Sorry I haven’t been in touch for ages…there is no excuse.
There was a bout of depression that nearly got me, but I will tell you about that later.
I have just returned from a holiday in Thailand that included bathing and feeding Elephants. Seeing the process of their “poo” being turned into paper.
Learning the secrets of Thai cooking at a cookery school in Chiang Mai. Then travelling further south to explore some of the islands and their beautiful beaches. Experiencing the healing effects of Thai massage.
Why would I now feel depressed?
I became very aware of the negative internal chatter in my mind. Part of me was imploring another part of me to stay upbeat. But I couldn’t. In fact, feelings of negativity had me sinking fast!
I was feeling depressed. Why?
Was it that my wonderful holiday was over? That I’m still grieving? Maybe I was just overwhelmed by my workload? Or perhaps it’s Brexit?
What soon became clear is that the WHY does not matter. Continually exploring the ‘whys’ only brings more negative thoughts to the surface. Changing my state became my priority and doing this quickly, my goal.
Here is what I did to fight the depression
The first and most important thing was to change the “internal chatter.”
At the risk of this sounding like a plug for one of my self-help downloads, I started to listen to Stress Free With Confidence. This is a hypnosis program I made almost thirty years ago. After just two days I noticed my thinking had changed quite dramatically and as a result, found myself smiling again.
My thoughts were brighter. When a negative thought arose it quickly switched to a positive one. The change was automatic and the good thoughts began to flow again.
More importantly was the shift in my feelings and I felt more upbeat.
This helped me to get moving.
Exercise helped me move forward and invigorated me. Walking activates the heart and lungs and changes the way you breathe. When you change the breath it will often change the way you think and feel. A couple of walks in my local park and surrounding streets really helped.
So did reaching out for support from loved ones and close friends whom I was able to share my feelings with. It’s so important, in fact essential, to reach out. Call someone. Talk about it.
Yoga always gives me the space to gain insight into my feelings and this awareness helps me to “catch” myself before I fall too far. I did a slightly longer practice each day.
Having re-booted the stress free programme in the back of my mind, I also started juicing again which boosted my energy.
I applied a great Ayurvedic treatment and gave myself a top-to-toe sesame oil massage before languishing in a bath. This felt nurturing and nourishing.
Sometimes just one small change can make a huge difference to the way you think and feel.
For example if your job requires sitting at a desk all day, get up regularly and move a round. Take the stairs rather than the lift where possible.
Depression is a monster that can eventually be tamed according to some, whilst for others professional help and medication is necessary.
This is my third blog on depression and I’ll be changing my theme for the next blog, so if there’s anything mind/body related you would like to know more about, let me know and I’ll endeavour to create an interesting blog on it.
I’ve compiled a list of resources and activities that people I have worked with over the years claim have helped lift the state of inertia and depression. Work your way through the list and find the things that resonate most with you and keep using these tactics to chip away and find your beautiful nature within. I can elaborate pretty much on all of the points so if there’s a particular one you’re interested in understanding more about contact me and I’ll write a more in-depth blog.
Join a choir.
Place an advert on gumtree or in a local shop window and start a band… even if you do have to call it the ‘Can’t Sing or Play Band.
Join a drumming circle.
Book some drum lessons.
Take up some kind of percussion such as cymbals, tambourine, bells, gongs or make your own with a jar of beans or tins.
Beat an old tennis racquet on some cushions.
Start with aaah. Progress to oooo and finish with mmmm. If you can’t chant out loud do it silently in your head.
Lay on your back with knees bent and have bare feet. Draw your navel back toward your spine and begin to stamp your feet up and down side to side.
Add your hands by making fists and gently bang the floor.
Lie on your front and draw your navel back toward your spine. Lift your face from the ground and softly turn your head from side to side, whilst banging your fists gently on the ground. Bend your legs as if you could tap your buttocks alternately with your heels. Much like a baby having a temper tantrum. DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU HAVE KNEE PROBLEMS!
Take up Yoga
Join a Pilates class
Go to the coast when it’s cold, wet and empty, walk on the beach and scream as loud as you can.
If you can get to a sandy beach, get a stick and draw a picture in the sand of the person who has hurt you the most and pelt the drawing with stones until the sea comes in and washes them away.
Take up Drawing
Take up Painting.
Draw or paint your depression
Paint or draw the depression with your non-dominant hand, even if it’s just a scribble.
Walk… preferably with someone. If no one is around to walk with you, still decide to walk each day. Set small achievable goals to start with such as just walking to the end of the road, or the local shop and back. Swing your arms when you walk.
Write therapy letters, these are letters addressed to the person/people you have issues with. Know that you will never send the letter so let ‘em have it! Don’t hold back, really speak your truth.
Write a letter to yourself from the future. Imagine a time in the future envisage being free from depression and what advice would that older you give you now?
Write a letter from now to a younger you who needed help and support, tell that younger you all the things you would like to have heard. Offer that you love, wisdom and protection.
Write a letter from a stronger part of you to the ‘depressed’ part of you acknowledging that part’s pain and discomfort, reassure that part that it is loved and cared for. Ask that part what you can do for it to make things easier. Listen carefully and pay attention to the answers.
Write a short stories killing off your bullies torturers or demons make sure you finish the story. THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT
Whatever you feel like, make a long list of the opposites for example
“ I feel like using drugs” becomes “I feel like I want to stay clean”
“I feel like giving up” becomes “I feel resilient and determined to fight on”
“ I can’t be bothered” becomes “I am now motivated and energized”
Have some fun and feel empowered by challenging your thoughts and feelings.
Read your positive ‘opposites’ out loud in a strong loud voice with emphasis on the ‘I’
Stamp your feet to a loud musical beat.
Wave your arms up in the air from side to side until you feel physically exhausted.
Close your eyes and imagine you feeling well and happy use every inch of your will power to envisage a confident strong you. Make the picture brighter, stronger, clearer, louder and closer until you start to feel excitement stirring somewhere within.
Be creative and make something. Again, go to Youtube and put in simple arts and crafts and see what comes up that inspires you.
Look up on Google or YouTube how to make paper mache. Now make your depression, no rules, just see what you come up with. You can decide later if you’ve created something rather beautiful from it to be admired and kept or whether it’s something you want destroy or dispose of.
Do some gardening. If you don’t have a garden tend to one small plant, give it everything to nurture it and help it to grow.
Make a list of healthy foods that if you had someone to cook for you, you would like to eat.
Cook something simple and nourishing from your list.
Get your shoes and socks off and get your feet in touch with grass, concrete, the bark of a tree, sand, or earth. Scrunch your feet until they feel really earthed and connected.
Have a zingy cold showers try a mint or ginger shower gel.
Develop a routine, for example aim for 8 hours sleep… there may be a tendency to sleep longer but don’t. Plan to get up and get moving.
Make a pot of tea with the zest of an orange and 3 or 4 basil leaves; it’s always soothing for a sad heart.
Put on a face pack (not just women) and take up the pose as if you’re about to do the Maori Haka Dance… then do the Maori Haka Dance (go to YouTube) to see it. Take a selfie so that you can laugh at yourself sometime later!
If you have a car have a short drive around more deserted side streets and scream at the top of your lungs. Try AAAAHHH really loudly.
Get an old roll of wallpaper. Spread it out and draw a picture of the person you have most issues with. Graffiti it! Write what you’d really like to say to that person all over it.
Always aim to get some early morning sunlight. Even if the sun isn’t bright spend 10 minutes without sunglasses allowing light into your world.
Don’t be on your own. If you can afford a therapist or counselor get one if not go to your GP and ask for a referral to a local organization that can offer you support.
When you feel ready blow up as many balloons as you can. When you’ve finished, have a frenzied balloon bursting session ideally with your fingers.
Ask everyone you know for a list of their funniest YouTube clips, films and books make a commitment to watch/read them over the next year.
Drink lots of water.
Get a set of beads, preferably mala beads ~(there are 108). Every day touch each bead whilst voicing a positive suggestion out loud. Such as “I am NOW healthy and well” “ I am NOW strong and bright” “I am NOW vibrant and happy”. Because the subconscious mind believes whatever it is told and simply stores that information and because the subconscious mind has no concept of past or future, it believes these suggestions when housed in the now! Do this for a week on a daily basis and let us know here at thestresshacker how you feel.
De-clutter your spaces. Look at your belongings in an order as Marie Condo suggests in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Get all your shoes together and decide which you no longer love or need and put them in a bin bag. Next go through your books and do the same. Then your crockery, your jumpers … get on a roll this becomes such a satisfying project. Pass it on. Take your ‘stuff’ to the local charity shop. Even if you think they’re rags, they can use them and remember to gift aid.
When depression descends it‘s not easy to shake yourself out of it and for some just not possible at all, so if that’s you, you might want to stop reading now.
Many people who experience depression say that as part of it, they feel helpless and hopeless and it’s understandable as it can leave you feeling stuck and impotent. Anyone can be hit by depression at any time in life and it’s important not to judge.
It’s also important to know that it’s not your fault and doubtless you have done and are doing the best you can. It can be very irritating if not downright annoying to have people tell you to snap out of it and I wonder if one of the reasons is that for some, depression is an inward expression of anger. To have well meaning people lay unhelpful platitudes on you, can triggers more frustration and can make the depression even more intense.
My personal experience of depression and that of working with others is that it invariably strikes people who are highly thoughtful, sensitive and usually kind and caring. They ‘feel’ deeply and can struggle with boundaries, because they are used to picking up on the emotions of other’s but aren’t used to protecting themselves from it. Like a sponge they unconsciously mop up negative energy from those around them.
Developing a supportive inner voice can help. Over time I learned to tell myself that ‘this will pass’ and for me it did and thankfully I did not remain in a permanent state of depression. Knowing that it would pass I was able to use this knowledge to help myself. I would sit in the same place each time – in my case my wicker meditation chair and remind myself that nothing stays the same and that it would pass. When you’re in the midst of it however you can be forgiven for thinking it wont!
Funny thing is, even some of my closest friends may be surprised to discover that I’ve wrestled with depression and the reason for this is that I’m not a lover of labels, so I’ve chosen to not say that I have had depression. My concern was that it would become ‘my’ depression and I certainly never wanted it to be mine!
Here are a couple of things that have helped me in the past and others I’ve worked with.
Sit with a trusted friend or therapist and investigate the last 3 or 4 episodes of depression with a view to identifying what the triggers were. Aim to recall what happened the day or the night before. What did you eat or do, what time did you go to bed, what were you watching, who did you see, what activity were you participating in before the depression started? Aim to unearth the patterns that lead to the depression and make them more conscious.
When we throw light on something that has previously been unconscious i.e. in the dark, it usually has the effect of de-potenising it, taking away some of it’s power.
Don’t do this on your own, because you obviously don’t want to trigger an episode.
Once armed with a knowledge of the patterns or people that seem to trigger the depression you can start looking at things to put in place to avoid those triggers. For example if you realize that depression can start when you lay in bed thinking about things for too long, or listening to the news, train yourself to get up within 5 minutes of waking up, or make the decision to turn off the news and choose something more positive to listen to.
You can use stick thinking i.e. “If I lay here any longer I know I’ll end up with that sinking feeling in my stomach that leads to me feeling really stuck and miserable” or carrot thinking… “If I get up now I can get on with… or meet up with so-and-so to walk her dog, or to just make a nice cup of coffee and listen to the birds singing”
Commit to becoming vigilant and aim to catch the depression as it starts, imagine you’re a spy and your brief is to watch and wait to ‘catch’ it before it takes hold so that you can interrupt the pattern it takes.
Make a decision to do something different until you notice a change no matter how subtle. Even a tiny shift can make a huge change to the way you feel.
That shift might be an arrangement that you strike up with a trusted friend to call them the minute you feel the depression starting so that they can come over to support and motivate you to do something different. This is of course by prior agreement.
Whilst we know that exercise is a great way to combat depression, it isn’t always easy or possible for everyone to join a gym however one simple step that you could take is this.
Stand with your feet hip width apart and raise your arms up slowly up into the air as you breathe in. Then slowly breathe out through your mouth like you’re blowing air out with a long sigh as you bring your arms back down. Do this at least 10 times – longer if possible. Do it several times a day on a bad day.
You are lifting your heart and lungs with this simple movement, engaging your cardio-vascular and respiratory systems which change your breath, your mental state and of course your physiology. This can be done sitting down too.
Depression isn’t just a state of mind; it can also be a feeling that emerges somewhere in the body or just outside of it.
Depression has been described by some as a heavy weight, a black hole or a dark cloud hovering over them. Others say it starts as a sinking feeling in their stomach and some say that it’s like having someone or something sitting on them. No wonder then, that people can feel stuck or disempowered.
It can be helpful to externalize the feelings and one way to do this is by drawing or painting your feelings on paper. No rules, you don’t have to have any artistic skills, nobody else will see this – unless you choose to share it.
When you’ve finished drawing, bin it, burn it or bury it but get rid of it. By doing so you’re making a powerful symbolic statement – to your unconscious mind- that you’re taking action to erase it.
Another powerful thing to do is to write, by hand, letters to people who you feel have a part in your depression whether past, present, dead or alive. I’ve worked with many people with depression who have been bullied in the past and when they’ve done what I suggest here they have been amazed at the results. You really will feel lighter when you do this.
Write to the bullies, tell them exactly what you think of them. Let the people who have played a part in the way that you feel, know your truth, tell them exactly how you feel. When you’ve finished the letter bin it, burn it, or bury it but definitely get rid of it permanently, this is the most important step. I do not advocate sending the letters – this is for you, it’s your therapy.
Your unconscious mind believes whatever is put into it, so it willbelieve that you’ve sent the letters, even though you know at a conscious level you haven’t.
This might sound ridiculously simple but it really can take care of unfinished business in the back of the mind. Don’t take my word for it try it yourself to find out that this powerful exercise really does work!
Anything that you can do to empower yourself will be helpful
So the next time you’re feeling brighter write a list of the things that lift you and allow you to feel glad to be in the world. Put that list on the inside of a cupboard or on a mirror where you can see it to remind yourself to take tiny steps toward a better day.
Although I would never say I’ll never be depressed again, I do feel fortunate to be free of depression these days. I have used all the tools and tips I write about and whilst I appreciate that they may not be for everyone, I sincerely hope they help someone.
January is renown for being the worse month for depression and there are many reasons for it. With the build-up to Christmas and the hype over, the extra lights in these dark months taken down, it feels gloomy and cold. Some people may have got into debt, some are dealing with redundancy, whilst others wrestle with existing mental health conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder or clinical depression.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to detect that you’re spiralling into a downer, that’s great awareness and hopefully you already have some strategies that can help to pull you out of depression. Because this time of year can be particularly tough, challenge yourself to do something different to change your state.
I’ve put together three ideas to help shift negative energy.
Calm your mind with classical music, even if it’s not your usual genre (e.g. my usual choice is jazz) take a chance, open your mind and listen to a nice classical piece. Ask a friend for a recommendation or visit Classic FM until you find something that resonates most with you.
Apparently baroque is the best music to have playing in the background to help concentrate if you’re studying. So the next time you’re getting ready for work, or doing some mundane chores treat yourself to something calming and different.
On the other hand if you feel really heavy, stuck and lethargic put on something with a strong loud beat, such as We Will Rock You by Queen or the 1812 Overture to help you get moving. Put on your earphones and go for a stomping power walk whilst listening to some heavy rock. Whatever your choice of music make sure it’s one that will positively change your (emotional) state. Find a song you can sing along out loud to, it’s great for getting your breathing going (we don’t breathe very well when depression kicks in) … think Whitney Houston’s long held notes in I Will Aways Love You.
I downloaded the Gayatri Mantra (Click to view video about it) which I found incredibly peaceful. I noticed that after I’d listened to it for a while it, it continued playing in the background of my mind. It gets rid of some of the negative head mush and I’m left with a peaceful mind for quite a while. Traditionally it should be chanted 108 times. I turn to it now whenever I need to de-clutter my mind and it works a treat. My favourite version is by Deva Premal.
In our age of abundant technology many of us feel spaced out and insulated from the earth. Walking around in rubber soled trainers and padded foot wear means we miss some of the finer signals from the earth and this can contribute to feeling even more disconnected and separate.
Connect to the earth; she’s warm and nurturing! Don’t take my word for it, walk barefoot on some grass and see how long it is before your feet feel the warmth of Gaia. The energy that comes up from the earth through the feet stimulates hundreds of nerves in the legs and brings with it a sense of connection which you may feel as a tingling or pulsing sensation.
When you consider that no matter where we are in the world we are held by gravity to mother earth it seems daft not to spend a little time tuning in to it.
As always, I’m interested in what shakes you out of your depression so share it with me … it could helps someone else.