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Depression. The black dog. The fog. We know it by many different names.
It’s more like a wave. Sometimes you can feel it coming and try and brace yourself. Other times it hits you out of seemingly nowhere.
When it hits, it feels like being dragged under. It’s cold and dark. It feels like you can’t breathe, and you can’t see which way is up. Sometimes, you just kind of want to stay there. Sometimes you just want to close your eyes and surrender to the wave. Because it would wash away everything.
The thing is, it’s a wave. It comes and goes. And when it goes again, that’s when you need to paddle. Otherwise, you’d be stuck in the same place, until the next wave. By paddling, you at least get to make some progress before the next wave hits. You move, you get stronger, you learn, you grow. Then, when the next wave hits, you may be able to ride it, rather than have it drag you down.
Here are five ways to fight the fog and up your paddling skills:
1. Take a mini holiday
Sometimes we try to convince ourselves that we have to stay busy. Distract ourselves from negative or unwanted thoughts. The need for perpetual busyness can also be a trauma response. We’d rather keep ourselves busy than have to face the sucky feelings.
It’s okay to take a break. I don’t necessarily mean an actual holiday. What I mean by taking a mini holiday is: take yourself out to dinner. Go for a walk. Book yourself for a massage. Give yourself permission to take the day off and just catch up on Netflix binging time. It’s okay to take a break. But only a day, two, or three maximum, then it’s time to get back to paddling again.
2. Move that body
Exercise is probably one of the best ways to battle depression. It’s my go-to. Plus, it’s good for you in pretty much every way possible. I know it. You know it. I know you know it. It doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym and deadlift hundreds of pounds. You could just play your favorite tune, crank up the volume, and dance like no one’s watching. I’ve tried this. I felt like an idiot. But it really does make you feel better.
Go for a walk. Do some stretching in your living room or office. Go for a cycle. Go boxing—a bag, not a person.
3. Practice being present
Also known as practicing mindfulness. I know, the word “mindfulness” probably brings up images of yogis and mystics in meditative positions for hours on end. Not quite what I’m referring to here. Practicing meditation is great, but that’s not the only way to practice mindfulness.
Practicing being present means, well, it means being in the present moment. Focusing on your lunch. And only your lunch. Focus on each bite you take. What it tastes like, what it looks like, what it smells like, what it feels like in your mouth. Go outside and just observe. What can you see? Describe it.
Then close your eyes. Focus on the sounds you can hear around you. What can you smell? Touch the grass, a tree, or even just your clothing. Focus on the textures. What does it feel like?
4. Learn to say, “No”
I know this one can be a toughie. Though we all know boundaries are important and necessary to maintain healthy relationships. You teach people how to treat you by setting boundaries and by, more importantly, enforcing those boundaries. It’s okay to say no to a dinner invite because you’re feeling crappy and would rather be alone at home with your face buried in a tub of ice cream. The “right” people will always respect your boundaries. If there are people in your life who do not respect your boundaries and maybe even make you feel guilty about putting up boundaries, you need to reevaluate who you allow into your life.
If this is something you really struggle with, try and start small. At the end of the day, think of it this way: you are ultimately responsible for protecting yourself and your energy. You are important, and you owe it to yourself to stand up for yourself. Practice makes perfect.
5. Spend time with your people
Even though we’d rather be alone and bury our face in a tub of ice cream when the wave hits at times, isolation is not healthy. Force yourself to go out and meet your bestie for coffee. But be selective about who you spend your time with. If someone makes you feel all drained and tired after spending some time with them—that is not your person.
I, for example, only buy enough food to last me a few days at a time. That forces me to have to get up, get dressed, and go to the shops to buy food, even if I might not feel like it. I know you’re thinking, “Yeah, but you could just order UberEats.” I could, but I’d also be unable to make rent if I always just ordered UberEats.
It can feel like too much. But just focus on one thing at a time. Like a little checklist. Get dressed, check. Brush teeth, check. Make shopping list, check. Go out, check. Do shopping, check. Come back home and give yourself a high five. (I do this all the time)
The waves will come and go, but just remember to keep paddling in between.