I once read a sign in a friend’s office. She had been a Social Worker, had become a minister and therapist for individuals combating substance abuse. Her sign said “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you can’t.” It was a small reminder that we are in charge of our thoughts and actions and ultimately we are in control of our lives.
If we choose to not be helped, if we become naysayers to suggestions or advice that comes our way, there is no way we will be helped. We do in fact become our own worse enemy. Sometimes depression becomes so overwhelming, we fail to see a positive in anything and want to drag others down as well.
Many members are always asking me how I keep so positive. Well it’s training, as simple as that but as difficult and grueling as teaching our bodies to run a 5K. Here’s my thoughts, please feel free to add:
I was taught to look for the positives in families I worked with and expound on those positives. I learned to do it to myself so I could show others how I did it. I am a believer of practice what you preach. So look for the positives in yourself - are you a good friend, wife, husband, brother, sister, mother, father,child? Do you listen to what others are really saying and not what you think they are? Can you set aside your problems, difficulties and help someone else with theirs? What would you tell yourself if you were someone else with the same behaviors. What advice could you give yourself? Oh, there’s a thousand things or more in which one can identify as a positive in themselves, just start looking. And please share with the group.
Exercise- Duke University did a study a few years back that showed 30 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week significantly reduced depression. Now I know that vigorous exercise may not be what we are physically able to do, yet. But take a walk around the block or a park if one is close by. Take your dog with you, take an elderly neighbor or a young parent with a baby. I started with my driveway and can now walk around the block! Which leads to…
Socialization. When we get depressed, we find it to be an effort to be with other humans. It tires us, we develop lots of excuses that we begin to take as fact. But research has shown being social helps our brains fight depression. Take it easy at first, go to a library where it is quite, work up to going to a store when it’s not too busy, go out and eat meals with friends or family during slower restaurant hours. Know yourself, if I overdo in a social setting, I lose my words, my tremor gets bad, I find it difficult to concentrate. This doesn’t stop me from putting in the effort and if it gets too bad, we go home. I rest and try something else. Every week I try to add another 5 or 10 minutes to an activity. Because I put in the effort, my friends and family are helping with reminders to keep my sunglasses on, wear a hat, drink some water - simple things that mean a lot.
Volunteer - perhaps you are no longer able to work, perhaps you can volunteer at a soup kitchen, a school to help children with academics, meals on wheels, senior center - can you think of other places?
Eat healthy - I see this over and over again. If your insurance allows, hook up with a dietician or nutritionist. In the mean time change out the junk food snacks for healthy fruits, vegetables, and nuts to name a few. Make sure you are getting enough protein for your brain to heal and stay hydrated so your brain can heal.
Journal - write down the good and the bad. What was happening, what triggered the feeling, how can you control it? Learn what makes you depressed and what makes you happy, focus energies on the positive as you learn to control your triggers.
Goals - set them, long and short. Break down long term goals into many short term goals. There are quite a few goal setters here, if you need help start a discussion. I believe many members can help you break them down into doable steps if you cannot.
Ask for help when needed. Asking for help is a positive, just don’t ask if a friend or family member has just started a project of their own. Write it down
and come back to it when it’s appropriate. Think how you would feel if asked to stop what you are in the middle of. At the same time, if it’s truly imperative that something be done now, don’t hesitate to ask.
Life is really not all about you. Take an active place in life. Be as independent as you can. I really can’t cook by myself anymore. I can still grill with its slower pace. But it does help my partner and my family Sunday suppers if I can help prep, set the table, put food up. Yes I might take a little longer, but it still gets done. And it makes everyone feel good! I also do things my parents can’t do like brush their dog, pick up limbs and twigs (sometimes with help of one of those grabbers), help with the computer. It’s just finding ways to be a little more independent and at the same time being part of a group. What ways do you have?
Sleep - many of us experience insomnia or just the opposite, no energy to wake up. Practice good sleeping habits. Get the eight to ten hours needed in one shot. Try not to take so many naps during the day if you’re not sleeping at night. Now coming out of ICU, I slept a lot. This is part of the healing process. When I overdo it, I need to sleep more. If I find myself staying up too late, I set the alarm for the next morning. I have had to relearn to sleep well. I had a job that I worked some nights, some days and nights and some days. I really didn’t know when I was supposed to sleep. In ICU, I would be up at night mostly and try to sleep during the day. Crazy right!? All those doctors coming in during the day…took me awhile but my circadian rhythms are generally in line with the rest of the majority. Limit caffeine intake. Some of us have to stop caffeine mid day, some can’t have it at all. Any other ideas?
Hygiene - some people who get depressed fail to take care of their hygiene properly. Take that shower or bath, brush your teeth, comb or brush your hair. Put on clean clothes.
Clean the house. This is probably one of the biggest tells of depression after hygiene. Our living space goes to Hades in a hand basket. Not only do we no longer care about ourselves, we don’t care about our homes or vehicles. It’s trying to get the energy just to get up. If you are physically able do an entire room in a day or two. If you’re not physically able, break the room into sections like a piece of pie and do a section a day. Don’t just move the stuff from one section to another! Put things up as you go. Ask the people you live with to pick up after themselves. Dirty laundry? Dirty dishes? While you are working on a room, do a load of laundry, wash the dishes or load the dishwasher. One pretty day in January, I cleaned my little truck. We had weeks of rain and cold. The truck had gotten muddy! And junk everywhere. Took me all day to clean the inside, vacuum, and wash outside. The next week, one of my friends needed to borrow it. I felt good knowing it was clean, and they couldn’t believe how well I’d done. If you can’t bend to do the laundry, have someone build a box to lift them, or help fold and hang up the clothes. Pick up after yourself. Can you imagine coming home from work just to find dirty dishes and trash piled around the person you love?
Numerous therapists have shared with me that if people limited negativity that comes into their life, they would start feeling better. Some ideas are to stop or drastically limit the news, either on television, newspaper, Internet. Limit what you read from the bloody, gory, and sad changing instead to humor. And don’t forget what you watch on television or movie, as well as the type of music you might listen to. We generally keep things PG13 and down. Why? Because R has lots of violence. We try to listen, watch and read those things that are uplifting. This doesn’t always happen, but we will end our day on a good note.
And as this group is all about breath and focus. Don’t forget to practice breathing all the time. If you only try to do it when you need it, it will be very hard. If you practice daily whether you need it or not, it becomes second nature and you will start the minute you feel angst.
And as they said on Bones today -“Sometimes you just have to Dance to the music given to you…Dance to the music that’s playing.”
So the discussion is open - how are ways you fight depression?