Depression is this complicated, awful condition that is truly unique to each of us that endures it. Because of the bespoke grip with which it holds us, no single solution can be offered across the board. However, I do feel a responsibility to share the coping strategies that helped me fight depression, with the hope that it might just help at least one of you if you’re feeling hopeless. Today I’m discussing three principles that were revolutionary to me when I decided to adopt them. I can’t say whether they alone got me out of my funk, but I continue my life these days–miles away from a depressed state–still believing them at my core.
The most important thing you can do if you’re suffering from depression–or any other compromised state of mental health–is to talk about it. Talk about it to your friends, your family, a therapist, or anyone else that you trust and feel you can confide in. Talking out loud and being genuinely listened to allows us to express ourselves. When we do that, we can make sense of things. It’s also helpful when the listener points out certain phrases we repeat or terms we use as they can open our eyes to those aspects of ourselves that we’re not yet aware of.
But as well as doing the talking, it’s worth spending some time rewiring your brain. This is incredibly difficult, but I encourage you to give it a go. Below are three ways that you can do this. Write yourself a manifesto of how you’re going to help yourself and work every day to stick to it.
- The mind is a tool to be used, but it does not run the show. This concept threw me for a minute when I first came across it. My brain is what controls everything, so how could it be possible that it’s not the alpha aspect of my life? But think about it. We have a soul–that part of ourselves that is omniscient in who we are. It is what controls the talents we have, the music we like, the hobbies we enjoy, and everything else that we can use to describe our personality. This soul self also does not know depression. It’s an impossible concept for it to grasp. And the reason for that is that it lives solely in the present moment. This is unlike the brain, which can focus on a painful past or project a negative future. These things, of course, cause pain. When you’re struggling, it can help immensely to become aware of your brain. That genius, racing collection of cells is a masterpiece but also our biggest hurdle. Try to catch yourself when you’re “snowballing” negative thinking and remind yourself that it’s not the real you. It’s only a symptom of going through a difficult time. You’re probably sick of hearing it, but meditation really is the best way to slow things down.
- When faced with a decision, do what someone who loves themselves would do. This is incredibly powerful when you’re trying to get yourself out of a state of self-loathing. When we’re depressed, we fluctuate between numbness and intense pain. The last thing on our agenda is self-care, so it’s important to trick yourself into making decisions that are beneficial for your well-being. If you genuinely don’t feel that you love yourself, don’t force yourself to use false affirmations that leave a bad taste in your mouth. Staring in the mirror and forcing out, “I love myself!” and “I am beautiful” will only further highlight how far away from those beliefs that you truly feel. Instead, I suggest an alternative: fake it til you make it. When faced with any decision, from something as minuscule as what drink to make for yourself to something as important as whether to take that job or not, ask yourself this question: “What would someone who loves themselves do?” In asking this, you’re not forcing the self-love; you’re simply allowing yourself the opportunity to mimic the choices that someone in a better mental state would make. Keep this up and eventually, you’ll become a person who does love themselves. You’ll make a habit out of pursuing what feels good. And that, my friend, is what leads to a happy life.
- Understand that to be happy, you must heal and to heal, you must feel. Until you commit to feeling all emotions in their entirety and being accepting of them for what they are (good and bad), you will never allow yourself the opportunity to heal. It’s intimidating, I know. Especially as you likely have a toxic habit of trying to escape everything that feels painful through distraction or intoxication or whatever other technique you prefer. That’s why this can feel so foreign–because it is! But when we commit to feeling our emotions deeply, we do a great kindness to ourselves. We are essentially validating ourselves. And when we do that, we are being present with ourselves. If we don’t listen to and respect our true emotions, how can we possibly be there for another person in his or her struggles? Healing is a long road, and it takes time and understanding. But it starts with respecting ourselves and our emotions. Don’t disregard your feelings, especially the negative ones. Don’t judge yourself for feeling jealousy or defeat or anger. These emotions are trying to tell you something. Sit with those feelings and try to learn from them; that’s how you heal and grow.
It’s so easy to feel like a victim when you’re depressed. But understanding these three principles can empower you instead. They allow you to make positive decisions and channel the direction of your energy. It’s really about fighting for yourself. And you’ve got to do it because you owe it to the world to let them see you and all your wonderful talents.
Have you ever dealt with depression? What helped you most? Did you change your thinking or adopt coping strategies to fight for your well-being?
Also by Kat: How to Break Free from Your Life’s Story
Related: How to Start Again After Depression
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