The meaning of life is lost, what’s next? Doctors call a serious imbalance in the biochemical state of our body a state of depression. Imbalances of hormones, neurons, and neurotransmitters are serious conditions that are treated with medication. But it usually starts from lighter conditions, caused by the hard loss or a break up or long lasting stress.
Despite everything that has happened, there are facts that cannot be disputed.
- Your life is important. Just because it is yours and it’s relatively short
- Scientifically proven that the environment affects us no less than genes. So even if you don’t have access to doctors and medicines, you can still help yourself.
- Neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to adapt – can be developed. And it’s not that difficult.
- Believe it or not, all the chemical elements of your body are working to ensure your survival and best life. They work for you. So your task is cooperation
In this article, the School of Women’s Health Dr. Silina explains how a woman can regain her ground and the meaning of life, if it is not a clinical depression. Even during the war.
Regular stress leads to the apathy
Our lives are made up of small things: familiar rituals, stabilizing routines, small joys that now seem really big when we are deprived of them. Coffee from your favorite cup in the morning, visiting your favorite cafe for a cake, chatting with a colleague, meeting friends, eventually blindly finding your way to the toilet at night – all these are rituals that provide maximum energy with the least losses. So if you have been forced to leave home, especially abroad, or have lost someone you loved, and you can’t even think about gatherings with friends in cafes – it’s stress, daily stress, that tends to accumulate and lead to the same condition – loss of the meaning of life.
It is even more difficult for women with children: you have to take care of them despite everything you feel.
How to start your own rescue journey
The first step is to give yourself a break, to accept that you are doing enough just by waking up in the morning. You’re alive, you take care of your family, you read this article – you are already a superhero. The author of the well-known bestseller “You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life“, Jen Sincero reminds us in each of the 27 chapters of the book: “Love yourself.” Even if you consider it obvious and do not understand what it is about at all, just believe and move in the direction of this belief.
In particular, you can:
- Reminding yourself throughout the day how great you are and giving yourself a hug about it (yes, it really works). Praise yourself for all the smallest efforts, even if it’s just breakfast, washing the dishes or a five-minute exercise or a walk – when the support is lost – it’s already a great step.
- In the morning and in the evening find three things you are grateful for to yourself and the universe today. Good weather, safety, the ability to work or, on the contrary, rest, good news, support from loved ones or strangers, or even the fact that you are now left alone. Finding the positive is a skill that definitely increases the level of happiness. When you are grateful, it is difficult to be unhappy.
- Decrease news consumption. You’ve probably heard this advice many times, but bad news is really exhausting. You cannot change the general course of the war, but you still are able to help in the way you can and meet the victory full of energy and strength.
- Take small steps. Feeling better and willing to do a bunch of things at once? Do one thing and listen to yourself. Maybe take a break and rest, do something nice for yourself. This is the “thing” you should never postpone, unlike the rest, which will wait. Pay attention to the charge level of your “battery” more than to the charge of your gadgets.
- Don’t be afraid to say “no” and stop communication that you don’t like or that exhaust you. Consider it a matter of your own survival.
- Use affirmations – their effectiveness is scientifically proven. A joint study by scientists in the United States and Great Britain has demonstrated that self-affirmation improved problem-solving performance in underperforming chronically stressed individuals. Another study by American scientists among college female students who used positive affirmations and thought stopping for six weeks showed a greater decrease in depressive symptoms and negative thinking and a greater increase in self-esteem. The beneficial effects continued over an 18-month follow-up period!
The general rule is this: gradually replace negative thoughts with positive ones, and “I must” with “I want”. It’s like muscles, a positive mindset just needs to be pumped up. As well as the habit of taking care of yourself. Together, this makes us happier and generally more resilient to the stresses that are an integral part of our lives.
As soon as you feel the ground under your feet, it’s time to form good habits that will allow you to create strong foundations for a lifetime.
Find your meaning in pleasant moments
We, women, often forget our own needs for the sake of loved ones and especially children. But paying attention to yourself doesn’t take much time, so fitting things that make you feel good into your schedule doesn’t mean ignoring others. A happy mother/daughter/friend/your option can do more, so those you care about will benefit more from a happy you. And you – even more.
In difficult circumstances we can even forget what our daily joy was about.
“It’s not time to be happy – it’s war”
“It is not time to go to the bitch – people are suffering”
“It’s not time to spend money on yourself – it’s economical crisis”
And so on and so forth. Women feel guilty, as if they really hold not only children and elderly relatives, but also the sky. However, “survivor guilt” – yes, that’s a real medical term – will do no good. Neither you nor your loved ones. Although the research by the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence suggests that survivor guilt usually goes away within a year without special treatment, why wait?
Pleasant things that help to get back the meaning, which you might have forgotten:
- Allow yourself the things that made you happy before: coffee with a cake in a cafe, buying things not related to survival – just for yourself; spend the whole day in a place available to you: whether it is a walk in the park, in the city or in the village, the beach, if you have such an opportunity – this is normal, even so – NORMAL, because our poor women often consider it a betrayal.
- Allow yourself to feel. Maybe sadness or pain of loss is not the most pleasant feeling, but it helps to regain control over life, because you can’t just cancel them. Crying, being angry or sad is normal and comforting. Live them and let go – any of your emotions deserve recognition and acceptance.
- Communicate with loved ones and friends about your life, about supposedly “insignificant” trifles, about everything that concerns you, that was of interest even before everything has gone wrong.
- Recall what you’ve been putting off for the future – like hobbies, meetings, maybe even changing your profession or starting your own blog. Now is the right time for the cool changes.
- Allow yourself to buy what you want, if you have the money, but feel bad to spend them. You deserve it!
- Do what you want at this very moment, make your wish come true here and now. Read, grow flowers, pet a cat or watch a movie. Finally, there are very good reasons for all this.
- Try to help others if you feel you have enough resources. It is not only pleasant, but also rejuvenating. It could be volunteering, listening to those who are in the worst situation, donating blood, sitting with the kids of a friend with many children, or collecting things for refugees. At the same time, simple donations to a fund or volunteers you trust also makes you feel better.
It’s mostly about giving yourself a break again.
But also about sleep, which helps you recover. From seven to nine hours of sleep every day is a norm that you should aim for. However, quite often during times of stress, people face a situation where they wake up at 3 a.m. or another time and can’t fall right back asleep due to disturbing thoughts.
A US study found that a total of 35.5% of the sample reported awakening at least three nights per week. Nocturnal awakenings increased with age only among people with nightly awakenings and were more frequent among women than men only among those awakening every night. More than 90% of subjects reported this problem lasted for more than six months. About 40% of subjects with nocturnal awakenings also reported other insomnia symptoms. A similar study conducted in European countries showed that almost one third of people wake up during the night three or more nights a week.
We cannot do anything about the reasons for our anxiety. However, we can start habits that will help us be more resilient to it.
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.
- Sleep in a comfortable, dark, quiet place. If you may allow this of course, I realize that such an opportunity is not always available. A special night mask can come in handy here.
- Make sure you are sleepy enough and don’t stay in bed for 20 minutes or more if you can’t fall asleep.
- Adopt a routine that helps you relax, such as reading or meditating before bed.
- Turn off your gadgets long before you turn off the lights.
- Exercise during the day, but don’t do it right before bed.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks late in the afternoon.
- Have dinner a few hours before bedtime.
- Check your late night alcohol consumption.
- Quit smoking.
And most importantly, just remember when you suddenly wake up in the middle of the night: you are safe, you exist, and this is a victory. Think about something nice, tell yourself how great you are, or focus on your breathing, it really helps.
Eat to reduce the effects of stress
Certain foods can help reduce cortisol, the main hormone responsible for stress. In particular, it is responsible for fighting inflammation in the body, so consuming products that reduce inflammation will also help with stress. This means less processed food and more whole one.
Foods rich in vitamin B
- Nutritional yeast
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Fish and seafood
- Chia and flax seeds
- Olive oil
Foods rich in magnesium
- Black chocolate
- Pumpkin seeds
Foods rich in protein
- Chicken breast and turkey
- Lean beef
- Fish and other gifts of the sea and river
You’ve got the main point: eat more food in its natural state and with a minimum of processing and add vegetables and fruits, because fiber helps our intestines process it all, and 80% of our immune system depends on it.
On the contrary, some foods increase cortisol levels, including:
- Products with a high sugar content
- Simple carbohydrates such as cakes and pastries
Find new meaning in movement
Sport helps to cope with stress and even give you back your meaning of life. Exercise causes your body to release endorphins, chemicals in the brain that relieve pain and stress. It also reduces the level of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline. Research has shown that 20 to 30 minutes of exercise each day can help you feel calmer.
What’s more, team sports help children who have experienced abuse feel much better when they become adults. And if it helps children in such serious situations, it will definitely come in handy for us.
You don’t have to set Olympic records and even visit the gym. Youtube is full of free workouts for every taste and fitness level. In addition, you can always just walk or run, dance, swim, move in any pleasant and available way for you here and now, the main thing is moving!
Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature has been proven to reduce anger, fear, and stress and increase pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. A great reason to combine movement with the positive influence of the nearest park or a river.
Education not only gives us new information and knowledge that can be useful in solving immediate stressful problems; it also gives us new skills and abilities to deal with or even prevent future stressors. Psychologically, taking time to reflect on what we know and learn new things helps us develop a sense of competence and self-efficacy (a sense of being able to achieve goals and do more). In this way, learning allows us to develop resilience in the face of stressors.
American scientists have analyzed the impact of training and rest on 300 employees. The group that received new knowledge demonstrated better performance and greater ability to cope with stress than those who simply took a break from work and rested.
A new language, an online course on a topic that interests you, or even a diploma in a new specialty – many of these are available for free or for very little money. In addition, many educational resources now offer free opportunities for studying specifically for Ukrainians.
And of course, you can sign up for the course of the School of Women’s Health Dr. Silina that you are interested in, and not only get useful knowledge about your body and health, but also support the Ukrainian army, because we transfer 10% to the needs of the Armed Forces.
Find new meaning in meditation
Numerous studies clearly demonstrate that meditation reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, stabilizes mood and improves the general emotional state. This effect works not only during meditation itself, but throughout the day and helps you sleep better at night. In addition, meditators have a lower heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and oxygen metabolism. What’s more, meditation increases immunity and even improves digestion. I can write a separate article about the positive effect of meditations. There are different kinds of them, certain types include movements, but the point is that it is an effective way to overcome stress, so use it – it’s simple and absolutely free.
Contact a specialist for help
If these steps do not help and you cannot get rid of anxious thoughts or feel constant tension, you have insomnia and problems with appetite (insufficient or excessive), see the whole world in black tones and do not see anything good ahead – do not hesitate and consult a psychotherapist or psychiatrist. Specialists with medical education can really help to return that meaning to your life.
Psychological help does not mean that you are weak, it means that you take care of yourself and strive to live a healthy and joyful life. And you will definitely succeed.
You can always learn more about your health and understand its needs in our courses, which are dedicated to all stages of Women’s life: A girl becomes a woman, All about you. What it’s like to be a Woman, All about you 35+.
You can always find your doctor at the Lior Medical Center.
Issued by Dr. Silina School of Women’s Health, journalist Maria Zavialova
All materials published on the website “Dr. Silina School of Women’s Health” were reviewed by a gynecologist-endocrinologist, the founder of the educational project, candidate of medical sciences, Natalya Silina.