Sunday, 23 August 2015

7 Things I Do When I'm Depressed

I accidentally deleted the first version of this post, and didn't realise it for about 3 weeks. Thankfully that doesn't happen to me very often, though I found myself thinking, why this post in particular??! It was difficult trying to remember that far back; and the second version never seems as good as the first, but I'm going to persist!

I do think this is an important topic to write about. Most people only show the best side of themselves on the internet -- and who can blame them? I like to stick to writing about my hobbies and fun things I do on my blog. I try to avoid anything negative, because this is my fun place, where I come to escape. It's easy to forget though, that blogs and instagrams are just one aspect of a person's life, a carefully edited version. I can't count the number of times I've started feeling 'blog envy', thinking that the person I'm reading about must have a perfect life. No-one's life is perfect. I have the same issues as everyone else. I work 6 days a week, and my job can often be very stressful. Most times, at the end of the day I'm tired, and I don't have as much time for art, craft and writing as I would like. This can often lead to depression. I also have anxiety which sometimes makes it difficult for me to go out and do/experience the things that I would like to.

Having said all of that, at heart I'm a very positive person, so I thought I'd make today's post about some of the tactics I use to cheer myself up when I'm feeling depressed. I hope that they might help anyone going through the same things I am.

When I'm at the dentist having my teeth drilled, I think about playing with puppies and kittens. Believe it or not, it actually makes the experience a lot more bearable. The Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was the first one to suggest this idea: when his followers were in pain, he encouraged them to reminisce about past times enjoyed with friends. If I feel depression or anxiety getting the best of me, I imagine myself as a character in one of my favourite films (one with a happy ending!), or I think about being in a beautiful garden, or playing with baby animals. This has been a lifesaver many times when I've been in a crowded train feeling overwhelmed.
I can't remember where I read about this next trick unfortunately, but I read of a girl who relaxes by imagining herself painting with beautiful sparkly glowing paints, paints that don't exist in real life but her imagination makes them come to life. Sometimes I find it relaxing to imagine myself crocheting or knitting. I call it 'head crafting'.

Your body is an amazing and very complex organism. Sometimes there might be physical as well as mental and emotional factors at work. A few months ago, I went to my doctor to get a general check-up. I was surprised when he told me that my Iron levels were extremely low -- so low that the lab's instruments don't even measure such small amounts! I wasn't surprised to hear this, because I'd been feeling down for a long time. I thought it was just Winter that was making me feel so tired and sad and cold. I started taking Iron supplements the next day, and within a few days I felt much more myself. I had much more energy and felt like doing my hobbies again.
If I'm feeling depressed and grumpy for no apparent reason, I check where I am in my cycle. Yes, it's PMT time again! I tell myself that it'll only last for a few days, and that means I have permission to pamper myself in the meantime.

This one is for those weekends when I can't bring myself to get out of bed and the thought of doing anything is excruciating. Having a shower is such a simple, everyday thing that it doesn't feel like a luxury and so I don't have to feel guilty about it. Usually though, once I've done it, I have more energy -- I feel like getting dressed and doing something. Even if I end up getting straight back into bed, at least I'm clean and I smell nice.

This is what Barbara Sher calls the Complete Willingness Unit and Havi Brooks at The Fluent Self calls One Tiny Thing. I love One Tiny Thing myself, because the acronym OTT is the same as Over The Top, and that makes it sound outrageously fun! You might be thinking, but that's just another way of saying the old cliched phrase, "baby steps!". In some ways that's true, but you're only taking one step. And it's a step that you're absolutely willing and able to take. If you feel any resistance whatsoever, then don't do it!
For example, one of my biggest bugbears is putting away clean laundry. I have a huge pile of it in my bedroom, and just looking at it is depressing. My wardrobe is all disorganised and it's a complete nightmare. I say to myself, "I will put away one thing. One Thing. I can definitely cope with that." Once I've done that, if I feel like going on, I do. If I don't, it's perfectly fine.
Another time I was feeling depressed because I hadn't written anything in such a long time. I realised that my notebook and my pen tray were in different rooms. I retrieved the pen tray and put it together with the notebook. Even though I didn't actually do any writing, I felt better. I knew that it would be easier for me to find my materials if and when I felt like writing again.

The most vital part of this technique -- and yes, I admit, the hardest -- is giving yourself permission. Letting yourself take the credit for doing this one thing, acknowledging that it is enough, and not letting guilt in. Something that really helps me with this is a concept I heard of a few years ago from The Fluent Self called Fractal Flowers. The idea is that everything in your life is connected to every other thing in an infinite pattern, like a fractal. So, no matter what you're doing right now, it's having effects in other parts of your life.
I had to work on this for quite a while before it clicked in my head, but now it's one of my favourite techniques.

(Incidentally, while looking up the relevant links for this section, I also found this funny and inspiring post on brushing just one tooth.)

On my ipod, I have a playlist called 'Happy Songs'. It brings together all of the songs that make me happy from all genres, from Kpop to Disco. When I'm feeling down, I set it going, and I instantly feel better. Lately I've often been listening to it at other times, as well. Now that I think about it, when things are really bad, I could make listening to a song my One Tiny Thing.

I'm sure many people will be familiar with that voice in your head telling you not to bother writing that story or doing that drawing because it'll be the worst thing ever created in the history of man. I used to let that voice take over, but with a lot of work, I've learned to defy it. I do a bit of reverse psychology and try to prove the voice right! I'll deliberately do a really bad drawing, or just grab a bunch of textas in my fist and scribble all over the page. I'll choose some paints that clash horribly and just smoosh them around. Other times I might butcher the craft of writing by creating a story with no ending, or using horribly cliched words that I would never normally use. I turn making the worst possible creation into a game. Usually, I end up having fun and feeling a whole lot better.

No matter how small it is, I make sure I have something to look forward to. I find that this one is most helpful when I'm in situations where I can't just run off and sit in a corner or spend time daydreaming, etc. It's nice to have a holiday booked in, but of course I don't always have the money or opportunity to do that. Even small things can lift me out of depression though, like having a session booked at the Cat Cafe, or arranging lunch with a friend. Declaring Friday to be pizza night. Deciding to walk a different route at lunchtime. It doesn't have to be complicated or expensive, just something that will break up the everyday routine of work.

That's right, sometimes I just do nothing. I would have been ashamed to admit that until recently. All my life, I've always felt like I have to be doing something, anything, but never nothing. This is another situation where the concept of Fractal Flowers is really helpful. For example, sometimes all I want to do is lie in bed and stare at the ceiling for the rest of the afternoon. It sounds awful, but perhaps that's what I really need to do at those times. One time when I did that, I fell asleep and had an amazing dream that inspired a story. That story would never have come about if I'd gotten up and mechanically forced myself to do housework or cook dinner. I might even have gotten the extra rest that I needed to avoid coming down with the nasty cold that everyone else was getting. Who knows? Anything could happen.

If none of these wacky ideas work for you, there are plenty of others out there on the internet at your fingertips. If nothing seems to be working, please talk to someone in your life or online. It will get better. It's getting better for me, and it will for you, too.


  1. I completely agree with your introduction!
    I tend to forget about my body and PMT in particular, it's stupid as it can be quite easy to fix things up if you know where they come from.
    I still have a long way to go with tbaby steps.
    Instead I never heard of doing the worst thing possible, it sounds fun!
    To have something to look forward to is one of my favourite antidepressive things.

    1. I think it always helps to know that you're not alone, so I'm glad if you got some ideas from it! xx