Topic of The Month – overwhelm, stress and depression

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I often work with people who feel at times helpless to change their current circumstances, or feel trapped, or that there is no-one who can help.

Depression often follows anger and helplessness where I find the parent is literally beating themselves up. Many times people that suffer from depression are extremely intelligent, very sensitive and are very compassionate people.

Their sense of helplessness parallels the same spiral people suffering from anger experience, and it can often turn into resentment and stress related illnesses.

“Depression is nourished by a lifetime of ungrieved and unforgiven hurts.”

This spiral is especially negative as it is a process of repressing frustration, anger, disappointment and dissatisfaction – a bit like shaking a bottle of champagne with the cork still in it so the bubbles have nowhere to go but back inside … ready to explode when the cork is finally popped and the feelings can be healthily released.

Undealt with, this black hole spirals deeper and deeper down until it eventually translates into all manner of mental, emotional or physical illnesses. Or ultimately to the point where the individual feels so powerless that there is no course except to go to the doctor who usually prescribes anti – depressants.

But anti depressants just mask the underlying problems and don’t get to the root of the depression, sadness or frustration.

In my training as an NLP Master Practitioner and Trainer I recognise that depression, like any illness presents itself as an imbalance. Some of us are perhaps genetically more prone, or perhaps our conditioning, our upbringing, our present circumstances, our family or the people around us make it more likely for us to suffer from depression.

Of course there is not a simple explanation and of course serious depression needs professional support and advice but with the many parents I see, stress related depression stems from all manner of overwhelm and anxiety and exhaustion from handling sibling rivalry, financial worries to handling divorce or feeling overwhelmed in their work-life balance. It’s true our friends, doctors, parents and family may help significantly in inspiring the process, but in the end we are infinitely more capable than we imagine of permanently healing our depression or feelings of helplessness ourselves.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

~ Melody Beattie

Manic feelings and overwhelming episodes can strike at any time. You might be working on an important project at work or picking up the kids – whatever it might be and suddenly anxiety might begin to rise for no apparent reason mentally, with all sorts of turmoil and negative and un -resourceful voices going on around inside your head.

How do you become calm, or focused or more resourceful so that you begin to stop the rise of the negative turmoil, the anxiety and finally the feelings of depression and helplessness?

The simple answer is to learn to take control of the negative voices inside your own head but it requires work to turn this into a simple but highly effective habit. And this is where I find my training with Paul McKenna in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) techniques and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) to be invaluable.

It is an act of faith to believe in yourself enough to know that ultimately you are responsible for your state of mind, and that you can control you. For most of us, this is really hard work. And little successes need to be seen for the steps that they are to the ultimate mastery of our minds and celebrated.

Even more importantly, we must realise that our ‘so-called’ failures are steps too. It might take us 99 times of falling off a bicycle before on the 100th attempt we ride it. All 99 steps are important. We are all explorers on our own journey and we are charting places that we have not been to before and parenting is not an easy adventure.

But the rewards are magnificent.

It might sound simple. But to ‘be in the moment’ opens the door to every ultimate joy in life. When we are imprisoned by our past regrets or fears of the future, we lock away the key to our real self, to our soul and engross ourselves in the hurly burly of the fast paced, frenetic lifestyle that most of us live these days and we end up feeling lost, alone and overwhelmed.

The i phone, Blackberry and laptop were all supposed to free us up from stress and make our lives easier but in reality I seem to meet and work with, more and more parents stressed out , exhausted and battling enormous feelings of guilt.

We all seem to be striving …. but where are we trying to get to in our relationships and family life?

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon – instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.-

~ Dale Carnegie

Depressed people are often self fixated, caught in regrets from the past or fears of the future and never in the present moment. They are usually imprisoned inside their own heads. Sometimes, like martyrs, they feel they must swallow all the negativity inside themselves and not show it, so as not to affect others, making out that they can handle it. But the reality is that as they swallow it down it’s got nowhere to go.

I also notice stressed parents also use language that accepts depression as a part of themselves and they use words like “should” “have to” “ought to” which are all very judgemental and harsh ways of speaking.

With just a slight shift in their use of language I help them take back control of their lives and their feelings while leading them towards a sense of controlling their own destiny and their circumstances again. We look at their choices which they often fail to see as they are battling it out amongst the trees without seeing the wood.

We must accept disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.

 – Martin Luther King

Through coaching I help parents really address the bigger issues and I often ask, as we investigate and dig a little deeper than the untidy bedroom and undone homework :

What is imprisoning you?

Often they feel there is someone or some situation that needs to change for them to be happy.

I help them to recognise that they are handing the power of their happiness to something outside of their control, which is unhelpful and also rather unwise.

Sometimes they have someone or something that they have to forgive – and often I find that may even be the ability to forgive themselves !

Or sometimes I find that they are hanging onto resentments or anger so I help them to let all that stuff go.

I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know that just to be alive is a grand thing. -Agatha Christie

I have personally found mantra meditations and affirmations are also extremely powerful so that’s why I write my weekly affirmations on a Friday as so many parents asked me to create them to give them inspiration.

They change the voices inside your head to a more positive voice and that helps to lift and change your mood and your emotions.

Repetitive exercise such as walking or running will also really help redevelop your mental strength and discipline as it releases endorphins and “feel good” chemicals too.

“In moments of discouragement, defeat, or even despair, there are always certain things to cling to. Little things usually: remembered laughter, the face of a sleeping child, a tree in the wind—in fact, any reminder of something deeply felt or dearly loved. No man is so poor as not to have many of these small candles. When they are lighted, darkness goes away—and a touch of wonder remains.

~Tombstone inscription inUK

Here are some of the affirmations I used with my lovely client to help shift her feelings of overwhelm and helplessness.

“I am solely responsible for my happiness and I choose to be happy by freely and unconditionally offering and receiving love.”

“I forgive anyone and everyone that I have not yet forgiven including myself”

“I am grateful in this moment for these seven places……..

“I am grateful in this moment for these seven things……

“I am grateful in this moment for these seven people……..”

“The turning point in my life has come. I am open and receptive to living the life I love.”


For more information about working personally with me and my Clarity, Confidence and Mastery Coaching Programmes call 01342 833355 as I am only at the end of the phone.





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  Sue Atkins the Parenting Expert
T: + 44 1342 833355   M: 07740 622769

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