5 Things that Actually Help Manage My Depression
Hi, there. Revised with affiliate links. This post contains affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy. Also, I am not a doctor or health professional of any kind. I'm just a writer who lives with depression. Full disclosure, I'm on anti-depressant medication, but that doesn't fully manage my depression. What works for me may or may not work for you. This is not medical advice. Nope. That said, I hope you find something useful in this post.
1. Music: Let's be real. No, an uplifting tune is not going to magically clear up an episode of severe depression. But it can brighten up your everyday life and help you feel better. The three main activities in which music has made a difference for me are sleeping, relaxing, and focusing.
Have you heard of binaural beats or brainwave entrainment? (I always read that as brain entertainment, and I like it.) Don't run away! It's not that weird. I promise. If you're like me and you like to jump on in, go for it. If you need to understand what it is and how it works, feel free to dig into a good ol' Google search. I don't feel the burning desire to know why; I just know it works for me.
The set-up: Minimal. You'll need an app and/or audio tracks. You can find numerous Android and iPhone apps, and tracks on Amazon. (If you have Prime, you'll find a selection of free tracks.) My fave Android app right now is Brain Audio. Update and correction - 6.17.17: Brain Audio is not binaural beats. It's isochronic tones. However, I still recommend and use the app.
Keep in mind, headphones are necessary. I HATE earbuds and I wanted something comfy enough to wear in bed. So, I grabbed a pair of CozyPhones from Amazon in pink, and they work pretty well. When I'm writing or working at the day job, I listen to beats meant to increase concentration and creativity. When, I'm chilling or trying to go to sleep, I use the appropriate tracks. Don't think you can mix and match here. The last thing you want is to be super-hyped at midnight, when you have to get up at six a.m. (Note - that is an affiliate link.)
2. Exercise: I know right? You've heard this before. You may have rolled your eyes just now. I get it, but it's still true. When I exercise on a regular basis, I feel so much better. When I skip exercise for a few days, I start to feel like a warmed-over turd. Yes, like crap!
If you hate exercise, don't fret. I'm not talking about running a marathon, or getting swoll bro. Find what works for you. Yes, what works for you really is the best for you! Go figure.
What works for me is 30 minutes a day on most days (5-7 days a week). I don't hit that goal every single week. I just don't. But I also don't dwell on it. My fave exercise in the universe is Barre 3. It's a combo of ballet, barre, and yoga, and I love it. If you are interested, try the free 10-minute workout. Bonus, I feel great about my body when I do Barre 3.
The set-up: As minimal or all-out as you want to go. Got wifi? Go on YouTube and find all the free workouts. Like to walk or jog or run? Do that. Like to hit the gym? Join and find a buddy to go with you. The main thing is: Plan for it. Make it part of your routine. Don't be hard on yourself and have fun!
3. Sleep: So, I touched on this in number one. There is a link between sleep and depression, and it can be a nasty cycle. Depression can cause you to lose sleep (or to sleep way too much). But a lack of sleep can also feed into depression. Not good. In the simplest of terms, don't you just feel better when you get a good night's sleep? I know I do.
First things first, how much sleep do you need? And with whatever else is going on in your life, can you get it? I've heard a range of hours, in addition to the traditional 8 hours of sleep recommendation. Bottom line: you know how much sleep you need. If you've never thought about it, do it. For a week or so, use an app, activity tracker, or pen and paper to record your sleep patterns. Be sure to note how your mood and energy levels vary, based on your sleep habits. Feel great on 6 measly hours? Sweet. Need 8 or 9 like me? Aim for that.
I get that it's not always possible to get the ideal amount of sleep. Have an infant? Snoring spouse or dog? River-dancing upstairs neighbor? Yeah, that's rough. What I suggest is doing the best you can in your current situation. Invest in some comfy earplugs or headphones to block the snoring and river-dancing. The baby? Well, I've been there. You just gotta make it through, my friend, and pray your sweet little one sleeps through the night soon. Naps are also good.
The set-up: Depends. What helps me? I listen to binaural beats meant to induce sleep. (See number 1.) There are plenty of apps out there. For a few suggestions, check out this HealthLine article.
Again, it's all about what works for you. For the love of all unicorns, please, please invest in a good mattress. I know. It may not be at the top of your priority list. But trust me, if you are sleeping on bare wood pallet you found behind Wal-Mart, you're not getting a good night's sleep. (Unless you're into that bare-pallet thing, then go for it.)
Follow the standard advice, to wind down before bed, avoid the triple espresso shots for a few hours before bed, etc. This one is for the moms in particular, make your sleep a priority. Don't you laugh at me. You are a human, and you need sleep! It is not optional. A lack of sleep will catch up with you after a few days, and the results aren't going to be pretty. If you must, think of it as "for the children." They need a well-rested mom-lady, and so do your co-workers and other fellow humans.
4. Perspective: This one is going to be a bit more difficult to pin down. Let me tell you, I lacked perspective on my depression and my problems for a good many years. When I spiraled, boy, did I ever. There was no reasoning with me in that state. The key here is timing: If you feel yourself heading down Craptown Road where everything is the worst ever, then take a detour.
A few things that work for me:
Ask yourself, "If this the worst thing that happens to me today, is it so bad?" Typically, my response, is no, I'll survive. For example, "Is getting a snippy email from such-and-such the end of the world?" It may piss you off and upset you, but it isn't the end of the world. Now, if this truly is a horrible thing, of course, don't try to minimize it.
Remind yourself, "No one but me determines how much I enjoy my life." I believe most of us want to enjoy our lives. So, why are we so determined to let others dictate how much enjoyment we have? Joy comes from the inside. No one has access to that but you.
If you are going dark, ask yourself, "Can I give my family one more day?" I hope the answer is yes. Please, please don't make big life decisions (especially life or death) when you are depressed.
The set-up: The most minimal. This one is mostly a mind-play. But chatting with a friend, meditating, praying, getting outside, reading something positive, writing, anything that changes the mental scenery helps. Need reminders? Print out quotes and display by your desk. Or save them to your phone. That way, when you feel the cycle starting, you have something to latch onto.
5. Balance: We all need it, and we all suffer when we are out of balance. For me, balance is the sum of all of the other items on this list. If I use these strategies to help manage my depression, I feel balanced. If I don't, I feel off-kilter.
I have to remind myself on a daily basis that I can help myself feel better. How do you know if you are off-balance? Oh, honey. You know. You are snippy, wound-tight, exhausted, scattered, numb. Yeah, something inside you and in your life is out of whack. Ask yourself, "What do I need to do to get back in balance?" And take one action as soon as you can, no matter how small it may seem. It might be stretching, drinking an ice-cold glass of water, or taking a nap. (Oh, please let me take a nap!)
The set-up: Finding balance might be a matter of routine. So, why not build balance into your daily routine? Think about what makes you feel good, mind, body, and soul, then add it to your schedule. Every day. Yes, you. Are you laughing at me again? Seriously. What could be more important than taking care of yourself? You don't need to do it all. You just don't. Leave a little time for you.
What helps you feel better? Please share in the comments and take care.