The other day I was asked how I survive the turmoil of a depressive episode. That was kind of interesting, because I never consciously thought about it. I realize everyone is different and what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. Nevertheless, I think I’m on to some good stuff 😊. Obviously, it’s not going to take away the depression. These things are meant as self-care to make the journey a little easier.
1. BREATHE! Trust me, it’s a lifesaver 😊 and no, I’m not kidding you.
Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Our breath is what keeps us alive; yet we hardly give it any thought. Depression creates a lot of stress, emotionally as well as physically. This leads to a shallow breath high up in the chest. Because of this, there’s not enough oxygen going to the brain, causing even more stress and so on and on. To break this vicious cycle, we must make a conscious effort to breath correctly. By using mindfulness, yoga or a simple breathing exercise we can alleviate some of the stress in the body and the mind. At least once a day and whenever I notice I’m getting stressed, I do a breathing exercise to calm myself down.
2. FIND SUPPORT
No person, trying to take responsibility for her or his identity, should have to be so alone. There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors.
Whether it’s your partner, a good friend, a minister or a therapist, whoever makes you feel safe and heard, let them know what you’re dealing with. Sitting down, sharing your struggle and weeping is NOT weak. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable! Yes, it’s hard and it also healing to open up and receive love and compassion. When I wrote Call me crazy I got so many kind and loving responses, even from people I didn’t know, it was heartwarming and it made me realize how many people actually care (something that can be hard to see when you’re depressed).
As I said, it’s hard. Even though I have the most wonderful, caring, and understanding husband, I still have a hard time telling him what is going on. Not because I don’t trust him; if there’s anyone I trust, it’s him. There are several reasons, but the thing is, I need to learn to be open about what is going on. Baby steps my friend, baby steps.
3. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE
Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose–a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.
It’s hard to get things done when you’re depressed. The fatigue and the fact that I’m easily overwhelmed make me want to crawl up on the couch. Forever. I don’t want to do anything, I don’t want to talk to anyone. And that is exactly what I should be doing. In order not to become a hermit and not to lose my sanity, I need to get out of the house, talk to people and do something useful. I know I can’t do this on my own. That’s why a year ago I started volunteering at Little Bit (a therapeutic riding center). Normally, I love going there. Right now, the only reason I go, is because I know people are counting on me. Once I’m there, it’s ok and there will even be moments I enjoy. It is tiring and I will have to balance my day, but I feel better than when I sit on the couch all day. Even when it’s hard, at least I feel good because I did something useful.
Find what works for you, but whatever you do: get out of the house!
4. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.
Louise L. Hay
It’s not your fault that you’re depressed, don’t beat yourself up about it. Ignore people who suggest otherwise. And don’t beat yourself up if you’re unable to ignore them. Don’t beat yourself up about anything, instead, be kind to yourself.
Whenever I notice I beat myself up because of whatever, I remind myself: what would I say to a friend if she felt the way I do. That’s always much kinder than what I tell to myself. Then, I say to myself whatever it is I would have told my friend.
When you know you can’t get through the day without sleep, allow yourself to go to bed. If you really know you can’t make it somewhere, it’s ok to cancel. And if you don’t feel comfortable telling why, just say you’re sick. That is the truth, you are sick.
And I’ll be honest, this is a struggle. I’m so used to putting myself down and pushing through that it feels unnatural and selfish. I need to constantly remind myself that I need to take care of myself. And that’s ok too. Every baby step in this direction will make it a little easier next time.
Be your own best friend, you need, you deserve it.