If you have ever suffered from depression – or even from a tough period in your life – coming out of it can feel like you are emerging from a mental fog. It can feel strangely unfamiliar finding your feet or indeed finding a new way in the world. Chances are you don't quite feel the same person that you used to be. Having experienced a few low periods in my life and with my experience in dealing with people who have suffered depression, I've put a few tips together to help you emerge from your cocoon.
Family and Friends
During the low period, support from loved ones is the most important aspect of recovery. Knowing that they believe in you, even when you don't believe in yourself, can be the thing that keeps you going. You may have avoided company when you were at your lowest but I encourage you - even if you don't feel like it - to seek and accept support from loved ones. Sometimes just being in other people's company is enough. You can repay them back in kind, in time.
Give yourself a break
Research has now confirmed what we already knew - that your thinking is not very clear when you are depressed. So that mental confusion, difficulty making simple decisions, forgetting where you put your car keys etc is part and parcel of the depression. Assuming that you have already spent quite a bit of time beating yourself up - now that you are gaining a little insight - it's time to be gentle on yourself. Be careful making any life changing decisions, do take your time over things. Understand that you aren't your 'normal' self and be gentle.
If you have been doing this while you were really struggling - great - keep it up. Talk to professionals. Talk to the friends who will listen. Phone your brother / sister / uncle / aunt. There comes a time when you realise that you are regurgitating the same stuff and after the 100th time of hearing yourself say "I've really been having a hard time lately", you will realise that you are sick of hearing yourself say it, and you want to change the record. Until that time comes, talk. It helps you process things, it will help you feel heard. Talking about the 'bad stuff' is important and necessary – until it won't be anymore. Then it is time to put it behind you and focus on whatever you need to do to haul your arse out of there.
Haul your arse out.
Haul yourself out of the bed and out of the house, preferably before 9 am. Go for a walk. Catch up with friends. Go to the cafe. Get to the gym. Get in the garden. Find the thing you think you can possibly enjoy and go and do it. Repeat.
Start focusing forward
What do you want? Really? In your wildest dreams? Who do you want to be? Find that image. Find that new being. Connect with it. Start imagining a new future. You know the saying, aim for the moon and if you fall you will be among the stars. Find the first easiest step and gently take it. Want that new job? Trip overseas? Start planning, start taking steps.
Notice the moments
When you start emerging from a low mood – it may happen only in moments. Notice the tiny moments when you feel a little normal – a little like 'how you used to feel' and bless them. This is a sign that *you* are still here and are slowly returning. In between all the other stuff going on in your head, find the normal moments. They are good signs.
If you feel the urge – even just a little, try smiling. Words from my mother come to mind. “Put a smile on your face and get on with it”. You don't *always* have to do this of course, but there may be moments when you notice a little joy or find something humorous. Always upon always make an effort to smile at others. The positive feedback (a smile in return) will light up places in your brain which probably have been feeling pretty dull or a while. There may be moments when you want to do the fingers to the universe and speak expletives that will turn all relatives in their graves and that's OK too. Smiling even when you don't feel like it is not meant to hide your feelings, rather to connect with the feeling that a smile can create. Research has shown that even a 'fake' smile can actually improve your mood. A gentle smile - not a grimace.
Find what gives you joy
Although joy for you might include drinking cocktails on a beach, don't forget that 'wherever you go, there you are'. Taking your sad arse to the beach to drink cocktails is all very well and good - but there has to be a change in attitude that goes along with it. Otherwise you are just going to be a sad arse sitting drinking cocktails on the beach and it will all end in tears. Believe me. Find what really gives you true joy. This is likely to be something little. The sun setting. The sun rising. The niece talking for the first time. Joy can also be found in giving…. So...
Give a little
This can be anything from a smile, to a helping hand or a listening ear or donating a cake. Research has showed that giving can be rewarding and uplifting. If you are one of those people that tends to over-give and leave very little for you – perhaps it's time to give a little something to yourself – even if it's a cup of tea and a hot bath. Go give.
This is a tough one when we are struggling. EVERYTHING seems awful. But try. Really try. Did someone phone you today? Did someone give you a smile? Did - as it happened to me one day - some kind person insist on paying for your piece of macadamia brittle because all you had was a credit card to spend a meesly $2? Find the smallest thing to appreciate and give thanks.
Did you do that little something that impressed you just a little? (Go on, I know you did). Did you haul your arse out of bed even though you didn't want to? Did you smile even though you really didn't feel like it? Did you go for walk even though you really really didn't feel like it? Did you choose an apple over a cookie? Did you zip your mouth when you really wanted to give someone what for? Give yourself a pat on the back. You did good batman.
Find the love.
Really. It is out there. It may not be coming from where you want it to come from (hello recent ex who dumped me) - but I know that someone out there is giving you love. Even if it comes from your cat. Go in search for the love.
Don't ever give up.
Nothing will ever be resolved if you give up. If you give up you will never know what magic will happen. You will never know the things you could have / would have achieved if you had just stuck it out that bit longer.
Life is hard at times. It really really is. It really can throw some curve balls at you. There is no doubt about that. The only thing you can do is accept and embrace it. It is what it is. You, the Dali Lama, Buddha and Jesus, all know about suffering. It's part of being human.
Remember "This too shall pass"
Be gentle / kind - it's OK. You are OK.
You are perfect, even in your unperfectness.
And... you are not alone. 100's if not 1000's of people in the universe have felt the way you are feeling.
Find the love. In anywhere and in anything.
Surround yourself with people you like and trust.
Keep away from people who don't get it.
Exercise (I can not emphasis this enough)
Enjoy the things you can enjoy.
Take whatever responsibility you need to take to acknowledge your part in what has happened. Learn from it. And move on.
Choose Grace. From this moment. Chose kindness, and compassion and never mind those out there, choose it for yourself. YOU.
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