Depression is emotionally isolating and can be physically isolating. It makes us apathetic and we isolate ourselves in some form, we feel lonelier and more apathetic, our motivation for just about everything decreases, our appetite is weird. We get unimaginative with the food we eat, when eat and how eat. Maybe the TV is on more, we are spending more time on our smartphone or computer but we have little to show for our time spent interacting with these things. Shortcuts become the norm with meals, tasks at home and at work are shortchanged. Some even feel like it would be better to no longer be alive. “What’s the point?” we may even ask ourselves.
In my last post, I talked about what causes depression and two very important types of questions, “Why” and “How” questions. While there are varying opinions on how to manage and treat depression, effective interventions tend to be multifaceted. There is a quote worth revisiting here, it goes something like this: “Survey Large Fields, Cultivate Small Ones.”
It reminds me of when I recently renovated my house. After painting the walls and ceiling and putting new floors in the upstairs it was time to move in. The downstairs had been the warehouse and was a complete mess. Just going downstairs felt overwhelming. I remember being down there with my wife and she asked where we should start. My response was, “Just start moving stuff around, let’s go with the easy stuff first.” At first it just felt like we shuffling things around with no progress being made. Perhaps that was the case, but momentum was made.
As I mentioned earlier, I help others manage or overcome depression with a number of different approaches. This inevitably includes a physical approach. Evaluate your routine. Return to the basic routine that has been helpful for you in the past or others who have been successful. Get up early, go to bed early. If a client of mine has insomnia, there are a number of ways to help this. We examine what is called “sleep hygiene.” No electronics as you are lying in bed, if you have a TV in the room turn it off and I suggest getting it out of your bedroom. Your body can tell your mind it’s time to relax when you have a clean bed time routine that allows your body and mind to unwind. (If you are married it’s better when you do this together if at all possible.) Get good at that as much as possible. Some flexibility may be necessary but this is an area where you really can be more consistent to promote greater rest. If you happen to struggle getting to sleep after taking care of your sleep hygiene then it may be time to practice some breathing exercises. I will often record a hypnosis session for clients to help them relax and get to sleep easier. Some people can fall asleep but will wake prematurely and can’t get back to sleep. The mind is on and the broken record starts, you run through your lists and scripts in your mind and before you know it, it’s been another hour of being awake, this leads to more frustration and even anger. Disrupting this cycle is key. I knew a 15 year old young man who had this very problem and I was able to teach him breathing and imagery exercises where he really no longer had the problem. He got so good at falling back asleep on his own it was no longer a problem and his day was better for it.
Some nights will be better than others. Follow through on what you will help in the long run. Routine is applied throughout the day not just with sleep. Block out time for a walk, get some fresh air if there is any, some exercise will help. Make it a priority and schedule it, then follow through. One of the more exciting things you can do as part of managing depression is being able to follow through with your own ideas and solutions. Imagine setting up a schedule and at the end of the day you look back and see how close you came to following it. It feels great to follow through on things doesn't it? Chances are you have already been thinking of something to start with. Resolve to start and share your ideas with someone.
THE POINT IS TO BUILD MOMENTUM. Gain a victory, cultivate a small field and then another. What you focus on, is what you get.