How to Survive Seattle’s Long Rainy Season

by Peggy Shafer

The cold, gray rainy days of Seattle a winter can make even the perkiest people eventually feel blue.

I’ve just perused several articles on this topic in case you are too waterlogged and gloomy to do it yourselves. The good news is that there are things you can do to make soggy weather bearable. The bad news is that it won’t do to just do one of them; you’ll need to make a plan to jettison yourselves out of the doldrums. If you suspect that you might be clinically depressed, these suggestions can help, but they probably won’t be enough. Consulting with a therapist and/or medical provider is recommended.

The Stranger (“Survival Tips for the Cold, Dark, Horrible Next Few Months in Seattle“) suggests:

  1. Make soup. Don’t laugh; making soup is almost as comforting as eating it.
  2. Visit the Pacific Science Center’s Butterfly House. Eighty degrees! Tropical plants! Too bad you can’t bring a sleeping bag and camp stove and move in.
  3. Park yourself in the steam room in one of the local bath houses, like Banya 5, “…a coed bathhouse in South Lake Union.” Don’t worry, it’s not actually in Lake Union but in that neighborhood.
  4. Go out in the rain. Yep, put on your rain gear, hold your head high and adopt the attitude of Seattle’s teenagers: Rain? What rain?

Thrillist (“A Seattle Local’s Guide to Surviving the Darkness”encourages you to go skiing. Maybe you’ve moved to Seattle from San Diego and have never trusted your breakable human body to a pair of boards or a snowboard. Go sledding or snowshoeing instead. Or park in one of the Snoqualmie Pass lots with a pint of hot chocolate and just stare at the mountain. It’s snowy and bright. They also suggest that old standby, the lightbox. It definitely works for some people. Worth a try.

Seattle Magazine’s Gray Weather Survival Guide recommends:

  1. Immerse yourself in a nice warm public pool. If public pools aren’t your thing, and if you have a bathtub, get on intimate terms with the tub. Bring on the music and candles!
  2. Visit the otters at the Seattle Aquarium: squeeee!
  3. Go out dancing or stay in and dance to your favorite jams.
  4. Head over to Sequim on a dreary Saturday. Guess how many sunny days it has per year? That’s right, 320.
  5. Visit the Volunteer Park Conservatory. “[W]ith rooms full of palms and cacti,” the conservatory is  “a light filled oasis.” Just don’t absentmindedly pet a cactus like I did once and you’ll be good.

So make a plan. It’ll help. Scouts’ honor.

Increased Depression and Anxiety amongst Young Adults

by Judy Koven, WTRS Coordinator

The last few years, I’ve noticed an increase in young adults seeking therapy for anxiety and depression. These college students, as well as recent graduates newly in the work world, are overwhelmed by both internal pressure and external stresses. For many there’s an underlying paralyzing perfectionism–a need to excel to do the best and the most. Clients come in noting, among other symptoms, sleeplessness, difficulty concentrating, distorted body image and unhealthy eating, a sense of hopelessness, and crippling negative self-talk.

The 6/7/17 New York Times special section on Higher Education included pieces on how some universities are responding to their students’ mental and emotional health problems. These articles provide an overview of the complex issues and challenges students face, and detail strategies for responding to their struggles.

Colleges Get Proactive in Addressing Depression on Campus

A Climb Out of Depression, Doubt and Academic Failure

Self-Care in Turbulent Times

by Brandy Parris

In the current political climate, many of us find ourselves switching between wanting to know everything that is going on and desiring nothing more than tuning out all political news and conversation.  While there are multiple factors that can contribute to such mixed feelings, we can point to few elements.

First, as social beings, we are all susceptible to anything that hints at or announces expulsion from a community, also referred to as “belonging threats.”  A broad range of groups have been targeted by the current administration — women, Muslims, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, immigrants, disabled people; none are welcomed in the new version of America, and many feel their rights and safety are threatened.  Disenfranchised groups are suffering more.  Some are fighting with conservative family members, others are facing increased hate in the streets, most are consuming news about such threats.

In addition, the new administration’s rhetoric, with its “alternative facts,” and the preponderance of fake news have the same effect as gaslighting, a device of psychological control common in abusive relationships.  Gaslighting involves manipulation to induce heightened doubt in the victim.  Creating multiple untruths and promoting them as true causes people to question their own sense of reality.  Adding to that fear and confusion, the rapid and dramatic changes being implemented may create a frantic desire to track every new dictum, appointment, or tweet.

Fear of the unknown and a sense of overwhelm can result in heightened anxiety while feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness can lead to depression.  No matter how much or little you may be struggling yourself, you can counter these effects by experimenting with some of the following recommendations.

1)  Limit your consumption of media.  This might mean limiting your news to one or two trusted sources, limiting the amount of time you spend reading the news each day, or some mixture of these.  It might also entail reading only two or three political articles a day and following that up with a palate-cleanser of something more uplifting, such as the features offered on this site — https://www.positive.news/

2)  Limit your social media activity.  While social media can provide a way to connect with others, it can also be a source of intense frustration, fruitless conversations, and fake news.  If you find your interactions with social media are creating more stress in your daily life, consider giving yourself time limits, customizing your feed, reducing weekly use, and/or limiting yourself to one platform.

3)  Stay connected in real life.  Talk to friends, family, and co-workers.  Say hello to people on the street or chat with your bank teller, your barista, your grocery cashier.  This can directly counter those belonging threats as well as keep you grounded in the realities of everyday life.  Some further suggestions along these lines can be found here — http://gratefulness.org/blog/five-small-gestures-gratitude-counteract-fear-violence/

4)  If you are feeling overwhelmed and helpless, choose a cause and spend time connecting with organizations who support that cause:  donate, volunteer, make phone calls.  Trust that there are people fighting on all fronts, so you don’t have to do everything.  You can pick your battles.  Here’s one place you might start — https://loveisaction.us/Resources/

5)  If you are frightened and confused, educate yourself.  Authoritarianism thrives on fear and misinformation.  You can find many excellent resources online that explain our legal system and government structure.  Here are two to get you started: https://www.talksonlaw.com  and  https://www.lawcornell.edu

6)  Keep laughing.  It’s especially important during difficult times to find space for joy, for play, for humor.  Watch videos of baby animals, try laughter yoga, go to a comedy show, read a humorous novel.  There’s a reason satire and political comedy are so popular.

7)  Seek experiences of awe and wonder.  These experiences remind us of beauty and help us continue to find meaning in our daily lives.  Go for a hike, look up in the trees as you walk through a park, read poetry, go to the art museum, see live music, theatre, or dance.  

We all need encouragement and greater self-care when our stress increases.   It can help to write reminders in your calendar or on your to-do list.  However you do it, whether in the forms suggested above or in some other way that speaks to you, make time to give yourself the support you need.

For College Students, Anxiety Trumps Depression

by Judy Koven

According to an article in the June 2 New York Times, anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common mental health diagnosis of college students. Apparently, “mounting academic pressure at earlier ages, overprotective parents, and compulsive engagement with social media” are among the reasons college students seek counseling for intense and overwhelming anxiety.

This is consistent with our experience at Women’s Therapy Referral Service–in the last several years, more clients seeking therapy, typically women in their 20s-40s, come in with complaints of stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. Depression is now mentioned less often as the primary concern.

Emotions: the feminine advantage

by Martha Reynolds

A recent op-ed piece in the Sunday New York Times caught my attention. Although psychiatrist Julie Holland could say more about the benefits of medication for so many, what she does say is quite convincing. Namely, that having a full range of affect and emotions is vital for a healthy existence, particularly for women who have been subjugated far too long for their emotionality.