Over the years in dealing with my depression, I’ve collected and used these tactics to help me deal with the insidious depression symptoms lurking just below the surface of my consciousness. They are neither a cure or therapy. I share them as coping mechanisms which may help you better navigate your day, offer a new perspective, and energize your spirit.
• Get up
• Make the bed
• Get dressed
• Have breakfast
• Adopt a pet
Get up. When you wake up in the morning, don’t turn over and go back to sleep. Get up and get out of bed. I use an alarm clock set at 8 AM so I don’t get up and feel the day is half over and it’s too late to start or do anything.
Make the bed. As soon as you’re on your feet, and yes, you can pee first, make the bed. Pull up the covers and straighten the pillows. For the rest of the day, if you want to lie down, lie on top of the covers and use a throw if you want a blanket. This tactic ends the cycle of hiding from… well, everything and everyone.
Get dressed. Change into clothes appropriate to leaving your home, even if you don’t go out. This way, if you do decide to do something, anything, you’re ready. One less decision.
Have breakfast. This gets your body’s physical functions and mind moving. Missing meals adds to the feeling of exhaustion. Make sure to take in proteins. They’ll make you feel full and less hungry longer than junk food.
Walk. Stretches muscles. Easy. Free. To counter feelings of isolation, acknowledge neighbors with a nod and maybe a smile. For me, nods became “Hello,” which turned into “Nice day,” and later, into conversations and friendships. If you start to feel isolated, there’s usually someone around to sit and talk to.
Adopt a pet. Yes, it has to be alive. Chia Pets don’t count. Bird, reptile, or mammal. It’s up to you. Caring for another sentient being is motivating. From my own experience, which I admit is limited, cats are the easiest. Dogs, which I now have, are more attentive and they love to Walk. However, they do require more attention and care than cats. One plus with both dogs and cats, you won’t need an alarm clock to Get up.
• Write it down
• No “Ould” words
• Make a list
• Give yourself time
• Be present
Write it down. Nothing feeds depression like a circular negative. Grab a sheet of paper or a notebook or bound journal, and them down — good, bad, horrible, guilt-filled, shame-filled, anger-filled, or just plain sad. Curse, plead, complain, yell, whine, accuse, justify, and plead. Doesn’t matter what or how. Just get it out of your head and onto the paper. A word, a phrase, a sentence, paragraph, or pages. Forget about form, grammar, or punctuation. Add a drawing. This is your private space. The page reflects without judgment. Note: if you have NO privacy, write on a piece of paper and burn it afterward.
No “Ould” words. Stop using words and phrases with “ould” in the spelling – should, would, could, should have, would have, and could have. Not easy but I promise it will change your life. These are GUILT words that do not cause action or evoke change. For example, “I should vacuum today.” If you don’t, at the end of the day, it’s “I should have vacuumed today,” and guilty conscience.
If you tell someone, “You could have…,” you’ve criticized what they have done even though you think you’re being helpful…or not.
Instead, use action or decision words. “I will vacuum,” or “I won’t vacuum.” A yes or no statement. No guilt. “I did it,” or “I didn’t do it.” Fact. No guilt. To the other person, instead of “you could have”, say “Thank you.”
Make a list. Write down everything, large and small, that you need to take care of or want to do. Get it out of your head on to paper. Numbering doesn’t matter. When you’re done, look for the easiest task to accomplish and do it. “Put newspaper by the door for recycling.” Done. Good. Do another or not. One thing is way better than nothing. An accomplishment. Cross it off your list. Next day, one thing. Add to list as required.
Give yourself time. In depression, nothing really changes in the space of 24 hours. Change needs time, input, experience, breathing room, and direction. What kind of change is up to you, and it may lead you down surprising paths to options you never considered. How long it takes, is a crap-shoot. A week? Probably not. Research might last for months. Okay, a year? Maybe. Except, if you’re like me, there’s a tendency to procrastinate. To be safe, I went with every 5 years. At the end of each time period, evaluate and reconsider options. The immediate effect, for me, was a light at the end of the tunnel, albeit a lung tunnel. The decision to change is the first step.
Be present. I’ve save one of the hardest for last. The unchanging past and future I expected made me heartbreakingly sad. The only place I functioned was in the present. Now. In the moment. No pain. No expectations. No regret. No anticipation. A different present. No better or worse than before, just different. Everything, thoughts and body, responds to what is happening now. This means not thinking about if you preset your DVR when you are talking to a friend. Listen and respond. People know if you’re with them or not – especially children and pets.
How do you learn to be present? Two ways are through meditation and yoga.
This is my story. At first, I could only be present for a minute. Then two. Five. When I walked, I found my mind wandered to the past and future. To stay in the moment, I memorized three short poems and recited them over and over during my walk. If my mind wandered (“How could I have been so stupid….”), I’d stop the thought and return to the beginning of the three poem sequence. Every time I made it through with no distraction was a personal triumph.
Forgive. It is much harder to stay mad than to forgive and forget. Everyone has emotional baggage. Behavior has everything to do with who a person is. Input — good, bad, or indifferent, has made us who we are. Take active care of yourself. Retain the gratitude for those who helped, forgive and forget those who didn’t… because they couldn’t. Going forward, limit relationships that drag you down and expand relationships that feed and energize your spirit.
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