How I Fight Depression & Practice Mental Health
I try to be pretty open about my struggles with depression, but so often, the conversation around mental illness is seeking validation and normalization. While I DO love that people are now being more open about it, I still passionately believe that we should do everything we can to take care of our mental (and physical) health. Yes, we should normalize TALKING about depression, but we shouldn’t normalize it to the point of acceptance, in my opinion. I personally accept I struggle with depression, but I do not personally accept that I am a VICTIM of depression and will suffer from depression forever.
We have so much power over our own mental health, and as challenging as it is to believe that and take action, especially for those who struggle with depression (even getting out of bed can feel absolutely impossible), the truth is, we CAN do it.
We CAN kick symptoms of depression to the curb. They may come back, but we can kick them back to the curb again.
As I write this, I’m currently in a bout of depression. I got out of bed at 10:40am this morning. I skipped breakfast, because eating feels meaningless. I haven’t even found the strength yet to give my pet bunny new food and water. This is my reality right now, but I’m writing this to remind myself that this doesn’t have to be my reality every day.
I may be prone to depression for the rest of my life, however, I refuse to believe that I will always be a victim. I will be proactive in my health to ensure I keep kicking depression to the curb every time it tries to sneak back in.
Sure, yesterday was hard. Today is hard. But I know tomorrow will be better, because that’s what I’m choosing right now.
10 Ways I Fight Depression
Wake up and get outside ASAP!
Having our dog Bear helps with this. I have found so much joy recently in taking him outside in the morning and sitting on our back porch, without my phone, just watching the sun come up and listening to the birds sing.
This is such a GROUNDING experience. I slow down in that moment, and I look at the sky and thank God for a new day. I allow gratitude to overtake my heart, and I silently rest in adoration of God’s creation.
Shift my focus from MY FEELINGS to GOD’S GOODNESS and power!
This one can be challenging because I suppose I am naturally a very selfish person who wants to focus on myself. Yet, I find every time I take my eyes off of Gods goodness and his plan and start focusing on ME ME ME, that’s when depression creeps back in. I am not in control, and though that may sound scary to some, I rest in the truth that GOD IS, and his plan is WAY better than mine.
”Endorphins make you happy, and happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” Legally Blonde, anyone?
All jokes aside, I notice a BIG shift in the way my brain operates when I’m not exercising. I have to exercise at least twice a week for my mental health, even if it’s a lower intensity workout. Any kind of movement helps me tremendously. Presently, I haven’t exercised in 2 weeks, and I feel it… my mental health (and physical health, for that matter) is suffering.
Eating a healthy, whole-foods diet with plenty of fats!
I’m not exaggerating about the “plenty of fats” part. A couple years ago, I suddenly began suffering from major panic and anxiety attacks about once a week, sometimes even two to three times a week. They came up out of nowhere and there seemed to be no trigger. As it turns out, I was actually eating a diet too low in healthy fats. To this day, on days when my body doesn’t get enough fat, I FEEL it in my brain. No joke! Our brains THRIVE on healthy fats, and women actually need more fats than men. Ladies, eat your avocados! We need ‘em!
Keep my hormones balanced!
This one can feel tricky because pretty much everything these days is capable of disrupting hormones, from the BPA in plastic (which packages the majority of our processed foods, and even some produce) to the pesticides sprayed on all of our food (this is why organic is important), and the chemical agents in beauty & cleaning products.
Even though all that sounds daunting, it’s easier to eliminate those things than you think!
I personally used to suffer from irregular hormones & had to take hormonal birth control just to get a period... but when I was about 21, I stopped taking hormones, and dealt with the irregular cycle so I could focus on getting regular naturally! I used up my remaining beauty & cleaning products, and as they ran out, I replaced them with NON-TOXIC beauty and cleaning products. This wasn’t hard, it was actually fun because who doesn’t love trying new things?! Especially when they’re better for your health. I started incorporating more natural products, using essential oils, and DIY-ing a lot of beauty products! Miraculously, my hormones balanced out! I have a 28-30 day cycle every single month now and have for the past several years, which is crazy since I had irregular hormones for 10 years prior to that.
Don’t underestimate the power of removing toxic products, bringing in healthy products, and eating a balanced diet.
Back to mental health though! Hormones obviously affect our mood, which is why so many women suffer from PMS. This is not a joke. PMS is an ABNORMAL syndrome that is indicative of imbalanced hormones.
Track my mood + cycle!
Since imbalanced hormones can affect the likelihood to have symptoms of depression, I have found success in tracking my mood alongside my hormonal cycle. Sometimes, I notice a trend of when depression kicks it up a notch, and knowing that trend helps me to be more proactive to do more mental health activities during that time!
Journal + Pray + Meditate!
Journaling helps me slow down and identify my thoughts, as well as release them. The way I journal is usually some mixture of me talking to myself, and me talking to God. Everything I write down, I am able to release into God’s hands and not let it burden me.
I have also been getting back into a habit of spending time in God’s presence and meditate on his goodness and the scriptures. I don’t always meditate in the “new-age” sense, sitting in a certain position with my hands resting on my knees, open to the universe. Sometimes my meditation looks like me lying in child’s pose. Others it looks like me standing in my kitchen with my eyes closed. And sometimes it does look like me sitting in the classic “meditation” pose. It’s not so much about my physical posture as it is my mind and heart’s posture.
This goes hand in hand with my first point of getting outside and grounding myself. Allowing my heart to be filled with gratitude helps shift my perspective and attitude. This especially helps while I’m working. My job is very unfulfilling for me, which can make it challenging to remain positive and grateful…Which means it is all the more important for me to focus on gratitude, especially pertaining to work.
I like to write down (or make a mental list) of at least 3 things I am grateful for, and do that every time I start to sulk.
Change my routine!
Working at home, alone, with the same routine day in and day out can sometimes make my depression symptoms worse. I can get stuck in my own thoughts, replaying over and over, and there is no one to snap me out of it.
Something as simple as going to work at a coffee shop, or going shopping during my lunch break, can change up my routine and make me feel alive again.
Start my day off with the things I enjoy most!
This probably sounds counter-intuitive, because after all, the phrase “save the best for last” is preached as gospel. But for me, I find that if I save the best for last, IE, save what I really want to do until the end of the day, I spend all day dragggggging just to make it there. My work suffers, because I’m distracted, thinking “I just can’t wait to do XYZ”.
Recently, I have been practicing waking up and doing the things I am looking forward to right away. If I’m excited about spending time writing, I will do that in the morning. If I’m excited about going shopping, I will do that in the morning, and work after.
I have actually noticed tremendous improvement in my work since starting this practice. Now, by the time I get to work, I can rest in the fact that I’ve already done what I want to do, and now it’s time to settle down and work.
Do you or anyone you know suffer from mental illness? I would love to know if you try any of these practices and if you find that they help you!
Keep your head up and know that you’re not alone. We can get through this, together!