There are a lot of things in this world we don’t really know how to talk about: Swedish Fish Oreos, Dad’s who still wear fanny packs, cats that look like Hitler… the list could go on and on.
One of these things is depression and suicidal thoughts. Somewhere along the way, depression became one of those topics we’re only supposed to talk about in hushed voices in a cold, sterile environment. To which i say:
Depression affects 25 million Americans every day. So why are we so scared to talk about it?
Check out this awesome 1 minute video to learn a little more:
Like any illness, symptoms range from mild to severe and the best thing you can do is talk to your doctor or other medical professional about how you’re feeling. Some symptoms provided from Webmd.com include:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
If you see yourself or a loved one somewhere in that list, don’t worry, there is lots that can be done.
While there is no catch-all cure, there is hope, crazy awesome tons of hope.
According to The National Health Institute, 80% of people show an improvement in their symptoms in 4-6 weeks of beginning medication, psychotherapy, attending support groups or a combination of these treatments.
Depression is something I have been fighting since middle school, and while I am not formally educated, I know what has worked for me and I am super pumped to share that with you.
In this post I relied both on my 18 years of experience as well as articles published by leading psychologists.[I love speaking about these topics! Interested in having me speak with your church, school or organization? Check out my Speaking Page here]
So with that, here are 25 real ways I have found to give depression a kidney punch and take you’re life back, a life that is fully and recklessly alive.
- Exercise – This has been my sharpest sword. I started with this Couch to 5k Plan and try to get at least 20 minutes of exercise everyday, even if it’s just a quick walk. I also fell in love with the group workouts at Lifetime Fitness.
- Eating Well – Depression can lead to over-eating or under-eating and both suck. Eating better makes your body feel better. Consider eating less sugar and processed foods and eating plenty of protein, fruits and vegetables.
- Find a Counselor – Find someone to talk to about the way you are feeling and who can help you navigate the hardest parts of your story. Having a confidential person who is on the outside of your life looking in can often see things friends and family cannot.
- Journal – Writing down how you are feeling can bring relief and provide a feeling of “control” that depression can often take from us. I have also find it helpful to write down five things or people I am thankful for each day to keep my mind focused on the good.
- 7-8 Hours of Sleep – Another symptom of depression is over-sleeping or under-sleeping. If you’re struggling to fall asleep, try moving all of the screens and distractions out of your room. Give yourself an hour to wind down in the quiet with soft music, a journal or a book. Set an alarm and get up at 8 hours.
- Stick to a Schedule – If you’re struggling, make a few appointments throughout the day and stick to them. Could be a workout time at the gym, going to something at church or a park, even just alone time at a coffee shop. Make a plan to get out of the house and around other people.
- Don’t Over-Schedule – I know what I just said, but also make sure you are not hyper-busy and over-extended. Make sure you have time to relax and recharge.
- Go for a Walk or Hike – Not only will the exercise improve your mood, being in nature has shown to ease stress. Win-win!
- Medication – This one tends to stir controversy and everyone feels differently about it, however, there are many medications out there that have been proven to really help. Talk to you doctor and consider giving it a try.
- Avoid Drugs and Alcohol – When I am in my lowest state, alcohol often seems like a quick-fix and a crutch to numb the depths that I’m feeling. However, chemicals not only numb the low, they numb the good feelings as well. These chemicals have never helped me get out of the pit and have often made it worse.
- Set New Goals – I am a little goal crazy. I have a six page word document of goals broken up by month, year and lifetime. You don’t have to be as Sheldon-like as I am sometimes, but goals give my life focus and direction. They help remind me what I am working towards and provide satisfaction when I accomplish them.
- Get a Massage – Touch therapies have been shown to ease the symptoms of depression by lowering stress and increasing the feel-good oxytocin.
- Pray – In my post 5 Things Christians Get Wrong About Depression, I talk about how wrong it is for people of faith to “over-spiritualize” depression claiming more God or “Jesus time” is the problem. However, I have found daily time in prayer can be a great way to ground myself and give my worries over to God. [Check out my post 30 Ways to Up Your Prayer Game here]
- Watch Something Funny – I was pleasantly surprised when I found out there is medical research to back this up. Laughing actually provides relief and gets your mind off the struggles. A few of my favorite Stand-Up Comedians are John Mulaney, Kathleen Madigan and Jim Gaffigan.
- Get Around People – In the worst moments sometimes it helps to just get around people. Either strangers at a store or loved ones.
- Challenge Negative Thoughts – This is something I have learned through counseling. When a negative thought starts swarming, such as, nobody cares about me, immediately challenge that thought and write down a counter-argument. Don’t let those thoughts take hold.
- List Your Accomplishments – When I am struggling, often I feel like my life isn’t going anywhere and that I haven’t really done much. Writing a list of those things helps challenge that lie (a good example of how to combat #16)
- Try Something New – New experiences can provide a quick jolt of fun and happiness, a reminder that life is meant to be lived to the fullest. Make time to take that improv or painting class you’ve always wanted to take. Go visit a new park or ice cream shop.
- Take More Pictures – When I was recovering from my last suicide attempt, I invented what I called “The One Thing Project.” I did one thing every single day that made my life better or made the world a better place and photographed it. Then anytime I was really struggling, I would look at the photo album and see that life was in fact worth living.
- Write Your Life Story – There are some really cool studies out there that show writing your life story is one of the most therapeutic things you can do because it allows you to document what you have lived through and shape it using your own narrative. You definitely don’t have to share it with anyone either. This one has really helped me.
- Forgive Someone – I don’t know about you, but despite my greatest efforts I tend to hold grudges much longer than I should. I want justice. I want to scream at them and let them know just how much they have hurt me. But, we all know this never works. Let it go. Release yourself from those angry feelings and move on. I’ve found doing something nice for said person is annoyingly helpful way to move on.
- Listen to Upbeat and Positive Music – We have known for thousands of years that music can change our moods. This works wonder when paired with #1 or #8. [Check out my Spotify Music Playlists here]
- Make a Bucket List (and check something off) – Similar to setting goals, but print off a list of the things you’ve always wanted to do and hang it up somewhere you will look at it regularly.
- Do Something You Don’t Feel Like Doing – this is a hard one, but when you’d rather just sleep, get up and go do something you don’t want to. Get your butt to that workout class. Say yes to someone’s invitation to hangout. Get up and mow the lawn.
- Never Give Up – Depression is a fight, there’s no other way around it but it’s perhaps the most important battle we ever suit up for. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, please ask for help. Talk to someone you love. Call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800–273-TALK (8255). Check out My Letter to Anyone Who Feels Like Giving Up.
Well there you have it folks, 25 things I do to fight my depression. What has helped you or someone you know? What is your story with depression? Share in the comments below!
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Check out these songs and more in my Recklessly Alive Spotify Playlist