Depression - getting your mojo back
‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’. Winston Churchill
I recall, many years ago, when depression hit big time, and I knew what
had triggered it but I could not shake it off, I found it difficult, almost
impossible to get up in the morning and get on with the day. All I wanted
to do was pull the duvet over my head and hide from the world. A
thousand thoughts would spin through my mind, all seemingly conspiring
to keep me stuck.
But I read in a book on depression a simple technique which I have often
found helpful (and so too have my clients.)
Here it is - the 5 Finger Technique:
From the lying-in-my-bed position, I would visualise myself taking a deep
breath, throwing open the duvet, counting down 5,4,3,2,1, on the fingers
of one hand, leaping out of bed, standing up, shaking the duvet and making
the bed. Then within a nano second – do exactly that. I.e. no letting the
brain go back to its million, zillion, thoughts.
So here we go, you’re lying there, duvet over head, if only metaphorically, so wanting to escape from the world. Then :-
visualise yourself taking a deep breath
still visualising, choose right or left hand and count down from thumb to little finger, 5,4,3,2,1
see yourself throwing back the duvet
visualise you leaping out of bed (get out of bed with as much energy as you can muster ie no gently, bit-by-bit standing up)
Now do it for real - deep breath, count down 5,4,3,2,1, duvet back, stand up, remake bed, feel satisfied.
At the time, this was one of the hardest things to do. I didn’t want to get up, let alone fluff up that duvet and remake the bed. But I committed to doing it because I was also telling myself I was worth it.
But more than that, if I had crawled back into bed I would have stayed there then punished myself with guilt.
But the bed was now re-made, so even if I lay down exhausted ON the bed, at least I wasn’t IN it – and, stupid as that may seem, it was the difference that made the difference. For it now required less effort to get up again. Small psychological differences that helped.
Give it a go. See how it works. Let this one act symbolise that you can become more powerful than your depression.
Other things to do when your get up and go has got up and gone
TheTFactor – it’s time to take responsibility for your life, for your own wellness. I know, just at the time when you feel stuck, lacking in energy, in a low mood, I’m asking you to DO IT. Before you can DO you have to have a thought. A lot of your thoughts will be negative. So make yourself create thoughts that will work for you. Begin in your head telling yourself, “I am taking responsibility for my own health and happiness.” Repeat that several times a day and you begin to make a neural shift in your brain, a new pathway, you are strengthening the new pathways that says, “This way health and happiness” and focussing less, leaving the pathway signposted, “This way depression.” Even just visualising the new signpost will help.
You are beginning to take charge of yourself and your depression rather than waiting for something or someone to live your life for you. Then as the new pathway strengthens, you may just in one moment decide to TAKE ONE STEP, just DO ONE THING, that gets you walking along the new path. You are becoming stronger.
Riding the wave
Here’s what I did. Never before a bookshop friend, I would spend time in
bookshops looking at self-help books and letting a book, or two, “speak to me”
ie the title, colour, photo, just something about it seemed to stand out.
I got myself some therapy, didn’t know what it would involve, but made
JUST ONE THOUGHT – to surrender to the process. I explored support
groups but found they were too depressing, (but they may work for you.)
I made a list of other things that were possible. I made a promise with myself
that if there were moments when I really just could not be bothered, then I
wouldn’t force it, and as the mood passed, I would grab the next wave of energy
and DO something else from my list.
I learned that thoughts and moods were really not things that just stayed. I
lived near the sea and saw my moods and thoughts as waves that came and
crashed, came and crashed. They were simply energy moving through me.
It took me a while to really get that. And some days the waves were too big to surmount, other days it was easier to ride the waves, and then there were the occasional days of calm seas. And there were the waves that were frightening and made me feel fear, that if I were to enter in I would be engulfed by the wave, and overcome, with bleakness and darkness and no way out. Then I reckoned I would not go into, I would not give in.
Depression can be a mind game., a battle between your ego (that always thinks it's helping) and your Higher Self.
Here’s my list for when I am on dry land! And when I intend to ride the wave.
- Taking Responsibility for Your Depression Top Tips
Activity – fortunately at the time of my major depression I had a dog, and he required me to go out and walk, and play. Much as I didn’t want to, I did it anyway – he taught me to smile, to throw sticks (how could one be so cruel as to not throw him sticks?), to play tug of war with him, to run with him. As he grinned I found myself grinning too; somehow I was working through the negative feelings.
I learned too to look upwards at the tops of trees (someone had told me if I look very close then I will see the energy of the trees emanating from the tops. Try it!) and I’d look UP at the sky, notice the clouds coming and going, coming and going, energy in motion. It wasn’t easy at times but I acknowledged I had done it, gave gratitude for having done it, and when we would get back to the car, oh the feelings of joy and accomplishment.
People who feel depressed, if they walk, often do so slowly, head down. I learned to do the opposite. I no longer have a dog, and dislike walking and the gym. But I still walk, head up and out. Stephen Hawking once advised his audience during an address at Cambridge University in 2012, to ‘look up at the stars and not down at your feet' to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist, to be curious and however difficult life may seem, know there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.
I drew up a list of other forms of activity. You could do likewise – dancing (even at home, on your own,) gardening, Qi Gong, creating a window box, watering plants, swimming, aqua aerobics, walking round the house. You want to make it regular and gentle as this will positively affect the brain and your own sense of well-being. Bit by bit, cumulatively, you’ll be doing things you enjoy, and you’ll find real feel-good feelings, good waves, returning.
Sleep - I could have won sleep Olympics for Britain during the day – it was another form of shutting out the world, of closing down. But that meant I didn’t sleep at night. So I did my research, made my list, gave myself a date to begin a new sleep routine – and missed that deadline for weeks. Just couldn’t get started. But each day I re-committed in my head to the routine, creating that new pathway and one day it seemed to just happen…by “jumping” out of bed, I was more ready to face the day. I seemed to do lots of small tasks, but at least I wasn’t sleeping. And the plan also included:-
Researching and eating foods that help with sleep
Avoiding alcohol, anything to drink, or food after 8pm
No watching TV, laptops or other light emitting gadgets after 8pm
Spending the final two hours of the day – taking a warm bath, writing up a gratitude diary , reading something calming and inspiring
A little meditation, prayer
Being in bed by 10.30
Now sometimes I just so did not want to do any of that but I learned to JUST DO IT
Always care for yourself – No 1. Be determined to make self-care your number one goal. It means promising to look after your physical health, mental health, personal hygiene, nutrition and movement, and socialising – these are all vital parts of depression care; however, I know that when we feel depressed, we are often not in the mood for self-care, it can be difficult. Make self-care routine by creating and writing down a daily self-care routine. I had a post-it note on mirrors which said . “I am worth caring” “I take care of myself” “Self-care is becoming easier”
Breathe – When depressed, we breath in a very shallow fashion. I did test for sleep apnoea and found, when asleep, that 64 times in an hour I would not breath. That was mega-non-breathing. Deep breathing releases endorphins and other mood-enhancing biochemicals in the brain. Slow, deep breaths steady the body and mind, and improve the quality of energy flowing in, through and from your body.
Change your thinking – As you think, so you get. Change thoughts that
limit you. Create new thoughts, affirmations – things you say over and over.
In the video opposite Louise L Hay has you just sit and listen whilst she
repeats affirmations which, the more you hear them, the more positive your
thinking becomes. You may fall asleep as you listen but subliminally your
sub-conscious mind is still take in the affirmations.
If the only affirmation you said every day was this one:
Every day in every way my life is getting better and better
how your world will change.
Eat and drink well - I researched the link between my gut, what I put in it, and my brain, and depression – some of which you will find on this website. Nutrition plays a key role in depression. Food can increase or decrease neurotransmitters like dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin, it can affect moods and it can impact energy levels – keeping a diary I noticed if I ate potatoes or past, or indeed most carbohydrates, I would be tired and yawning within half an hour. You’ll find advice on this website on many pages about nutrition.
Healing – I found nearby a spiritual healing centre where one night per week I could just turn up, sit down, and for about 40 minutes a healer would work over and around me. I topped this up by paying for healing sessions, this suited me better as I was given more time to talk. I felt things were changing but did not know how or in what way. It was a very internal feeling and it felt good. I then trained in spiritual healing, and shortly afterwards in Reiki healing, eventually becoming a Reiki mast and Teacher.
Some healers only ask for a contribution toward costs. So it need not be expensive and you need no denominational or religious beliefs.
Light, just see the light - The brain needs full-spectrum light in order to regulate moods and improve outlook. Every day, spend about half an hour outside, or use full-spectrum bulbs or in winter, I use a light box inside. Many people in northern climes are light deficient.
Allied to this, spending time outdoors, especially in sunshine, will increase levels of Vitamin D commonly known as the Sunshine Vitamin. Again, in Northern Climes, you may need to take vitamin D3 supplements – but always take them with vitamin K2.
From about late Spring to the end of September, most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight. The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors.
But between October and early March we need to look to other sources, such as a small number of foods which include:
oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and fresh tuna
Check - do you have diabetes, insulin resistance, problems with glucose level? These contribute to brain fog, mood, cognitive issues and depression.
Love - lack of self-love is often present in people living with depression. Wherever possible, every day, no matter how difficult, aim to do one little thing which is an act of self love. This will send clear signals to your brain which in turn will create chemical changes that in time can help lift the depression. These small acts may include :-
Bedroom - when you have a little positive energy, ensure your bedroom is a place of welcome, comfort, neatness, warmth, and only lightly coloured - with as few electronic gadgets as possible
Cook yourself a nice meal - think rainbows, and make it colourful and fresh
Flowers - buy some fresh, colourful flowers, perhaps nicely scented. Apart from their effect on you, flowers are said to soak up negative energies in the room
Light a diffuser - pleasing smells can help relax. Research different aromas for different purposes.
New clothes - on a good day, buy a piece of new clothing, perhaps in brighter colours than you are used to
Pacing - ‘Pacing’ is about balancing activity and rest to help with your condition. When you decide to do something, do it is in small steps.
Perfume or aftershave - use sparingly to let the scents inspire the senses
Read inspirational, uplifting, amusing books - if you find reading a challenge, buy audio versions
Take some time out just for you, if you can, a few days away in nature
Television - avoid the news and anything depressing; watch inspiring plays, documentaries, musicals etc
Treats - on a good day, draw up a list of ways in which you could treat yourself to something good, enjoyable, laughter making etc so that on a down day you do not have to think, you just select from your list
Write in your diary - experiment with writing only good things, what you have been grateful for that day, pleasant memories, kind people, people you have been kind to
Talk it through – never keep depression to yourself. Ask your doctor for a referral to a talk therapist of some kind – but find out what methods they use. See our page on talking it through, counselling and therapy.
Touch or be touched - Human contact is essential. Skin-to-skin contact is even better; it is a powerful component of human connection, and it reduces the effects of depression. I started out with foot reflexology and foot massage. The woman who provide the service was kindness personified and would talk gently with me, play soothing music in the background, even used aromatherapy oils.
She encouraged me to get a regular body massage.
In time, I even trained in massage, spiritual healing and Reiki healing.
Visualise – close your eyes and visualise yourself free of depression, living
in a depression free world. What would you look like, feel like, how would
you speak, what words would you chose, how would you behave. How
would the world look, how would you interact with it more positively?
Let your independent free self express itself. The power of visualisation is
real. Create an image of yourself living without depression, and think
about it often throughout each day to provide a steady stream of inspiration
Widen your perspective. How you see the world, your inner and outer, will determine how you recover from depression. When we are feeling depressed, our attention is confined, restricted, narrow and makes you focus on the negative. The illness means we just don’t see the colour, the energy, the vibrancy of life; we don’t want to know very often. Depression closes us down. Remember this is not you – this is the illness. So aim to look u, look out, to shift your perspective and your interpretation of the people and events in your life; this can be done through lots of research, perhaps doing EFT, finding a therapist to work with for a few sessions. The key thing is to remind yourself every day, yes, I know, another thing on the list, to open yourself up to the possibility of different ways of thinking and feeling.
And men - click on the image opposite for an interesting article encouraging
men to seek help for depression.
Phone a friend, find a pen pal through Depression UK
The Samaritans Whatever you're going through, call them free any time, from any phone on 116 123