How I Fight Back My Depression
My struggle with depression and anxiety began at a young age. For a long time, I didn’t know how to cope with it. Most of the time I indulged the darkness.
I’ve compared depression and anxiety to a heavy raincloud, always hovering nearby. Sometimes it overtakes and overwhelms us, and all we can do is remember that we aren’t going to drown.
Sometimes we beat off the cloud and it retreats to forever lurk somewhere close by. At least, that’s how depression feels for me.
These days there are many reasons for that cloud to come rushing in, releasing its torrential rain down on us again. When I find myself in the shadow of the depression cloud, here’s how I cope.
“Depression lies. It tells you you’ve always felt this way, and you always will. But you haven’t, and you won’t.”
— Halley Cornell
1. Immediately prioritize self care.
This is the first thing that will go when depression sets in. It can be as simple as neglecting to brush my teeth, or as serious as not eating. All I know is that when I begin to feel depression creeping in, I need to do whatever I can to prioritize self care.
I stick post-it notes on my mirror and walls: remember to do this, remember to do that. Drink water, take your vitamins, eat your vegetables.
They also serve as encouragement — the menial tasks feel pointless when you’re depressed, but they do have a point. The point is to take care of you.
If you can identify the things you’re going to struggle with when you’re depressed, you could ask a friend or partner or roommate to help by checking in and making sure you have what you need to get those things taken care of.
2. Recognize when you need to step back from responsibilities.
Sometimes prioritizing self care and your mental health involves sacrificing “doing it all”. I don’t like to make any commitments when I feel a bad bout of depression coming on.
This helps me avoid the guilt of not showing up or doing a bad job. I want to give my all when I have the mental resources to do that. If I’m not functioning, I’m not going to help anyone.
Maybe this looks like stepping back from anything time-consuming that can be put off. Maybe it means stop stressing about that project you haven’t gotten around to.
Sometimes, for me, it means not going out for social events that I know will drain me as an introvert. Everyone is different; for you it may mean prioritizing social time instead of solitary activities.
3. Get outside and move your body.
The one commitment you definitely should not drop is your gym time. Any exercise you do on a regular basis should be increased, not abandoned. Physical movement is good for your brain and your happiness.
Maybe you can’t manage to lift weights or hit the treadmill when you’re beginning to feel the weight of depression settling on your shoulders. That’s fine — but you need to get outside for fresh air every single day.
I’m serious. Go out there and breath it in, as scary as it may be and however reluctant you are. If you’re out there and you feel the urge to take a walk, even better.
“Depression is, in part, grief for your own life not turning out how it should; grief for your own needs not being met.”
— Johann Hari
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4. Listen to music. Any music. Just turn it on.
Sad music can actually make us feel better when we’re down. When I learned that, it changed the game for me. I’ve got playlist after playlist of “sad” songs, but now I know they’re actually helping.
I love to listen to music when I’m exercising, but it’s also pleasant to listen while taking a walk for fresh air. I love being outdoors and I have a lot of activities I like to do outside, such as working on a horse farm, so I’ll listen to music while I muck stalls and exercise my horse.
Anytime I’m feeling down, I turn the music up. It makes an immediate difference in my mood.
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5. Make your space feel better.
I am very sensitive to my surroundings, and I often stop cleaning up after myself when the depression starts settling in. My space becomes cluttered, dark, and miserable.
I changed my living environment to be as bright as possible to help deal with this. My furniture is brightly colored, my space is airy, and I let the light in through my windows. Even in the winter, I either get outside or use a therapy lamp.
I also prioritize cleaning, since it makes me feel good and productive, and if I can’t manage it I ask my spouse for help.
Whatever you need to make your space feel more comfortable — plants, colors, soft blankets, candles, etc. — get those things set up so you can easily enjoy them when you’re feeling down. Even the act of going to the store and buying a plant or decoration can bring about a positive shift in your mood.
Depression is an ongoing battle. For many of us suffering from chronic mental health conditions, it will be a lifelong struggle. I have lost family members to the struggle, so I know how much is at stake.
If you’re feeling like you’re in the shadow of that raincloud, make sure you also reach out to your doctor or therapist for help. None of these strategies will help you cope if you’re spiraling too fast.
I have been hospitalized and relied on medication to get me through the hardest times. It’s not a failure on your part if you need help or not always able to manage on your own.
These days thanks to my mental health care and the strategies I listed, I’m able to fight back my depression when I feel it settling in. But I still go to my doctor and therapist. I still tell my spouse and talk to my friends when I need support. You don’t need to get through this alone.
If you have a strategy or mindset that I didn’t mention in this article, feel free to share it in the comments below.