Last week week, I talked about "finding your shoes" and what I meant by that. This week, I'm going to talk more tools and practices that can help in times of depression, anxiety, and stress. This is a good time to toss in that while it's been suggested to me as a path, I'm not a trained counselor. Click here for Our Counseling Partners
The first place I like to start with people is their Myers Briggs type, and I like it, because I usually am hearing a loop I want to break. With the Myers Briggs Typing Indicator (MBTI), you get the "alphabet soup" ID after taking a quiz. That ID corresponds to a cognitive stack, a manner of hierarchy in which you meet the world. It is not what drives you. It is not who you are. It is not who you will be. It's just one way of defining a lens and a tool for understanding the way you meet the world and how the world meeds you.
Enneagram is another personality typing tool that tries to get at what drives you and what your shadow is. It's used in a lot of religious communities, but it is not religious on its own. Another you may have heard of in the workplace is DISC, and this is more around your communication style and is closely linked to MBTI. So if we are looking at the personality tools to evaluate the self, most internal to the most outward facing so to speak, it would look like this:
Enneagram motivation > MBTI lens > DISC communication style
But I'll cut to the chase with this and let you explore it on your own. The benefit of the type and knowing the loop in MBTI is you can focus on the functions that are not in that loop to break it. In Polyvagal Theory, which is actually a pretty light read, he says you can start top-down or go bottom up to provide vagal tone and moderate feelings of anxiety or depression caused by the vagus nerve. The same summary could be given by MBTI and frankly, Chinese medicine. Start with the mind and spirit to affect the physical OR start with physical activities to affect the mind and spirit.
If you want to take the full test for MBTI, great! If not, I like this quiz. I'm not a huge fan of their site otherwise. The quiz matters, though, and 16 Personalities isn't as accurate for people 30's and older. The reason is everyone uses intuition and the five senses just as much as we think as well as feel. You lead with one, sure. There's a reason I want to chart your feelings and put them in excel. But, as you get older, you become less exhausted by what you don't lead with. Your answers start to depend more on the setting. Moreover, you have all four: intuition, sensing, feeling, and logic (thinking) in your stack as either introverted functions or extroverted functions. Everyone is an ambivert, but you lean one way more than the other resulting in the E/I distinction. If you're an introvert, your introverted functions are your happy place and what you will be stuck in under stress, and the same for extroverts.
What are the loops by type (most common in our field in bold):
INTJ: Intuition and Feeling
INFJ: Intuition and Logic
INTP: Logic and Sensing
INFP: Feeling and Sensing
ENTJ: Logic and Sensing
ENFJ: Feeling and Sensing
ENTP: Intuition and Feeling
ENFP: Intuition and Logic
First of all, if you are a sensor, bless your heart! You are moving in a sea of intuitives and probably feel misunderstood often!
ISTJ: Sensing and Feeling
ISFJ: Sensing and Logic
ISTP: Thinking and Intuition
ISFP: Feeling and Intuition
ESTJ: Logic and Intuition
ESFJ: Feeling and Intuition
ESTP: Sensing and Feeling
ESFP: Sensing and Thinking
So what breaks the loop is what you don't see listed, but there's a caveat. Of the ones not listed, one will be what you lead with everyday, and the other will be your blindspot. You got into this loop for a reason, so I always assume the leading function was taxed. The feelers don't want to hurt emotionally anymore. The thinkers can't understand why what happened happened, but they feel awful inside, which can mildly resemble a Third Rock from the Sun episode. The intuitive who aren't intuiting are usually so overwhelmed by the sensations, they can't engage their narrative. The sensors not sensing are usually stuck in a narrative for which they can't consider an alternative.
This means the low hanging fruit is what's on the bottom of the stack-- pouring yourself into something logic focused, something that taps the emotions, something sensory stimulating or engaging in the narrative. Sound familiar? Top-down, Bottom-up
Here's a list of things you can do and resources by cognitive function. You can learn your type and be strategic, which usually appeals to thinkers. If you have zero interest in finding out your cognitive stack, just pick something you haven't tried or try a variation on something you already do. If you're feeling stuck, what you're doing isn't working enough. Anything different is good.
In Part I, everything I mentioned were sensory oriented from the shoes to having a good pen. Try these out if sensing is not part of your loop. Even if it is in your loop, you can shake up your loop enough to break it.
Somatic check-ins with yourself. This book has a ton of different options for this. One exercise I like is visualizing a cup of water in my chest, engaging with what that water looks like/ temp/ etc. Then, I breathe, and visualize bringing it back to cool, clear water.
Go outside! ...just not near people. Get some sun. Lay in some grass. Walk.
Exercise-- yoga is great! Yogaglo.com does a free trial, and there are a ton of free classes on YouTube.
Google Sensory Processing Disorder: Whether you have it or not, the aim here is to get a good sense of what activities are sensory stimulating in a good way. You may already be sensory seeking and getting the wrong kind of sensory input by being glued to social media.
Additional easy to implement activities:
Make the room cold and throw your blanket in the dryer-- get cozy!
Take a hot shower.
Stick your face in the freezer... I'm serious. (Cold damage aside, it will enhance vagal tone.)
Eat some spicy food.
Eat some comforting food.
Mindfully eat your food, not in front of the computer.
Change your pen color/ type.
Meditate while listening to solfeggio frequencies
Put on your comfy pants and shoes!
I frequently bring up Lisa Nichols. She and Esther Perel I've found have a unique gift for helping people engage with their narrative. Your narrative, whether introverted and inward facing or extroverted an outward facing, leads you. What is your narrative? When you write your narrative down, what memories surface? How is that narrative mapped for you? What feelings do you associate with those memories? Are they happy? Are they associated with shame? fear? sadness? It's one thing to write your narrative, to tell the story of how you came to be in this position of depression or anxiety. It's another thing entirely to understand your narrative and the context in which it lives. RuPaul's masterclass will tell you to sit in silence for even thirty seconds to let your frequency come through. Lisa Nichols will challenge you to write the lies you tell yourself. Coming from my origin story, I'm going to tell you to look at your narrative and map it. What other baggage are you carrying in the story of your life?
Write the lies and the truth
Tell your story on video and watch it
Tell your story in the mirror
See yourself. The exercise of writing the lies and the truth will touch on an idea that is probably the most important idea I've come across... or rather, a question.
"What would disprove your hypothesis?"
In short, what are the possibilities? And if you can't wrap your head around it, I also suggest watching a film that captures the emotions you're feeling that has a hopeful ending. Let someone else's story carry you into the depths of the emotions you feel and out the other side.
Thinking/ Logic Activities
This is where I tell you to analyze the ever-loving crap out of yourself. I felt like a weirdo most of my childhood. One day someone I came to respect very much introduced herself as an INTJ woman. It was very odd to me, and I didn't understand why that would matter. I'd learned my type in AmeriCorps, but I did what most do. I ate lunch. I moved on. Come to find out, there was a whole frame work and charting process to engage. Beyond that, INTJ women make up .8% of the population. I am a weirdo. LOL I had a gift and curse of seeing the world differently.
I recommend the Personality Hackers Podcast. They have so much free content.
I also recommend looking at five element theory. You are uniquely qualified to look through the five element lens. It's great if you can journal and go back and map your feelings. Feel free to snag a whiteboard and make your own personal whiteboard of feelings. Mark the element cycle and the feelings associated. Note the qi movements of each. Grief dissolves qi. People tend to gloss over that, because they think more of shock and dispersing. I could do whole papers on each of the elements and why someone may follow one cycle over another. The take-home here, though, is to zoom out and look at the cycles of the the five elements relative to emotions. Then, look at your progression of emotions. Do you tend to follow the generating cycle in your emotions? Do you see an imbalance or a controlling pattern at play? Can you use that to your advantage? If you're hitting a sinkhole of doom with grief, what controls grief? Joy! Watch funny things! Do what brings you joy! Write some fiction. Read some fiction. Watch and read things that inspired you as a kid.
In short, analyze the the crap out of yourself and use your findings to your advantage. You can also take a class for fun and give yourself a break from the world. Let yourself be inspired again while you process everything in your subconscious.
I'm not great with knowing how I feel and why I feel that way in realtime. It does not always occur to me that someone would feel some kind of way about something. The first thing I recommend is just giving yourself some time. Activities-wise, they've actually all been mentioned. You're seeking a window to engage with those questions. How do you feel? Why do you feel that way? What are the feelings of those around you, and how are they affecting you? Somatic exercises are great. Writing your narrative is crucial. I think another key piece is really making sure you are visualizing your self and engaging with your self. I separate that word purposefully, because you need to see YOU. And give yourself permission to feel what you need to feel. Embrace what you feel. Lisa Nichols mentions the importance of forgiveness of yourself. RuPaul will talk about taking care of your inner child and sending love to yourself.
A Note on Panic Attacks
I will wrap up this post with one final thing. Your vagus nerve can stimulate and lead you to a panic attack just as much as it can lower your energy to the point of depression. What do you do in a panic attack?
Create saliva, even swish something sweet (juice) in your mouth. Trick your body in to thinking it's not running from a predator. You have food and it's time to digest. (You can do this to trigger fat burning for endurance running, too, btw.)
There's a heat piece, so if you're at home, you can put your face in the freezer, which sounds funny but helps. You can treat it like a migraine, and put your feet in hot water, stimulating K-1 and something cool on your neck.
Last but not least, there's Heart Gate. The "gates" in the translation of point names is another post, but what I'm referring to here is a spot if you follow the cubital crease to it's medial end, you'll find a Tung point nearby called "Heart Gate." When someone is having a panic attack, there will be a tender spot in that general area. Apply pressure, and needle the this ashi point with something light, a thin seirin is great. Lay down and let it sit for an extended period of time.
This was a lot longer than my previous post but I hope it's helpful. As an herbal teacher, I do want to leave something with everyone regardless of type or activity that resonates. There was a book that discussed the cleansing and protective ability of Du Huo for the spirit. A Du Huo bath is lovely for the spirit.
Until next time, I'm thinking of you and wishing you well!