For those of you who have experienced depression before, you start to learn the signs that a storm is brewing. First the temperature in the air drops: You feel sluggish, blah, things that used to come easy start to feel effortful, “peopling” feels like more hassle than its worth. Then the winds pick up: Activities like exercise, socializing, eating well used to seem rewarding but now feel mundane. The rain starts: You begin avoiding activities and responsibilities. You isolate from family and friends, or worse- start to snap at and resent family and friends. The lightening strikes: Thoughts of self-doubt, self-hatred, hopelessness, and feeling like a burden plague your mind. Your sleep is out of whack, your eating is all off-kilter, your responsibilities have piled up, and your relationships are strained. Now you are in the middle of the storm and see no sunshine on the horizon.
Sometimes the storm is inevitable, but there are some things you can do to seek refuge while the storm passes. Early intervention is key to try to mitigate the damage or even bypass the storm all together.
#1: Balanced sleep is critical! Our bodies and brains require sleep to function well, and significant damage is done when we operate on a sleep deficit. Honestly assess how many hours your body needs (approximately 7-9 hours) and make it your number one priority to get that sleep.
#2: Get outside. Natural sunlight early in the morning helps balance your circadian rhythm and give your body necessary nutrients. Step outside first thing in the morning and soak up 20-30 minutes of fresh air and sunlight.
#3: Move your body. Activity breeds activity and being sedentary breeds more sedation. Go for a walk, stretch your body, run, lift, garden. Your body was designed to move and when you neglect your body it takes a toll on your mind. It is especially important to move when you start to feel depression set in. The longer you wait to start, the harder it will be to get going.
#4: Eat whole foods. Your appetite might be increasing, decreasing, or your cravings may shift to simple carbs and comfort foods. This is not a time to ditch healthy habits. Quite the opposite, this is the time to give your body all the good fuel it needs to fight off that nasty storm that’s a-brewing.
#5: Reach out for support. Your brain might be telling you that you need to handle this on your own. That is a lie. You need support and lots of it. Reach out to a supportive family member, an old friend, go to a group class or function. You would be surprised at how many people can understand what you are going through and are willing to help if you just give them a chance.
Following these five steps can help you weather the storm more effectively. You may also benefit from seeking out professional help to provide support and guidance as you navigate your own journey to wellness. Please know that none of us are meant to suffer alone. We can move through this together!
Bailey C. Bryant, Psy.D., Owner of Hello Mental Health
This publication is designed to provide general information prepared by a professional in regard to the subject matter covered. It is not intended to provide psychological or clinical advice. Although prepared by a professional, this publication should not be utilized as a substitute for professional service in specific situations. If mental health advice or other expert assistance is required, the service of a professional should be sought.