Every now and then I wake up and feel a depressing funk or sadness wash over me, my very own dark little cloud. I don’t think its clinical depression (although it runs in my family) because I eventually emerge from it whether after a day or so, or a week or so (or even a month or so). So looking back, I’ve found it can usually be chalked up to one of a few things.
- It might be an unrealized expectation and subsequent disappointment. I’m a planner, and when things don’t go according to plan, I feel it. I mean, I REALLY feel it. I would go so far as to say that I experience a short round of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) sometimes even over very minor disappointments.
- It might be cyclical grief. Although I’ve surrendered and accepted certain hard, life circumstances, the day to day of those circumstances can still trigger a short period of anger, sadness or longing for what could have or should have been, again and again.
- It might be project related. If I have an upcoming deadline or commitment that I know I need to set aside time for, my procrastination tendencies kick in, and I delay starting and/or finishing until I’ve made myself and everyone around me completely miserable about it.
- It might be hormone related. Every month that physical cycle we all know about involving the cleansing of the old and replacing with the new can potentially wreak havoc with my emotions. Mentally I resist change so maybe my body does too in its own debilitating manner.
- It might be health related. If I’m feeling sick or tired (or both), I also find I’m much more sensitive to the weight of the world (even if that “world” is just other family members). Sometimes overeating or eating too much of the “wrong” food seems to trigger the funk.
So over the last couple years, I have finally discovered a few ways of dealing with this depressing funk if I remember to take a moment and realize what is happening. But I also have to remember what my ways of dealing with it are, too. So I decided to make a list for myself that I’m also sharing here with anyone else who might need some ideas:
1. Give Yourself Permission and Grace Give yourself permission and grace. Try to discover what triggered the funk in the first place. Set aside time to nap/rest/think. Give your body and mind time to process. If you are feeling overwhelmed with work or a deadline (or life – period), and you have procrastinated, acknowledge and accept this about yourself and give yourself forgiveness. Be realistic about yourself, that this might be who you are, or this is how you work. Don’t let it surprise you. Accept it. Anticipate it. Plan for it.
2. Unload on Someone Shine a light on it. Tell someone you trust about the funk and everything going on in your head, whether good or bad thoughts. Tell someone as soon as you notice the signs. If you don’t have someone to tell, get a spiral notebook (or join a private Facebook group that allows venting, or start a blog) and write about it. Write however it feels helpful. (I found writing in third person helps me distance myself from some of the more difficult circumstances.)
3. Breathe Like This Sometimes the depressing funk can feel like and/or cause anxiety or panic so remember to breathe. (There are many descriptions of how to breathe in order to alleviate anxiety on the web, so just I’ll describe what I discovered by accident – and through observing my medically complex son – that works best for me.) Breathe in a big breath through your nose, down into your lungs, and hold it as long as possible. Let the held breath push on your lungs and back of your throat like you are about to let it out, but don’t. Then when you can’t hold it any longer, let it out in an uncontrolled exhale over the back of your throat and through your nose, keeping your mouth closed. You can allow a moan or a hum when you do this, but you don’t have to force it. Don’t push the breath it out, but don’t hold it back either. Once you’ve exhaled that breath, give in naturally to the next few breaths as your body recovers and takes in oxygen. Don’t force these breaths, just allow them to occur naturally. Then, after your body has recovered, do it again. (I usually do it several times until I reach a natural stopping point where my body feels calm, and I don’t have to do it anymore at the moment.)
4. Let Out Noise and Silence Your Mind Find a space where your can be alone (like in a car), where no one can hear you. Listen to whatever music or white noise will drown out your thoughts. (Usually for me it is something with an intense driving beat and lots of electronic and percussive instruments where you can’t really discern a melody, voices or words – probably whatever music my parents would call noise.) Play it loud enough so you feel it in your chest, but don’t hurt your ears. I call this volume “just below painful”. Then sing, yell, or scream as loud as you can. It’s possible this could be another form of the breath work mentioned above. But it also serves the purpose of drowning out the negative commentary in the mind that often accompanies the funk. It’s after effect is like white noise for the brain so that it has time to forget and reset.
5. Make a Tiny Check List Before you go to bed the night before, make a list of 2-3 small goals to accomplish the next day. Set an alarm and don’t allow it to snooze. As the day permits, work on those 2-3 small things. Once you accomplish them, reward yourself even if that means allowing yourself to take a nap or sit on the couch and watch a movie. Do this everyday until the funk passes.
6. Only Think About the Very Next Step Take your eyes off the big picture for a moment. Determine and only focus on the very next step that needs to be done right now. Sometimes just putting a word on a page, drawing a line on the paper, or picking up one piece of dirty laundry and putting it in the hamper can get the ball rolling.
So that’s it. A reminder list for me, and maybe an idea list for you. I would love to know if any of these methods work for you. I would also love for you to share your own methods with me.
P.S. In the past I have had at least two bouts of depression that have lasted beyond a few months. During those times, I required antidepressants to help me through and maintain some semblance of normalcy. Sometimes I wonder if I had been doing some of the things listed above, if I could have kept myself from the long term spiral. However, in the spirit of giving myself grace, I have to admit that often times no amount of breathing deeply or talking about your circumstances can overcome a chemical imbalance in your brain that seems to control your life. So I do encourage you, that if you need help, please get help!