At some point in their lives, people experience situational depression—which can occur in response to stressful life events such as the death of a loved one, loss of one’s job, divorce, etc.—but these cases are the most treatable. Talk therapy, the support of friends and loved ones, or a combination of both assist in eradicating this form of depression and help us move forward.
However, those afflicted by persistent depressive disorder, depression that persists for two years or more, are aware of its….tenacity. It follows you always: shackled to your person, gnawing at your flesh, deceiving you about the reality your worth.
This kind of depression can occur as either high-functioning or low-functioning, where high-functioning occurs when people go about their day working and socializing “normally” on the outside but are suffering on the inside and low-functioning is used to describe individuals plagued by lethargy, the inability to make decisions, and feelings of hopelessness. I have the latter.
It’s been ten days since I’ve felt even the smallest bit depressed, but unfortunately, I haven’t been healed. Due to the nature of persistent depressive disorder, my depression is always present, but it fluctuates.
It’s easier to live with right now, but that won’t always be the case.For this reason, I’ve taught myself a few ways to keep my depression at bay, or at the very least at a tolerable amount.
Avoiding Negative Distractions
Normally, distractions are a good way to keep from falling into a spiral of low-functioning depression because they keep you active, but certain distractions produce the opposite effect. Browsing social media is my undoing.
It’s fairly easy to consume photos, videos, tweets, posts, etc. in large volumes for a couple hours when you aren’t depressed, but the temptation is all but unavoidable when you’re already lying in bed and lacking motivation to get up.
I’ve wasted whole days watching others live the idealized representations of their lives on social media which only leads to scolding myself for spending the day doing absolutely nothing.
I have found myself less likely to give into sluggishness if I limit the amount of time I spend on my phone/online. Start small, cut back by an hour, then cut back a little more. Keep shortening the amount of time you spend on social media per day until it no longer interferes with your day.
Taking a Break or Switching Routes
Depression can make even the simplest of tasks arduous. It can take me an entire day just to muster the energy to do laundry or even write a blog post.
One thing I’ve found to remedy this is to take a break: walking around the neighborhood, playing with my puppy, reading a chapter of a book I enjoy, or anything else that either relaxes me or would normally make me happy.
Alternatively, if I notice I’ve spent too much time on a particular task and haven’t made much progress, I switch to a different task that needs to be accomplished. Struggling to do your homework? Go wash and put away the dishes. Having issues cleaning your room? Go drop those envelopes in the nearest USPS box.
This way, you’ll be able to cross tasks off your list, feel accomplished, and be better equipped to take on the tasks that are leftover.
Setting Small Succinct Goals
Though it’s important to set long term goals for yourself, there are dangers of fixating on long term goals if you feel a bout of low-functioning depression approaching or are currently in the midst of one.
If small tasks feel impossible, obsessing over larger plans like buying a house, starting a business, or reaching a personal fitness goal will only aggravate your depression and intensify new or preexisting feelings of hopelessness.
Instead, chop up those goals into more manageable chunks. Start setting aside as much of your paycheck each week (or two) that you’re comfortable with. Record your fitness routines in a journal and take progress pictures every month. This way you can track your progress and let yourself enjoy the small victories.
Eating Mindfully to Fuel Your Body
This can be the toughest obstacle to overcome whether you overeat or aren’t eating enough. During a period of depression, a person’s body and mind either fail to register basic needs like hunger or confuses hunger with feelings of boredom, sadness, anxiety, frustration, to name a few.
Both over eating and not eating enough contribute to feeling lethargic. In order to combat these issues, set timers for each meal, and each snack in between, to set specific times for you to eat and instill a healthy routine.
Eating the right food is also extremely crucial to proper functioning. Foods containing refined sugars and saturated/trans fats will not provide your body with the nutrients it needs and will contribute to feeling sluggish. Ditch the soda, fast food, and candy.
Make sure to eat foods that are high in protein, antioxidants, and omega-3s. Incorporate foods like spinach, walnuts, almonds, unsalted peanut butter, bananas, berries avocados, and lean meats like fish and chicken, into your meals.
Talking About Your Depression
Talk therapy may not sound appealing to everyone—it didn’t to me at first—but I strongly recommend it. Counselors and therapists are professionals; they aren’t there to judge you or impose their opinions. Their goal is to listen to your concerns and ask questions that will help you find solutions to your problems.
If the idea is still daunting, talk to someone you know. They don’t have to be a professional, but confiding in someone you trust can yield similar results as talk therapy. Saying your concerns out loud helps lift the burden momentarily and could help you realize a solution you might have overlooked when contemplating your concerns in your head.
Even if talking doesn’t produce any solutions, it will help you gain control. Acknowledge your depression. Separate it from your person. It’s something you have, not something you are. Confront it. Break it down. Control it.