A close friend texted me this week saying, “Three things you do to get yourself out of a slump. Go.”. My answer was go for a walk, clean the house/rearrange things and to light candles. While rushed, the answer is still mostly accurate but I wanted to elaborate more on the whys behind them.
First things first, depression affects everyone differently and can manifest in a variety of ways. Personally, depression comes in waves almost like clockwork. I can feel myself slipping and before long I’m sitting at the bottom of the pit, living there for a while. Two years ago, I hit my roughest patch which consisted of regular depression naps every Saturday at 2PM (which genuinely became a concerning joke amongst friends and family), overindulging in food/alcohol and spewing self-deprecating depression jokes to everyone’s displeasure. I’ve watched friends suffer through these depths numerous times but for the first time I was miles away from the surface with no sense of what to do. I spent months in this proverbial hellscape before drifting slowly upwards. Before long, that heavy weight I’d been carrying was gone, without a note goodbye. Here is my easy guide to interrupting a depression spiral.
- Learn your warning signs – Inevitably, if you’re experiencing depression, there’s a good chance that it’ll happen again and that’s okay. It’s normal. Like I mentioned earlier, depression can be like a wave: it ebbs and flows. Comes on in a hurry then leaves. Push and pull. While it can be scary to think that it will return, especially when you’re already feeling low, it can instead be a positive situation because you have time to prepare for the next fall. Common signs can include: sleeping too much or not at all, disconnected emotional changes, overeating or under eating, overall numbness or lethargy.
- Find simple tricks to give yourself joy – When you’re spiraling, there’s not much that can bring you joy or even a glimmer of hope. Thankfully, I was able to find a consistent, low-energy trick: watching weekly Jenna Marbles videos on Youtube. I have been a fan of Jenna Marbles for nearly a decade and it was easy to go ‘Oh, it’s Thursday – I bet there’s a new video up’. That simple act was enough for me to hold on to. Did I really care about the content of her videos? No. Did I routinely watch them just to get a chuckle or two? Yes. The most important part of this trick is to find something that requires barely any effort on your part but is scheduled: a show on cable, a weekly youtube video, a podcast.
- Create a self care kit – For the most part, self care goes out the window during a depression wave however, by having a go to kit of your favorite things, it may be enough to slow the impending tide. Whether you’re a shower or bath person, keep on hand your favorite candles, gels, bombs and scents. Another part of your kit can be productive like art supplies, your favorite book or maybe just an extra comfy pair of sweats. Scents to look for: lemon and orange for energy, lavender and jasmine for calming, bergamot and rosemary for alertness.
- Care for something outside of yourself – Loving others is another way to energize yourself. From plants to pets to people, being able to respond and love something can help you feel a little more connected when in the pits. My boss gifted my coworker and I tropical plants last fall that I was determined to keep alive. When my coworker left her position, she gave me her plant to take care of. Tropical plants in central Indiana? Goodluck. For the record, I do not have a green thumb and can barely keep myself alive let alone a plant. They never bloomed, but they’ve sprouted new growth and are something I’m proud of now.
- Try something new – Routines can be great but they can also be smothering. I crave routine and structure but once I start falling down a pit, routines make my skin crawl like I’m growing too quickly from the inside and my skin can’t hold me. When you’re feeling a funk come on, try something new. Say yes to an invitation from a friend. Take a different route home from work. Walk a new path at the park. Watch a new sitcom just to change the perspective. We are so comfortable in our own worlds that sometimes breaking the routine and experiencing something new can be liberating and cathartic.
What worked for me may not work for you perfectly and that’s okay. The goal is to try things that you may not have considered previously if you find yourself descending the steps into the pit. If you’re fully in the trenches, these things may not work or work as well and you should always confide in someone you trust about your feelings.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger due to depression, contact 911. If you or someone you know is in need of support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454 or text “HELLO” to 741741 the Crisis Text Line.