7 methods I use
written June 2018
I decided to compile a list of the things that help me work through (and sometimes prevent) a depressive episode. Mostly so that I can look back and see how far I’ve come when I feel really overwhelmed, and know exactly what to do next. But since some of you expressed some interest in reading it, here it is!
It took me a long time to realize that depression and some anxiety were something that routinely affect me, and it sort of freaked me out. Those are some big, serious (and kind of scary) words, that affect everyone a little bit differently. It’s no walk in the park dealing with them.
So let’s go; these are a few things that work for me, and maybe some of then can work for you, too.
1. depresso is far less forbidding
Names and their associated stigmas are powerful forces. They often tint the way we see the world and subtly shape our perspective long before we have a chance to decide what our own perspectives are. For me, the name “depression” epitomized something rather monstrous: something infinitely larger than me, something I couldn’t fight. And yet, there was no way I couldn’t say that it wasn’t depression I was struggling with.
So I decide to rename it.
Now, in my own mind, I call it “depresso”. Because all I can picture is a cute, little, sad espresso cup who just needs a friend. And that makes me smile.
While that all sounds cute and reassuring, the trick here is actually rooted in a technique of thought-control. You are determining how you see something. You are creating a definition, that you can understand and work with. You are choosing your narrative. How you think determines how you live. And so by turning the monster into my friend, I am no longer running from the problem. I am befriending it, sitting with it, and learning from it.
2. get moving
The first and surest sign that I’m entering a depresso episode is that I don’t want to move. Sometimes it’s that I don’t want to get out of bed for hours. Other times I can’t work up the energy for normal tasks (like cooking and eating). Eventually I’ll sequester myself away with an interesting book (or three) or a Netflix binge, and escape reality for as long as I can.
When this starts to happen, I make myself move. Whether it’s going for a walk, going to the climbing gym or simply working out, movement floods the body with positive chemicals and hormones and jump-starts good perspective. You can legitimately think better when your body is healthy and active.
I notice that my thoughts stagnate and the world becomes sour when I don’t move. Once the blood gets flowing, so do my thoughts, feelings and ideas; the world become safer, smaller and at the same time, more wondrous.
Our minds, emotions, and bodies are so intricately connected, and we have to take care of all the different parts. It’s not fair to get mad at the part of you that’s struggling, because often it started somewhere else, and that somewhere else just needs a little love.
3. success is accomplishing one thing
Usually when I’m feeling depresso, small tasks feel overwhelming so I avoid them. I feel bad that I’m not doing the things I’m supposed to, which makes those tasks even harder to do. Then those tasks then start snowballing into more things to do, which becomes even more overwhelming, and consequently I avoid them even more, and it sends me into a really bad mental spiral.
e.g. I have no energy, so the house stays messy, I don’t follow up with someone and dinner just doesn’t exist. Because the house is messy, I didn’t follow up with someone and there’s no dinner, I’m obviously a terrible person who can’t get anything done. Because I can’t get anything done, I’m a terrible person. Because I’m a terrible person, I’ll never be able to get anything done… etc.
And then nothing does get done and I feel terrible.
So instead of measuring the success of a day by a laundry-list of to-dos, I started measuring it by only. one. thing. I pick a goal, and if I accomplish that one thing, the day is not wasted (and I’m not a terrible person). Sometimes it’s just getting up, making my bed and eating breakfast, sometimes it’s contacting one person. Some days it’s a simple task, and other days it’s more complicated. I simply adjust it to my current state.
It’s how I view every single day of my life. Not just depresso times.
4. do one hard thing every day
This is a handy little trick that came out of our time living here in Germany. While it’s full of adventure and excitement, it’s also a very different way of life, a very different language, and a very different culture. When I’m feeling depresso, sometimes normal things here (that aren’t normal to me naturally) seem incredibly difficult. Especially the language.
I realized that every time I avoid a situation or avoid doing something because I’m afraid or anxious, it becomes harder the next time I encounter it. Whereas if I just do it the first time, it doesn’t have the chance to grow into something formidable.
Because even though it doesn’t seem like it, when we avoid our fears we are choosing our fears over ourselves. And as we reinforce fear it becomes harder and harder to conquer. Fear is always the gateway to freedom, and just like our renaming technique, fear can be re-framed, befriended and learned from as long as we learn how to do the hard thing and choose ourselves over our fear every day.
5. stick to your habits
One of the hardest aspects of being depresso for me, is the complete lack of energy that hits me like a wall. Which then compounds into all sorts of things that I don’t get done, or do waaay differently than normal. And while that’s okay, I find that relying on little daily habits of life help the day seem more normal in the midst of the weirdness. Because let’s be honest, depresso times feel like a completely different world than non depresso times. Making a point to maintain the daily habits and routines you already have helps return some normalcy to life, which in turn helps ground your mind.
Also, it should be noted that this is not the time I try to incorporate all sorts of “really great new helpful habits”. I just keep doing what I already do.
6. watch this video: 7 ways to maximize misery
This video will forever be my go-to when nothing else helps.
7. be okay with the fact that you’re not okay
This is probably the most important and also the most difficult thing to remember. So easily do I get mad at myself or feel ashamed that I’m not okay when I think “I should be fine.”
It’s okay to not be okay. We’re only humans after all, and sometimes humans aren’t okay. It’s part of this existence. It don’t mean we won’t be okay again, because we will be.
But it’s only when we can own not being okay that we free ourselves to be happy in the midst of it. A wondrous paradox of being both okay and not okay at the same time. Because it will pass. And when it’s over, you’ll still be there–a wonderful, wonderful you, that’s been there all along.