By: Tamira Eliseo
At one point or another, life will become overwhelming for each and every one of us. There are so many things that can trigger stress, hopelessness, anxiety and depression. Work, finances, relationships, health etc. can all get difficult to handle at times. Sometimes we even fall into depressive states over what seems like nothing. Making it even harder for us to feel better, how can we help ourselves if we can’t identify what the core problem is? Hopefully this will clear things up a bit, and make you a ton more confident in tackling your depression one day at a time.
1. Try To Identify What’s Weighing On You
When I say try, I mean just give it a shot. I don’t meant overthink things, or keep yourself up at night trying to over analyze your life. That was my number one enemy of progressing towards hopefulness, and the fact is that you are never going to feel better if you treat yourself like a frustrating, 100,000,000 piece puzzle. Try to pinpoint what’s troubling you in the simplest way you can. If it’s rent you are unable to pay this month, if it is a rude neighbor constantly conflicting with you each time you leave your house, if work is piling up and you are feeling overwhelmed, if you need to lose some weight but you’re feeling anything but motivated, if it is something you need to come clean about to a loved one… realize what it is, for what it is. Tell yourself “Work is piling up and I am feeling overwhelmed by it.” Now, ask yourself “How can I make myself feel better about this? How can I resolve this problem?” Come up with a plan that will put your mind at ease, and also resolve the problem that is causing turmoil. Sometimes coming up with a game plan is the exact moment you start feeling better and more in control of your life. Once you have a game plan, put those ideas to action. Instead of, “Oh man, work is piling up… I think I’ll just wait to start everything next week and go from there” make it, “Work is piling up, time to get in there and knock it all out. I’ll feel so relieved when I’m done!”
The best thing you can do if you know what’s upsetting you, and it can be fixed but you are just too fearful to address it- is to address it immediately. Fear will quickly grow into a towering monster so long as you let it feed off of you. Show your fear; and more importantly yourself, that you can do anything. No matter how hard it is, or what the consequences are, YOU CAN DO IT. We are all human and every single one of us has made mistakes and wrong decisions… The simple fact is that not all of us can openly admit to them and bravely look for a resolution. Don’t procrastinate, don’t make any more excuses- just accept it, face it, move on with your life and find a solution. You deserve it.
2. You Can’t Figure Out What’s Weighing On You
If you are unable to see what is truly upsetting you and making you feel hopeless, it’s okay. No need to beat yourself up anymore about it, it’s just time for a change in lifestyle and overall point of view. You are feeling like you are not getting the most out of life anymore, you are not so impressed with the simpler things, you feel as if you’ve hit a plateau, and you are not happy with how things are in general. Now that you’ve addressed the negative, you need to make it your number one goal to de-stress, relax and get back to living a happy life again (AKA- the positive!). Sometimes we don’t always need to figure out what the exact issue is, we just need to go ahead and start the journey to making ourselves feel better physically and mentally, I call it a “negativity cleanse.”
3. The Negativity Cleanse
Whether you know what the underlying problem is or not, this “negativity cleanse” will benefit you and enrich your life. I start by giving all my attention solely to myself. When you are feeling depressed, anxious or stressed- you really DO need to focus on yourself, and less on others. It may sound selfish in black and white, but it’s certainly not selfish to give yourself the attention, care and love that you deserve and require in order to heal. This is your health and your happiness, something you are going to live with or without the rest of your life. You simply can’t have other people’s problems piling on top of you while you are trying to pick yourself up off the ground.
Now focus hard on the things that you love and feel blessed to have or be a part of. Family, a strong relationship with God, friends that support and love you, a job that you truly enjoy, a prayer group that keeps you feeling centered, a job you don’t enjoy but SUPPORTS your family financially, a home or neighborhood you feel totally safe in, a refrigerator with sufficient food in it, a four legged friend to greet you after a hard day, the sun coming out, the stars flickering at night, your two arms, head and two legs! There are so many wonderful things in life that will fuel your mind positively if you just find the time to dwell on them. Think about specific moments that made you smile, ones that made you cry tears of joy, ones that made you laugh, ones that made you confident, ones that made you love. Relive those emotions and feelings. Do this every single day, as many times as you feel necessary. I like to start off my day positively by thinking about these things, and I like to end my day the same way. Sometimes these thoughts just find their way into my head at random times now, driving to the store I’ll suddenly begin to think about how happy I am to be working for such a wonderful company, how happy I am to be able to spend time with my mother once a week, or how happy I am to have flexible hours to spend more time with my family. It may be even more healing for you to write these positive thoughts down into a journal, for you to read and add to every day. Positive thoughts improve and build your skills, boosts your health, enhances your mood, benefits your relationships and improves your work. Nothing negative can come out of thinking positively!
Do things that will exercise and focus your mind, soul, senses and body- things that you enjoy! It doesn’t have to be going for a jog/exercising, but if that’s what helps you feel better, then by all means do it! It can be painting a picture out in your yard listening to all the birds chirping, you could be baking a batch of delicious homemade peanut butter cookies, you could be singing in the shower to your favorite song, you could light some sweet-smelling candles and meditate, you could read an interesting book with a cup of your favorite tea or coffee to sip on, you could sculpt something out of clay, you could go out for a walk with your children in the evening and watch the sun go down... Exercise and use your senses as a tool against depression and hopelessness. Really feel what it’s like to live life. See, feel, smell, hear and taste the many joys that you’ve been missing out on- and completely clear your mind of hearing the alarm clock go off five times, smelling burnt toast in the morning, hearing your partner yell at you for misplacing the keys, squirting toothpaste in your eye, and seeing your car roll down a hill because you forgot the parking brake. Just remember no one is stopping you from relaxing, but you. We all need to take a step away from the chaos of life and work at times to just breathe, smile and smell the roses.
4. Strengthen Your Coping Muscles
Even though hard times tend to brainwash us into thinking that we just don’t the ability or energy to pick ourselves back up, there are in fact ways to boost yourself up and past depression. You can strengthen your coping muscles (or skills), every single day by transitioning your point of view from grey areas to the colorful areas of life. Here are some habits to add or subtract from your daily routine, before you know it- being hopeful and happy will become second nature to you!
Create a Calmer Environment for Yourself
Clear some physical and mental space around your desk and home by sorting papers, tossing all the junk, stowing and organizing supplies, filing, straightening up the living room, making the bed, putting away dishes etc... A large pile of little tasks can feel overwhelming, but often times designating a few minutes of work can make a sizeable dent in that pile. Try to get in the habit of being more reliable person than a procrastinator, try not to postpone any task that can be completed in less five minutes. An uncluttered environment will contribute to a more serene mood and shed tons of stress off of you.
Don’t Catastrophize Things
It’s extremely unhealthy to catastrophize situations, or focus on the worst outcome imaginable regardless of it being totally irrational. In example, don’t allow financial concerns about making enough money this month escalate into the result that you'll soon be homeless and your life is over. Instead of thinking, “We’re never going to be able to pay rent this next month, let’s start packing our stuff up because we’re going to be evicted” think, “Rent is getting closer and closer, maybe I’ll ask if I can stay late a couple hours to cover rent this month. We’ll figure something out and get it taken care of, don’t worry.” Be optimistic always.
Try to Stop Ruminating
So the waiter at the restaurant was incredibly rude to you and your friend, and you regret not saying something rude back to them. Three hours after you’ve already returned from lunch, your blood is still boiling and you’re grinding your teeth at the thought of that waiter's face. This type of behavior will only keep you feeling upset, depressed and angry for longer. While reflection is a good thing and may help you solve problems or issues, rumination does the exact opposite. Try to redirect your thoughts, focus on something else pleasant or calming. Listen to music, meditate, go for a run, tend to your garden, draw a picture, go outside and play with your pet or children! Replace that negative scenario with positive exercises. You’ll forget all about what made you upset before you know it.
Leave Forecasts to the Weather Channel
Bottom line is that you aren’t a weatherman, and you can’t honestly tell yourself if there’s going to be severe thunderstorms down the line a week or so from now. So why worry yourself? All you can do is be prepared for the unknown obstacles to come, bring an umbrella just in case. Hopeless people will often convince themselves they know what will happen a day, a month, or a year from now. And it's usually always negative situations that they foresee happening. Instead of getting ahead of yourself, try to stay here in the present. The past is far over and the future hasn’t happened yet. It is much more realistic, you're less likely to blow things out of proportion, and you’ll feel more in control of your life and stress once you stop creating imaginary situations that are out of your control. Preparing for the future is fine and wise, but do not let it ruin your present.
Be More Consistent
Even if you don't want to, try to get into the habit of waking up at a set time each day, eat your meals at the same time every day, exercise at the same times, recite the things you are thankful for each and every morning when you wake up, pray before bedtime, and avoid lazily sitting around on the couch during the day as it prevents you from getting comfortable and getting adequate rest at night. A sense of regularity, structure and productiveness is important for those of us with depressive behavior. It truly helps to have a routine that feels fulfilling rather than wandering around the house feeling lonely and directionless. Find enjoyable hobbies to fill empty time you may have!
Focus on Tasks You’re in Control of and Get Them Done
Rid yourself of all nagging tasks. You don’t need the extra weight, and crossing some chores off your to-do list will make you feel rewarded and accomplished! It really helps to make yourself a list of all those simpler things that need to get done. Like washing the dishes, answering a load of emails, bathing the dog, doing laundry, going to the grocery store, cleaning up and decluttering the house, getting the bills paid, making dinner, whatever needs to be done- write it down and address it! Doing these small exercises will help you become more confident in being able to complete tasks ahead of you and take some of that extra stress off of you immediately.
5. Realizing It’s Only Temporary
When you’re in a pitch black tunnel, it’s very hard to see an end. Especially when there’s no light at the end of it to tell you how much further you’ve got left to go. When you are at that point, you need to open your eyes and realize that this feeling will not last forever. At some point- the tunnel will end, open up and you will see the blue sky, sunshine and white clouds again. One thing my father always told me was that emotions are all temporary. An idea that I had never wrapped my head around before... One feeling will never last forever, even if it seems like it will. That is why it’s so important to be more open and in tune to our emotions and feelings. Happiness, sadness, envy, turmoil, depression, relief, stress, joy, hopelessness, defeat all feed off of each other in order to exist. They are simply just sensations of being alive. Without turmoil, there would be no joy. Without sadness, there would be no happiness. Without depression, there would be no relief. Emotions are not our enemy, they aren’t here to destroy us, break us down or eat away at us- it’s just a matter of learning to understand their purpose. They are beautiful things that really prove to us that we are living, breathing, human beings. Imagine a world where you never felt sad, anxious, scared, happy, loved, excited or overjoyed etc.. The definition of life itself drastically changes. Once you realize that, it’s not so intimidating to be “sad” anymore. It just another temporary sensation, and we know that happiness will soon show itself to us. Depression, anxiety, jealousy, stress and hopelessness will never be able to rule or control you permanently. Period.