This is my first post in the series of emotional issues. Depression is a monster. Almost all of us have, knowingly or unknowingly, grappled with depression at some point in our lives. Life isn’t always kind. Sometimes things are rough and they can challenge our fortitude.
I started seeing a therapist last year after a series of mishaps. What he told me shocked me. I knew I was depressed, but according to him, I had been depressed for the better part of my life! Is that even possible, you ask? Apparently so. I am a social butterfly chatting up with strangers, making friends wherever I go, but when it comes to talking about problems, I am as introverted as they come. It’s vanity really. I can’t appear weak, it’s unattractive. So I pretend I’m strong and life is oh-so-awesome, and that I’m totally in control of what’s going on. But in creating this impenetrable facade I had accumulated a ton of baggage inside. During my first session which went over by 30 minutes, my therapist and I didn’t even talk about my current problems. We talked about my past, and man, it wasn’t pretty! Thank god for Kleenex 😂.
Anyway, I now realize that from time to time the strongest of us need a boost. We can handle our problems more efficiently when our mind isn’t fogged up with depressing thoughts. Now, if you’re not sure whether you’re depressed, ask yourself these questions:
Are you able to fall asleep at your regular time?
Do you sleep soundly?
Are you able to wake up at your usual time?
Do you feel refreshed when you wake up?
Do you have enough energy to go through the day?
Are you physically and socially active?
If you answered no to all or most of those questions, I’d say follow the next few tips. If you answered no to a couple, no big deal. You didn’t sleep well? It could just be your allergies keeping you up. Are you tired all day? Maybe you need a metabolism boost (we’ll talk about that at a later time). But if you can’t sleep, and feel tired and unmotivated, something else might be going on. If your symptoms are worse than what’s outlined above, please see a specialist first.
If you’re only mildly depressed, here’s what to do:
- See a therapist! Seriously. There is no shame in seeing a therapist. I think everyone should do that once in a while. You don’t have to make a habit of it, and if they are trying to coerce you into coming back more than you like, run the other way! My therapist was actively working to make sure we didn’t need too many appointments. A good therapist wants you to get and feel better, not keep you wallowing in misery and return to him/her every week. I only saw my therapist for 2 months, and I was majorly depressed, like suicidal depressed 😟. Once you find a good therapist, like I did, you’ll realize that it’s nice to be able to talk freely in a neutral environment. You don’t have to worry about hurting anyone or being politically incorrect. And you don’t have to be clinically depressed either. Just speak your mind!
- Force yourself to workout! Doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym everyday and pump iron. Try going for a long walk, or follow a workout video at home. Join a dance class, play with the kids; but get moving. It’s simple physics really, first law of thermodynamics or the law of conservation of energy- energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be transformed. So if you have any pent up negative energy, you can’t miraculously destroy it. You have to transform it. Transform it into kinetic energy by getting active.
- Watch what you eat! It’s convenient to run for the jar of cookies or a box of donuts when you’re feeling blue. Who doesn’t like sugar! But sugar can only make you feel better temporarily. If you keep eating junk, and continue being inactive, you’ll ultimately end being more miserable than you were before because your body wouldn’t feel good. So force yourself to eat healthy. If you’ve lost your appetite, you need to see the doctor first and then come back to this list!
- Meet new people! This is especially important for us introverts. As depression worsens, it becomes easier to stay cooped up in a dark room than to step outside and fake a smile. And we’re too proud to go cry in front of our friends 😕. Best way to overcome that impasse? Join a volunteer group or sign up for a Meetup (go check out the app if you haven’t heard about it). In short, meet strangers. They don’t know your story so you don’t have to pretend anything. Just showing up is enough. Your brain will take care of the rest. It will immediately stop worrying and start taking notes of its surroundings, analyzing people, staying alert- it’s what it’s programmed to do in unfamiliar situations. Extroverts are blessed in this regard. I know a few people who’ve hit some hard times over the years. But they would simply go around talking to the whole world about it, crying to any friend or acquaintance they met. They are proactive in seeking social suport, without consciously being aware of it. Introverts need to work hard on this one.
- Breathe! Alright, obviously I know you’re breathing, but what I’m saying is to stop everything else and notice that you’re breathing. Take a few one-minute breaks during the day when you put everything aside and take long deep breaths. Fill up your lungs and notice the air coming in and going out. Say those words in your mind if you have to, “breath coming in, breath going out“. Here’s some more elementary science. Doing this exercise will increase the oxygen content of your blood which is much appreciated by tired cells.
So there you have it. Few simple things to practice when you’re feeling sad or blue. I use the term ‘depressed’ liberally as this is a non-technical discussion. If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, please follow your doctor’s advice first and take any medication you’ve been prescribed. You can still apply these steps in your day to day life but listen to the experts first! For example, I was placed on clonazepam when I was diagnosed with depression. However, my therapist and I worked diligently to make sure I didn’t develop any dependence on the drug and eventually came off it.
I hope these tips will help you just as much as they helped me. Know that there is nothing wrong with feeling weak; acknowledging weakness and fighting it is the bravest and most difficult thing to do. So kudos to you for taking control!