- Mental Health
5 Tips For Coping With Depression
The Great Depression
Let me make it very clear before you read any further -- I am not a doctor. I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist. I am not a trained professional. What I am is a person who has suffered from depression most of my life, and have learned a few things about coping along the way. I'm not cured or immune, I'm just a little better prepared for when those moments come, and hope I can offer a few tips on how you can be, too.
Keep A Journal
Whether it's an online blog that only you read or a fancy leather-bound diary, a journal is a great way to not only express your feelings, but to keep track of things.
I found after keeping a journal for several months that there was an actual time pattern to my smaller bouts of depression. Knowing this meant that I could look back and see if there was a reason -- a change in eating habits, a memory of something that occurred around that time, anything. It also meant I could prepare myself for those times.
Of course, even if you find no pattern at all, a journal simply offers you the chance to express yourself with no fear of judgement. You can say anything, no matter how serious, silly or secret. Sometimes just getting those feelings out can lift you a little.
Eat Well and Exercise
I know, I know. I always hated it when people gave me this advice, for two reasons. First, when you are crippled by depression and getting off the couch to go to the bathroom takes effort, exercising is the absolute last thing you want to do. I always thought the people telling me this had clearly never even heard of depression. Second, one of the most common symptoms of depression is change in appetite. You either don't want to eat at all, or you binge like a ravenous monster that can only be appeased by ice cream. Eating well is a laughable idea when you're depressed.
But, as much as I hate to admit it, those obnoxious people are right. When I finally got fed up with being overweight, I had to find ways to stay healthy through my bouts of depression. I failed (and still fail) a lot of the time, but I now know that when I succeed, I do feel better. Not great, not healed, but better. Not only do I avoid the big sugar crashes and guilty feelings associated with my chocolate binges, I also have one thing I can feel good about in the midst of all that negativity.
If you're anything like me, you've tried prescribed anti-depressants and not been impressed. I've tried several different things, and they all left me feeling like a zombie or drone. I stopped taking anything several years ago, very much against the advice of, well, everyone.
I can't recommend what you should take (again, not a doctor), but I can tell you there are several natural anti-depressants on the market. Whether they work or not, only you can decide, but if you are fed up with medication but want a little help, it's worth looking into. I have been taking one for a couple of months now, and while the effects aren't as strong, neither are the side-effects.
Do Something You Love
The biggest effect my depression has on me is a complete lack of passion. My normal love for music, books, writing and genealogy disappears. I look through my albums and see nothing I want to hear. I look at my bookshelves and everything sounds boring. My family tree seems tedious and pointless, and writing is simply impossible.
But I force myself. Usually, it's music I can manage -- writing and reading take actual effort, but I can lay in bed and turn on some tunes. Even if I don't want to hear it, even if I am sick to death of every album I own, I force myself. I'll grab my favorite Bowie album, put it on and crawl back into bed. Guaranteed, at some point, I start enjoying it. Maybe only fleetingly, maybe only one line of one song will catch my attention, but I'll at least be reminded that I do, indeed, love that album.
When I'm depressed, the last thing I want to do is talk to people. The idea of just going down the road to get a latte makes me want to cry, because I'll have to talk to the lady at the till. But cutting yourself off completely is the best way to prolong your bouts of depression -- humans are social creatures by nature -- we need interaction. This is why things like Facebook or Google+ are so great to me. I can be laying on my couch, unable to move or talk, but still interact with people. Even if it's just "liking" a status update, I feel like I'm still in touch with the real world. And there's always the chance that something I read on there will make me laugh -- a much welcome break from the darkness.