There’s something about the dark of night (or winter, or stress, or a number of things) that brings out my inner demons.
I’ve struggled with depression since I was a teenager, obsessing over everything from my weight, appearance, success in school, and later competency as a wife and mother. The stresses of the day overwhelm me, and I feel like I can’t handle one more thing.
I’ve had dark days when I found myself sobbing hysterically for hours on end for no valid reason, and there was even a period in high school when I was so overwhelmed. It felt like there was no way out. All I wanted to do was sleep.
Even so, if I really look back on my depression over the years, it’s easy to see a pattern.
Depression has different levels. There are times (like when you can’t get out of bed or have a desire to harm yourself or others) when the best thing to do is to seek medical attention and medication.
However, I’ve also found that there are things you can do to help ward off or alleviate depression.
The second you stop taking care of yourself and aren’t keeping a thumb on the pulse of your depression, it can easily spiral out of control.
Simple Ways to Get Out of Your Slump
Chances are, the fight you just had with your spouse over taking out the garbage wasn’t the real reason why you burst into tears and locked yourself in the bathroom.
Think about what’s really causing your depression.
Sometimes, the smallest things can set you off. Maybe you’re tired or feeling frustrated because the kids aren’t listening. Maybe you haven’t had any time to yourself since before you had your first child three years ago. Maybe you’ve gained a little weight and are dreading your class reunion. Or, maybe it’s a combination of several little things.
Take some time to think about what’s really going on. Are you tired from staying up too late? Have you been putting in too many hours in the office? Are you feeling the “Facebook Blues” because all your friends seem to have it all together and you haven’t even changed your underwear today?
After you’ve identified the problem, try to think of some realistic solutions.
If there’s no simple solution in sight (or you’re so frazzled that you couldn’t think of one if you tried), try one of the following ideas to clear your head.
1. Take some “me time”
Even if you just take fifteen minutes to paint your nails, do something for yourself. Take an extra long shower, get a haircut, get a massage, or even spend some time fixing your makeup and putting on some nice clothes.
Make an attempt to feel better about yourself from the outside in and give yourself a chance to process your emotions.
2. Drink some water
While drinking water may not boost your mood, it will make you feel better overall. Water flushes out toxins from your body, so imagine it flushing out your negative thoughts.
Also, water is healthy and every healthy thing that you do for yourself adds up!
3. Stay fulfilled
Spend some time to immerse yourself in a new hobby or a good book. Sometimes, reflecting on something other than your own problems can do you worlds of good.
Read a book (fiction is great to take your mind off your problems, but inspirational books are also great motivators), listen to a podcast, or take an online course (I recently signed up for a cookie decorating course through Craftsy because nothing screams happiness more than pretty cookies).
This isn’t just for all you baking and cooking lovers who need to burn off calories. Exercise, even in small, ten-minute increments, has been proven to boost your mood.
Especially if you have a chance to get outside and bask in the sunshine, exercise is the perfect opportunity to clear your head while doing something good for yourself.
I love going to classes at my local YMCA, but if you’re struggling to get out of the house, try doing a workout video. I just discovered Beachbody’s CIZE workout, which is a fun way to exercise (and the videos are short enough to do first thing in the morning or during the kids’ naptime).
Beachbody is also offering my readers free access to Beachbody On Demand for the next 30 days. Try out as many new, fun workouts as you want to pull yourself out of your slump.
5. Get the right amount of sleep
One of the first red flags of depression is a change in sleep patterns. Whether you’re sleeping too much or too little, the right amount of sleep can immediately put you in a better mood.
When I’m sleep deprived, I turn into a growling, snarling ogre that no one wants to be around. However, based on Hal Elrod’s teachings in The Miracle Morning, I’ve been learning that it’s possible have an intentionally good morning, which in turn puts you in a better mood throughout the entire day.
Note: Hal Elrod suggests that you’re probably getting too much sleep, and that it’s possible to function on as little as four hours. While I agree that it’s possible to function on that little sleep, I don’t recommend it, especially over an extended period of time.
Functioning and living your life to its fullest (depression free) are two totally different things. While I agreed with most of the other principles in the book, I would highly recommend that you go to bed earlier to make sure that you’re starting your day on the right foot.
Speaking of going to bed earlier, I’ve taken Crystal Paine’s Make Over Your Mornings and Make Over Your Evenings courses, and they have helped me take control over my schedule on so many different levels. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your schedule and struggling to get out the door in the morning, I highly recommend both classes.
While I took the Make Over Your Mornings course first, I would recommend trying the Make Over Your Evenings course first because, as Crystal Paine suggested, a positive morning begins the night before.
6. Do something you love
I love to bake (hence my excitement over the Craftsy cookie decorating course). There’s something about mixing the ingredients in just the right ratios and kneading dough that melts my stresses away, but maybe you enjoy gardening, knitting, or another activity.
Find what you love and do more of it.
That may be easier said than done, but if you’re feeling depressed, you need to focus on making yourself and your wellbeing a priority.
If you can, involve the whole family in your activity (I often have the kids “help” bake cookies and muffins). You could also get the kids set up coloring or doing a craft while you spend some time on your own activity.
7. Have a healthy snack
Many foods from bananas to chocolate (in moderation) to protein to blueberries have been proven to boost your mood.
That said, there are some foods, like sugar, which cause a spike in your blood sugar. Try to avoid foods high in sugar and trans-fats, which have been proven to have a negative impact on your mood (and overall health).
8. Drink something hot
There’s something to be said about curling up with a hot cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa. For some reason, that seems to melt all my problems away.
Maybe it’s simply taking a few minutes to sip a drink, savoring the taste, but researchers also credit the caffeine in the tea and coffee and the polyphenol in the cocoa as significant mood boosters. They change the levels of serotonin and dopamine in your brain, boosting your mood.
9. Talk to someone
If you’re just feeling blue, talk to someone close to you.
Even if you don’t get into the nitty-gritty details of your funk, spending time in the company of others (even if it’s just a phone call) can help so much. You may not feel like talking to others, especially if you’re feeling like Eeyore, but trust me, you want to make time for friends if you’re feeling depressed.
If you’ve been feeling depressed for a significant period of time (most doctors define a “significant period of time” as more than two weeks), seek help. Talking to your family doctor is a good starting place, but you will most likely want to talk to a therapist who can get you started on a healing path.
Even though there is still a stigma surrounding mental health, don’t be afraid to seek help. As a teenager, I felt shame and embarrassment when I had to tell my choir teacher why I would be missing play practices for the next few weeks while I went to a counselor. Later, as a newlywed, my husband told me that, since I was now happily married, I wouldn’t need to see a doctor (as much as I love my husband, it’s possible to still have chemical imbalances in my brain).
Not everyone understands depression and what you’re going through, but please don’t let that stop you from getting the help you need, whether it’s in the form of professional help or simply trying one of the techniques listed above.
The bottom line is that this is your health! While there are preventative measures that you can take to ward off or alleviate depression, sometimes medical attention is necessary. Although it took me years to realize this, there’s no shame in asking for help.