Everyone works differently. But speaking from my experience and perspective, when I was first coming to grips with my depression, I thought I could wrestle it on my own with overwhelming positive thoughts, good habits and just stubbornly, blindly continuing along my path. It’s not a bad idea, only naive. You do need those good practices to turn into habits, but it was the day to day functioning that I struggled with the most. I was very very susceptible to comparisons, self-criticism and a big one was social media. Any exposure to those and my mind would spiral, all positive thoughts would fly out the window.
Like a lot of people, I had ideas of getting up at 4.30am, going for a run with the dogs, eating a healthy breakfast and meditating for an hour before the day’s work had even begun. Like I said you need those goals to work towards, but no one had shown me (and I had certainly not learned) how to function with depression minute by minute in the meantime. And it would completely throw me when I wasn’t living up to my own expectations.
So, what does the average day look like for someone in the origins of their journey with depression? and what are some tips for just getting through?
1. Get up, take your medication, eat breakfast
– Eventually, ideally, this will be a healthy meal, and depending on your work schedule I’m sure you’d like to work in some exercise, meditation, or goal setting in at this point. But that’s a lot all at once when your thoughts are exhausting you already and all your energy went into getting out of bed. Just get something in your belly to get you going, make your bed and take any medication you’re supposed to. In my first few weeks of taking anti-depressants I was getting up on time, but I had no deadline, no alarm, I was just getting up when I could. I was lucky my schedule allowed that flexibility, because some days I just couldn’t get up, I was mentally fatigued as soon as my eyes opened. So not being hard on yourself and giving yourself time to work into a routine helps. Just whenever you get up, make sure to make your bed, if you take your meds with breakfast then do that, maybe try and sit outside or somewhere peaceful, and just breathe while your body gets going. Keep it simple.
2. Do one thing that works towards your long-term goals
– And clearly here we start to talk about goals, an absolute mind fuck of an overused word. When you think you don’t belong, you’re not as good as anyone else, and no one would miss you if you were gone, goals can quickly turn into expectations, and it’s your own expectations that create than unrelenting weight on your shoulders. They can just seem so far away. Maybe goal isn’t the right word, just think of it as an idea, or an ideal, a day a few years in the future that you could shape exactly how you wanted, what does it look like? You just need the smallest win in that general direction. It will probably feel insignificant at the time, but when I was at my lowest, I felt helplessly stagnant, and on the good days I felt better because I’d done something to move my life in a certain direction, some control, even if I wasn’t set on that direction, it didn’t matter.
In amongst a dozen other careers, for a while I wanted to be a counsellor, it turns out I didn’t, but I was doing an online diploma for a while. So my small step towards my ideal day (writing in my cabin in the woods, spending time with my dogs and talking to two or three clients a day) would be to access the online forum. Some days I would complete tasks and work on assignments, and other days I might just do one reading, as long as I logged on, made the effort to look at it, that was enough. I got into a habit of doing more but initially that small step felt huge compared to a day of staring at the television. It’s the smallest steps that can provide the greatest mental relief.
3. Do one thing that works towards your short-term goals
More goals. I know. But it’s only one, and it’s a short term goal, as in daily. This can be as simple as washing the car, paying a bill or vacuuming your room. I’d usually do this one early, it’s in a similar category as making the bed, it gets you in the mood for completing tasks. More often than not for me it would involving cleaning. Sometimes I’d use it as procrastination, but when I was really struggling to get motivated to do anything, organizing my room, cleaning the kitchen or the car would get me going. I felt like a dork but I also felt pride, and as a male of course I thought I was akin to Gandhi for completing these simple tasks, but really, they just got my mind out of the rut.
4. Leave time for your body to lead your mind
This one can be hard. My depression just left my mind in control, now I’d never been a full on active health nut, but I’d been moderately active, which turned into non-existent activity. And when an imbalanced mind is left in control one hundred percent of the time it creates such a negative cycle. So every day, you have to try to let your body take over. Obviously as you start to get control of your depression this is linked with sleeping right and eating right as well, of which the scientific links to keeping depression at bay are clear, but early on just doing one thing physical every day is enough. It can simply be a walk, a wander, a swim, a run, the gym, social sport would be great, or even some physical labor around the house such as painting or mowing the lawn. They are all a break from your thoughts while you sweat and toil and this break provides great relief. When you go back to your day you’ll feel more refreshed and not as weighed down by everything.
Like I said in the beginning, everyone is different, they’ll deal with depression at different rates and in different ways. I guess I’m just sharing the things I have done that worked in my early stages when you’re aware of your situation, and want to deal with it, but aren’t quite sure where to start. I hope this helps.