It seems as though most people, nowadays, suffer from depression. Not everyone may deal with downright debilitating depression – the kind that keeps you in bed for days on end, unable to function or maintain any routine. Not everyone deals with the chronic pain associated with depression, though I’m sure some people don’t even connect the dots between their aching bodies and heavy hearts.
But… I believe most people have experienced some level of depression in their life. I believe most people can and will relate to this, to me, on some level.
Now, I’m not going to get into what I believe causes depression, because… honestly, I think that everyone experiences different levels of depression for different reasons. For some, it may be nutritional deficiencies. For others, it may be a symptom of inflammation. For many, it’s brought on by traumatic experiences that still haven’t been fully processed or released. Maybe it’s simply a resonance issue between what is and what you want it to be.
But… that’s not my point.
I simply want to share what’s been going on in my life lately… and how I’ve gone about dealing with it.
Depression is a monster. On an average day, I feel like I’m drowning in doubt. There are some days when I don’t even recognize the person staring back at me in the mirror. Since my recent move, I’ve felt incredibly disconnected – body, heart, and mind. Nothing resonates harmoniously. After building up a life for so long in one place, it feels incredibly challenging and counterproductive to have to start the building process all over again somewhere else.
In my mind, I guess I thought that I was better equipped to handle massive episodes of change. I had been looking forward to the idea of starting fresh, even if there were several factors that I was not particularly excited about. But… to my surprise, I’ve been caught in an undertow of crippling anxiety, continuously getting pounded by the harsh waves of my depression.
Today is the first time, in nearly a whole month, that I’ve felt even remotely optimistic.
It’s been really hard on me. It’s been incredibly hard on my relationships. I feel as though, for the most part, unless I’m actively reaching out to people… I have no one checking in on me. And… really… the last thing people with depression want to do is reach out. It’s created a huge disconnect between me and the people that used to surround me every day. Everything here seems foreign and strange.
For the first time in a really long time, I’ve felt incredibly lonely and have been struggling to deal with my alone time productively… coming from someone who generally enjoys spending their time alone!
I have had zero inspiration to write, to draw, to make music – even to do yoga, sadly. At one point, I made an attempt to change up my workouts, feeling as though maybe I just needed a break in routine. But, unfortunately, I only ended up feeling more exhausted and physically depleted than before.
I’ve come to realize that… maybe depression isn’t really something you can force. I understand that in certain instances, it can be very beneficial to push yourself outside of your narrow comfort zone. But… I also understand that the ebb and flow, the highs and lows, of life are a natural process. When it’s time to slow down, it’s time to slow down – regardless of what you’re trying to make happen.
Frankly, a part of me had been riding the top of the wave for so long that I simply forgot what it felt like to crash down into the trough. I don’t necessarily mean that things were always perfect from up high – but I definitely had a lot of action in my life to keep me preoccupied. I was busy working, teaching yoga, and volunteering – activities that made me feel secure, happy, and humble.
So, as I try to set up the rickety forms to once again pour and set a solid foundation, I find myself returning to practices that I have become lenient with.
If you’re seeking professional help and guidance, then consider adding the following practices to your day to compliment your current treatment. If you’re trying to overcome your depression on your own terms, then here are my most helpful tips.
I think this is probably one of the most underrated life practices. There is a cheesy saying that I’m sure you’ve heard – an attitude of gratitude goes a long way. And it’s absolutely cheese, because it’s absolutely true! Lots of people say “be grateful” but… fail to actually make an effort to practice gratitude.
For me, I like to make a list of several things, every day, that I am grateful for. Some days, it’s the basics – fresh food, clean water, a roof over my head, my health. Other days, it depends on what I’ve done and who I’ve connected with. Regardless, I make a point before bed (or first thing in the morning) to write down the things that I am most grateful for. There is no limit here and every day will surely be different. Nothing is superficial when you’re grateful; although, I wouldn’t recommend practicing gratitude for the downfalls of others. Try to focus only on yourself and your efforts (unless of course, you’re grateful for the success of someone else – that’s always a positive).
An important reminder: You shouldn’t force gratitude, like, “oh… yeah… I guess I’m grateful for this”… if you’re guessing, you’re only fooling yourself. When you’re really, truly grateful for something, it feels like your heart lights up.. like there is warmth and sunshine coming from within. So even if you’re only really, truly grateful about three things that day – that’s better than lying to yourself about ten things.
Writing things down is a powerful practice in itself. Again, many people do not realize the power of sealing a thought, an intention, or an offering of gratitude, in their own hand. Your energy body syncs with the physical and mental. As you think and write, your energy seals it. I suggest investing in a gratitude journal – a specific book that you dedicate to filling with nothing but love and gratitude.
If you’re dealing with depression, take a moment to write down a few things that you’re grateful for. It could be a person, any pillar of support in your life, maybe even a good TV show that you’ve been binge-watching in bed (like hi, I crushed Stranger Things in two days). Even if you don’t have a specific journal. Just take note of a few things that inspire warmth within.
Improve Your Physical Health
Nutrition and exercise, I would have to argue, are also greatly underestimated tools for self-improvement. There are certain vitamins (mostly the B group) that, when lacking, are associated with the onset of depression. As a vegan (or not), I try to take a B12 supplement daily, while also consuming many B12 fortified foods. I encourage you to research vitamins and their effect on depression for more information!
Eating nutritious foods will make a huge impact on your body and energy levels, while exercise boosts neurotransmitter activity and improves feelings of overall confidence and capability. When you power through a workout, you’re proving to yourself that you are able to overcome challenges. Repeating the process will create a healthier habit loop in dealing with your depression.
Normally, when I am stuck in a rut, the last thing I want to do is workout. I’m normally too busy expending my energy in the form of overthinking to want to make any extra effort. But… the reality is that overcoming those hurdles are what will make you more resilient against your depression in the long run.
If you’re stuck in a rut, it’s time to fight your way out. If possible, head to the gym and squeeze in a workout. It doesn’t have to be grueling or time-consuming. If you’re not looking to leave home today, I suggest heading on over to YouTube for some free access to ANY workout you feel like. My personal favourite is yoga (obviously), but a good cardio session will leave you feeling simultaneously gassed and uplifted.
Another really important factor is hydration! If you’re letting yourself dehydrate on a daily basis (as WAY too many people do), then you will naturally feel more sluggish and lethargic. Make sure you drink a glass of water upon waking up and continue to hydrate through out the day!
Connect With Others
This one, for me, is probably the hardest pill to swallow. When I’m suffering, the very last thing I want to do is reach out to others. I already feel like enough of a burden; I don’t want to drag down my friends with my depressing rhetoric. After all, I feel like I have already gone to them with my problems many times before, taken in their advice, and then failed to utilize it to the best of my ability.
However, I’ve since realized that you don’t necessarily have to spill your guts and share every dark, damned thought you have. Instead, you can simply reach out – say hey, ask them how they’re doing, and simply re-establish that connection. They’re not your therapist; you’re not being forced to share. Sometimes just having someone to text or call and share in a generic conversation will be a positive experience. Knowing that someone is there for you lifts a huge weight off of your shoulders and chest – trust me.
If you are suffering, it’s time to reach out. Like I said, you don’t have to spill all of the beans. Simply make an effort to text one of your friends or shoot a message to a family member. Ask them how they’re doing. Who knows…. maybe they are also going through some personal shit and could use a friend, too. Humans are incredibly communal. We’re not meant to live in isolation. We thrive when we feel connected to ourselves, to others, and to anything greater than ourselves.
Ask For Help
I used to care a lot, admittedly way too much, about what people would think of me for saying this… but I’m at a point now where I recognize what works for me and I don’t care what others have to say on the matter. When I’m feeling my darkest and most down…. I pray.
While I don’t associate with any religion per say, I do believe that there is a higher power… a divine source… a God, perhaps. I like to pray to God and ask for help, clarity, and direction. When I pray, I don’t necessarily imagine any one particular being or entity; I simply ask, aloud, for the strength to persevere and carry on. I also like to call upon my spirit guides and guardian angels for support. To some, this probably sounds hokey and unbelievable. But I’m telling you… there is great comfort in having faith in something bigger than yourself.
Faith is a word that, for some reason, seems to freak a lot of people out. I’m definitely not suggesting or recommending that you pledge allegiance to any religion or church. I’m simply suggesting that… there is a guiding force that connects us all together. This force breathes life into the trees, the flowers, the water, the soil… into each of us. There may not be much “scientific evidence” to support this claim at the moment, but… I feel as though it’s something most mainstream scientists won’t even bother touching, regardless of if it were true. However, when you take the time to examine the patterns of the natural world… when you really pause and admire the beauty of life… when you reflect on all the struggle you’ve had to overcome, and when you begin to see the past aligning to the present…. it’s really hard not to feel like there is a divine, guiding force at play.
Perhaps it’s time to connect with that force and explore your own faith. If you believe in nature, spend time in nature. Immerse yourself in the woods. Go hiking and take time to stop and appreciate every single flower. If you believe, at all, in any sort of higher power, then it’s time to suck it up and pray. It’s time to ask for help. Surrender to what is, stop projecting your expectations onto the situation… and allow for some true insight into what you can do to get to where you want to be.
My intention is not to make recovery seem easy.
In fact, much of my advice is far easier said than done. I feel as though, after suffering from severe anxiety and depression for so long, that it is always going to be a process. I truly feel as though… nothing ever truly gets easier; we simply evolve and get better at dealing with things.
My focus right now is to maintain a consistent routine based around the tips I’ve shared above. I devote a little bit of energy every day to gratitude, to getting exercise, to eating better, to making an effort to connect with others, and to connecting with the divine.
I do recommend meditating; however, it didn’t make the list because honestly, I’ve read that meditating while severely depressed can have adverse effects (if you do not have someone guiding you through the process). While meditation has helped me deal with certain issues tremendously, other things have come up during my practice that have actually worsened my depression temporarily. Luckily, I do have the resources to deal with this kind of hitch – but the average person may not. Meditate at your own discretion.
I know that I’ve been relatively inactive for a while now – and this is precisely why. I’ve had a general lack of interest in everything; I’ve had to enforce a personal break from most social media apps to prevent my own nagging comparisons; I have had no inspiration to publish any writing or pursue interests beyond my blog; I can barely muster up the energy to roll out my beloved yoga mat, the one I used to visit every single day.
I think, at the end of the day, the most challenging part about dealing with depression is not beating yourself up about it. Seriously. When you’re already feeling down, the last thing you need is a constant reminder that you used to be “better”. As I said before, life comes and goes in cycles. Once you observe a cycle, it does become easier to break it – but, nonetheless, certain cycles become habits and habits are not easy to override. Not easy, but still… possible. When dealing with depression, I think it is key to focus on possibilities. It is possible that you will feel better; it is possible that you’ll find your creative edge again; it is possible that all you really need is to slow down and enjoy the break. There’s no need to beat yourself up over something that everyone is dealing with. It’s okay. You’re okay.
There is so much to learn about ourselves in these low periods of time, just like there is much to learn during the high times.
Life is a process.
It doesn’t get easier; we simply get better at living life to the fullest.
If you’re dealing with depression, I hope you know that you are not alone. You’ll always have a virtual friend who understands your struggle. Trust that there is possibility and you will find yourself riding the wave again in no time.