Anxiety and depression are not all that different. They are on a continuum of negative thinking and any given person can express either, at any given time, depending on what they are going through. So what is the main difference?
Anxiety is negative thinking focused on the future. People who struggle with anxiety suffer from the following thoughts:
“It won’t work out.”
“I won’t be good enough.”
“I will fail.”
“No one will like me.”
Depression is negative thinking about the past. People who struggle with depression are constantly looking in the rearview mirror and struggle with thoughts such as:
“I shouldn’t have done that.”
“I shouldn’t have said that.”
“That was the worst mistake I’ve ever made.”
“It’s never worked out.”
So instead of getting hung up on the definitions (anxiety or depression) it is much simpler to look at negative thinking on a continuum and see it for what it is: negative thinking. The good news is that negative thinking can be changed. The bad news is that old habits are hard to break.
I often tell patients that I’m just asking them to change 10% of what they do. They don’t need a complete overhaul but if they just change one thing they do each day, their whole life can change. For many patients it’s using Headspace the first thing in the morning and for others it’s doing Square Breathing before they walk into class each day. Other kids use affirmation cards and some kids are even willing to set a timer on their phone every hour in the evenings to check in with their bodies to observe – where they feel tension, what thoughts are running through their mind, how they feel.
In this New Year of changing habits and making resolutions, it’s a great time to think about what things each of us can do to make that 10% difference. For me, it is becoming more aware of my thoughts and how those thoughts change my mood in an instant. This year I’m focused on noticing, observing and choosing to see things in a new way. Less rigid. More open. For others, it may be drinking one less cup of coffee, getting into bed 30 minutes earlier or reading a book instead of cruising social media. What will be your 10% change this year? Include your kids on this one and see if you can see benefits for the whole family.
Hope you’ve had the warmest of holidays and best to all of you in 2019.