*Editor’s note: this article was updated on April 26th, 2017.
Depression has been my lifelong challenge yet, somehow, it has also been a blessing.
When we think of the most challenging aspects of our lives, we may come across something that is deeply painful, but is responsible for revealing some of our greatest gifts. Often times, we spend a great deal of time bound by the suffering of the challenge, unable to recognize or receive the gift that is being offered.
In order to manage my challenge—depression—life has gently (and sometimes not so gently) encouraged me to pick up a variety of habits. Collectively, these habits make up my anti-depressant “medication.”
1. A consistent meditation practice.
2. A regular yoga practice.
3. Doing legs up the wall (a yoga pose) or some other relaxing practice for a few minutes before bedtime.
4. Getting enough sleep and trying to go to bed/wake up at the same time each day.
5. Healthy eating without a ton of sugar, especially late at night.
6. Taking the right supplements. I take fish oil with vitamin D and, if I’m not eating a ton of fermented foods, I take probiotics. As everyone’s needs are slightly different, I recommend seeking professional guidance regarding supplementation.
7. Not over-doing it. Taking on too much, though unavoidable sometimes, is overwhelming and stressful and likely to trigger a depressive episode (for me).
9. Spending time in a beautiful outdoor setting. I try to do this for at least a few minutes each weekday and longer on the weekends.
10. Keeping my home clean and clutter-free.
11. Allowing myself to connect with friends, family, people in general. In other words, being careful not to isolate, which is a pattern of mine.
12. Allowing myself to ask for help and to be helped.
13. Allowing myself to see and experience the beauty and goodness around me, instead of always bitching about what’s wrong
14. Gratitude. Each morning, I repeat silently to myself things for which I am grateful.
15. Ayurveda self-care practices including but not limited to self-massage, neti pot, and tongue scraping.
16. Email Shabbat. This is what I’ve come to call my day off (completely off) from the computer each week. You’d be surprised by how much this affects the nervous system.
17. Listening to my body. Mild to severe discomfort is simply a signal that something needs to be adjusted.
18. Dancing. I have to move my body or I feel as if I’m going insane. This is not an exaggeration. Though I love structured dance classes, I appreciate the specific kind of release that results from creative, freeform movement. Trauma experts recommend alternating vigorous physical exercise with periods of rest in order to help clear harmful energy, from the body, harmful energy that can ultimately lead to disease.
19. Letting things go. I realize this is easier said than done. I also realize that other practices must be in place in order for real release to occur. Many, if not all, of the above practices enable me to experience real release, to soften anger and resentment, to relinquish control of the endless uncontrollable aspects of life, to embrace uncertainty and to gracefully allow my life to unfold.
20. Loving. Loving others and letting them love me, choosing love over fear, anger, sadness, isolation and desperation. Again, many, if not all, of the above practices have increased (restored) my capacity to love and to be loved.
All of these practices may seem like a lot to manage, but they keep me sane with the added benefit of keeping me physically healthy. Depression was my motivation for formulating a holistic and sustainable healthcare plan, and has opened up the space for a joy greater than I ever thought possible.
Life wraps poignant gifts within the greatest challenge so that we are sure to open them, so that we are sure to access the spaciousness, the wholeness, the luminosity and the unending joy of a life lived to its full potential.
Author: Erin Goldman
Image: Michael Zittel/Pexels
Editor: Taia Butler