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Let’s just get the inevitable out of the way, I have depression. I think I’ve probably had it since I hit puberty at the ripe age of ten. It wasn’t diagnosed until my oldest boy was four months old but looking back I can see how kind of out of control I was emotionally. I am on medication and this post isn’t about me trying to get off of medication. I spent 16 years of my life being depressed and not medicated and I’m never going back there again. Living with depression is all part of a puzzle and so much of it means being in tune with yourself. For me, the months of February through April are the roughest. I live in Minnesota so the long, dark days, cold weather and lack of getting outside makes me prone to depression. I’m married to an accountant and this is by far the worst time of year for him and our family. Those contributing factors alone can create a huge mess for me if I’m not paying attention to how I’m feeling. How do I combat depression when it seems to be creeping up on me?
Five Tips to Survival When Depression Creeps Up On You.
Move Your Body
As much as I’d love to tell you that this isn’t an essential part of combating depression, that’s just not the truth. I have been working out, early in the morning every day since November of 2016. When I miss a day I can tell; I feel sluggish, lonely, and tired. Working out not only naturally increases your body’s endorphins but it creates a “high” so to speak that’s similar to morphine. From WebMD,
Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.
I experience this more on the days that I don’t get my booty out of bed to workout. Let me be perfectly clear though, when I am struggling with my depression the last thing I want to do is get out of bed. It is physically, brain chemistry related, difficult for me to get up. I’d love to tell you that the reason why I get out of bed is because I’m just that dedicated but that’s not the truth. The reason I get out of bed is because I belong to a gym, a community, and people are expecting me to be there. When I’m not in full depression mode having a community who expects something from me is sometimes the only reason I get out of bed.
I’m not saying that you need to go balls to the wall and kill yourself doing an incredibly intense workout if that’s not what you’re used to doing or if it isn’t your jam. What I am saying is that you should move your body every day for at least thirty minutes. Go for a walk with a friend, go for a walk with your stroller, join a group fitness class, DO SOMETHING.
Communicate with someone whom you trust.
I truly believe that communication is the key to being happy. We were made to be in community with others; Adam was lonely so God created Eve. We need human interaction and there’s a reason why isolation is a form of severe punishment. Find someone you trust and tell them about your struggle. For me, my people are my sister, mom and husband, as they’re the people I’ve known the longest and with whom I trust wholeheartedly. Part of the problem when you’re depressed is your inability to reason, your brain simply (or complexly) cannot move that one completely irrational thought over to the other side so that the thought can be put through reasoning. This is where communication and your person come into play; you need someone that you’ll trust and listen to when the going gets tough and you need a little reasoning. The relationship has to be strong and one that you feel safe with that’s why my people are my family.
Set a Daily Routine.
Keeping myself on task and busy with a purpose dramatically helps me manage my depression. When I’m not busy I tend to become apathetic about life – the dishes pile up in the kitchen sink, there are mountains of laundry everywhere, the kids are pretty much feeding themselves, and I just lay around waiting for the night to come so I can just go to sleep. I’m not saying that the dishes piling up in the sink is always a sign that depression is looming around the corner, there are times when life happens and we’re just busy, the problem is when it becomes the norm and here’s the key: YOU DO NOT CARE. There’s a difference between not being able to keep up with part of your routine and feeling a little twinge of guilt because you’d like to still keep up with it and then there’s the other side of being apathetic. The problem happens when you become apathetic. Apathy means, “lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.”
Fuel Your Body with Food
When I’m eating junk, guess what, I feel like junk. No really, I’m serious here. When I pig out on sugary treats (I’m not talking about one or two, I’m talking about binging) it messes with my attitude and outlook. I feel that sugar high and then the crash that comes afterwards. It’s not good to allow yourself to feel that rush because you can’t maintain it, right? You inevitably have to come off of that sugar high and that’s where problems arise for me. Again from WebMD, “Don’t rely on popular diets that cut out food groups and sharply restrict what you can eat. Just focus on the basics: watch your calories, eat lots of vegetables, whole grains, and fruits, and limit fat and sugar.” There is not a diet that can cure depression, some may say there is but nothing has been proven and my thought is that when it comes to brain chemistry you shouldn’t put yourself in a position to experiment without the help of a professional.
Take Time to Relax
Resting is just as important as staying busy. It kind of forces you to decompress and take a little time for yourself. Sit down and read a book or read to your children if they’re home. Try to stay off of social media as it can sometimes be taxing mentally. Maybe get outside and breathe in the fresh air. Spend 15 minutes minimum daily, even multiple times a day, relaxing. Give yourself permission to not be everything for everybody 24/7.
If you are still unsure, please seek professional help. Maybe seek out a counselor or speak with your physician? If you have a faith talk with one of the leaders at your church. Whatever you do, do not just wait for it to pass by. Unfortunately with the depression, despite how you’re feeling, you have to be active in recovery and this means understanding how you tick. Like I said, it’s really the LAST thing you want to do but you have to stay on top of how you’re feeling.