When depression sets in, it can take over. It is hard to do simple things and make plans for doing anything at times. It is the heaviest weight many will ever carry around and it is heavy. Depression can take us into a dark, deep, hole and finding the ways out can be hard because of this darkness.
Making big changes while experiencing depression feels like too much. Trying smaller, more attainable changes can feel a little more doable. Here are some small things for you to consider in finding some light and taking steps out of depression hole.
Schedule One Thing a Day That You Eagerly Anticipate.
When things feel hard or heavy, the last thing you may want to do is schedule anything. You may want to sulk, stay put, and be stagnant. These are ways to continue making things hard, instead of making moves toward alleviating the pain of depression. The times it can feel hardest to get through depression is when you forget that you have options.
When you schedule a tiny event for yourself, it is a commitment and can be a catalyst for making yourself feel better. We have choices as we navigate depression. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are easy in the moment, but it could be a shift to help your entire day. If you put small events that interest you on your calendar, that could be the buzz of anticipation needed in the middle of a weighted day.
Start small with your calendar events to hold yourself accountable and practice self-discipline. In times of depression; you may feel powerless, but you are not helpless. Small events for your calendar that make a big difference could include; showing up to a live conversation with a favorite author or celebrity on Instagram, cleaning a small space in your home (think one sink), walking around a plant nursery to smell the flowers, or maybe making a cup of hot tea or coffee and breathing in the aromas.
Committing an event to your calendar helps you trust yourself when things get tough. Healthy rewards are not just for kids; adults need them too. Shifting from obligation to anticipation when the notification pops up on your calendar can make the tiny event feel like a big deal in a worthwhile way. You may still feel like you are not doing much, but there is movement. You are taking small steps.
Eat a Nutritious Snack.
The last thing you may want to do when things are hard is eat healthy. Usually cravings for sweet treats and salty snacks take over. But, processed food can make you feel even worse. If things feel sticky inside, chances for movement lessen. You can still allow yourself sweet treats and salty snacks but adding one piece of fruit or a vegetable is a choice that can shift your perspective.
Eating all beige food can make you feel very beige. This doesn’t have to be complex. Choices can include; mini bell peppers, sugar snap peas, grapes, or carrots. A good rule of thumb is to select something with a feast of color, a good crunch, and a taste that will bring all your senses to the table.
Keep Promises to Yourself.
This is a preventative tool since it helps to build trust with yourself. Breaking promises to yourself consistently makes you lose trust in your own ability to follow through. If a friend always cancels on you, chances are you stop trusting the friend. This is true for yourself too.
Keeping promises to yourself is a practice in being patient with yourself. You are holding yourself accountable, maybe even for the first time.
You may not stop the habit right away. If you always cancel eagerly anticipated events with yourself, it may take some time for you to avoid canceling these plans you’ve made.
Take a stance of observing and noticing your behaviors and feelings that come up when you do cancel, instead of judging yourself. Sit with the feelings that come up even though it might be uncomfortable. Let yourself feel the disappointment so that you can shift your behavior for next time.
The trick in this tool is not to feel worse about yourself but to grow compassion. Yes, it’s a bummer when you cancel or don’t follow through. It’s also an opportunity to do better for yourself next time.
One strategy encourage following through on keeping promises to yourself and building trust with yourself is to write one-task to do lists on post-it notes. Each post-it note can have one task. When you finish, you can draw a big checkmark right in the middle of the note with a marker or utensil of your choice. These one-task post-it notes can help you with taking one step at a time and minimize overwhelm.
When days are feeling hard, you can write things like, “clean my sink.” The task should be easy enough to begin and hard enough to feel accomplished when you finish. It’s less about the materials used and more about finding your worthiness through loving commitments. By keeping promises to yourself, you can earn your own trust again. And, it can prevent harder days from feeling so hard.
Do the Opposite of What Your Depression Thinks Is Best.
When days feel hard, you may not be your best self or thinking most clearly. Sometimes, you can sabotage yourself subconsciously, which will block neural pathways from joy. Depression may want you to stay in bed, sleep all day, avoid seeing or talking to others, avoid taking a shower or moving at all. Depression may want you to self-medicate, call in sick to work, stay home from school, cancel helpful appointments, stop taking medications, eat more or eat less.
Even though this may be a subconscious choice; conscious, positive self-talk can help you make a shift and talk back to your depression. One type of positive self-talk using a diffusion technique learned in therapy can sound like speaking to a small child or maybe yourself as a young person.
If you feel like you want to stay inside under the covers all day, you can try a technique called diffusion, where you talk to yourself, preferably out loud. Try saying this as though you are talking to yourself or a younger part of you, “Okay, I know you really want to stay under the covers all day. And, there are other options. Let’s try to brush your teeth.” It may take some cajoling depending on the weight of the day, but it’s worth it.
Once you brush your teeth, there are more options available to you. But you don’t know that until you let yourself go there. Depression is anger turned inward. This can lead to fear. Fear keeps us safe, and faith is a risk. When days feel heaviest, you are asking a lot of yourself. But you are worth it.
Seek Help From Professionals
Days are hard with depression. Hours are hard with depression. You might find some of these tips helpful in taking some small steps out of the deep, dark, heaviness of depression. Each decision you make, is a decision supporting either you or your depression. You have options. They aren’t always easy, but you don’t need to suffer to prove your strength.
Seeking help through therapy can provide you additional support in managing your depression and taking more and more steps toward living the life you want that may seem unattainable now. We provide help for depression for teens, emerging adults and adults. We understand the heaviness of depression and have experience in helping others who suffer with depression.
Visit these links for more information on the following:
Help for Depression
Help with Drug and/or Alcohol Use