Depression is like a wave that crashes you over ceaselessly. It pulls you down and sits in your chest, preventing you from breathing. Like a passing storm, there are days where your depression may feel like less of a burden than it is.
But, even in the moments where you feel like the world is collapsing around you, there is still hope.
Below are a few tips to help you through those moments.
- Recognize where you are.
When you are in a depressive state, it can be difficult to recognize your emotions. Most times, you first notice the physical symptoms of depression before you notice how you feel. If you suffer from depression, check in with yourself every so often. Whether you check in with yourself via a yoga practice, journaling, or some other form, doing so can help you identify early signs of an episode.
- If you choose to wallow, be constructive.
Being or admitting that you feel depressed is hard. Most times, it’s easier to suppress your feelings and move on. However, suppressing your emotions is unhealthy. But, so is wallowing in them.
Now, I am not saying that you are not allowed to feel what you are feeling. Just the opposite. Allow yourself to feel. But, please do not stay there. Try not to get sucked into the vortex of negative thoughts. I know it is tough, but use that energy and channel it into something else. Write them down. It doesn’t matter how you express yourself, only that you do.
If you have difficulty expressing your emotions and emotional needs, broach the topic with your therapist during your next session.
- Build a network
To successfully manage your depression, you will need a network. This network should have people that you can trust, that you feel safe around, and that you can be vulnerable with. Not everyone will feel comfortable or be capable of showing up for you in the moments you need them. That’s fine. They technically are not required to do so despite the relationship they have with you. But, please make sure you surround yourself with people who are willing to listen to you and a shoulder for you to lean on. These people could be family, friends, a pet, or a therapist.
If you do not have a network, you could always reach out to a therapist. But, make sure you feel comfortable with that person– it’s kind of a given.
- Just because it rained today doesn’t mean it will rain tomorrow.
The title of this bullet point translates to today does not predict tomorrow. Do not use how you feel today to predict how you will feel tomorrow. Take each day as it comes. You may not have been able to get out of bed or accomplish the goals you wanted to accomplish today, but tomorrow always gifts you new opportunities.
Give yourself the compassion and grace to accept that you will have difficult days. But, also allow yourself to believe in the promise of tomorrow.
- See individual parts instead of the whole.
Usually, being able to see the big picture is a good thing. Companies and people love those who can see the big picture. But, in the context of depression, the big picture sometimes looks bleak. Depression makes you focus on all the gray and dark areas that you ignore the bright colors littered throughout the painting.
Writing a list of 5 good things that happened throughout the day can be helpful, but that may not always work. Another trick is to audibly congratulate yourself when you do something good.
Tell yourself “good job” when you do a good job. Not only are you recognizing your positive traits, but you are also creating positive self-talk.
- Do the opposite.
One thing that develops or grows when you have depression is your inner critic. It sits up there in your brain, shouting, whining, and undermining you all day long. Most of the time, it is irrational and uses hyperbolic language like never or always. No matter how many times you tell it to shut up, it never listens. So, whenever your inner critic brings evidence against you. Do the opposite. If it calls you lazy, be super productive. If it calls you worthless, do something kind for others. If it tries to talk you out of an event, go to the event. At least you’ll have more fun surround by others than staying in with your inner critic.
In this process, try not to create dichotomous thinking. When you do the opposite of what you’re inner critic says, accept that both possibilities of who you are can exist. You can sometimes be lazy, just like you can sometimes be productive. However, the inner critic will often try to ascribe one, usually negative, adjective to you. It will try to make you believe that you are only that. But, you aren’t. You are more complex and nuanced than your inner critic can handle.
- Set real goals
Negative emotions are worsened when we fail to complete something. We, humans, love finishing projects. Mainly because rewarded with dopamine and other feel-good hormones that make us feel worthy and capable.
When depressed, some of us bury ourselves with work. Sometimes it’s to forget how we feel, and other times, it is to prove that we are something. Unfortunately, burying yourself with work is not the answer. You will burn yourself out and make yourself feel more depressed when you do not finish everything you have planned.
Instead, set achievable goals. For example, instead of cleaning the entire house, just clean one room. Cleaning one room is an attainable goal. It will stress you out less and keep you from feeling worse. Take baby steps. Slowly, everything you hoped to do at once will get done.
- Treat yourself with kindness.
This one is important. Be kind to yourself. Always. Depression is not easy to deal with, and you make it harder for yourself when you are unkind to yourself. Be kind. Be compassionate. Treat yourself the same way you would treat a dear friend or a younger sibling.
- Reward yourself
On your journey to recovery, you will get frustrated. There will be days where you relapse and think all of your progress has gone down the drain. But, there will also be good days. Days where you wake up filled with energy, hope, and confidence. Celebrate those days. Celebrate yourself. All your success deserves to be celebrated. The happy memories attached to these moments will help you when negativity tries to cloud your mind–think of these moments like a Patronus to fight the depression dementors.
Remember that recovery from depression is a journey and everyone’s journey is different. Focus on yourself and on reaching your mental health goal. Always reach out to a therapist when you need help.
If you are struggling with depression, reach out to a therapist via Betterhelp, Talkspace, or other online therapy websites. You can also check with your insurance provider. You can also reach out to SAMHSA National Helpline as another option.
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Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, November 28). Depression: Supporting a family member or friend. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression/art-20045943.
Schimelpfening, N., & Gans, S. (2021, July 9). 8 ways to improve your mood when living with depression. Verywell Mind. Retrieved September 13, 2021, from https://www.verywellmind.com/tips-for-living-with-depression-1066834.