Depression Survival Tools and Tricks, Part I

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Everyone experiences depression differently. When it was at its worst for me, I felt constant, intense mental pain and a feeling of being completely enveloped by darkness. I was always in a state of emotional distress. I couldn’t handle completing simple daily tasks without my pain being intensified, but I had 4 children including a new baby to care for, so I needed to figure out how to keep going as best I could.

Little by little I learned some things that helped me get through my pain. I hope these ideas will help someone else:

1. Strip life’s tasks down to the bare minimum, focus on your “core” needs, and drop everything else from your life.  In other words, shift into survival mode.  

As a mom, this was hard for me to wrap my head around simply because it required me to make a paradigm shift. To go from doing as much as I could in a day to as little as possible just felt wrong. But I had no choice. It was essential for my survival.

To do this I came up with a short list of things I needed to do for myself each day that were essential for my well-being, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I made the same type of list for my family as a whole.  I also determined what the bare minimum was where daily essential tasks was concerned. Then, I did my best thing only do those things and nothing else. Doing those essential tasks, and meeting my core needs was plenty. Anything extra, I simply just didn’t do at all during that time.  This meant I had to stop doing some things. I also had to say no to some people when they approached me for help or to take part in extra “things.”

So, if you think this might help you, try making a list of your core needs and bare minimum essential tasks. Only do those core and essential items. As you start to feel better, add other tasks, but do so with care so as not to overload yourself. Whenever possible, simplify essential tasks so that they are easier to complete–for example, instead of grocery shopping the traditional way, consider, grocery pickup or delivery.  If keeping things clean is a challenge, like it was for me, consider having a friend help you get rid of excess possessions to simplify your life.

2. Medication, and regular visits to my psychiatrist. Even with my intense symptoms I was really nervous to go back on medication. I was all mixed up and couldn’t think straight. I knew I needed to do something though so I took a leap of faith and just decided to go in to a psychiatrist and try out what they prescribed. I am so glad I did. I started feeling improvement very quickly. This helped me to know I was on the right path. If you are considering medication, I recommend trying it. But definitely use a psychiatrist whenever possible as they are experts in the field of mental health and will have prescription options available that PCPs generally are not comfortable utilizing.

3. Make sleep a priority.  And not only that, but learn how you can help yourself sleep better.  Personally, my pain was at it’s worst at night, so I often found it very difficult to fall asleep.  The following things helped me:

  • Having a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Turning out the lights an hour or so before you get ready to turn in.  Darkness signals the brain to produce melatonin, which relaxes the body for sleep.  Avoiding light, even from a screen, will aid in melatonin production.  If you must see, try using a red head lamp.  Red light will not inhibit melatonin production and may even increase it!   You can read about that here.
  • Go to bed while you are feeling relaxed and sleepy.  This usually happened for me at some point every evening.  If I pushed myself to stay awake past this point, I would miss my window of opportunity.  My pain would then come with a vengeance when I finally tried to go to bed.  So, really tune in to your body.  When you are feeling ready to go to bed, do it.
  • Make your bedroom a sanctuary by keeping it clean and reserving your bed for sleep and sex only.  This helps your brain associate being in bed with relaxing and will aid you in your quest for better sleep.
  • If, despite your best efforts you are unable to get sufficient sleep, consider speaking with your doctor about a prescription sleep aid, or even trying over the counter options.  Sleeping well helped alleviate my symptoms.  Sleeping poorly exasperated them.

4.  Learn to calm your mind.  This one will look different for everyone.  My mind was in a constant state of upheaval, so I learned to add activities to my day that would help my mind to relax.  Some of these, for me, were reading fiction, prayer, quiet time alone, journalling, aromatherapy with essential oils, and utilizing calming mantras.  Basically, anything that helps relax your mind should be done as much as possible.  Activities that cause your pain to be worse should be avoided, or done as infrequently as possible.  If they must be done, plan on following up with some mind calming activities to help relax you.

5.  Music.  Listening to calming music helped my mind to relax and inspirational music helped me have courage to overcome.  What kind of music helps you?

Look for more tips in a coming post.

What is depression like for you?  Do you have to deal with emotional pain like me, or is yours different?  What kinds of things do you do to alleviate your distress?

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoJD Mason

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11 Replies to “Depression Survival Tools and Tricks, Part I”

  1. Last year I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and agoraphobia. I accepted therapy and sought after a psychiatrist for medication. It was something that took some time to finally get to, to go to and to accept that I needed help. But when I finally did, it made such a difference! It’s something not many understand, nor should they when they’re not the ones living your life. I take things as they come, try not to stress nor take on more than I can handle. Also, am making an effort to practice saying no to others – that’s huge! Great post! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Accepting and getting help are huge steps. I’m so glad that has made a difference! I love the steps you are taking to stay well! Thank you for reading and commenting! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! Thank you for the lovely post. If I can’t help myself, no one will, if I don’t love myself, then how can others, it’s about finally understanding that my mental health is a priority. I enjoy the saying, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup.’ If I’m not well, I can’t care for my kids to the best of my abilities. It’s ok to put myself first! 🙏🏽💛

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you for your kind words. Yes! So true! Thank you so much for sharing that! I completely agree. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve used all of these! I still use grocery delivery even when I’m not depressed because of the anxiety that grocery shopping induces, it also helps me stick to my budget.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s great! I need to get back to doing grocery pickup. I got away from it when I started feeling better because they didn’t always have what I wanted available for pickup. But it’s such a time and effort saver! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! 😄

      Liked by 1 person

  3. i really appreciate the fact that you see ‘survival mode’ as something constructive. too often i think we beat ourselves up over not doing ‘enough’. but i know survival mode, and it’s where i find my feet on the ground until i’m ready to take some further steps, as you say. thank you for expressing this so well (Elle)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. It feels good to know that others can relate. I’m so glad you commented. Survival mode is essential. But I understand the struggle with feeling like I’m not doing enough—because I have been there too. Thanks Elle, you are enough ❤️. It’s so important to remember that.

      Liked by 1 person

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