Helpful Tools For Living with Depression
Lord ain’t that the truth!
You can do anything. But not everything.
True words, that went straight to my heart.
The perfect storm had been brewing over the last week or so, and my fab pal “depression” just loves to visit and cause havoc at the worst times! Making an otherwise manageable situation feel incredibly overwhelming. I’ve talked about my lifelong battle [here]. I hate that battle sounds so cliché but it really does fit. It’s a fight for sure. One I will continue to win.
Mostly because I am so gosh. Darn. Stubborn!
Without diving into to every little thing, we’ve had a few hiccups around here. Just like anyone else I’m sure! Throw in being sick (I get a little extra sensitive), looming deadlines, construction on our shop site that didn’t start off smoothly… and throw in my husband getting in a car accident, and it’s “pity-party I’d like to fall apart time“.
First and foremost, thank God my husband and everyone else was okay.
Obviously I realize that is the most important thing! But after that shock wore off (is still wearing off) my head jumps straight to the financials. Oh money, why are you so necessary? We’ll figure it out, but after years of should-we or shouldn’t-we, and finally pulling the trigger on the shop project… needing to replace a vehicle couldn’t have come at much worse of a time.
So I spent the weekend feeling fine.
And that means horrible. Not being able to sleep, worrying myself sick (ironically I was already sick) and generally beating myself up for anything I haven’t been able to get done that my brain can think up.
Oh it’s fun, fun, fun in my head!
Which I know might not sound like the “me” you know most of the time. Because on the flip side….I’m generally happy! I practice being content & thankful every single day. From things like a roof over my head, continuing to be cancer free, my family and their health… to a good parking spot. I work at it.
And it works most days.
Except when depression is reaalllly trying to get a strangle hold on me. I know many of you can relate.
It’s like a roller coaster ride. And not the thrilling kind.
And there is no cotton candy.
So, I talked.
I shared on Instagram, with tears streaming down my face as I typed. Sorry but it’s true.
I know. Drama much? I’m so not into drama, swear! I am a happy homebody, and normally a drama free girl. But, sometimes, it’s hard when you need to talk, and you don’t want to burden friends or family. Social Media seems like an odd place to take it… but in that moment, I needed to spill. And in true sisterhood fashion, y’all were just what I needed. Just leaning a little and having somewhere to unburden my worries was helpful. I said again and again… that talking is so healthy and cathartic and I fully believe that!!
After talking to my mom, who totally understands me, my makeup, and is a great listener, I was ready to reset and tackle the week. Now, I’m not going to take to my blog every time I have a crappy day. (I’m sorry if saying crappy offends you.) I am… but it’s just a word. And last time I used it someone took the time to write and tell me they were going to stop following me. And I was sad, I truly was, I value every single person who reads my blog.
But I am flawed. Although I don’t drink, smoke, take drugs, cheat on my husband, abuse my child, steal, murder, rape or pillage… I cuss. I know, I’m sure you’re disappointed. Call it my vice. Along with liking dessert a little too much.
So not only do I suffer from depression… but cuss & I like sugar. Which makes me a sometimes sad, fat potty-mouth. But as you can see, it’s totally controlled (the cussing). Because I’m awfully well behaved here. And I almost never share dessert recipes, so hopefully you can stand to keep reading.
ANYHOW…. the whole reason I started writing this was that I thought maybe I could share some helpful tools for fighting off depression!! Because instead of a downward spiral that could last weeks or months. I was able to shake it off pretty quickly. My formula was: 1. sharing the burden by venting and talking it out. 2. figuring out some solutions to the problems that were weighing heaviest on me.
In short, I released it all, and then kicked it’s ass back into the cave it crawled out of!
It’s a tough world out there and sadly, with the holidays coming we can often be more vulnerable with more demands pilled on us. It’s supposed to be a joyous time of year. And it should be.
So what are some things we can do to help ourselves feel better?
— I’m going to share some tips I found on WedMB and other reputable sites, along with ideas suggested to me by a therapist and things that have worked for me personally over the years.
- DO SOMETHING NEW: When you’re depressed, you’re in a rut. Push yourself to do something different. Go to a museum. Pick up a used book and read it on a park bench. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Take a language class. Basically anything NEW! “When we challenge ourselves to do something different, there are chemical changes in the brain. Trying something new alters the levels of [the brain chemical] dopamine, which is associated with pleasure, enjoyment, and learning.”
CHALLENGE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS: In your fight against depression, a lot of the work is mental — changing how you think. When you’re depressed, you tend to me terribly hard on yourself. The next time you’re feeling bad about yourself, try writing a list of all your good qualities or reciting to yourself out loud all the wonderful things about you. Because I know, there are lots! When I have something negative pop up, like being hard on myself for not getting something particular done (often now even important!), I talk out it out in my head why it’s okay that I didn’t ____ (whatever). It takes practice, but in time you can beat back those negative thoughts before they get out of control. This is definitely a hard one for me and a continuing battle. We are so often hard on ourselves over things that don’t even mater.
TAKE ON RESPONSIBILITIES: I heartily agree with this one! Over the years having a routine, goals and others depending on me has kept me moving when depression would like to pull me down. Having a purpose is imperative. When you’re depressed, you may want to pull back from life and give up your responsibilities at home and at work. Don’t. Staying involved and having daily responsibilities can help you maintain a lifestyle that can help counter depression. They ground you and give you a sense of accomplishment. Depending on the depths and complexity of your depression – if you’re not up to full-time school or work, that’s fine. Think about part-time. If that seems like too much, consider volunteer work.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP: Depression can make it hard to get enough sleep, and too little sleep can make depression worse. What can you do? Start by making some changes to your lifestyle. Try not to nap. I know this one is hard, since we tend to want to escape with sleep when depressed. Try to determine whether or not you are really tired? If you are not, find a small task to accomplish and try to work through the desire to sleep. If you are genuinely tired, set an alarm and take a short nap, just enough to refresh yourself. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. (again with the routine) Take all the distractions out of your bedroom — no computer and no TV. In time, you may find your sleep improves.
- EAT HEALTHY: I suck at this one. When I am depressed I want comfort food. But I’ll share the info with you — AS far as it’s known, there is no magic diet that fixes depression. It’s a good idea to watch what you eat, though. If depression tends to make you overeat, getting in control of your eating will help you feel better. Although nothing is definitive, there’s evidence that foods with omega-3 fatty acids (such as salmon and tuna) and folic acid (such as spinach and avocado) may help ease depression.
- GET OUT OF THE HOUSE: Even venturing into your own backyard can be helpful. Sit in the sun if you can. Breathe fresh air, take deep full cleansing breaths. And think nice thoughts while you do it.
- GOALS: Firm believer in this one too. If you don’t have anything you HAVE to do… when you are depressed you will do nothing! When you’re depressed, you may feel like you can’t accomplish anything. That makes you feel worse about yourself. To push back, set daily goals for yourself. Even small ones.
- LEARN TO SAY NO: Now this is a tricky one. I just told you to set goals. But knowing when to say no is a real sanity saver. If you know it’s going to add undue stress, do not say yes out of guilt. Pick and choose what you say yes too. Overburdening yourself is a sure fire way to invite depression right in. Say yes to things that will bring you or others joy without compromising your mental health. It might takes some time to fine tune this one, but start practicing at it.
- ROUTINE: If you don’t have a routine, get and keep one. Depression can make the days melt into each other and structure and routine, even if forced can help push it back.
- TRY TO HAVE FUN: If you’re depressed, make time for things you enjoy. What if nothing seems fun anymore? “That’s just a symptom of depression,” You have to keep trying anyway. As strange as it might sound, you have to work at having fun when in a depressive state. Plan things you used to enjoy, even if they feel like a chore. Keep going to the movies. Keep going out with friends for dinner. When you’re depressed, you can lose the knack for enjoying life. You have to relearn how to do it. In time, fun things really will feel fun again.
- MAKE TIME FOR FRIENDS: This ties in with trying to have fun & getting out of the house. Girl time is something you don’t want to push aside, even when you might feel like it. I know from experience that spending time with friends helps release the pressure that builds up with depression. When you’re with friends it’s a great time to vent and get your feelings out and have some laughs as well!! Even getting a drive thru coffee and finding someplace pretty to park and chat can be just the break you need to help reset, and get you back on the road to happy town. Having a friend to exercise with is like getting a three in one. You’re exercising, getting out and spending time with friends. If physical activity isn’t easy for you, try water aerobics! They are low impact and really paced to your level. In fact, I need to sign up again.
- BE KIND TO YOURSELF: Now, more than ever, you need to treat yourself kindly. We tend to want to beat ourselves up. We think we are weak, or call ourselves stupid… all the harsh things we lay on ourselves when we are feeling depressed. This is the time to treat yourself gently. It’s time to a get a massage, or a pedicure, maybe a haircut (probably nothing drastic), make a lunch date (that is getting out, spending time with friends and being kind to yourself), … anything that is a treat and that would normally make you feel good, or perhaps a splurge or something you’ve been dreaming of.
- DON’T GIVE UP: EVER. This is the one I can’t stress enough. I know it’s hard sometimes. It’s like a roller coaster of emotions. It ebbs & flows… but you can manage it. You can take hold and ride it out. Life can be full and good and so worth living!!
Be the best you, that you can be. Today, in this moment. And let that be good enough.
And if you can… try to do a little better tomorrow.
If that doesn’t happen… start over again, but keep starting over. And don’t stop trying.
I am in no way purporting to be any kind of mental health professional. I am simply sharing some tools and ideas that I’ve read about, and some I’ve used myself to help ease my own depression. If you feel suicidal at all, ever, please contact the professionals below.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1 (800) 273-8255