When you're depressed, it's just not enough to hear people say "you're so lucky you've got people that love you, a roof over your head.." etc. etc. That only triggers more guilt and confusion to why you're feeling this way. You might find yourself often seeking other people's opinions but it's difficult when they haven't been through what you have first hand. So don't be impatient, but it really is something you have to put work and focus into YOURSELF if you want to get better.
Depression is something I think will always be a little part of me, but here is a list I have compiled of a few things that really helped me when I was going through the worst stages, and continue to help me whenever I have a "mini relapse" - which, by the way are becoming less and less frequent!
Before you take action, such as comfort eating, snapping at someone or more drastic actions such as quitting your job or making any other drastic changes you think will help (like moving city).. just feel. Allow yourself to feel sad, angry, whatever it is and instead of trying to figure out why, just;
- take a few deep breaths
- go somewhere quiet for a minute
- splash cold water over your face or run a tap over your wrists
- play some music (do this whilst walking in fresh air too)
It's about making these changes that make you feel good more regular. Sometimes you'll have bad days and not enjoy that walk that last week you found so therapeutic, but stick at it and don't give up and believe me you'll start to see changes. Another kind of therapy for me that allows me to feel is my next point, exercise.
I believe that aside from nutrition which is my next point, exercise is single-handedly the best way to beat depression. Even if I've had a sh*t day and nothing's gone right for me, I can go to the gym in the evening and shake off all the stress of the day by lifting some weights, raising my heart rate and allowing those beautiful little man-made anti-depressants to kick in, called endorphins :)
It doesn't have to be intense, and whatever you do don't ever compare yourself to that person with the abs on the treadmill next to you.. chances are they've been exercising for years.
I even find just walking on an incline is a nice form of escapism and once my muscles are warm and I start to feel the endorphins, I move on to move strenuous activities.
I've found it to be the thing I actually look forward to most in the day, and have even started different things like yoga and kickboxing. What I'm about to say is coming from the girl who struggled to get off the sofa and loathed the though of exercise.. I effing love exercise!
It truly is the most underutilized antidepressant.
(I will be updating my 'Exercise' page soon for more tips).
I've learnt that for me personally my issues with depression and food go hand in hand. When I'm down and feeling out of control or scared in my life, I also lose control of my eating. When I've got more of a grip on life, I can control my eating and it feels great...
"Take control of the things you can control in your life, like your health.. and let go of the things you can't."
When I was at my lowest, I was comfort eating in a bad bad way. If it had let it continue for another 5, 10 years.. I would probably be obese, have terrible skin and feel disgusting. It's a vicious cycle and works both ways, as I know many depressed people stop eating as a result.
Before I tell you what I changed, I want to tell you the physical changes that happened that I didn't even expect...
- My skin cleared up
- I lost weight
- My hair and nails got healthier
- My mood improved drastically
- My emotions became more stable - less crying for no reason!
The only way I was able to fully get a grip was when I got back into the groove of life, re-started college and had a routine. Routine is much more important than you might think because it can take away that stress of "the unknown". I remember starting college in September and on the first day having a horrible sugary breakfast and over-eating because I was nervous. 3 months on, I had a steady eating routine, ate mostly clean, and didn't freak out and feel the need to binge or purge whenever I had a treat.
So, where do you start when you feel like you can barely look after yourself and have no self-worth. Healthy eating is all cooking and hours of preparation right? Well no, it's not hard and it's also not expensive at all if you're savvy. I've also found another passion in cooking healthy food and experimenting, and re-finding your passions and interests is great on your way to recovery.
So, the first thing I had to do was be prepared. I would make it my routine to have the same healthy breakfast everyday (oats, as they keep me full) and then to always have a sufficent amount of clean snacks in my bag and a packed lunch. This would be something like oatcakes, fruit, carrot sticks and hummus, ricecakes with peanut butter, and then something like a large quinoa salad or sweet potato jacket with tuna that I'd prepared the night before. This was another stress taken away from my day - I wouldn't go hungry and I wouldn't get any sugar spikes/lows and feel the need to binge. I also made sure I kept myself hydrated and only drunk water during the day, which ironically helped my energy levels despite thinking I "needed" coffee to stay awake.
I found it very difficult at first but the thing about routine is it's just that.. a routine, and a routine becomes habit. So before you know it, you're getting up every morning in auto pilot mode making your porridge and packing your food from the night before, ready to face the day :)
(I will also be updating my 'Nutrition for depression' page soon for more tips).
Following on from my previous point ,
Prepare to succeed
Creates less stress,
Gives a sense of achievement and self-worth.
5. It may seem like this contradicts all my other points so far, but it really is vital to stop you from becoming overwhelming and sinking back, or perhaps even getting worse.
When I started going to the gym my diet was horrendous and I was still binging, when I started to see a bit of a difference in my mood, I felt like I wanted to improve my diet so as not to waste my efforts at the gym.... and so on! Take it one step at a time :)
6. FUN!! FIND THE BALANCE
It's about finding a balance, having a night out and a drink without having to be carried home drowning your sorrows in alcohol.. going to the gym but not so much that you become obsessive and have no social life. During my early stages of recovery I would have a great day then go out with my friends feeling great, drink too much and then wake up the next day feeling so awful that couldn't bring myself to face college. I now only go out when I have no commitments the next day and barely drink at all - don't prepare yourself to fail when you know you've got something on the next day.
7. REMEMBER TO BE YOU
"You are your own worst enemy" - it's true.
Remember who you are and forget all the stuff that's been fed to you.
Try to remember your own values that make you the solid person you are, and throw all the negative sh*t that you tell yourself out of the window.
8. BE PATIENT
Recovery takes time, and the only way you should gage it is by comparing yourself to how you were the week before. You are going to have bad days and weeks, but never ever give up. Remember that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach that is the little thing that's eating away at you? That's what we're slowly killing off, just like someone coming off drugs or a recovering alcoholic, it's going to take time to get out of your system. Take control of life, don't let it take control of you :)
No matter what your goals, expectations, fears and dreams, just remember that you deserve to live, deserve to love and be loved and that we have to take the good with the bad.
I am hoping to study a therapy and lifestyle coaching course in the New year and am currently studying a nutrition course. If you would like any advice, on overcoming anxiety, depression or binge eating disorders, anyone wanting exercise and diet advice, or you just don't even know where to begin, feel free to email me.. I am looking for some "practice" clients to help with my studies, but not just that, I genuinely want to help anyone that is struggling, because I know how destructive these things can be to your life.
I can help you with coming up with a plan of action, and will do everything I can to help you stay motivated. Get in touch!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope this helped!