnout, and How Physicians Cope
The majority of physicians (56%) said that fewer bureaucratic tasks and fewer hours spent working (39%) would help alleviate burnout. About one-third of physicians said more money and a more manageable work schedule would make a difference.

Most physicians do not seek professional help for either burnout or depression. To cope, about half of all physicians choose healthy strategies, including exercise and talking with family or friends. That said, one-third eat junk food, and one in five drink alcohol or binge eat.

To view the full Medscape National Report on Physician Burnout and Depression, visit:  https://www.medscape.com/2018-lifestyle-burnout-depression

1) Major Depression Among Adults, National Institutes of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adults.shtml
2) Salyers, M.P., Bonfils, K.A., Luther, L. et al. The Relationship Between Professional Burnout and Quality and Safety in Healthcare:  A meta-analysis. J GEN INTERN MED (2017) 32: 475. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-016-3886-9

Medscape Survey Methods:
The 2018 Medscape National Report on Physician Burnout and Depression was completed by 15,543 physicians representing 29 specialty areas, including Medscape members and nonmembers. Respondents were invited to respond to the online survey. The margin of error for the survey was +/- 0.79% at a 95% confidence level.

Mental Health 101: Signs of Anxiety and Depression and What to Do

It’s OK to not be OK. But we want you to be as OK as possible, OK? Part of being OK (besides not saying OK so much) is making your mental health a priority. There are several behavioral shifts that could be an indicator of both anxiety and depression: changes in sleep and/or appetite; increased irritability; muscle tension; general fatigue; and a lack of interest in things you would normally want to do. 

Here's some valuable advice from Temple University.  Read more


Three Things Every Entrepreneur Needs To Remember When Dealing With Depression

Author Chris Myers writes in Forbes:

In the past two weeks alone, I’ve received over ten emails from people around the globe seeking advice for how to deal with the emotional roller coaster that is entrepreneurship.

With that in mind, I thought it might be an appropriate time to share an excerpt from my latest book, “Enlightened Entrepreneurship,” in the hope that it provides solace to fellow entrepreneurs who might be suffering from fear, depression, and anxiety.

Depression is a huge problem among entrepreneurs, and it's time we did something about it. I hope that sharing a few things I’ve learned along my entrepreneurial journey can help others navigate difficult situations as well.  Read More


 It takes 2 minutes.  2minutemindcheck.com

It takes 2 minutes. 2minutemindcheck.com

Every Entrepreneur Should Prioritize This Risk in 2018

Entrepreneurs are at a greater risk for mental health struggles, but many are too busy to recognize the signs.

David Brown, the Founder and co-CEO, of Techstars, recently posted in Inc. Magazine about the higher risks faced by entrepreneurs who are often too busy to recognize signs of depression, anxiety and ADHD.  The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and the 2-Minute Mind Check recently published an Infographic that speaks to Mental Illness in the Workplace. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 US adults (43.8 million or 18.5 percent) -- experience mental illness in a given year.


 From the ADAA and 2-Minute Mind Check.

From the ADAA and 2-Minute Mind Check.

Depression Relief Toolkit: How to Stop Thinking “I Suck!” with Dr. Philippe Goldin

Here at the 2-Minute Mind Check we are grateful to partner with WeWork to host Bay Area events that provide strategies for working with and overcoming symptoms of depression, anxiety, and burnout. In December we hosted Survival Tips for Beating the Holiday Blues with two extraordinary mental health experts; Dr. Elissa Epel, whose talk I summarized in my last post, and Dr. Philippe Goldin, whose depression relief strategies I’ll share with you here.

Dr. Philippe Goldin is many things; an Associate Professor at UC Davis; a clinical psychologist; a cognitive neuroscientist; and — perhaps his toughest job — a Dad. As someone who has had the privilege of getting to know Philippe over the last couple of years, he is most definitely an experimental scientist, or in my terms - a science geek - who makes science accessible and even fun. Science always eluded me in school probably because as a Liberal Arts major, I didn’t fully give it enough attention to understand the appeal. But after hearing Philippe’s talks, I have a much deeper appreciation for the application of science in daily life and to the treatment of depression.

According to Webster’s dictionary, Science is the knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation. In his talk, Dr. Goldin invited us to geek out and become scientists of our own natural world  — the world of our individual body and mind — and to explore how what we think, feel and do contributes to our real world experiences — including the experience of depression.

To begin this paradigm, Philippe encourages us to consider our body and mind as the ultimate research project. Afterall, we wake up every morning and we go to sleep every day with this mind and this bodyWe can’t trade it in or divorce it. We can have the most amazing job, home, relationships, friendships etc., but our relationship with our mind and our body is our longest, and ideally best relationship. As such, it makes sense that the quality, ease, acceptance and self-compassion we bring to the relationship with ourselves is essential. We’re in it for no less than a lifetime. Hence it’s time to become intimate with how our own mind/body works!

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Yet, few of us received a user’s manual at birth for how to best work with our mind/body, and it can be especially difficult if we have mental health opportunities. So, how do we do it?

One of Philippe’s mentors from South Africa taught him to always state the obvious, so Philippe did just that:

If we want to change our mind from a mind of angst, pain, confusion, and self-doubt to a mind that’s innovative, awake and brilliant, we have to modify our current beliefs about ourselves. And, thanks to neuroplasticity, science shows us empirically that we can change our minds and neural connections, even if our minds are prone to depression. Phew! The user’s guide exists! Below are five helpful points for your own personal user’s guide that I picked up from Dr. Goldin’s talk.

ONE: Understand your negative self-beliefs and how they show up in your body.

It might be a relief to know that you’re not alone if you sometimes think not-so-kind thoughts about yourself. Even the most confident, and accomplished person can harbor negative self-beliefs and most of the time it’s some version of this: I’m not worthy of love, I’m innately flawed, I must not make a mistake or fail, I’m not good enough, etc. etc. As Dr. Goldin said, “We all live in the waterfall of negative self-beliefs.”

There are some people — I’ll call them the Teflon breed — who can quickly let this cascade of negativity slide off of them. However, as Dr. Goldin explained, there’s a cognitive triad of distorted thinking in depressed people that goes something like this:

  • I suck!

  • The world sucks!

  • The future sucks!

Yuck! These thoughts then create emotions that manifest in specific ways in the body, which is oddly a good thing. The body is a continuous sensor and if we don’t catch the thought in our head before it spirals us down, we can turn to our body — as a scientist — to illustrate how our thinking makes us feel.

Dr. Goldin gave us a chance to practice what thoughts feel like in our body. I invite you to try it out:

First, shift your attention to your body. Simply notice your chest for example. Now, bring up the thought, “I’m not good enough.” Take a moment to let the thought sink in. Now, notice the resonating impact of this negative self-belief in your body and in your chest specifically.

When doing this exercise, I noticed that my chest collapsed inward a bit, and my shoulders followed, emulating the body language that goes alongside, “I’m not good enough.”

Next, think of a moment when someone fell in love with you, or wanted to be close to you. Or, think of an unconditional loving dog who just wants to be near you. How does that feel in your body? I noticed that the emotion of feeling love opened up my body, creating a sense of lightness and ease.

As a scientist of our own experience, this is pretty cool isn’t it? We can see the direct impact of our mind on our body.

Dr. Goldin reminded us that in the context of threat, real or imagined, the brain can spin super fast. In milliseconds, a whole set of brain functioning happens before it’s even conscious to us, and our affective state has shifted from neutral to fear, anxiety, worry, jealousy, even love or awe. This in turn sends a bunch of signals to the regulatory systems impacting our cognitive control and attention regulation which then sends signals for us to respond.

This all happens so fast that, if we’re not practiced in emotion regulation (one of Philippe’s specialties), we can inadvertently have bursts of thoughts, emotions and bodily responses that contribute to a downward spiral. Early research shows that most people have a 5:1 ratio of negative to positive thoughts. So, it’s not hard to see that over time, these same negative neurons fire together, and voila — depression, anxiety, I suck, the world sucks, the future sucks!

 

TWO: Recognize that the mind is sticky - and it’s not your fault!

Science also shows us that the mind is sticky and it will catch and hang onto negative beliefs like a Venus Flytrap catches a fly for consumption — and by the way, those negative thoughts are about as tasty as the fly. Whether it’s stress, anxiety, social pain, or physical pain, we can become more vulnerable to a sticky negative self-concepts when we’re under duress. Dr. Goldin shared that our sticky thinking becomes even stickier when we believe the three P’s:

  1. Personal — It’s about me. It MUST be about me.

  2. Permanent — It will always be this way! I will always be not good enough, young enough, etc.

  3. Pervasive — It’s in every part of my life! Generalizing, like I always do…  

When we strengthen our negative thoughts via the 3P’s, the neural pathways that handle attention, emotion, self-views, emotional reactivity, get stuck like a key trying to turn in a clogged-up lock. Let me say that again - our neural pathways get stuck! This is rumination my friends, and it’s a huge part of depression. At some point, we need to recognize that those negative thoughts are gunking up our neural connections; exacerbating the issues that ignited them; have no valuable return on our investment of time and energy. And, then we need some tools to unstick the mind.

Turning the page in our user’s guide, this is where Dr. Goldin invites us to apply Mental WD-40!

 

THREE: Apply Mental WD-40 to unstick the mind

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So, how can we change the mind from one that grabs and hangs onto these unproductive thoughts to a mind that is more flexible and performing optimally? The answers are in proven technologies that have been well-researched by scientists like Philippe and his colleagues and predecessors for decades and longer. These technologies include psychotherapy, Cognitive Based Therapy (CBT), Behavioral Activation Therapy (BAT), Mindfulness, exercise, yoga, proper nutrition, sunlight, social connection and many more. These tools represent the WD-40 of mental health treatment and by “spraying them” onto our lives regularly, they loosen up the grit of our thinking just enough for the master key to unlock the wellbeing of our mind.

When things are not going well, when we have hyper-emotional reactivity, etc., it’s easy to spiral down to anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation (which is a fatal strategy to get the pain to stop.) But, when we apply Mental WD-40, it loosens up some of the over-learned habits of our neural pathways, just enough to be able to take a different perspective on life, and ultimately to reduce our suffering and optimize our performance.

So the formula looks like this:

Negative Self Beliefs + Mental WD-40 = psychological flexibility

The effect of mind/body practices is miraculous really. It shows us that the way we relate to and talk to ourselves is not as permanent as we may think, and not as elusive. These processes are all neural networks that we can explore and change. We can actively increase or decrease certain elements of our experiences in the brain. So cool!

The goal in all of this, of course, is to unstick the mind, to become a master of emotions, at ease, able to use emotions — like bodily sensations — to notice how you’re doing, how you feel with other people, how you feel with yourself. With Mental WD-40, you become a Jedi Master of your life.

So, now you’re a scientist AND a Jedi Master! What’s next? 

 

FOUR: Customize your Mental WD-40 blend:

Everyone is different - thank goodness! So that means that my blend of Mental WD-40 may not be the same blend for you.

For example, let’s think back to the Teflon people. Their Mental WD-40 is working great! They are resilient. They see all these negative thoughts and don’t get stressed out. They say to themselves, “This is just neurons firing. Why would I get upset with neurons?” They can intellectually visualize the self-talk language networks and recognize that it’s just a biological function and it doesn’t mean anything.

Others wake up and almost every single breath is bombarded by negative self-talk and beliefs. That is HELL! Some people live in that hell. I’ve lived in that hell. And, what has helped me the most — my Mental WD-40 — is a mindfulness meditation practice where I sit and neutrally observe my thoughts, like a scientist. Meditation does not relieve thoughts, by the way. But, it modifies the stickiness and reactivity patterns that create the grit that makes the lock sticky. It’s taken me lots of practice to get to the place where I recognize that my thoughts don’t actually mean anything. And, sometimes, if the mind is really out of control, meditation will not suffice. I need to exercise, like hiking or yoga, to stop the rumination, get out of my mind and into my body.

Each of us has to figure out what works best for us. Each of us has to do our own inner research to learn which tools are right to unstick the mind. What is your personal Mental WD-40 formulation?

 

FIVE: Practice what works for you until it becomes a habit

As a scientist, and a Jedi, it’s now up to you to decide what works in the research lab of your mind and body. And, as the saying goes, the best practice for you is the one you do!

A good place to start is by looking up two practices that Philippe lead us in. One is called Focused Attention, where you simply learn to focus attention with gentle intensity on an object in a sustained manner. If your attention drifts, notice where it goes and gently bring it back to the sensations of your breath, the inhale and the exhale. The second practice is called Open Monitoring, which includes monitoring the ebb and flow of experiences from moment to moment in order to recognize patterns in the stream of thoughts, emotions, images, and sensation. In this practice, you simply notice where your mind goes. Notice the thoughts, feelings, sounds sensations. Notice that there’s nothing to hang on to and nothing to push away. It’s best to do these practices with a neutral and curious mind.

The beauty of these two simple practices is that we learn that we can indeed direct our brain, and that’s incredibly empowering.

But, if meditation isn’t your thing, there are thousands of methods to train your mind and cultivate the qualities of insight, wisdom and compassion. Here are some that might resonate:

  • Open your 5 senses. Go outside and feel the cool breeze on your face, smell the fresh air, or feel the water when washing your hands or the dishes.
  • Yoga, walking, running, biking, climbing are all great practices that with intention, elicit a concentrated state. Physical activity changes not only the body, but rumination patterns.
  • Breathing methods: many yogic breathing activities change the brain pathways and turn on the parasympathetic nervous system.
  • Consistent sleep and proper nutrition and supplementation can become a “practice” of self-care that physically supports a healthy brain.
  • Schedule time with support systems, people you feel good about, people who “wag” a bit when they see you.
  • Stay away from people and activities that inevitably elicit the cascade of negative thinking such as the news, or social media which can elicit comparative narratives that aren’t helpful.

As mentioned, it’s essential that you practice what works for you regularly until it becomes a habit. You can’t use these technologies once and expect your brain to miraculously change its well-grooved patterning. But, the good news is, it doesn’t take that long for the Mental WD-40 to start working. Research has shown that just 2 weeks of meditation changes the grey matter in the brain, ensuring less moments of “I suck” and more moments of “I rock!”

As someone who has functioned well in life despite many episodes of depression, it’s a gift to hear speakers like Dr. Philippe Goldin and Dr. Epel, as they provide me additional tools for working with my relentless brain! I hope this summary gives you similar gifts for becoming a scientist in the research lab of your own beautiful mind and body.

 

P.S. You can review Dr. Elissa Epel’s powerful Stress Resilience Toolkit here. And, you can complete a confidential depression self-assessment as well as access more helpful blogs and free depression resources at 2-Minute Mind Check.

 

About the author:

emily hine.jpeg

Emily Hine is a social entrepreneur who serves as Vice President, Business Development for Meru Health, a digital therapeutics company for depression. Emily spent many years in Corporate Philanthropy at Microsoft, and over the course of her career has raised over $150 million for nonprofits worldwide. After 9/11, Emily quit her job at Microsoft in order to increase compassion and reduce suffering in the world. This commitment led her to work with Global Luminaries such as The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Emily is a Certified Mindfulness and Compassion Teacher from Stanford University. And, she is an inspirational speaker and writer at Holy Sit.

Pop Up Therapy + Mental Health Workshops

Join Us @ WeWork

on February 7th 2pm - 8pm

1 in 5 Americans struggle with a mental health issue, yet only 39% seek out help. We want to make it easier for everyone struggling with everyday emotional challenges like stress, anxiety, symptoms of depression to access the resources and tools to help them live mentally and emotionally better lives.

Join us at WeWork Civic Center on February 7th for a Mental Health Pop Up where you’ll be able to:

  • Try out 1-on-1 therapy with a licensed therapist

  • Learn how to improve your focus and manage your emotions during times of stress via group workshops

  • Unwind and get quiet work done in our zen tea lounge

 

Should I attend?

Have you been curious about trying therapy, looking for a therapist, or just wondering if it’s right you? Come out to the pop up to give therapy a try. Want to learn more about how to better manage your emotions in times of stress? We’ll have licensed therapists from the Bay Area, expert workshop facilitators, and plenty of tea and quiet space to unwind and relax.

Light food and tea will be available.

Hosted by WeWork, 2-Minute Mind Check and Orchid.

The 2-Minute Mind Check: a community initiative of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (SF), WeWork, and Meru Health.  With support from the Mental Health Association of San Francisco and Health Technology Forum.

Depression in the Workplace - Infographic

Statistics on Depression:

  • Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.; more than 16 million people suffer from it annually.
  • For many people depression is a terminal illness and causes over 44,000 suicides in the U.S. every year.
  • In addition to causing great suffering to individuals and families, depression causes $210B in annual economic loss in the U.S.
  • 30% of entrepreneurs report experiences of depression in their lives.

CREDIT: Anxiety and Depression Association of America and 2-Minute Mind Check.

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Why Millennial Leaders Are Depressed And How to Fix That

According to Forbes, Millennials report suffering more than previous generations, and it’s impacting their abilities to lead and succeed in the workplace. Depression is a leading cause of both absenteeism and presenteeism. Absenteeism alone causes 23 billion dollars in lost productivity each year. Beyond finances, what makes the situation so grave is that 45% of mental health cases aren’t treatedRead more in this article by Kimberly Fries which offers strategies that can help to mitigate the impacts of depression on millennial leaders and the businesses and people who rely on them.

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The 4 Types of New Year's Resolutions and Why We Need Them

For a happy and fulfilling 2018, include all of these resolution categories.

December is a time when many people make a list of goals and resolutions about what they will do better next year. Most New Year's goals fall into one of four categories:

1) Self-care
2) Give more
3) Accomplish more
4) Enjoy more

If you want to maximize both your short-term joy and your long-term sense of having a meaningful life, you want to make sure to move your life in a direction where you have a nice balance of all four categories.  Read more in Psychology Today.

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Stress Resilience Toolkit: 6 Practices for Preventing Depression with Dr. Elissa Epel

On December 13th, the 2-Minute Mind Check hosted an important event at WeWork on Survival Tips for Beating the Holiday Blues featuring renowned mental health experts Elissa Epel, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, at UCSF, and Philippe Goldin, Ph.D., Associate Professor at UC Davis & Clinical Neuroscientist. As one of many high-functioning, high-tech depressed people, I had the extreme honor of moderating this insightful talk.

As we all know, depression affects 16 million Americans and 75% of adults report experiencing moderate to high levels of stress on an ongoing basis. Both stress and depression can be particularly brutal during the Holiday Season and can take a great toll on our minds and bodies. In this blog, I’ll share a few key takeaways from Dr. Elissa Epel that might be helpful for you during this season. In my next blog post, I’ll share more tools for depression relief from Dr. Philippe Golden.

                      Dr. Elissa Epel

                     Dr. Elissa Epel

Dr. Elissa Epel is a health psychologist focusing on stress pathways and stress resilience. She shared that we’re more likely to get depressed after a period of certain kinds of stress, especially social stress. To that end, it’s important to weed out relationships that make us feel badly about ourselves, and instead, surround ourselves with supportive allies. Since we can’t control stressful events that happen to us, we want to focus instead on our response to life’s inevitable curveballs. Bring on stress resilience! Building stress resilience requires a few things: a) understanding the mind; b) understanding how we respond to stress mentally and biologically; and c) learning how to work with our minds so that we respond to stress in ways that enhance our mental and physical health.

What is stress exactly and why does it go on and on and on??  Stress is a natural response to a life event. Biologically, we actually need the cortisol and body responses that naturally occur in order to help us respond appropriately to given situations. HOWEVER, as humans, we tend to prolong the stress response with our thinking (see #1 above - understanding the mind.) We project things before they happen, and we worry about things that never happen. Often, after a peak stress event, we’re still thinking about it ala rumination causing stress to live on in the body longer than it needs to. With rumination, these sneaky thoughts disguise themselves as addictive “problem solving”, when in actuality they are simply keeping the stress alive in our minds and bodies. Clearly, this rumination takes us out of the present moment in our lives, making it hard to meaningfully connect with others. And prolonged stress simply isn’t good for us. In fact, it can lead to disease - such as depression - not to mention premature aging, and lower quality of life.

So, how can we foster a healthier stress response? Instead of chronic unease and vigilance, imagine feeling low anxiety. Then, only when we need to deal with an active challenge, we activate a burst of a stress response to give us the energy to cope with the challenge, followed by a quick recovery to a more relaxed baseline! According to Dr. Epel, that is the picture of a resilient emotional and physiological stress response. And, because we’re smart human beings, we can learn to build that!

Luckily, Dr. Epel gave us a helpful Stress Resilient Toolkit with six specific practices that support both the body AND mind.

Body Up Bolsters! Depression and chronic stress wear on our circadian rhythm (energy and sleep patterns), setting us up for further depression and illness. We can build our “reserve capacity” with these protective practices:

   1. Establish Daily Rhythms: Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day budgeting for at least 7 hours of sleep.  

        WIND DOWN GENTLY: Develop a bedtime wind down ritual to support maximum rest and restoration. If applicable, have your partner do this with you. We need this more than ever now that we have stimulation from screens (and blue light) during the time we need melatonin.  

        WIND UP WITH JOY:  The first thing you do in the morning really matters! Waking up anticipating negative things gives a jolt to our cortisol. Therefore, instead of reaching for your phone, or watching the news, take a few minutes to set yourself up for a positive mindset and trajectory for the day. Use the first precious waking moments to think of positive things — things you are grateful for, or something you are looking forward to. Elissa’s research has found that positive waking states relate to healthier cortisol and anti-aging profiles.

   2. Build a Mind-Body Habit: Adopt a mind-body ritual to give the body a restorative break. This is missing from most people’s routines and it is especially important for those of us prone to depression. Try Yoga, Tai-Chi, Qi Gong, Mantra or Mindfulness Meditation, breathing exercises or really any body-mind practice that suits you. They are different, so try some on, but they have the same fundamental effects on our breathing, physiology and mind.  Even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes a day, it will help.

   3. Regular Exercise: Sometimes called nature’s antidepressant, depression can both prevent and treat depression. If you’re at risk of depression, any type of exercise will help, it just requires that you do it. So find something you enjoy, and if it helps you stay consistent, find an accountability exercise partner!

The second essential item in the Stress Resilient Toolkit is practices for the mind.

Mind the Gap! There are valuable moments that occur between the stressor, any negative event, or even negative thought, and our response to that event or thought. That moment — the GAP — is where we can be empowered to respond in a way that supports our best mental health. We must be paying attention to our mind to notice and use the gap.

    4. Label the Stressful Emotion: Simply noticing and naming emotions as they pass reduces their negative impact.  

    5. Cultivate Distance and Perspective: There are many ways to gain distance from painful thoughts and emotions.  For example, when you are in the thick of it, take a few breaths and ask yourself, realistically, will this situation really impact your life in one year? In one month? Usually the answer is no!

    6. Take a Mindful Minute:  When we are prone to depression, our negative thoughts and feelings stick together, spiraling us into sadness or anxiety.  We can break this network up with an attentional exercise. Dr. Epel offered a short practice to support our effort in minding the gap, the three minute breathing break. You can download her recorded version of this practice, from “Mind Body Tips” on her book website.  

Since we’re talking specifically about depression prevention, it might help to keep an eye out for stressors that can specifically lead to depression. There are many intense stressors that can lead to depression, for example loss — such as the loss of resources, jobs, relationships etc. As it turns out, social and interpersonal stress affect us even more than work-related stress. The toughest issues are those that cause us to feel rejection, social shame, humiliation, or embarrassment. These are the stressors we really need to monitor carefully. And, they can run rampant during the holidays when we’re put into many social situations, especially with family members who can unconsciously trigger high (and often historic) stress in our nervous systems. I remember hearing famous Buddhist Meditation Teacher, Jack Kornfield remark that there’s a reason it’s called the “Nuclear Family!” Holidays can create the conditions for a nuclear emotional event! But, now that you know you have agency in your response to those events, you can use Dr. Epel’s Stress Resilient Toolkit to cultivate a successful, nurturing, and even joyful Holiday Season.

We’re incredibly grateful to Dr. Elissa Epel for volunteering her time to share her expertise and wisdom with us! Many of the tips she shared during the presentation are in her book, The Telomere Effect: A Revoutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer.  Dr. Epel is the director of the Aging, Metabolism, Emotions Center (AME), and she has generously put the stress chapter of her book, along with the distancing exercises and others for free on her AME website. Her current newsletter conveniently includes links to two of her upcoming retreats at the new Multiversity in Santa Cruz, focused on building these stress resilience skills, as well as a link to the website resources. If you can make the time, retreats have been extensively researched and are powerful ways to reduce levels of stress and depression and learn new skills.

Again, a huge thanks to Dr. Epel for sharing her brilliance with us. Stay tuned for the next blog with Depression Relief tools offered by associate professor at UC Davis, Philippe Golden, PhD.

Until then, I wish you a resilient and peaceful Holiday Season filled with self-love, acceptance, care and nurturing.

P.S. Don’t forget that you can check out more helpful blogs, as well as free depression tools and resources here at 2-Minute Mind Check.

About the author:

Emily Hine is a social entrepreneur who serves as Vice President, Business Development for Meru Health, a digital therapeutics company for depression. Emily spent many years in Corporate Philanthropy at Microsoft, and over the course of her career has raised over $150 million for nonprofits worldwide. After 9/11, Emily quit her job at Microsoft in order to increase compassion and reduce suffering in the world. This commitment led her to work with Global Luminaries such as The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Emily is a Certified Mindfulness and Compassion Teacher from Stanford University. And, she is an inspirational speaker and writer at Holy Sit.

Most Depressed Adults in the U.S. Remain Untreated

Scientific American magazine ...A Reuters Health reports indicates that only 28.7% of those who screened positive for depression received any treatment during the survey year

About 1 in 12 adults (8.4%) screened positive for depression, but the prevalence varied widely from 18% among adults in the lowest income group to 3.7% in the highest income group.

Only 28.7% of those who screened positive for depression received any depression treatment during the survey year, although 78.5% of those with screen-positive depression who received no depression treatment made at least one medical visit during that time, according to the August 29th JAMA Internal Medicine online report.  Read more in Scientific American.

 Visit: 2minutemindcheck.com

Visit: 2minutemindcheck.com

Depression: 7 Powerful Tips to Help You Overcome Bad Moods

There is no health without mental health.  In the past decade, depression rates have escalated, and one in four Americans will suffer from major depression at one time in their lives.   While there is no quick fix or one-size-fits-all for overcoming depression, the following tips can help you manage depression so it does not manage you.  Read this post from Psychology Today.

 

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Source: pixabay.com