Depression is a hope parasite.
When you’re exhausted and in pain, it’s not because there is something wrong with your body. It’s because something is draining your reasons for moving forward. Your reasons for getting up in the morning, your whys, are undermined by depression. It makes it hard to keep going.
There isn’t one catch-all strategy for the sorrow you might be feeling, but there is still much you can do. I’m going to lay out some approaches I’ve used to deal with depression. Consider them generic prescriptions. None of them work all of the time, but all of them work some of the time.
What matters most is that you hold on tight, even if you can’t muster the strength to get out of bed.
1. Defy the Depression Tyrant (Action Approach)
When you’re stuck in depression, your psyche turns against itself. A tyrant sets up shop in your head, then it degrades you and reminds you how useless you are. But, you don’t have to listen.
Instead, you can act against what the bastard is telling you to do. If you feel like there is no point in going on, then go on.
Stick to the basics. Plod forward, even if it’s just to brush your teeth, or take a shower, or cook a meal. Do one thing for your health, then set a destination for the next thing.
If you keep knocking out different activities, you may find yourself starting to gain momentum. Once you’ve found it, the negative voices become less deafening. You can generate hope this way; repeated action cuts through the fog and leads to better states of mind.
2. Remember Who You Are (Gratitude Approach)
I don’t know you, reader, but I would guess that you’ve had rough moments in your life. What you’re experiencing now might not be the worst thing you’ve ever gone through. Or maybe it is. The point is, you’re still alive.
Reflect on everything you’ve experienced. Think about the things you’ve already been through. Think about the people you love, the things you get to do, and the things you often forget to appreciate. Gratitude can help everything.
People don’t tell you to count your blessings to undermine your problems. They say it to remind you of who you are, what you’ve done, and what you have to hold on to.
3. Work (Alchemy Approach)
Instead of meeting depression with apathy and nonaction (like it wants you to), you can meet it with intensity. You can translate your pain into something productive. This is how many artists produce their greatest works.
Pain, sorrow, and emotion, can all be used as wells of creativity. If you have no creative outlets, maybe it’s time to make one. You can draw your pain. You can journal your pain. You can smash piano keys. Or you can put your focus on any activity that will produce something positive.
This is how you turn pain into gold. And even if you hate what you create, it will still be a piece of you. You still got it out of your chest and into the world.
4. Focusing (Listening Approach)
I’m not talking about mindfulness or transcendental meditation. I’m talking about sitting and breathing with the pain you are feeling. Not fighting it, but listening to what it has to say. This is a therapy technique called Focusing.
You can observe your depression, and you can describe it. I would describe my depression as a black lake, or heavy sludge, or sharp thorns. When you give your feeling a description, you become more familiar with it. It almost appreciates being acknowledged.
You have an opportunity for introspection here. You can consider where your pain is coming from, and what you can do about it. This can lead to clarity, and clarity can lead to hope. Much of the suffering from depression comes from trying to escape the pain. However, letting your feelings be felt is what allows them to change.
5. Wait it Out (Seasons Approach)
Sometimes, the best approach to depression is just to bear it. Because emotions fluctuate, and things rarely stay the same.
I used to think it was bullshit when people said that depression will just pass on its own as seasons do. I would think, “If you don’t do anything, of course, nothing will happen.” But this isn’t always true.
Just wait. Do the best you can to maintain your life and keep your commitments. Eventually, your mood will change. Your main responsibility should be keeping yourself well until you start feeling different.
6. Talk About The Source of Your Depression (Communication Approach)
Human connection is an antidepressant.
This is one of the most powerful strategies for healing depression, but it’s also one of the most difficult. This involves sharing yourself, and your pain, with a friend, a therapist, or a loved one. You bear your soul so that you can be felt and understood by others.
If you’re revealed, then you’re vulnerable, and that’s terrifying. But what’s beyond that fear is exactly what you need. Courageousness leads to wellbeing. Who would’ve thought?
7. Exercise (The Blood Pumping Approach)
An excess of ugly energy pent up in your body can be released through physical activity. If you can get to the gym, or run around the block, or just do some push-ups, you can make a dent in whatever you’re feeling.
I won’t bore you with talk about endorphins. The point is, intense physical exertion can purge feelings of depression. If you have problems hanging over your head, and you don’t know how to address them, a workout can bring you clarity. You gain a fresh perspective and a sense of peace, especially if the workout was brutal.
Even if I don’t feel amazing after I workout, I always feel better than when I started. Always.
8. Don’t Fuel Depression With Media (The Peaceful Approach)
Smartphones are like pacifiers. Shooting data across your brain for hours on end numbs what you’re feeling, that is if you don’t stumble across something that makes your depression worse.
Just turn off your phone, even if it’s for a few hours. Take a walk in the world. Leave your phone at home, and see how it feels.
If you limit yourself from technology in a healthy way, you’ll rediscover states of mind you haven’t felt in a long time. When your brain isn’t tuned into constant stimulation, you’ll be less anxious, and more appreciative. So, make rules around your media consumption. That could alleviate a lot of the pain you feel on a regular basis.
9. Be Good to Yourself (The Delicate Approach)
Depression leads to self-destruction. So, to combat those feelings, treat yourself.
Not by eating tubs of ice cream, but by being gentle with how you’re feeling. Lay under a warm blanket. Listen to a beautiful album. Drink green tea, and water. Try, as best you can, to guide yourself through your pain with a strong sense of self-compassion.
I’ve harmed myself during periods of depression. If you have a history with that, here are some alternatives:
- Let it out in tears
- Go outside and smash something
- Call a friend (See Strategy # 6)
10. Humor (The Laughter Approach)
Some say that laughing is healing. So, in some of my worst moments, I decided to watch stand-up specials. It helped.
Humor serves to remind you that laughter and joy still exist, and you that can still feel those things, even if it’s only for short period.
This is entertainment with a purpose. This isn’t endlessly scrolling youtube for more content, because for me, that’s a recipe for depression. You choose something light, whether it’s a comedy, a dumb reality show, or old pictures of friends, and you allow yourself to laugh when you’re feeling bad.
Depression Can Be Fought, So Keep Going
Those are some things you can do right now if you’re not feeling ok.
However, there is one trait you must have if you want to go about beating depression, and it’s a part of all ten approaches. That trait is endurance.
We can’t sell that short. Beating depression requires making the brave decision to endure and carry on. It’s a burden you’re strong enough to bear, and if you can endure long enough, you’ll feel something better.
- The Action Approach: Act despite your feelings.
- The Gratitude Approach: Remember what you cherish, and what you’ve already been through.
- The Alchemy Approach: Translate your pain into something powerful.
- The Listening Approach: Observe your pain, and consider its origins.
- The Seasons Approach: Depression can pass on its own. Hold out until then.
- The Communication Approach: Share your pain with someone else.
- The Blood Pumping Approach: Clear out the gunk in your head with intense physical exercise.
- The Peaceful Approach: Turn off your phone, and do something analog.
- The Delicate Approach: Care for yourself, even when you feel like harming yourself.
- The Laughter Approach: Only watch things that make you laugh, and remind yourself that it is still possible to feel silly.