You know the feeling. It’s a sensation of pressure on your chest, a lump in your throat, a deep dark hole you fall into. And when you’re in it – you feel like you’ll never be able to find your way out. Something is wrong – and you can’t quite put your finger on what it is. You’ve forgotten about the things that bring you joy, and if you remember what they are – you don’t care enough to do them anymore. You let go of your self care routine – life is about getting through the day. Trust me – I’ve been there.
I am describing how I felt for the last six weeks. I was in a dark place that I never thought I’d ever crawl out of, and I thought I was on the verge of losing myself. It all started after a lengthy bout of stress at my day job – the feeling of complete overwhelm morphed into depression. I visited my psychiatrist and asked for help – and he referred me to therapy in lieu of medication since I don’t react well to SSRIs. Due to some financial constraints (boo crappy health insurance) I haven’t been able to make my first appointment yet, but I have managed to shift things in a different direction in just a short time, and here is how:
I stacked positive experiences and habits.
I opened up to a friend I trusted. This was the last thing I wanted to do, to admit to someone in my circle that I was feeling – sad. Verbalizing the way I was feeling helped me gain some self-perspective on the situation. And the knowledge that my friend had my back made me feel good. If you do this, make sure that you open up to a friend who you trust – who can relate to your circumstances. There are people in my life who would just tell me to “suck it up”, these are not the types of people you want to open up to. Find someone with a kind and patient ear.
I started paying attention to the little things I do for SELF CARE. I began documenting little things I was doing on Instagram with the hashtag #SELFCAREIS. Self Care Is: going for a walk out in nature with the pup, taking some pretty pictures of flowers, cooking a healthy breakfast, putting a mask on your face, giving yourself a pedicure, going to bed at a decent hour, doing some stretches, spending 15 minutes in the sauna, etc. Don’t worry about going hard on a nutrition or fitness routine right now. Focus on small gestures of love towards yourself. Even the tiniest things can make a profound impact on your mood.
I ate more fruits and veggies (mostly fruits). I will admit I don’t exactly LOVE veggies, but I do eat them and often. Fruit however, is natures candy! And natural foods are full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber, all the goodies!! I packed my kitchen with my favorites: mangoes, cherries, raspberries, and watermelon! Yum! I never met anyone that didn’t feel good after eating a bowl of bright and colorful fruit.
I filled my mind with the good stuff. When you’re depressed, your thoughts are toxic. The narrative in our minds that we’re hopeless, a failure, or not good enough needs to be drowned out by the sound of hope and positivity. I started searching for “motivational speeches for success in life” on YouTube and it changed my world. Every single day, I am listening to the words of some inspiring figure – gaining little nuggets of wisdom. Some of my favorites are Les Brown, Tony Robbins, Joe Dispenza, Mel Robbins, Tom Bilyeu, Eric Thomas, Gary Vee, and TD Jakes. When I’m not listening to motivational speeches, I am listening to podcasts such as Invisibilia, Cut the Fat, Planet Money, and Optimal Living Daily. Find content that grows you.
I set boundaries with my time. My job stress was overwhelming me. The need to stay late, to come in early, to work on days off – all for unpaid overtime. I realized something very important – I can only do my best in the eight hours I am paid for. Any work that doesn’t get done today, will still be there tomorrow. I don’t need to be the best, and I certainly won’t be the worst. I surrendered to the fact that I might never be perfectly caught up on everything, and that’s okay. I committed myself to just doing my very best while I was at work, closing that laptop when my shift was over, and going home.
I wrote down the thoughts that paralyzed me. And I listed next to them why my thinking was flawed. For example: “I am afraid my employer will fire me”. This thought would hover over me like a dark cloud all day. But the honest truth? My performance ratings at work were just fine! In fact I was exceeding my goals. I was not on the verge of being fired. And I realized that people who do get fired for performance are usually “coached” for months on end before it actually happens. And if I did lose my job? I’d bust my butt to find a new one! Why use precious mental space worried about this? My thinking was flawed.
I cleaned up my environment. While I listened to all the awesome podcasts I downloaded, I did little tasks to “tidy up” around the house. If I tell myself I am CLEANING then forget it – I’m overwhelmed just typing it out. But tidying up, I can do. Once I got started, it became easier. That cluttered catch-all kitchen table? It’s causing you stress. Physical clutter is stressful, so work on clearing surfaces. Put stuff away, light a scented candle, and put some fresh sheets on your bed. Again, the smallest things help.
I [tried to] meditate. Meditation is hard if you have a mind that races all the time. But if you can at least try it out, it may have some benefits for you. My idea of meditating is lighting a scented candle, plopping myself on the sofa, and staring up at the flickering shadows of candlelight at the ceiling – and focusing on my breathing. Maybe for you, meditating is going to the park, sitting on a bench, and watching the trees sway in the wind. Find quiet moments in your day. Even if it means going out to your car during your lunch break to just CHILL and get away for a bit.
I washed my face and made my bed. I made it a point to do my skincare routine every night before bed. It felt refreshing and I felt I was doing something good for myself. And in the mornings, I made my bed. Not the fancy comforter with the stacked pillows and all that – I just neatly folded my blanket and fixed my pillows. It immediately gave me a sense of control. Part of the reason why we get depressed is because we feel a lack of control in our lives. Little things such as making sure the kitchen sink is emptied and clean before going to bed, straightening out the throw pillows on your sofa, and putting your dirty clothes in the hamper make such a difference.
… My list is growing every single day. This is not a battle that I have beaten. However I can tell you that just doing the things listed above have resulted in a definite shift in my mood, and the feeling in my chest is gone. The lump in my throat isn’t there anymore. I feel a defined sense of calm and peace again. Remember, I am not a professional – just a real human who battles depression. These are little things that worked for me – I encourage you to seek professional help if you’re feeling down. xo