As with most things in life, a healthy dose of stress keeps us motivated to accomplish things, be they minor or significant. The problem arises when the stress becomes incessant, unbearable and persists for far too long – it affects your health, mental acuity, ability to cope and often leads to depression. Rumination ensues and you end up in an unabated downward spiral of self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence that feels never-ending.
Despite General Practitioners reporting that up to 95% of patients experience a depressive episode in their lives, there is still a stigma attached, which leads to feelings of shame that simply knocks self worth down even more. Confidence is directly related to your sense of self-esteem, which is the way you feel about yourself, and how well you perceive your ability to perform certain tasks.
You may ask yourself how to deal with stress? How to deal with depression? How to be confident? Once you ask yourself these questions you are in fact taking the first step in the recovery of your confidence levels.
Dealing with stress
Stress is the body’s response to demands made on you that may require an adjustment or change which creates emotional, mental or physical responses. Too little and you become lethargic and bored, too much for too long and it will actually change your DNA, and leave you feeling debilitated.
Major life events may cause stress, work or relationship related issues. It affects your mental acuity, leaves you irritable, obsessive, tense, nervous, wound up, labile, exhausted, apathetic, dizzy, unreal, faint and interferes with everyday living – your social, sexual and work relationships. Sudden panic attacks and feelings of worthlessness or lack of confidence in your own abilities are common. It can creep up on you and are often missed as physical signs are dealt with by varying physicians.
There are ways to deal with stress and your coping mechanisms will play a grandiose role in how you do – but first and foremost you need to determine your sources of stress so that you can eliminate them, find positive coping mechanisms or get support.
Work related stress may be attributed to the volume of work, pressure, danger, responsibility levels, respect, clarity of expectation and so forth. Many people think it is simply part of the working process and suffer through it. Others will figure out how to deal with stress at work. Stress in a relationship can be debilitating and onerous to deal with, sources are much more challenging to elucidate as so many influences impact relationships. Major life events such as the death of a loved one, moving, changes in relationship status or jobs, traumatic events, and financial strain can cause long term stress-related damage and can lead to severe depressive states.
Dealing with depression
Depression is often caused by a combination of predisposing and trigger factors, such as biological
(low levels of serotonin and noradrenaline), inability to express feelings, social modeling, beliefs and attitudes, low self-esteem, too many demands, changes or losses.
The effects of depression touch on three main areas:
- Thinking: self-criticism, pessimism, loss of interest, poor concentration and memory, poor decision making or inability to make any decisions
- Feelings: apathy, guilt, irritability, sadness, lack of confidence, low pleasure, helplessness
- Behavior: fatigue, inertia, loss of interest in activities, food, sex and friends or loved ones, disturbed sleep, withdrawal from people and life.
There are ways to deal with depression, but it is not a simple ‘pull yourself together’ scenario, and if you hide feelings or display perfectionistic tendencies, you may wonder how to deal with depression alone. An episode of depression may be the body’s way of forcing you to slow down and rest, and the best thing you can do for yourself is acknowledging that you need to do things differently and take it one small step at a time.
Regain self confidence
Your ability to find meaning following adversity will depend on many factors, your openness to help, your resilience levels, tenacity to take every step necessary no matter how hard or how long, your social support and most of all, your innate belief that you deserve self-care. Stress and depression can hammer you hard and leave you with deep sadness, hopelessness and a debilitating lack of confidence, you will need to build that up gently but resolutely.
It sounds like a bit of a chicken-and-egg dilemma, how to regain confidence when you feel so low and depleted, and you have lost confidence in your own abilities to live a full life again when the future looks bleak and re-entering society seems terrifying and laborious. Confidence boosters come in all shapes and sizes, they build mental strength and emotional resilience.
Building confidence starts with acceptance – of where you are and what you feel. It is almost like driving in thick fog on a winding road and you can only see a few meters in front of you, you have to slow down, breathe, feel the feelings and trust that the path will eventually clear. Plan small steps to go in the right direction, no matter how long it takes to get there.
Build on your strengths, use positive coping mechanisms and don’t give up if something does not work, try a different step and reward yourself for each small victory.
Some steps you can take to build confidence after overcoming adversity include:
- Set yourself simple tasks
- Keep a journal of your activities and how it made you feel
Reign over negative thoughts and challenge their origin
- Talk to people – find someone you feel comfortable with, even if it is painful or challenging
- Examine your goals
- Eat a healthful diet, regular small meals with lots of fruit, vegetables, protein and energy sources such as carbohydrates and good fats
- Take supplements if prescribed by your health care provider.
- If you abuse any substance, get appropriate help.
- Indulge in self-care, lots of pampering is allowed.
- Exercise more. Start with walking a few minutes every day, outside, get some sun on your face and wind in your hair. Adopt a shelter dog to keep you company.
- Simple yoga exercises create suppleness and strength.
- Meditation will reduce anxiety and crippling self-doubt.
- Don’t put yourself down. Eliminate self-critical thoughts.
- Learn to become more assertive, ask for what you want using the word “I”.
- Make a list of people you admire for their confidence, noting each one’s special skills
- Act the part, copy the speech, posture and actions of a confident person.
- Mental exercises are crucial in building confidence blocks, visualize your wanted achievements. Practice how, where, what, when, why.
- Reinforce your mental thoughts of yourself feeling stronger, more resilient, invincible
- Surround yourself with people that make you feel good about yourself.
- An emotionally supportive, close friend can quadruple the likelihood of full recovery.
- Try something new – join a club or charity, helping others in need can do wonders for your confidence and make you appreciate your blessings.
- Plan special activities to have something to look forward to.
- Don’t play the self-blame game, if you make a mistake, learn from it and move on, it is only an event in your day, it does not define who you are
- Learn to say no, and not feel guilty. People are responsible for solving their own problems.
- Eliminate toxic people from your life, you do not have to show up for every fight you’re are invited to, don’t give your power away by playing their games.
- Praise yourself and accept compliments graciously.
- Learn to thrive and find joy. Laugh every day. Hug someone every day. Do something that makes you feel good every day.