- Mental Health
Things You Can Do to Fight Depression
Step Into the Light!
Don't Put Off Dealing With the Issue
Recognizing the when and why of one’s depression is important, but I feel the truly vital matter to resolve when faced with depression is what you’re going to do about it. Through my personal struggle with depression I have come to realize that it can make life seem utterly pointless. God must truly despise depression because it can make each day gifted to us seem more like a burden to weather than a blessing. I’m convinced the darkness that overtakes most of us at some point in our lives shows itself to each individual at different stages in his/her life. Life events can trigger it, but it can also manifest at unexpected times.
Last week a friend of mine stated (very matter-of-factly) that his job is so boring it makes him want to kill himself, literally. This friend has endured a lifelong struggle with depression and took said job earlier this year. To hear that he hates this still fairly new job so entirely concerns me greatly. Struggling with depression is an every day battle for him and a lot of people. Points of distress increase susceptibility to depression and I don’t want my friend to slip back into the dark place that once consumed him. But what can he do? He thinks, perhaps, if he returns to counseling and resumes anti-depressants he can feel better. I applaud his willingness to seek help but wonder if it’s wise to jump right back into therapy and medication when he worked so hard to become self-sufficient without it. Until he’s sure, he will pursue his idea. In addition, I’ve asked him to consider some tactics I utilize to stave of depression.
Before I continue I want to assure you I’m not proposing the following to replace counseling or other medical attention if needed. My tips are what I use to keep depression at bay when that is feasible. Be sure to seek assistance from someone trained to handle serious depression whenever you need it.
Years ago, I heard a life-changing sermon one Sunday morning about not worrying why bad things happen to us, but deciding what to do about the bad things. The concept really spoke to me and I thereafter lived by that perspective whenever possible. Depression shouldn’t be ignored. It shouldn’t be waved away as a mere hiccup in your day. Conversely, it doesn’t have to be lamented as the end of the world either. Ever hear the song lyrics about, “darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable. And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.” I completely agree! If you’re not careful, a case of the blues can turn into an all out “what’s the point?” festival of misery faster than you can blink. But returning to a healthy, positive frame of mind is not easy.
Recognize the Problem
I encourage you to stop and consider if you’re depressed. Some don’t even realize it…they just feel in a funk. Others don’t have time to notice their depression. As a mother of young children, I noticed myself less and less happy as I traversed through my daily routine that I had perfected over the years to be sure everything is taken care of for my family. But depression was there…staining my mood, affecting my mind and body. I correctly identified it only because I had been depressed as a teenager.
My mother once took me to see a counselor because I was so depressed that I slept every chance I got. She was worried. I did mention to her that perhaps feeling depressed was normal if life at that time was depressing (which I felt it was), but she insisted I needed to be more well. The counselor suggestion anti-depressants…which we tried, but they made my mind cloudy, so I stopped taking them and made sure I smiled more around the house. I also noted that I would have to fight depression myself because covering it up wasn’t healthy either. From that point on I was on the look out for tips and tricks that made me feel better, happier.
Tips That Work For Me
Music: The first line of defense against my foul mood is music. I love music to begin with, and I have become aware of how it affected my state of mind. I have a mental catalogue of which songs help me relax, help me smile genuinely; help cleanse my mind of anger, fear, and sadness. I found songs that lift me up, both mentally and physically. I found songs that bleed my soul of anguish that threatened to hold me in a constant state of agony. The really great part about music is that it doesn’t cover up my depression, but rather remedies it. I’m a big fan of solving depression, not masking it. My success hinges on recognizing my pain, acknowledging it, and working to ease and eventually eliminate it. Listening to music does this for me.
Aromatherapy: That’s the fancy term, but I’m really talking about smells that improve my state of mind. A dear relative-in-law gave me an essential oils diffuser one Christmas and I still use it today. I light the candle, fill the glass bowl with water and a few drops of scented oil and breathe in the powerful healing aromas. Best of all, the oils included with the diffuser are labeled not by their fragrance but by their healing properties. There’s a “mind relax” bottle, a “sooth” bottle, an “uplifting” bottle and an “energize” bottle. The bottles are different combinations of orange, lavender, eucalyptus, lemon, jasmine, peppermint, etc. and I use each for different mental occasions. But the diffuser started me thinking…what other scents can make me feel better?
I have Yankee candles all over the house. It turns out my favorite flavor, Macintosh, really lifts my spirits. For example, if my children are driving me a little crazy I grab an unlit candle and inhale. It’s nearly instant relief. I also enjoy smelling up my kitchen with cooking. If my house smells of beef stew or gingerbread on a chilly day, it warms my soul. If my kitchen smells of lemon chicken or cinnamon rolls it revives my spirit. But why stop there? When I polish my hardwood floors the oil soap smell makes me feel good. When I put fresh cut roses in my house I buy the most fragrant ones because they invigorate my senses. This may not work for you, but the principle might. Find what scents change/better your mood. Kick depression out in the cold.
Exercise: When I’m sad or even angry, I mow the lawn. The smell of fresh cut grass combined with the effects of pushing the mower relieves my angst. When my brain is overrun, I take a long walk with my dogs. When I’m worried about something I try to go swimming or even cross country biking. I just can’t keep the worry inside when I’m swimming or biking. I feel it leave my body. I’m considering acquiring one of those long punching bags. I have a feeling that would help me combat depression brought on my frustration. What do you like to do?
Breathe: I know its a little cliché and Zen Buddhist of me, but stopping my tasks to close my eyes and focus on my breath is a real help when I’m stressed. My stress often leads to depression so I try to stamp it out as soon as I notice it. Not only do I focus on my breath, but I also take long, deep breaths to soothe my mind. This trick even works when I’m feeling defeated because it reminds me that the air in my lungs is a real gift, which returns me to an appreciative frame of mind.
Plan: This is when something in particular is getting me down. It goes back to the “what am I going to do about this” philosophy. If my job is depressing me, I like to plan how I’m going to work differently so that it doesn’t. If my living situation is frustrating me, for whatever reason, I ask myself if the way I live is still right for my needs. Then I plan how to modify it so I can feel better about how I live. If there’s an event upcoming that I’m dreading, I plan how I will handle it so there are fewer bad surprises or stressful moments as the event transpires. I also like to acknowledge a worst case scenario plan so that I feel protected from depressing situation that is hard to imagine.
Indulge: Warning…this next trick will only supplement your depression if taken to excess. I like to treat myself to certain indulgences when none of the above tactics are alleviating my depression OR I have staved off my depression successfully and want to reward my efforts. A glass of wine, a bubble bath, a bit of dessert, a road trip, a trip to the salon, all these are good examples. Sure, moderation is critical. They are meant as the occasional treat or a full-blown crisis aversion tool.
Pray: For me, a hugely successful tactic to combating depression is to first accept that I’m depressed and realize that this fact doesn’t make me weak or ungrateful of my many blessings. When I first fought depression, for some reason I felt guilty about my feelings because I figured it made me a bad person who didn’t appreciate all that I have. But I came to find that life can be sunshine and roses around you even while you feel depressed. You can have everything you need, and then some, to survive and still feel sad. It’s also common, I’ve learned from talking to others, to have no idea why you feel sad. I find prayer really helps me at these times. Talking with God about how I feel not only abates my guilt but often helps me pinpoint the cause of my suffering. I encourage you to pray about your pain. Even if solutions don’t emerge from this practice, I would be surprised if you didn’t experience some relief inside.
Write: I love to write! Try keeping a journal of your feelings and your day-to-day activities. This can help you notice depression triggers and also remind you how you’re working to keep depression at bay. You can even write to just vent, to shout, to cry, to let your pain out, and to ask questions. This trick works for me when I am convinced nobody around me really hears me. Feeling ignored in this way really depresses me. So, if nothing else, I have a space to be heard, which makes me feel better.
I have no doubt there are other tips and tricks to fighting depression that are applicable specifically to you. Find them and use them to stay in the light. And, most importantly, if nothing works don’t give up; ask for help. Therapists exist for those in need. Don’t let the darkness of depression win. Life is worth living, even in bad times. If someone else can help you see it, you’ll find relief soon after.