Spoon Theory: A Metaphor for Anxiety and Depression

Spoon Theory

Episode Description

Anxiety and depression are invisible illnesses—meaning they don't have outward symptoms visible to others. Because they are invisible, they are often hard for people to explain. In this episode of "Mind Your Mind," Host Tim Unsinn visits with April Morris, LCSW, Therapist, Dakota Family Services. April references the spoon theory of chronic illness created by Christine Miserandino, an award-winning writer, blogger, speaker, and lupus patient advocate. Listen now to learn more about spoons as a metaphor for energy and how you can use them to understand and explain anxiety and depression.

What to Expect

  • Learn about Spoon Theory
  • Discover new ways to think about energy
  • Understand the strain of depression and anxiety
  • Learn how to get help


Resources: Learn More

Things to Think About

  • How could you support the people in your life who suffer from anxiety and depression?
  • How many spoons do you need to get through a typical day?
  • What can you do to replenish your spoons (energy) if you run out before the end of the day?
  • Can you give yourself permission to take are of yourself when you are running on limited energy?

About the Guest

April

April Morris, LCSW, provides outpatient therapy for adolescents and adults age 16 and over. She uses a multi-faceted trauma-informed therapy approach including a variety of therapy techniques. She enjoys working with clients from all walks of life, and is honored to join them on their mental health journey and help them build skills to adapt to life challenges.

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Transcript
Spoon Theory: A Metaphor for Anxiety and Depression

Featuring April Morris, Therapist, Dakota Family Services

Host Tim Unsinn:

Welcome to Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services, an outpatient behavioral health clinic located in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo, North Dakota. In this podcast, I will talk with our experts about understanding and nurturing our mental health and wellness. I'm your host, Tim Unsinn. Join me each episode as we explore the intricacies of our minds, decrease the stigma of mental illness, learn practical tips for managing our mental health and wellbeing and recognize when it's time to ask for help. Join me now to Mind Your Mind.

TU:

Welcome to this episode of Mind Your Mind. Our guest is April Morris. April is an outpatient therapist in Fargo and provides therapy for those over 16, primarily adults. April, it's great to have you on Mind Your Mind. Our topic is Spoons Theory for anxiety and depression. However, before we get to today's topic, there's that question I ask all of our guests and that is why do you do what you do?

April Morris:

I just really love helping people on their journey, with figuring out how to manage life stressors. And it's just a humbling experience that I'm grateful to be a part of.

TU:

I think you're figuring it out every day because, whenever I see you, you're smiling. So that's a good thing. And you work with a lot of people in a lot of different situations and to keep a smile on your face, tells me, you do appreciate what you do in helping others. So thank you for that. Again, our topic is Spoon Theory for anxiety and depression. What is the Spoon Theory?

AM:

Sure. So it was originally created for more of chronic health illnesses. For example, the person that initially started explaining her challenges in this way, her name is Christine, Christine (I'm going to butcher her last name) Miserandino. She's a lupus advocate. And so you can look her up and find different things that she's written on blogs. Some of her stuff is kind of titled, "But you don't look sick." So it kind of brings a lot of the invisible physical illnesses, as well as mental health, into light because people can't always see them. The idea, right, is that each spoon represents the energy that it takes to complete tasks. So it's common for somebody with depression, then, to have low energy and to really need more time to complete a task. So that might require more spoons, for example.

TU:

Yeah. And I read some of her information. I looked her up ahead of our time together, and just interesting how she puts spoons with the conversation with a friend at lunch. And I'm just like, how clever was that? And now here's an opportunity for you to share that information as well. So as we talk about spoons theory and spoons literally are involved. So how are spoons spent or lost?

AM:

So if you can imagine actually handing somebody, when they wake up in the morning, 10 spoons, right? So whatever equivalent of spoons they wake up in the morning does depend on maybe their condition and the status of their condition. One morning, you might wake up with 10 spoons; another morning you might wake up with, let's say five spoons. The reason why that changes day to day is, there's this theory of if you borrowed from the day before. So you know when people say, "I overdid it yesterday. And then I had to spend the whole next day in bed," you borrowed spoons. So you wake up the next morning with less spoons and you have to be really mindful with limited energy where you're going to put it. Are you going to put it into cleaning that day, running errands, you know, playing with children, getting out of bed, you know, it really can vary day to day, how you decide to spend your spoons.

TU:

So "spending the spoons." What is the thinking behind the spending of the spoons?

AM:

So if I only have five spoons for the day, I'll just give myself five, and I'm feeling a little down and depressed, and I've been trying to manage that for a while. It might take me a spoon to get out of bed and shower. Now one is gone and I have four left for the rest of the day. Then I have a big meeting at work that kind of drains me. I lost another spoon. End of the day picking up kids from daycare, making dinner. That's kind of a big rush—that might've cost me a couple of spoons. Now I have no spoons left and I'm pretty exhausted. My capacity to handle a lot energy-wise, mental health or physically, could be little to none

TU:

As you spend those spoons, we shouldn't feel, I'm just guessing, we shouldn't feel guilty in that situation. We should look at that. If we've spent five of our spoons for the day, just realizing that we had a tough day and maybe we should cut ourselves a little slack.

AM:

Yes, absolutely. I actually think this theory, and a lot of people comment about how it can really be helpful to, one, plan ahead and be realistic with expectations of yourself, depending on what you're trying to manage for an illness. And it's very self forgiving. It can help you not compare and judge yourself to other people because everybody's spoon quantity, like I said, is different every morning, based on your starting energy, and each person's tolerance is different. So it really promotes not comparing yourself.

TU:

So we've lost some spoons. How do we get them back?

AM:

That's right. Well, Christine says the original theory was you couldn't get them back. But mental health that have applied this Spoon Theory say you can gain them back with time, rest, basically self care, right? So, if you borrowed spoons, that might mean you take a nap, and it's okay. And accepting that a nap is going to be part of that Saturday because you had a busy family weekend. Maybe you sleep in one day. Maybe, you know, it's focusing on your nutrition and staying hydrated and taking medications as directed; whatever it may be that we can stay as healthy as possible and give our body the best opportunity physically and mentally, to have the most spoons that we can have each and every day.

TU:

I appreciate the fact that we're not to judge ourselves based on someone else, and then be willing to forgive yourself. That's, I mean, two big things I got out of what you were just talking about.

AM:

Yes. I think a lot of people get disappointed. If you're in the thick, the worst part of your depression, maybe you woke up with 10 spoons and it took all 10 spoons to shower. So in therapy, we would really talk about like, "Wow, you got up and you showered. That's great. That took everything you had. I'm proud of you." And knowing that that's okay sometimes, and that that's going to be the hand that you're dealt and not again, comparing yourself, or I didn't get all these other things done.

TU:

Now, how about the support system for those that are doing spoons, as far as if you know, someone that is going through therapy using the spoons, what are some, maybe a few tips just for us to encourage them? Is that something that's recommended?

AM:

Yeah, I think in general, I feel like the Spoon Theory is kind of just, it's a concept, right? Of getting us to really conceptualize our energy and how it's a limited resource and how do we make the best of it and being graceful to ourselves. And if you're supporting someone, I feel like just telling them that that self care might include therapy and make sure that they have good self care. See if you can give them ideas of how to, to do what fits for them. And if it's you yourself again, if you're not really sure how this works or how to rebuild your energy or how to conceptualize this, therapy, individual therapy, support groups, whether it's for your individual illness or overall mental health. There's so many groups, depending on what type of group you're looking for. Always encourage reaching out.

TU:

Excellent, excellent. Spoon Theory for anxiety and depression. A lot of amazing nuggets in everything that you shared with us. Any other thoughts before we wrap up?

AM:

Nope.

TU:

All right. We almost saw your head going back and forth as you were saying, "No." It's always great to have you with us before we go, that last question as we wrap up, what do you do personally, to mind your mind?

AM:

I just love being outside to me. That's the most relaxing thing that I can do to replenish. So if I can get a few minutes outside in the sun, by myself, take a walk, I love being at the lake. If it's not warm, I will take a bath and pretend I'm somewhere warm. And you know, you do what you have to do and use your mind to be mindful and take you there.

TU:

Well when you're in that warm spot in a tub, watch out for the sharks. April, thank you for spending time with us. We appreciate you. Thank you for being on Mind Your Mind.

TU:

Thank you for joining us for Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services. You can't have health without behavioral health. Remember to mind your mind. For more information, links to additional resources, contact information, and much more go to dakotafamilyservices.org.

 

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