It’s always easier to talk about the coping skills that help with depression and then those days come into your life and suddenly nothing works.
For example: I can read 1,000 things to do when you’re depressed or how to avoid depressive days, but I’ve realized that’s not possible (or at least they don’t work for me usually). It’s especially hard to find your own way of surviving depressive episodes given the different mental illnesses that exist. You have to decide what works and decide for you what works because it’ll be different for everyone.
These tips won’t work for everyone, but after 4 years of extensive research and trial and error; I finally have a list of ways I survive my depressive episodes.
Today, these are the few tips that I always find successful and I use on a day that feels hopeless, where my mind spins like a radio station; only full of negative thoughts on a repeat track. The days where the color and dreams leave our body, and a dark cloud enters the mind. It’s those days that I’m mindful to use these tips to survive the hours that feel like days; during episodes of depression.
- I lay down before I start my day, awake. I lay down to try to meditate. Sometimes that fails from fighting all the demons and thoughts in my head, but laying down to collect my thoughts gives me a feeling of power over my mind; I’ll practice this mindfulness practice regardless of how down or defeated I’m feeling. I can’t login my phone, I don’t go to work, I don’t talk to people in the house until I’ve had time to anchor my mind (as much as possible) before I present myself to the world. If I don’t anchor my mind, I’ll spiral down and down for the rest of the day because I’ve lost complete control of my emotions.
- I stay away from social media, sometimes I stay away from my phone altogether. If I feel like blogging, I’ll log straight into a word pad and begin to write a draft; but I stay off the “Stats” and “notifications” page. I don’t find it fun to scroll through Facebook or Instagram when I’m depressed. For me, I’m working hard during a depressive episode to stay mentally stable and in a content place; the presence on social media paints this perfect world that we all should strive to have or we end up in the game of comparison with others lives versus ours. That’s no help. And on most days, I like social media and usually, I never compare myself to others; but everything changes during an episode of depression. So for me, no social media on these days.
- I change the music I listen too. I stay away from all emotional songs because they’ll jog my memory to past trauma or future worries. I’ll listen to podcasts, talk radio or extremely happy songs that I’d normally skip on my playlist during a down day. It keeps me from going to deep into my emotions.
- 4. I stay away from things/places where my brain can go dark and depressive. For example: I love bubble baths and candles with some music on. During a depressive episode though, that can create a perfect storm for an emotional breakdown. The dark, the emptiness, the silence… combined it creates this perfect scenario for an awful experience of dreadful thoughts and feelings. I don’t necessarily socialize, I just stay away from secluding myself entirely and I remember that taking that “me time” that I so dearly love on normal days will have to wait until tomorrow.
- 5. Reminiscing through old memories, stories & pictures can bring you back to reality when you’re caught up in your thoughts. It can show you that today is a bad day, not a bad life. It’ll prove that you are loved, no matter how much your mind tells you different.
- 6. Resist the urge to live in the past, or the future. Resist the urge to cycle through the “what-if” questions. It is hard, and requires mindfulness; but commit to a new way of thinking when you see yourself thinking about one of the above. Staying in the present moment is always a great thing to do, but especially helpful during hard days.
- 7. Lastly, connection. No matter how much you hate the idea of connecting with people when you’re feeling lonely or feeling depressed; make something small work for you. Don’t stay alone & secluded for long periods of time. For example: Stop at grandmas house just to lay on the couch while she goes about her day. Ask a friend for a coffee date. Ask the husband/wife to see a movie. Join the family in the living room and just journal, you don’t even have to participate in conversation. For me, staying around others reminds me that “it’s all in my head”. It keeps my mind occupied on small, insignificant things which are so much better than thinking of the doom and gloom our minds create.
Depression comes in all shapes and sizes. It shows no favoritism, and everyone/anyone can suffer from it. It’s a day that feels like your living your last or a period of days you swear you can’t take it for one more second. Our mind has a mind of its own during depressive episodes. However, we’re lucky to live in a time where they have medication to help. They have researched techniques that help. These help me, they may not all be the best way for you to live your depressive days; but I want to encourage you to remember you aren’t alone. We all have bad days, sad days and worst of all: depressed days.
You’ve made it to today when you probably felt like giving up many times before. Just remember,
Strength comes from the times that we felt like giving up; but kept going anyway.