One of the most unkind things you can do to yourself when you are unwell with depression is to focus on getting better. Why? Depression is an illness that will run its course and when you are evaluating whether you’re any better or not you are constantly reinforcing a sense of failure and defeat.
I’m not saying give up, not at all. Just stop thinking that because you did X, Y and Z and you don’t feel any better, or because you were too low to attempt X, Y and Z, it’s your fault you don’t feel any better.
Imagine if you had the ‘flu and took some vitamin C and ate an orange and got cross because you weren’t better! Or everytime you sneezed berated yourself because you didn’t take vitamin C? You’ve got the ‘flu, we don’t know why, there are things you can do like drinking fluids and resting but it will go when it goes.
I doubt you can hasten recovery but I honestly believe that investing in getting better prolongs depression. Stop giving yourself a hard time.
So what should you do? I advise you keep a good mental health regime when you can and follow my tips below, but don’t beat up on yourself for lack of results. Forget the results. What we are doing with a good mental health regime is laying the ground for when you are better, so that you will be able to enjoy your good mental health when it arrives. You can’t MAKE it arrive through sheer will power, you’ve tried that for a long time. Let’s look at how you can get yourself ready for the good days when they come (in time, through no predictable cause).
Miriam’s Top Tips for Depression
1 Stop investing in getting better:
Keep up good health practice when you can but try to stop measuring and worrying about improved symptoms.
You are not alone, many people are living with depression and it’s OK to be depressed. (You may need to say that to yourself several times over because that is often the hardest piece in the depression puzzle.)
2 You don’t need a reason:
If you know the reason for your depression it’s easier to fend off all those people who don’t want you to be depressed and who are looking for a reason, probably so they can fix you because they don’t know it is OK to not be OK. You may have had a bereavement, illness or job loss. However a majority of people don’t know the reason. My personal belief is there is always a reason and therapy may help you find it. But having a reason does not reduce your depression and it’s quite legitimate to not know the reason. I have cancer and people aren’t constantly asking me, ‘But why are you ill?’, there is a reason, no one knows what it is and finding it won’t cure me!
“having a reason does not
reduce your depression”
3 You do need exercise:
All studies show, my personal experience in my life and my 3 decades as a psychotherapist show, exercise helps depression. Try some wrist and ankle circles now. Screw your face up and relax it, breathe in, drop your shoulders. Don’t expect results, remember tip number 1.
You may get some good side effects of endorphins and a temporary mood lift from exercise, this is really helpful in reminding your system of other states of mental health and for keeping you well. This will help you do more positive things. Your brain will be reminded of what it feels like to be healthy and while your depression may continue, you are literally keeping your mind open to other states.
One of the benefits of exercise is that it regulates our breathing, two other ways of doing this are Laughter Yoga or singing. You can do these in groups or in the privacy of your own home. There is even a laughter phone line you can join.
4 You may need medication:
Don’t decrease, increase or stop your medication suddenly. Do talk to your GP and ask for a medication review. If you’re not on medication, consider if your symptoms are constant or if they come and go and if you would benefit from some ‘pain relief’.
5 Everyone needs contact with people and nature:
Try and say yes to contact with others. Even looking at videos of cute animals on the internet has been showing to stimulate positive feelings so connect with people and animals in whatever way you can. If you can get actual physical hugs that will help immensely.
Get out and sit in a park or your garden or do what I’m doing right now and find a room with a view.
Proven in studies, counting our blessings helps. I will be doing weekly gratitude posts for you to join in with on my facebook page.
7 Expect good days and opt in:
Be organized and prepared for exercise and social outings even if you can’t manage it, make sure your gym bag or swimming bag are always ready to go or your running shoes and some socks are by the door and your kit to hand. Then when you have a good day you don’t have to spend it searching for your cossie or being defeated because your clothes aren’t washed. When the good days come, that decision moment to go out might be brief and delays can cost you the opportunity. I’ve had clients who have spent weeks with their swimming bag ready in their car, before feeling able to make use of it. It is an achievement to be ready and may just lead to further achievement.
Plan outings and say, ‘yes’ to invitations. You can always say to people that there is a 30% chance you will need to cancel. With my current health issues I always say, ‘yes’ with this proviso and add that I want people to keep asking even if I don’t come because I will come eventually. You don’t know if you will feel like going so don’t predict negatively now, say, ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’, keep the door open for yourself. You can always opt out later.
The tips are not focused on getting results and they aren’t about not accepting yourself. The point of my tips is that you do them because it’s good mental health hygiene and it keeps things ready for your return for health and helps you make the most of small windows of positivity. It will prevent you prolonging or exacerbating symptoms. Be ready and organized for those decision moments on a good day and enjoy those times, focus on, be pleased about and celebrate those times.