If there’s one thing I know, it’s that in some way or another in my life, I’m always going to be fighting depression off with a big fat stick. Now I’ve come to terms with it, I’m able to fend it off so much better, or at least keep it at bay for a time. Moreover, through the years, I’ve learnt that there are coping strategies to help keep the dreaded rain clouds at bay.
Most if these are pretty obvious, and I don’t want to sound patronising, but often it really is the most practical and simple things that will get you through the darkest of times. I strongly feel that if I’d had some genuinely sensible and sensitive advice when I first started feeling blue at the age of 19, the last 15 years of my life would have been a hell of a lot easier. *Old, wise person’s voice* ‘If I knew then, what I know now, etcetera…….’ I’m not saying these will work for everyone, and they’re certainly not foolproof, all I know is that they help me out when I’m staring into the abyss and shitting my proverbial pants. (I’m not going to include anything about medication in this post, as I’m still unsure as to whether it is a genuinely helpful solution in the long-term).
1) Get enough sleep
A tricky one this. There’s fine line between not getting enough and having too much (true of most things though, I’d say). Too much, and I feel like a member of the walking dead; not enough and I’m a jumpy, irritable mess with mad, crazy eyes popping out on stalks. It’s not always easy to strike the right balance. Find out which hours work best for you, and stick to them. Again, easier said than done, but I know full well that I’m able to function so much better having had a productive day (enough to tire me out well), followed by a relatively early night. Mornings are always the worst for me as I struggle to get going, yet by the time six o’clock in the evening comes around, I’m wide awake and raring to go. So, when I’m feeling OK (ish) I try my best to fill the day up with enough activities to ensure a decent night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed the following day. That’s the theory anyway.
2) Walking and fresh air
Again, it’s almost so obvious that it goes without saying, but if you make yourself get out and about, even if it’s once a day, once a week, once a month, just to walk for a while in the fresh air, it will only ever do you good. Get out, feel and experience something that’s outside of you, get your blood pumping around your body and feel the wind on your skin. Best of all it’s free. Get yourself to the local park, or the seaside, or the river- it doesn’t even matter where. You may not be leaping around like a deliriously happy person after five minutes, but you’ll sure as hell feel a little bit better.
There’s been so many times I’ve been sitting on a bus, train or plane and I begin to uncontrollably panic. My breathing goes crazy, my head starts spinning and I nosedive headlong into sheer gut wrenching, sweaty palms terror. See, things that are quite ordinary for the majority of people, i.e. getting on a bus or going to the cinema, seem to turn me into a mound of quivering jelly. In these situations, to prepare, all I do is take five minutes on my own before the journey to really properly breathe. Slowly and deeply, breathe in and out, telling yourself all the time that there’s nothing as frightening as fear itself. It’s mind over matter and it really does help.
4) A decent diet
Absolutely essential. I honestly don’t think I’d still be alive without having eaten well over the years. I’ve been brought up on a fairly well balanced, Mediterranean diet, with plenty of vegetables and lots of protein. All I’m going to say is that vegetables, fruit and herbs will always be your friend, they will always be there for you and they will always make you feel better. I make sure I get my 5 a day religiously, but it’s no chore because I love them so much. Plus you’ll feel very smug and pleased with yourself because you’re taking measures to be extra good to yourself. It’s a win win! Avoid junk food like the plague. As virtuous as my veg consumption is, I am constantly being tempted by the quick, feel good sugar and salt fixes of junk food and often succumb. It’s almost a buzz for me, but the sugar crash and come down is horrid. Stay away if you know what’s good for you.
5) Have a sense of humour
Absolutely flipping essential. If you’ve lost your sense of humour (or didn’t have one in the first place) you’re pretty much done for. Laughter really is the best medicine and it’s also a brilliant coping mechanism. I can’t count all the times that the shit has hit the fan and somehow from somewhere I’ve managed to raise a little chuckle or sardonic thought. I concede, it’s bloody difficult to find life amusing when you’re in the third day of a really terrible downer, (unless you can appreciate the sheer fucking absurdity of the whole damn situation) but on the days that things are a little bit more manageable, remember to keep a perspective on the situation and not to take yourself too seriously. I genuinely love it when people take the piss out of me and follow suit by taking the piss out of myself as well.
To be continued……….
Does anyone else have any tips or coping strategies they use? I’d love to hear them if so.