I spent about an hour this morning trying to cheer up two of my friends who confessed to feeling really sad and depressed. I managed to get one person from behind the cloud and laughing again after I shared some encouragement and a humorous video on Facebook.
Depression. For some of us, it’s that unwanted visitor that sneaks up and tries to overtake our day as soon as our eyelids open in the morning. I have battled it for much of my life. At one point, my doctor told me I had chronic depression. I never even knew that there was such a thing until he diagnosed it.
10 Depression Red Flags
The symptoms of depression can be overbearing and display itself in numerous ways. Here are 10 that you may be familiar with:
1. Feeling like you don’t want to roll out of bed and face anyone.
2. A heavy feeling like a burden that drags your spirit down.
3. Feeling sorry for yourself and having a sudden urge to cry, or finding yourself just crying and you can’t stop.
4. Feeling unloved, as though you are alone in the world and that no one cares.
5. Feeling confused and overwhelmed.
6. Having a panic attack; hyperventilating over the prospect of even going to work or facing whatever is the source of your depression at that time.
7. Seething with anger. Cussing, being short-tempered with everyone.
8. Wondering if you could get away with just ending it all? Brainstorming the least painful ways to go about it (those pills I did not finish taking) or worst, attempting to end it all by committing suicide is the red flag symptom that means it’s time to see a doctor or counselor.
9. Thoughts of revenge. Wondering if you could get a hit man to ‘take out’ the source of your pain. Equally troubling. These thoughts could land you in prison if you follow through.
10. Realising you can’t do any of the last three and feeling a sense of helplessness and panic that you can do nothing to end your pain.
But wait, you can end your pain. The idea that you can’t is just that, an idea. A deceiving voice telling you that things are worse than they seem, and that you have no control over your emotions and your life.
It’s. all. a. lie.
10 Quick Mood Changers to Uncloud Your Day
Let’s just say you are just suffering from depression symptoms #1- #6 above. Here are some proven, smack-that-depression-down strategies that could work for you. They worked for me.
If you are at home, have a shower. Immediately. I have found that the energy from a good cold shower is rejuvenating and relaxing. It usually changes my pity-me perspective to a heck-I-can-do-this attitude.
2. Play upbeat music
Crank up a soca, reggae, gospel dancehall dance song on your Ipad, radio or YouTube and move to the groove. If you are at home, you can borrow the advice I gave this morning to my friend who lives in Trinidad: to strip down, stand before the mirror and dance, wildly and freely. That should fetch a giggle when you see body parts jiggling. Sing as loud and as off-key as your environment allows you.
Mess, clutter, or stinky odours will add mountains to your depression. Get a dust rag, mop, bucket, and air freshener and start cleaning. If you’re at work, clear your desk; delete or archive your old emails. Unclog your space.
4. Get out into the fresh air
Go for a walk or jog. Visit the nearest park, one with trees, flowers and a lawn. Take a blanket, igloo with ice or a cold drink and lie down on your back in the grass. Look at the vast expanse of the sky and lose yourself in the sound of nature around you, the rustling leaves and the joyful twitter of birds in the trees. If you live near the ocean, head there. There is something calming about the receding wash of waves on a shore and the kiss of the wind on the cheek that infuses energy and life into a battered spirit.
5. Do a Random Act of Kindness
Is there a less fortunate person for whom you could do a random act of kindness ? One sure way to stop feeling sorry for yourself is to focus your attention on someone who is in need. Volunteer your time in service: bring a meal to a street person or persons, visit a public hospital or old folks’ home and share an encouragement, talk with, sing or play music for someone who is ill and needs uplifting. Help a neighbour’s child with their homework. Give of yourself freely. Good deeds have a way of finding their way back to you eventually. Cast your bread upon the waters and you will find it after many days, the Good Book tells us.
6. Reconnect with friends and family
Chances are if you have been feeling sad for a long time, you have not been in touch with your friends in a while. Go on Facebook and see if you can link with those persons again via a status post or better, see who is in the chat room and start up a conversation. Go through your phonebook and make a call. Reconnect with those friends and family you have not talked to in ages. We all need real friends in the dark times.
7. Write Your Thoughts Down
When negative thoughts are crowding your head, you need to dump these energy drainers. Start a person blog or journal. I use Microsoft Word and my computer, because I find it easier to write by typing—I can delete stuff, correct errors or rephrase. Some people find that a print diary or journal is better to record their thoughts. Use whatever works for you and that you have handy. Even a piece of paper will do. Spill your guts. Say on that paper what you feel you can’t say to anyone. You may find it cleansing to dispose of it afterward if it contains highly personal stuff you wouldn’t want prying eyes to see. Burn it. Delete it. Just feel better that you have gotten it out.
The good thing about a personal blog—you can start a free one on WordPress or Blogger—is that you’ll find readers who support you. If support is what you want, don’t be afraid to share your pains, mistakes, frustrations of daily living through this platform. There are plenty of people out there who write similar blogs and readers who will connect with you through your pain. Their encouragement can lift your spirits and make you understand that you are not alone in your humanness. If you fear being too exposed, use a pen name instead of your real name.
If you are still being weighed down by your dark moods, find something delicious to indulge your tastebuds. I love the cool sweetness of melon. I also tend to go for pastry. I have a craving for puddings and rotisserie chicken when I am down.
Be prepared to burn off the calories after you gorge yourself, though. Dealing with weight gain on top of your other problems will add to your depression. If you have issues with weight, try more healthy, but tasty choices like tropical fruits. You can even blend a punch. Feeling good is the objective here. Treat yourself to your favourite foods at least once a month. I do it every pay day.
You’ve heard it before. Exercise. It really works. Additionally, there is a significant advantage for persons suffering from depression. It dumps the nasty chemicals in the brain that are responsible for causing depression, asnd release feel-good mood enhancers, endorphins. Thirty (30)minutes of rapid walking daily or at least twice weekly will boost your spirits marvelously.
10. Pray and Visualize
This is the last bit of advice I shared with my friends this morning. I let them know I was praying for them and actually shared a prayer with one of these persons. To the other, I reminded her to visualize that Jesus is sitting on the bed beside her, and she has her head in His lap. His tender fingers are combing through her hair, and He’s listening.
Visualize the same loving image. Start talking about everything on your heart with Jesus, your ever present Friend. He is closer than you think. He has his arms around you. You are tucked on his lap like a small child. His embrace is comforting. His silence is reassuring. He doesn’t interrupt or judge. He won’t share your secrets behind your back.
He cares. You can rant and rave and beat Him up, and He’ll still hold you. He will never let you go. You can sob right there on his shoulders. You can lay your burdens on him, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Put your worries in his pockets. Rest on him for as long as you want. Lean on me, he says when you’re not strong. My strength is perfect when you are weak.
The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow
If you find yourself having suicidal thoughts, it means that you are at a desperate place, a lonely dark place. You are standing precariously on the edge of the abyss. You need saving. Don’t be afraid to send out an SOS.
Before you take a step closer to the edge of that abyss, listen up. There is no hope in death. Suicide will bring eternal damnation. Yes, I know you already feel damned. But that’s just desperation talking. The truth is there is a better place called Heaven. But you can’t just cross to the other side by just killing yourself. It doesn’t work like that.
In the meanwhile, accept the Grace being offered by the Saviour Jesus Christ who long time ago died for you so you wouldn’t need to take this plunge. He needs you to live. I too need you to live.
A lot of people who you have not yet met are waiting for you to make your mark on this world, need your contribution to this life. Don’t believe the lie that no one cares or that your life is worthless. Talk with someone. Find a church.
And go see a doctor. Just talking it over will help to relieve you of some of the pain. And medication helps.The day I came out of the clouds was like a gasp of air. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It’s biology. It’s a medical condition. It can be treated. Get help. Soon you’ll see the rainbow.
Life may ravage you, but you are stronger than you think. Fight. There are angels fighting with you. There are people who love you who are praying for you. You may see only one set of footprints in the sand, and believe its yours; that you are alone and that even God has deserted you. But as the Lord reminds the songwriter in that unforgettable song, One set of footprints in the Sand (have a listen to it on YouTube– you will never think the same way again ) “when you saw one set of footprints in the sand, that’s when I (the Lord) was carrying you”. Keep this in mind.
Many of us battle depression every day. It dogged me for much of my 20’s and 30’s. I still have occasions when it catches me by surprise. When it happens, I suffer the same no-one-cares gloom and sadness. But I fight. Can’t say I’ve beat it, but I am living to fight another day. On days like this, that’s all you can ask for.
It does get better if you take care of yourself (diet, exercise, staying active, find a positive, supportive community such as a church and/or your family,) and understand your illness. Remember I was diagnosed with chronic depression. I’ve gotten stronger. I didn’t commit suicide. I didn’t go crazy. I decided long ago I would control my reactions and emotions to the people and situations that were the reason for these debilitating episodes. You can’t give up.
Whether you are experiencing situational depression or a more serious form, try practicing the recommendations I’ve made above to find the motivation you need. Once you can find even an ounce of strength, you can turn around your depressive mood and start calling the shots again.
Finally, say goodbye to toxic relationships and destructive behaviours and surround yourself with active, vibrant, loving people. Fill your life with meaningful missions. Enjoy the gift of life. Live life to its fullest.
Write the next chapter of your life, a new chapter. Start. Just start. Don’t ruminate over it. Just charge and kick the old depression to the ground when you feel the symptoms approaching, and move on to reach for the beautiful destiny that God has written for you.
Not by a long shot is depression easy to overcome for everyone, but if you take these tiny steps, soon you’ll be striding and true happiness will not be an illusion on the horizon anymore. But as singer-songwriter, Pink, says ‘you’ve gotta try, try, try’.
What is your strategy to get through those days when the sun won’t shine through? How do you find the strength to fight back when you’re going through a bout of depression? Please share your feedback.