Self Help Lesson #7B A Strong Circle of Friends Can Improve Quality of Life and is a Self Help Strategy for Dealing with Depression

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It is a well known symptom of depression that people will isolate themselves, stop accepting invitations out, stop returning calls, and just withdraw into their shell when they are depressed.  This RSR strategy will draw you out and help you move forward.  A strong circle of friends promotes less illness, less stress, less psychosomatic disorders and a longer life.  Yet a lot of people have a hard time making friends.  There are a number of reasons and excuses people use for not having friends.

REASONS FOR NOT HAVING FRIENDS

Instructions:  Check off all the reasons that apply to you, and list your own reasons too.
“I don’t feel like it”
“It takes too much energy to meet people”
“It feels like no one would want to be my friend”
“They take up too much of my time”
“They stab me in the back once I trust them”
“My depression gets in the way”
“I’m too selfish”, or “I want a certain type of friend”
“They won’t like me”
“They won’t get along with my existing friends”
“People disappoint me” (reframe:  love as if you have never been hurt, dance as if no one is watching).
“We don’t have things in common”
“A lot of people don’t share my beliefs, don’t share my interests” (requiring them to be an identical twin).
“They’ll say critical things I don’t want to hear”
“I was hurt before”
“People tell you what to do, try to control you, even when they have problems”
“It’s too hard to trust people”
“I work too many hours”.
“I feel like I have to be happy and cheerful all the time to make friends, and that just isn’t my life.”  ( a true friend will accept you feeling shitty, and invite you to talk about it).
“Parents moved a lot, I didn’t let myself get close”.
“People don’t want to be friends with someone with a mental disability or psychosis.  If they know I have depression they’ll discriminate / shut me out”.
“I don’t have the finances to keep up with the lifestyle of my friends”.

 

Friends

Given all these excellent reasons for not having friends, what does RSR (rapid symptom reduction self help techniques for depression and anxiety) suggest you do?  DO IT ANYWAY.   Because is will help you.   RSR also teaches you to write down what you personally think about friendship, and to do cognitive restructuring with it.   We all have radar and can scan people.  We meet people all the time and sometimes something clicks and we think “that one”.  But in order to use your radar you need to be in  an environment where you can meet people, an environment like the gym, church, or  bird watching.  Especially look in your areas of interest.  Silicon Valley has just about every conceivable type of club – if you like running, photography, stamp collecting, museum tours, you can find it here, places where you’ll meet someone who shares your interest.  So, to turn this topic into an action item, think of something to put on your star chart. Example: you could write in “research local clubs” if this is up for you.  If you have friends that you have shut out because of your depression, consider sending them a card saying that your distance is no reflection of the value you place on the friendship, and that you hope they’ll give you time to work through the difficulties you are having.  Remember friendship isn’t all or nothing.  If you are usually a caretaker within friendships realize it’s OK for others to be there for you too.

RESOURCE:  Many newspapers have a Sunday edition of Things To Do, for example the Mercury Times lists local happenings.  There you will find reading groups, free lectures, open houses,  and museum tours.  The Bay area is a supermarket of activities – a smorgasbord to dine at.  If you think “I’ve never been to an opera, I want to go see what it’s like”, there are free operas for you to try out.  Afterwards you might find it really touched your heart and pulled you out of your doldrums.  And you would discover whether it was the type of activity you find pleasurable or not.  If you attend a field trip and notice it is pushing your buttons, it is a good time to whip out your notebook and record your thoughts.  “I wish I wasn’t a parent”, “this noise is annoying”, etc.  Remember, it isn’t life that gets us down, but how we think about it.  Our thoughts are powerful.  Later on in the evening you can go back over your notes and remember your moods and do cognitive restructuring on it.  If your primary friend has been a spouse, you might want to attend a Couple Communication Workshop or marriage counseling.

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