Suicidal Thoughts: How to Overcome Destructive Thinking

If you find yourself preoccupied by suicidal thoughts, the first thing to remember is that you are not alone.  Many people have considered ending their lives at some painful point of their lives; the thoughts themselves are not as much of a problem, it’s the action, the self-destructive behavior that is the real danger.  So, consider suicidal thoughts a warning that your mind is giving you: you are in considerable amount of pain.  You may feel intense feelings of despair and hopelessness because it seems to you that you had lost control over your life and that things could never get better. You may feel that the only part where you still had some control in your life is whether you lived or died, and committing suicide seemed like the only option left.

However, this is never true. Statistics show that the majority of people who have attempted suicide and survived, ultimately felt relieved that they did not end their lives. Again, the suicidal thoughts are just an indication that you are in pain; however, hope and help is always on the way. Remember that however bad you are feeling, you have not always felt this way and your feelings will change in the future.  That’s the whole trick: feelings are changeable, you may feel differently at different points of the same day; however, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

So, let’s work together to learn how to overcome suicidal thoughts.  It’s a challenging task, but nonetheless doable.  Below are some suggestions:

1.      Become Aware of having Suicidal Thoughts.

Some of the thoughts that may accompany suicidal thoughts include:
• I want to escape my suffering.
• I have no other options.
• I am a horrible person and do not deserve to live.
• I have betrayed my loved ones.
• My loved ones would be better off without me.
• I want my loved ones to know how bad I am feeling.
• I want my loved ones to know how bad they have made me feel.

2.      Remove the Means to Commit Suicide

 For example, give pills and sharp objects to someone for safekeeping, or put them in a locked or otherwise inaccessible place.

 3.      Remove the Opportunity to Commit Suicide

 The surest way of doing this is by remaining in close contact with one or more people, for example, by inviting them to stay with you. Share your thoughts and feelings with these people, and don’t be reluctant to let them help you. If no one is available or no one seems suitable, there are a number of emergency telephone lines that you can ring at any time. You can even ring for an ambulance or take yourself to an Emergency Room.

4.      Do Not Use Alcohol or Drugs

 Alcohol or drugs can make your behavior more impulsive and, thereby, significantly increase your likelihood of attempting suicide. In particular, do not drink or take drugs alone, or end up alone after drinking or taking drugs.

5.      Practice Self-Care

 This is a time to take extra good care of yourself.  Make sure you eat regularly, sleep, get some fresh air and avoid people or situations that bring you stress.  Remember that something as simple as getting a few nights of good sleep can give you a different perspective on your situation.

 6.      Identify what’s Important to You in Life

Make a list of the things that have so far prevented you from committing suicide, e.g., “My kids need me”, “My parents rely on me to take care of them,” “What I’m doing at my job is important,” etc.  Keep the lists on you, and read them to yourself each time you are overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts.

7.      Create a list of Positive Things

 Create a list of positive things about yourself, maybe your skills, or personality traits. Then make a list of the things you are grateful for in life, e.g., your health, your family, your job, your opportunities in life.  Keep that list on you and read it when you have suicidal thoughts.

 8.      Find a Good Cause to Fight for or Contribute to

Not money – anybody can give money to a charitable cause. Give your time. Help the needy and less fortunate. There are many people who need your help – you just have to go out and give it. And in the process, it’s very likely that you will find yourself feeling much better. Helping others is one of the very best ways to cope with thoughts of harming yourself, because it allows you to focus on something beyond yourself and your troubles.  It creates a very big feeling of warmth and generosity in your heart – it will be a welcome change after feeling empty and cold for such a long time. And feeling necessary can really help your outlook long term, too.

    • Go to a local church/ temple and volunteer to help in their “feed the hungry” program
    • Go to a local food bank and offer to help
    • Go to a battered women or children’s center and volunteer.

9.      Create a Safety Plan

 Make a plan of action steps you commit to doing to prevent yourself from self-destructive behaviors.  The plan should include people you can call, emergency phone numbers, delaying suicide for at least 48 hours and getting some sleep. 

Example of a Safety Plan

1. Read through the list of positive things about myself.
2. Read through the list of positive things about my life and remind myself of the things that have so far prevented me from committing suicide.
3. Distract myself from suicidal thoughts by reading a book, listening to my favorite music, or watching my favorite film or comedy.
4. Get a good night’s sleep. Take a sleeping tablet if necessary.
5. Delay any suicidal attempt by at least 48 hours.
6. Call “Stan” on (phone number). If he is unreachable, call “Julia” on (phone number). Alternatively, call my healthcare professional on (phone number), or the crisis line on (phone number).
7. Go to a place where I feel safe such as the community center or the sports center.
8. Go to the Emergency Room.
9. Call for an ambulance.

Finally, when the crisis settles, see a therapist who specializes in the treatment of depression.  It is important that you address the cause of your suicidal thoughts, for example, a mental disorder such as depression or alcohol dependence, a difficult life situation, or painful memories.  Discuss this with your therapist or a primary care physician, who will help you to identify the most appropriate form of help available.

If you would like help with overcoming suicidal thoughts, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.



How to Forgive Yourself for Past Mistakes

7  Suggestions on how to Overcome Feelings of Regret and Guilt and to Forgive Yourself for Past Mistakes

Forgiving yourself can be much harder than forgiving someone else. After all, they don’t live in your head, reading you the same old riot act. When you’re carrying around a sense of blame for something that has happened in the past, the feelings of anger and resentment can cause a pervasive sense of unhappiness. But forgiveness is such an elusive act, quickly changing in its ability to be strongly felt one moment and then disappearing beyond reach the next.

Forgiving yourself is an important act of moving forward and releasing yourself from the past. It’s also a way of protecting your health and general well-being. All the world’s major religions preach the power of forgiveness.

However, if you are feeling this way you are not alone.  Most people find the feelings of regret and guilt to be overwhelming and difficult to overcome.  Holding on to past mistakes negatively affects our self-esteem and can even feel paralyzing for a person. Feeling stuck and unable to engage in productive actions is not helpful and does not serve anyone.

 Here are some suggestions on how to overcome feelings of regret and guilt and to forgive yourself for past mistakes:  

  1. Accept your emotions.

Part of the struggle is often being unable to accept that you are experiencing such emotions as anger, fear, resentment, and vulnerability. Instead of trying to avoid facing these negative emotions, accept them as part of what is fueling your lack of self-forgiveness. A problem named is a problem ready to be tackled.

2. Reflect on why you’re trying to hold yourself to a higher standard than anyone else around you.

Perfectionism can cause you to hold too high a standard for your own behavior, a standard that you wouldn’t hold anyone else to; it causes you to be too hard on yourself. Try welcoming imperfection: allow yourself to accept that all human beings are imperfect, and you are human and imperfect too. Humility may be the first step to self-forgiveness.

3. Understand the importance of forgiveness.

Living in a state of being unable to forgive requires a lot of energy. You may be  preoccupied by the feelings of fear, resentment and anger, living with the constancy of sadness, hurt, and blame. This energy deserves to be put to better use, so that your creativity and abilities are fed, not your negativity. Forgiveness also allows you to live in the present instead of the past, which means that you can move into the future with a renewed sense of purpose focused on change, improvement, and building of a new productive life.

4. Stop punishing yourself.

There is a frequent misunderstanding that forgiveness equates to forgetting or condoning. This misunderstanding can lead a person to feel that they need to continuously punish themselves because in the process of doing so they are not forgetting or condoning the past wrong. However, punishing yourself with self-hate does not accomplish positive results.  It’s perfectly fine to say: “I am not proud of what I’ve done (or how I’ve devalued myself) but I’m moving on for the sake of my health, my well-being, and those around me.”  Disproving of your past mistakes is different than feeling that you are a bad person. Disown your mistakes, not yourself.

5.    Make Amends

If you need to apologize to someone or you have not done so genuinely, go ahead and do it.  Apologizing to someone may involve more than just saying “Sorry.” You may have to hear them out and let them tell you how what you’ve done hurt them.  Once you’ve restored that connection, the next step is to take action that would make the situation better, e.g., if you stole something, maybe you would pay that person/ organization back, etc. 

6. Practice Self-Acceptance

Forgiving yourself is about targeting the specific things that you feel bad about and aspiring to change these imperfections, not about the person you are. As a forgiveness technique, self-acceptance allows you to acknowledge that you’re a good person, even though you have faults. It doesn’t mean that you ignore the faults or stop trying to improve yourself, but it does mean that you value yourself above those parts of yourself and cease to allow your shortcomings to halt your progression in life. Learn from what you’ve done in the past, but value your whole self.  

  • Enjoy positive experiences consciously and don’t seek to downgrade them.
  • Be grateful for what you do have – great relationships, a home, a family, an education, abilities, interests, hobbies, pets, health, etc. Look for the good in your life.
  • Be self-compassionate.

7. See forgiveness as a journey, not a destination.

Human progress does not happen in a straight line, e.g., going from A to B.  In order to move forward we often make two steps forward and one step backwards, making “baby steps” toward better mental health.  Making a step backwards is not a set back; it is our opportunity to integrate the new progress that we’ve just accomplished. It helps to accept that forgiveness is an ongoing process and that you’ll have your up days and your down days, as with most feelings and experiences in life. You may feel that you’ve reached a point of forgiveness, only to have something happen that causes you to feel it was all a wasted effort and that you’re back to square one, angry and annoyed with yourself. The best approach is to let these feelings happen and see them as the necessary step back in our journey forward.

 If you would like help with forgiving yourself for past mistakes, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.


10 Helpful Tips on Overcoming Depression

tips for depression

Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to accomplish your goals.

But while overcoming depression isn’t quick or easy, it’s far from impossible. The key is to start small and build from there.

Feeling better takes time, but you can get there if you make positive choices for yourself each day.

  1. Turn to trusted friends and family members. Talk about your difficulties with the people you love and trust. Ask for the help and support you need. You may have retreated from your most treasured relationships, but they can get you through this tough time.
  2. Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. Often when you’re depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into your shell, but being around other people will make you feel less depressed.
  3. Join a support group for depression. Being with others dealing with depression can go a long way in reducing your sense of isolation. You can also encourage each other, give and receive advice on how to cope, and share your experiences.
  4. Allow yourself to be less than perfect. Try not to hold yourself to impossibly high standards and then beating yourself up when you fail to meet them. Battle this source of self-imposed stress by challenging your negative ways of thinking.
  5. Socialize with positive people. Notice how people who always look on the bright side deal with challenges, even minor ones, like not being able to find a parking space. Then consider how you would react in the same situation. Even if you have to pretend, try to adopt their optimism and persistence in the face of difficulty.
  6. Keep a “negative thought log.” Whenever you experience a negative thought, jot down the thought and what triggered it in a notebook. Review your log when you’re in a good mood. Consider if the negativity was truly warranted. Ask yourself if there’s another way to view the situation.
  7. Sleep. Make sure you are sleeping at least eight hours a day. Sleep deprivation is linked to depression.
  8. Eat Right. Try to maintain a healthy diet.  Make sure you are eating regular healthy meals to maintain normal blood-sugar levels.
  9. Exercise. Take a walk in the park or at the beach, go hiking, swim or play favorite sports.  Research has proven that regular exercise improves mood and decreases depression.
  10. Be exposed to Sunlight. For some, depression is triggered by a lack of sunlight during the winter (i.e., seasonal affective disorder). Sunlight can have a profound effect on your mood.

If you would like some more help with overcoming depression, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.

7 Coping Strategies for Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts

Are you dealing with obsessive thoughts?

Are you dealing with obsessive thoughts?

According to experts, obsessions are normal thoughts experienced with increased frequency. Struggling with obsessive thoughts does not mean your lack moral character or that you are crazy.  Anxiety stimulates obsessions: we obsess because we hope to solve our problems by thinking about the same thing over and over.  However, obsessive thinking does not help problem solving.  In fact, the opposite occurs: we become stuck in our thinking and feeling, which makes it difficult to move forward.

When we recognize that anxiety is the root cause of obsessions, we can understand that real healing from obsessions comes through reducing anxiety. Here are some helpful tips.

1. Make a list

Make a list of all your obsessive thoughts. Then write down what type of things trigger each, and what you do after.

2. The 3 Second Rule

Allow yourself 3 seconds to think about the obsessive item, and then purposefully redirect your attention to something more positive: a feeling, a happy memory, a pleasant vacation, or a kind word.

3. Learn how to Relax

Say the word “relax” softly in your head and take a deep breath. Tell yourself “You’re going to be okay.” Do a relaxation exercise (positive visualization, deep breathing, yoga pose.)

4. Learn to Live in the Present

Redirect your attention from thoughts to actual experience. What is real today? What do you need to accomplish, what are your daily tasks (e.g., work, taking care of your child, cleaning, chores etc.)

5. Use Distractions

Many people reported that distracting themselves with other activities helped them to stop obsessing.

Read a novel, watch movie, play a video game on your computer or phone, go for a walk, work out at a gym.

6. Thought Stopping

When you notice yourself obsessing, tell yourself “STOP” in your head and then move on to another activity. This is different than trying not to think about an obsession – which only makes the obsession stronger. Rather it is interrupting the obsessive process. We cannot keep ourselves from having obsessive thoughts, but we can refuse to “dwell” on them; we can immediately try and think about other more positive things

7. Practice Mindfulness

Imagine you are on a moving train, looking out of the window and watching your thoughts passing by, as if it was scenery, without judgment.  Just let these thoughts pass you by with you observing, as if these thoughts are not yours.

You observe, but are not involved. The scenery you are watching on the train glide in and out of view and you remain detached and relaxed.

This is a meditation technique that encourages detachment from the contents of your mind. ‘Watching’ obsessive thoughts in your mind from a relaxed ‘distance’ is very different from being in the middle of those thoughts and feeling totally identified with them.  The more detached you become from the thoughts, the less you try to fight them.

If you would like some more help with overcoming obsessive thoughts, anxiety or depression, please call me, Dr. Maya, on (818) 809-9519 for a free 10-minute phone consultation.

photo credit: cellar_door_films