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    10 Ways to Become Mentally Strong

    To me has mental strength always been something genetically inherited. Something you either possess, or you don’t. Recently however, I discovered that’s not the case at all. Mental toughness and resilience is something you can actively work on and improve.

    I’ve always accepted that I’m mentally not very strong. Told myself it’s almost like a trait of mine, that I’m born that way. Since I was a child I’d often quickly break down if things didn’t go my way or give up if I deemed something too difficult and I just accepted it that way. Probably because it’s what I’ve always known. How could I know anything different?

    Last month I initiated a 30-day ab challenge as a way to incorporate more physical activity in my life. It’s basically abdominal exercises that starts off fairly easy in the first days and gradually gets harder as the month progresses. I made it about halfway before I started to feel like it got too difficult. On day nineteen I no longer even tried. The endurance, the fighting spirit, wasnt there. I made a mistake from the get-go. As I thought of myself as weak, it was “OK” to back out if it got tough. That way I wasn’t even aiming at doing the whole month when I started, which negatively affected my success.

    That my mind, or me as a whole, is weaker than others is a belief that has limited me for as long as I can remember. I’m almost angry with myself now as I realize how I just adopted that mind-set without giving it as much as a second thought. To me, that was just the way things were back then.

    Your mental strength matters more than you may think. Being intelligent is helpful in all its glory, but to really succeed in life it’s not enough to just be intelligent. You need to be resilient, not give up and keep fighting, especially when things get rough. That’s how you reach success. It’s a part of life to have your mental toughness tested again and again. We all go through it. Whether it’s losing your job, a loved one or a business. You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you react, and act to it. We all need to play the cards we’ve been dealt in life and do it the smartest way we can.

    Building mental muscle is key to perseverance, grit, delayed gratification and self-discipline. All the ingredients to become the best version of yourself- both mentally and physically.

    So what can we do about it?

    These are 10 tips to try out to help improve your mental strength:

    1. Do at least one challenging thing every week
    Aim at doing at least one thing each week to force youself out of your comfort zone. Join a photography class, get a gym membership, or for somebody with social anxiety as myself it can be something as simple as asking a shop clerk for help while out shopping. Facing fears head-on will help you build resilience and chip away at your self-limiting beliefs. It can change the way you view yourself in many ways.

    2. Write a gratitude journal
    Studies link gratitude to multiple benefits. All from better sleep to reduced psychological distress. Writing down three things you are grateful for each day will change the way you see the world. It will help you focus on the positive instead of the negative. It only takes a couple of minute each day but is a sufficient way to increase your mental strength.

    3. Spend at least 15 minutes each day meditating
    Get some time to quietly reflect on your progress and think about what you can do better. A few minutes a day to recharge your batteries will help you gain the clarity you need to renew your motivation and in the end, reach your goals.

    4. Develop a kinder inner-dialogue
    Those inner conversations you have with yourself impact the way you feel about yourself and how you behave. Harsh self-criticism will only hold you back. Commit to talk to yourself the same way you’d talk to a loved one and you’ll discover hidden potential you didn’t even knew existed within you.

    5. Take better care of your physical health
    In order for your mind to operate at its best you’ll need to fuel it with sleep, healthy food and exercise. It’s not about looking good in a bathing suit though. Instead aim for building a healthy body so that you can enjoy a healthier, stronger mind.

    6. Become more aware of your feelings
    Most adults are more comfortable sharing certain feelings over others. Being happy or angry are usually easier to own up to than feeling scared or sad. Your emotions play a huge role in every decision you make so decide to become better connected to them. Label your emotions and spend some time thinking about how they influence your behaviour and the way you think.

    7. Set a timeline for your dreams
    All of us got dreams we’d like to do, or achieve, “someday”. It can be all from wanting to write a book to launch a business (for me it was to start a blog!). If you really want to turn your dreams into goals you’ll need to sit down and create a realistic timeline for yourself. You may not be able to start straight away but that doesn’t keep you from researching and learning more about your dreams now. Right?

    8. Spend more time with friends and family
    It’s easy to become so caught up in everyday life that you forget to set aside time for your family and friends. However, studies show that it’s crucial for your well-being to spend time with loved ones. Spending time with the important people in your life should be a priority. If you’re like me and have most of family and friends on a distance, at least try to get out and socialize and meet new people.

    9. Create a life that is in line with your values
    Maybe you value caring for the environment, or to give back to the community and that’s great. It’s one thing to say you value something though, and actually live accordingly to those values. Do an evaluation. Where do you devote your time and energy? Is it in line with your values? If not, you may want to make a shift in your lifestyle to ensure they are. It is essential to your mental health that you live accordingly to your values.

    10. Give up a bad habit
    Letting a bad habit go can help you work smarter rather than harder. Instead of committing to eating more vegetables, say you’ll give up that bag of chips you eat every day.

    Be sure to not overwhelm yourself. Don’t tackle too many changes at once. It’s better to start with one thing and once you’ve turned that into a daily habit you can start working on the next thing. I’m not quite there either myself. In fact, I’ve just begun this journey of self-discovery. What about you? Do you have anything to add to the list?

    With love,

    Kristina

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    Limiting beliefs: How do I overcome them?


    I am my own worst enemy at times. This is true for many of us, though. Our minds are telling us we can’t, when in reality we’re capable of much more than we think.

    Since I was a child have I always been plagued with feelings of inadequacy, of not being good enough, and have thus subconsciously downplayed every good thing I did, or skill I possess. People often tell me that I got a talent with languages, that I’m a bit of a word-smith and I need to continue nurture that. Deep down I know they are right. Still, starting up this blog was extremely difficult for me. I doubted my ability to write good content, of my skills to successfully deliver what I wanted to say in ways people understand and find it interesting. I’m not a native English speaker and the idea of people who are natives, and therefore better at English than me, reading this is terribly intimidating. To the point I’ve yet to properly promote my blog.

    This has been a re-current pattern throughout my life. Sometimes it’s almost as if I’ve purposefully downplay myself in times of self-doubt as I’d rather positively surprise people than disappoint them. It’s come to be a big hinderance in my life, though. Finding a job has been next to impossible as I constantly limit myself in my mind telling myself I’d be wasting a potential employer’s time with nonsense. I’m not contributing with anything new, everybody can do what I do. I am not wanted.

    It’s very much a self-fulfilling prophecy. Allowing my mind to control me ultimately limits my life in all facets of it as I keep “proving” to myself I was right, but only because I didn’t try in the first place. I’m battling with my mind every day to not give in to any limiting beliefs of mine. I know I need to embrace the talents I got and to continue working on my fears to ensure they aren’t limiting me when it comes to what I want to do and eventually, who I want to become. The only person holding me back is me.

    The most challenging aspect is that these beliefs are usually imbedded deep within our subconscious. Its hidden nature hinders us from noticing it’s presence, and to see just much how it affect us. One of my most self-harming beliefs throughout the years has been that as an introvert in a world made for extroverts I’m doomed. The knowledge I got, the things I’m good at and actually enjoy doing aren’t things I could make a living out of. Therefore I never even tried. Almost every job ad I’ve looked at had me thinking I’m not cut out for it so I never even bothered applying. There’s definitely a dangerous pattern to see there. I wanted to start this blog, but thought I’m not original enough. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of other blogs just like mine. I’ll just look foolish for trying. I almost didn’t start.

    Almost is the keyword.

    I did it.

    Most, if not all of us got beliefs that limit us in some way, to a certain extent. Some of the most common beliefs that get in the way of our daily lives are:

    • I can’t trust people because I’ve been betrayed before…
    • It would be better to stick with what is the easiest rather than to challenge myself at work.
    • I can’t pursue my dreams because I don’t know what I’d do if I fail…
    • I can’t do X because of Y…
    • I’m not very smart (or pretty, or interesting, or funny).
    • My brother (or sister) is the successful one.
    • I am not worthy of being loved
    • Not being good enough
    • I’m not cut out for that job.
    • That activity is really more of a guy thing (or a girl thing).
    • Men (or women) are liars and they will always be unfaithful to me.
    • Relationships always end in heartbreak.

     

    In order to find any limiting beliefs of yours you’ll need to pay close attention to the less-than-desirable patterns. Is there anything you’ve seen repeating in your life? Something that have kept you feeling stuck, small, and lonely. Limiting beliefs can indeed create those miserable realities we’re all hoping to avoid.

    The first step is to acknowledge you got them, and that’s a big feat in itself. It means you can choose to change what it is that is limiting you. You got control of this. Maybe it doesn’t feel that way, and yes, it’s hard to change something that is in your subconscious but it’s not impossible. Replace those limiting, negative beliefs with new ones that strengthen and empowers you. What many people don’t realize is that most of the beliefs we got about the world aren’t true “out there”. They are true because we decided they are. They are formed through repeated thoughts and the only reason why they carry such heavy weight is because you’ve decided to agree that it is that way. Turn it around. You can do it.

    1. Firstly, stop identifying with the beliefs. If we identify with them we allow ourselves to be defined by them, too. If you view yourself as uncreative, you will see yourself as somebody who wasn’t born with the ability to create. You’ll stop yourself from even trying to be creative because you assume you simply can’t do it. It’s very easy to get caught up in our beliefs and allow them to define us, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Stop identifying with, or define yourself based upon what you perceive to be true.

    2. Get rid of your conclusions. You may think you know something to be a certain way but chances are that things aren’t as fixed as you may think. The requirements are likely more negotiable and if you look closer at any problem you will usually find a solution in the end. Question all the conclusions you’ve previously had about what you believe to be true, whether fixed or possible.

    3. Put the assumptions you got to the test. Just questioning these assumptions isn’t going to be enough. You’ll need to push boundaries and put them to the test. You’ll need to do something to break the pattern of your limiting beliefs, take action to make sure you’re moving forward and isn’t just staying in your head about it. If you’ve previously thought yourself too anti-social to go an event with colleagues after work, put it to the test. Challenge it.

    It may sound easy at first glance, but you’ll need to take time to really cultivate it and make sure you’re not falling back in your old ways of thinking.

    Now what are some of the limiting beliefs you are struggling with? Do leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

    With love,

    Kristina

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    Self-care: What about your living habits?

    My first step of recovery included taking a long, close look at my own habits and start to actually take care of myself. Everything from your general lifestyle to social relationships and recreational activities influence your mental wellbeing, and there are ways for you to influence and boost it.

    When I initially set out on this journey of self-betterment at the beginning of the year my habits were terrible to put it mildly. I’d sit up the majority of the night, sleep about 3-4 hours before my son woke me in the early morning, and repeat. I was constantly exhausted and stuffed myself with sugar and caffeine in order to cope, and of course, my energy levels quickly crashed again after a brief high. As I started to change my sleeping schedule, sorted out my diet and tried to make sure to keep myself hydrated throughout the day I almost immediately noticed a difference in my wellbeing.

    1. Hydrate
    This was a big one for me. I used to be extremely dehydrated. I didn’t really feel thirsty so I never even gave it much thought. So please, don’t let that fool you. You don’t have to feel thirsty to be dehydrated. What I did is that I purchased a water bottle to carry around with me throughout the day. That way I can keep track of how much I drink, and I always have easy access to water. I also noticed that once my body started to get adjusted to drinking more, I also started to feel thirst regularly. It was as if my body had supressed thirst until I reminded it.

    2. Sleep enough
    I can’t stress this one enough. Sleep boosts your mental health. Research even shows that long-term sleep loss can cause depressive symptoms to increase. Set a bedtime and commit to it. Wind down about an hour beforehand by switching off your electronics, maybe drink some camomile tea and read, journal or do something that relaxes you.

    3. Eat well
    Our bodies cannot function without food, nor can our minds. Body and mind are connected. Food is fuel, and for our minds to operate optimally we need to fuel correctly. Make sure to consume a variety of different foods. Vegetables and fruits are a given. Also, make sure to choose whole grains over refined grains as they still contain the nutrients and fiber of the grain. Limit added sugar such as soda and candy. However, do feel free to enjoy more nuts and fish, but cut down on the red meat. Specific “mind foods” are fatty fish, whole grains, lean protein, leafy greens and yogurt with active cultures.

    4. Get creative
    I love this one. Being creative gives me an outlet to express myself, and allows me focus on something else than my mind for a while. It can be everything from writing, to drawing, creating music or journaling. If you’re not a great artist yourself you could always get some mandalas to color. It will still put you in that headspace of calmness.

    5. Listen to your body
    Trust your instinct. If you listen to your body you’ll be able to tell what it is you need at that time. Are you feeling tired? If so, sleep is a good bet. Feeling stressed? Maybe wind down with a good book, color a mandala or take a hot bath.

    6. Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs
    The advice is to keep alcohol to a minimum and avoid other drugs. Many people who suffer from mental illness use alcohol and drugs as a way to “self-medicate”, but the truth is that alcohol and drugs only aggravate your problems. If unlucky it can result in an addiction.

    7. Get help when you need it
    This is probably the most important tip of them all. Seeking out help isn’t something to be ashamed of- It’s a sign of strength. Treatment is effective, and with the appropriate treatment you got good chances to recover, or learn how to manage your illness.

    8. Read inspiring quotes
    On days when I feel down I usually turn to Pinterest to find quotes that inspire and motivate me. Try it.

    I’ll end the post with a favorite quote of mine:

    “Being happy doesn’t mean everything is perfect.
    It means you’ve decided to see beyond the imperfections.”

    With love,

    Kristina

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    Living with Avoidant Personality Disorder

    My life was chaotic towards the end of 2017. People around me urged me to turn to professionals for help to treat a stubborn depression and I finally caved in. The underlaying issue was however much deeper than we thought.

    After a couple of sittings together with a counsellor she carefully told me about Avoidant Personality Disorder. However, she wasn’t in position to officially diagnose me. I went home to conduct my own research on the subject, and suddenly all the puzzle pieces of my life came together. I finally understood me. Let us start from the beginning, though.

    I was always that shy kid.

    Yes, you know the one I’m talking about. The one sitting in the back of the classroom with their heads hanging low, avoiding eye contact with everyone- especially the teacher!

    From the tender age of 9 I was already a whole lot shyer and more withdrawn than my peers. It was noticed in school and I was relentlessly teased for how I looked, which I think made matters even worse. Afraid of conflicts and of people thinking badly of me I said nothing, I did nothing. I just bottled up as my self-esteem was shredded. The teachers were telling me I needed to speak up more in class, answer questions and participate. I was too afraid to comply, thinking I’d embarrass myself if I was to give the wrong answer, or say the wrong thing.

    Up until the age of thirteen I had some friends, but I slowly started to withdraw and with that, my friends no longer got in touch either. I had a handful of people I saw in school, but they were strictly schoolfriends, or people who took pity on me for being the sad, lonely girl. I went within. Created a dream world to where I’d go when my real life was too depressing to stay in. It was my escape of sorts. I battled eating disorders for most of my teen years, and I do think the eating disorder contributed to my avoidant behaviour. In order to not get caught not eating I needed to keep people at a distance, and it became a habit of mine that I’ve continued even after the obsession with food subsided.

    My teen years were nothing like the usual. I’d sit home every evening, usually locked away in my room. Much of it related to the overprotective nature of (unnamed) family members of mine. I was never allowed to go out, meet people, practise social skills and get over the shyness. At the age of 19 when I graduated high school and it was time for me to head out in the real world I knew nothing. Socially I was still thirteen years old, still afraid to speak to strangers. I avoided finding a job. Not because I was lazy or didn’t want to work. The anxiety I felt in regards to put myself out there, to possibly face rejection and embarrassment was debilitating. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

    When I was twenty I met somebody overseas, married and moved countries, prepared to turn the page and start over. Without going into detail was the situation in my family home highly dysfunctional, and I was relieved to get away. For a while I did better. I even managed to complete two language courses with the best results in my classes, but when it came to work I was still stuck, very anxious. I couldn’t do it. When I got pregnant I was relieved. The work situation could be postponed further.

    Once my son was born in 2014 I was hit with a Postpartum depression and my life crashed completely as I slowly realized I was living the wrong life for me. I’ve been trying to re-build ever since but many days are difficult, and terribly exhausting to get through. I’m spending 2018 just focusing on me (and my son), on what I want and what I need. Therapy is likely to start later this year, and I’m already on antidepressant to deal better with the social anxiety. It enables me to make important phone calls, and get things done in general.

    The common signs of Avoidant Personality Disorder are:

    • Easily hurt by criticism or disapproval
    • No close friends
    • Reluctance to become involved with people
    • Avoidance of activities or occupations that involve contact with others
    • Shyness in social situations out of fear of doing something wrong
    • Exaggeration of potential difficulties
    • Showing excessive restraint in intimate relationships
    • Feeling socially inept, inferior, or unappealing to other people
    • Unwilling to take risks or try new things because they may prove embarrassing

    It’s important to point out that not all avoidants are the same. Not all are experiencing the exact same symptoms, or have the same coping mechanism to deal with it. Some avoidants go on to marry and have children and can manage intimate relationships with people they feel safe and secure with, while others live in complete isolation.

    My personal experience is that it is an extremely crippling disorder. A fear of everything that makes life worth living. I got two alternatives. Either I isolate myself which helps with the anxiety aspect of things but instead I dig myself into a hole of depression, or I socialize and trigger overwhelming anxiety and fears. The latter is the only real option I got at this point, and hopefully with some help I can manage the anxiety and possibly get over the worst of it and gain my own independence. That’s the most crippling thing for me. That I’m completely relying on other people.

    Before I end this post I want to ask everybody who relate to my story and are not yet in treatment to please reach out and get professional help. I wish I would have recognized the signs in myself ten years ago already and gotten help straight away. It could have saved me a lot of pain and misery.

    With love,

    Kristina

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    Postpartum Depression

    The first time depression hit me hard was back in 2014 after the birth of my son. That’s not to say I never experienced depression before, but that marked what came to be my lowest lows of all time.

    Even now as I’m writing this I hesitate, wondering if I’m even allowed to say something so hurtful about the birth of my child. What sort of emotions will this stir in those who read this? Will they think I don’t love him? They say the birth of your child is supposed to be the happiest time of your life, full of pink little clouds, cradles and fluffy stuffed animals. That wasn’t my experience at all, and I’m not alone.

    Before I continue though, I want to point out that just like all other mothers, including those who’s suffered from Postpartum depression, I love my son more than anything, or anybody in this world. We simply had a difficult start. It doesn’t define our relationship, or the love within it.

    My son was born through a Caesarean-section due to his size. He was a huge baby- 5300 g (11,7 lbs), and over 60 cm (24,5 inches) in lenght. I think that was the starting point of when things started to go down-hill. Up until that very day I was set on a natural birth, and when the C-section was suggested to me it came very unexpected. I say suggested now, but it was a lot more like a doctor’s order. Going through with a natural birth was deemed too risky for both me and the baby so I went along with it of course, not wanting to risk mine or my baby’s life. I know it was the right decision in the end, but the change of action threw me off. It wasn’t what I wanted, or what I expected and I didn’t know how to deal with the emotions of my dream birth going down the drain.

    The Caesarean went well, with no bigger complications. My son was beautiful. Brown fuzzy hair, big blue eyes and looked extremely mature for a newborn. One of the mid-wives at the hospital even called him an old-soul there on the spot. That first night though changed me. I was all by myself with the baby, still in the prep-room (for surgery) because they wanted to keep us there due to the amount of blood I had lost. To be honest, I was pretty dozed off at the time, I even got problems remember, but I know I made no attempts to hold, or feed my new baby. I was just laying there looking at him, terrified of going to sleep in case he’d die if I did. To this day I still don’t understand my reasoning behind it. I was awake almost the whole night, anxiously just staring at him.

    Four days later we got to go home. I tried to be happy. Told myself I had to be happy, cause anything else would be abnormal. I just had a baby for crying out loud, and I always wanted to be a mom. So why couldn’t I be happy? But instead I was living as if in a bubble, unable to connect to my son or to the outside world. I felt very anxious all the time, extremely alone and abandoned. Those late-night feedings when I’d sit up with a baby who wouldn’t take the breast, and it felt like all but me and my wee one were sleeping, took forever. All those walks in the late evenings because he was crying and wouldn’t fall asleep took a toll. I remember feeling like I was in a fog and that lasted at least the first 6 months. I’d cry almost daily. Feeling alone, like I couldn’t handle things, and I had nowhere to go cause my son needed me. It was as if I couldn’t breathe. Never EVER did I hurt my baby, but I’ll admit my thoughts turned very unpleasant at times. I told my son’s dad some of those dark thoughts I had in a plea for help, but nothing changed. We didn’t at all realize what was happening until years down the line, that’s when it dawned on me that I had suffered a Postpartum depression.

    My son and I got a pretty ordinary relationship today. It took longer for us to bond, but as time passed and he started to develop into a little person with a distinct personality, we finally grew very close. He’s my world, and he’s a definite momma’s boy at heart. I’d like to think that our struggles connecting made us stronger in the end. We fought for each other.

    My story is not unusual. Postpartum depression is a lot more common than most people think. Roughly 20%(!) of new mothers are faced with it, yet it’s something that is often times kept in secrecy. If a mom doesn’t love her child instantly and can connect to them straight away after birth it’s seen as a failure, like the mother did something wrong. Having a baby is an overwhelming experience, and emotions are raging high for a long time after. There is no right or wrong way to react to such an event, and blame is definitely not the answer.

    With love,

    Kristina

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    Finding Motivation While Depressed

    In the wake of healing your mental health it’s so important to have something that motivates you. Without motivation there’s no drive, no movement forward and you remain stuck in a vicious circle. It’s nowhere near as easy as to just flick a switch to change your moods, but there are ways to slowly find that spark within again.

    Before you do anything it’s a good idea to ask yourself if all your basic needs are met. Are you getting enough sleep? Do you make sure to hydrate throughout the day? Are you getting any sort of exercise done? Even if it’s just a 5-minute session of stretching. Set the bar low. It’s ok. You need to start somewhere.

    1. Start
    Easier said than done, right? But the only way to get anywhere is to simply start. There’s no way around it. As I just said, set the bar low to make sure you’re not getting overwhelmed and discouraged in case you run into trouble early on. Strive to complete simple tasks such as just taking a shower, getting yourself dressed or unloading the dishwasher and raise the bar as you go. If you do feel very overwhelmed by a task, take note that it might be a goal set too high and you need to lower it to something that is more realistic at that point in time.

    2. Ask for help or support
    In times of trouble it can be crucial to have people around you who help and support you. This isn’t something that comes naturally to many though. A lot of people who suffer from mental illness are ashamed or feel like they don’t deserve the support. However, that is not true. We all deserve to be happy and to feel great. Having a trusted friend or family member to hold you accountable is also a good idea. That way you’re more likely to actually get started and work through the goals you set up for yourself.

    3. Be kind to yourself, always
    There is nothing more destructive than self-loath and criticism. Calling yourself “lazy” and “unproductive” is counter-productive, and will make you feel worse and thus, incapacitate you further. Instead, imagine that you are speaking to a loved one, or a much younger self. What would you tell them? Most likely not how lazy they are.

    4. A good bribe
    Don’t laugh now, but really, what works better than a good bribe? Visualize how much better you’ll be feeling after that shower, or after that cup of tea or coffee. If you sit up in bed, you can check your phone. If you get out of bed, you can have that refreshing shower. If you go to work, you can have coffee. Just the knowing you didn’t spend all day in bed, and actually did something, will encourage you to continue the good job you’re doing.

    5. Find a reason
    Now, this is a tricky one as I know that nobody would voluntarily lay in bed with depression and anxieties if it was just that easy to get over it. However, I do believe that having something to do in the days will help motivate you to get out of bed. Maybe actually sit down and write that to-do list of simple tasks down on paper? By doing this you get a sense of achievement as you’re crossing them off one by one, and the mere knowing that the day wasn’t entirely wasted is almost worthy of celebration. Another idea is to plan something to do that usually brings you a lot happiness and do your best to follow through with it. Maybe even start studying a new language, start up a blog (that’s what I did!), or why not try out a free online course in a subject that interest you? Start volunteering? But in baby-steps, of course.

    6. You are courageous, acknowledge that
    Staying in your depression is safe. You know what to expect, you know the pain as an old friend, and you’re sure to know that tomorrow is likely to be the same. If you do what you’ve always done, nothing is going to change. You need to do something different, even if it’s just in small steps at the time. And I know, stepping out of your comfort zone can be incredibly scary, and you’re courageous for taking the steps. Even just reading this article shows that you’re interested in a way out even if you haven’t begun your journey just yet. Good on you!

    Depression has no quick fix, but I’m hoping some of these tips will strike a chord within sombody out there and help them find the motivation to make the right changes in their lives. What are your own experiences? Do you have something else to add to the list? Please let me know in the comment section. I’d love to hear from you!

    With love,

    Kristina