Paolina Milana, Author & Founder of MadnessToMagic.com
October is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month. And this week is also National Health Education Week (NHEW) when we turn our attentions to increasing awareness on major public health issues and promoting a better understanding of them and how to deal with them.
Depression, or feeling depressed, is something we all most likely have experienced at one time or another.
Let’s face it. Sometimes, life seems too much. Despite doing our best every day — juggling our personal and professional lives, taking care of our families and making sure we deliver on our boss’ expectations – for some reason, it’s just never enough. There’s always something else to be done, someone else to take care of, or that thing we did do, but we could have done better. It isn’t, necessarily, as if something is terribly wrong. Heck, our jobs aren’t in jeopardy — as a matter of fact, we may even be considered a rock star at work. And our loved ones may not have a clue about how we’re feeling, after all, we keep the household humming, and make sure that from the outside in, we look as if we’re doing better than fine.
But inside, we may be feeling buried, burnt out, and the very opposite of okay.
Sure. We all go through times when we feel sad. It’s part of being human. Social media often exacerbates those feelings, as we see everyone else’s happy posts partying and living their lives seemingly carefree. And with today’s politics, environmental crises, and other headlining news, it only compounds those feelings of doom and gloom. There are times when, for very good reason — maybe our beloved pet has died or we’ve suffered a broken heart or we’ve just lost a job – we find ourselves sobbing and lower than low. And then there are days when, often for no reason, we find ourselves in a funk.
Sadness in life is normal. As George Burns said while playing the Almighty in the 1980 comedy Oh, God!: “You ever see a front without a back? A top without a bottom? An up without a down? There can’t be good without bad, life without death, pleasure without pain. That’s the way it is. If I take sad away, happy has to go with it.”
Makes sense, doesn’t it? BUT it’s when that sadness becomes excessive that we may be in a DEPRESSION and in need of a bit more help.
Not wanting to get out of bed, having no energy, finding no joy in anything, feeling hopeless, and basically coming to the conclusion that there’s no point to anything, so “why bother?”: These are signs that DEPRESSION has decided to room with you, and for how long is anybody’s guess.
With COVID and our continued quarantine and social distancing, our feelings of loneliness may also be growing and contributing to our DEPRESSION. Online chats and those ZOOM calls may force us to make an appearance, but only for a brief time – enough to “fake it” and crawl back to bed when it’s over. Feeling lonely tends to not only harm us psychologically, but also physically by increasing blood pressure, weakening our immune systems, and more. And that compounds our state of DEPRESSION. Humans were not meant to be islands unto themselves.
So with all of this coming at us, what can we do if we’re the ones finding ourselves in a DEPRESSION? And what can we do if we’re noticing others exhibiting signs of it? Here are six tips to help deal with depression:
- Asking for help is priority number one in kicking DEPRESSION to the curb. Don’t continue to suffer in silence. It’s takes a lot of courage and strength to ask for help. Take your power back by talking to your doctor or connecting with one of the reputable therapists online.
- Never utter these words to yourself or to anyone else: “Get over it”; or “It’s all in your head” – These are some of the most destructive phrases used in response to DEPRESSION. Instead, show yourself some compassion. And when it comes to others, especially those who always seem as if they’ve got it together, pay attention and ask them how they’re feeling – how they’re really feeling. Don’t be so quick to accept the casual “fine” and move on. We only have to look at the shocking suicides of highly accomplished and successful people including Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and Robin Williams to realize that DEPRESSION does not discriminate and that the seemingly strongest among us may be in need of help.
- Take a walk through memory lane. But this time, don’t just focus on the less-than-happy moments of your past. Write it all down. The bad and the good. Because when you do, you’ll realize that you feeling DEPRESSED right now is okay, and it won’t last. You weren’t always this way and you won’t always be this way. Just as those experiences of pure happiness didn’t last, so, too, will your current experiences of DEPRESSION. So take some time to look back at old photos or what music or movies were popular a decade ago. Put yourself back to a time when you remember how much you loved bike rides or gardening or bubble baths. Let yourself feel your own moments of joy from the past, then take a baby step and do just one of them. Remember who you are by revisiting the things you once loved to do and by getting back to playing by your own rules. Stay with those moments for even just a few minutes each day, and then increase those minutes daily.
- Pet a fur baby for some great therapy. A dog, cat, bird, even a goldfish can help us feel less alone and less DEPRESSED. If you can manage caring for a creature, consider adopting one that needs a home. If you can’t, volunteer to walk a dog in your neighborhood or offer to play with the pets at your local animal shelter. You’ll be doing a great service to these animals and, in doing so, lessening your own feelings that aren’t serving you now.
- Put a pin in it. We all worry about falling apart. There’s such stigma attached to being anything less than okay when it comes to our emotional or mental health. But if you’re exhausted and tired and DEPRESSED and – like a little kid – need a time out, then take it. Don’t end it. Tell your boss or your trusted friend or your family member or your doctor that you need a nap. The only way you won’t recharge and rise again is if you keep it all in and to yourself and have a mindset of all or nothing. That is when you are at risk of suffocating and no longer finding your way out of DEPRESSION. Put yourself on pause, and know you don’t have to go it alone.
Stop “Should-ing” on yourself. Those “shoulda, woulda, couldas” can make us feel a kind of regret that’s toxic. Ask yourself if doing that is helping or hurting? You know that it’s the latter. So cut yourself a break and be at peace with the fact that whatever happened in the past is exactly what was meant to happen. Use it to propel you forward. Get back to living your life like a kid again – in the moment and enjoying the journey. Tap into my book Seriously! Are We THERE Yet?! and let it help you remember who you are and how to live life as it was meant to be.