If 2020 has felt like an unusually difficult year, then read on – this post is for you.
I’ve been hearing from more and more people lately who are struggling with symptoms of depression and low mood.
Depression and I have been traveling down this road of life together for over 30 years.
Sometimes depression is way down the road somewhere – so far away that I can barely make out its silhouette. Sometimes it has shackled itself to me and I feel like I’m walking on a road made of quicksand.
So after decades of experience, I’ve gotten pretty good at working with depression so that when it draws near, I don’t get derailed anymore like I used to.
Whether it’s just a crappy, low mood or a full-blown depressive episode, there are three things I always do to support my wellbeing to get me through these tough times:
1. Decide in advance, execute during
As a behavior coach, the principle of separating decision from action is one that I refer to often with my clients. It’s a foundational approach to positive behavior change and it’s a big one when it comes to getting through depression.
Because on days when you’re feeling low, you most likely won’t be able to think of much that you feel like doing and your depressive mindset will skew your perspective on what might be a good way to spend your time.
So, take the “decision” part off your plate by putting those pieces in place on days when you aren’t struggling with your mood. That way, all you need to focus on is doing those things when you feel low. You know you won’t feel like it, but that’s ok. You can still do them and it’s important to because they go a long way towards supporting your wellbeing.
Essentially, when you aren’t feeling low, work to establish a healthy daily routine that includes things like mediation, exercise, healthy eating, and connecting with others. Following along with that rhythm and structure will support you on days when you don’t feel well emotionally and mentally.
Bonus tip: Music has always had a powerful impact on how I feel so I have a playlist already created of songs that make me feel good. Listening to that playlist almost never sounds like a good idea when I’m feeling depressed, but doing so almost always causes me to feel lighter and better.
2. Keep moving forward (even if it’s a bit slower than normal)
I first heard the phrase, “Depression hates a moving target” many years ago in recovery and it hit the nail on the head for me. Forward, positive action moves energy through us, changing our biochemistry and impacting our state of mind.
When you’re feeling low, go through the motions, even if you’re just not feeling it. You’ve probably heard me say on the show that often we can’t think our way into right action – we have to act our way into right thinking. There is a lot of research to support the fact that if the body leads, the mind will follow.
So, on days when depression looms, find ways to take positive action. When you feel like doing nothing, do something – reach out to a friend or go for a walk around the block. Take action and momentum will kick in to help you.
3. Connect to a broader perspective
Depression tells me that I’ll always feel this way. So when I get that message, I consciously remember that I won’t always feel this way and it will pass. Everything is in a constant state of change and I remind myself of that fact during these times. I even go so far as to think of my depressive episodes as having a bout of the “emotional flu”. There’s no need for an existential crisis, I’m feeling lousy now but it will pass.
Also, I remember that I am not alone in feeling lousy. In Buddhism, The First Noble Truth says that in life there is suffering. It’s unavoidable and part of the human experience. When I remember that what I’m experiencing is not just MY pain, rather it’s THE pain of life, I feel less alone and am comforted by this connection of a shared human experience.
Most importantly though, after I have done what I can to make things better, I focus on just allowing my depression to be there, accepting it for what it is. The more I fight it, the worse it gets. So, I ask myself, “Can I allow this to be exactly as it is?” and then I try and relax into a state of not resisting the fact that I am feeling depressed. I’ve found that I suffer more when I am fighting the reality of things.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I work as a behavior coach which means when I work with clients, our focus is on modifying their behavior so that they can make real progress in their life where they’ve otherwise been stuck or struggling. Very often we can pull the lever of behavior change to impact our emotional and mental well being.*
To learn more about working with me in The One You Feed Personal Transformation Program, click here.
If you’d like to book a free, (absolutely no pressure to sign up) 30-minute coaching session with me to see if the program might be a fit for you, click here.
All in all, remember this: You are resilient, capable and hard times will pass. They always do.
Wishing you well,