Practicing Self-Love to Cope with Depression
Recently I’ve been battling a period of depression which has consisted of more days laying around in bed binge watching Grey’s Anatomy than I am proud of. My productivity levels have tanked and the gym currently resembles a long lost friend. I wake up completely and utterly exhausted most of the time. Whether my feeling tired derives from waking up at 3am unable to go back to sleep and stressing about finances, or simply because I’ve been in and out of sleep for hours I am unsure. What I do know is this. It is imperative that I channel what little energy I do have into practicing self-love! Self-love means something vastly different to everyone which is why I’ve narrowed it down to a few key steps to help clear up any confusion. You don’t need to drain your savings account and splurge on a dozen LUSH bath bombs in order to show yourself some TLC. So how can we practice self-love when we can hardly get out of bed in the morning?
Relax your Mind
Most often when we are depressed we find ourselves replaying the same scenarios in our head over and over again. Our emotions consume our thoughts creating a vicious cycle we so desperately wish to escape. Life seems dull and uninteresting; colourless and bland. Sleeping seems to be the only way to withdrawal from these overwhelming emotions in hopes of survival. If only there was an off switch.
Laughter truly is the best form of medicine. Turning on a funny movie or your favourite stand up can temporarily distract you from unwanted side effects associated with your depression. Although it may seem like a strange way to cope, it has proven to be quite successful for me in the past. It’s worth a shot if it means even an hours break from the toxic energy holding your well-being hostage! If you prefer to curl up with a good book to take your mind off things have at it. As long as you engage your mind in a way that prevents negativity and anxiety from festerring, you are on the right track.
Feeling overwhelmed and disengaged can often lead to a downwards spiral. We’ve all been there. At times we are incapable of processing each thought as it silently sneaks its way into our mind. Overstimulation can lead to dysfunctional thinking and before we know it our life is nothing more than an anxious wreck. These thoughts and emotions are seeking a way out! What better way to make sense of things than to write them down in a notebook or journal? I don’t know about you but I remember thinking my psychologist was an absolute lunatic for suggesting such an absurd coping strategy. How would writing out my problems create a sense of inner peace within my mind? The truth is, sometimes all we crave is a way to let go of everything that’s weighing us down. We don’t always need someone to listen and offer advice. We need a release. A way in which we can let it all out without the underlying fear of being judged and criticized. My favourite part about this coping mechanism is how accessible it is. If at any point during the day I am feeling stressed, overworked, anxious, or defeated I can pick up my pen and spill my messy thoughts onto each page. Without anyone around to provide support I am capable of leaning on myself in times of need.
Naturally as human beings we want to resolve our issues as efficiently as possible. When something is wrong we aim to fix it. Not making enough money? Find a better job. Not happy in our relationship? Find a new partner. Often times we are so eager we refrain from practicing patience because we want results and we want them NOW. But what would it look like if we slowed things down a notch and weren’t always in a rush to solve our life problems this minute?
Let’s go back to the basics shall we. Taking a few days to retract from your monotonous routine can be such an immense form of self-help. If you need a day in bed, take it! No need to beat yourself up for taking a personal day to unwind and recharge. This is essential. When we are honest with ourselves in terms of what our mind and body needs we begin to slowly regain our strength. Allow yourself to take a break and disengage. And remember that time is the only way to truly heal when your mind has slipped into the darkness. Be kind and patient with yourself. Especially when you’re experiencing your “lows”.
With that being said too much time cooped up in your bed can lead to worsening symptoms. I know all too well what seems like a few days can escalate very quickly into months if you don’t stay on top of things. By monitoring your alone time you can prevent your depression from absorbing you entirely. I like to keep a day planner in order to stay organized however I also use it as a tool to look back on if I’m feeling unproductive and lazy. Even if all I’ve managed to do in a day is make breakfast and go to work I make sure to write it down. This creates a visual for me and acts as a reminder that I am doing the best I can despite my lack of energy.
Now I can’t stress enough the importance of learning to forgive yourself! We are forced to make decisions each and every day that have the power to seriously impact our life in a number of ways. From the foods we eat to the clothes we wear; the people we spend time with and the activities we engage in, we are constantly faced with a multitude of choices. Through these often subconscious choices we gain a sense of control and the power to create a life we love. Does this mean we always make the best choices with the most desirable outcome? Absolutely not. We are only human and we are bound to make a few mistakes along the way. What is most important is that we learn from our wrong doings and forgive ourselves for our lack of judgement. We are not inherently bad people, sometimes we just make bad choices.
Have you ever found yourself obsessing over things outside of your control? I know I have (on more than one occasion). It’s taken me a very long time to come to terms with the fact that there are situations in which I do not have control no matter how hard I try and fight it. I would be lying if I said I don’t still find myself resorting back to this power struggle from time to time. Who doesn’t? Shifting your awareness at times like these begins the process of letting go of the things in which you can not change. Once you’ve eliminated external factors you can begin to channel your energy towards the way you react in these situations. Your power lies here. Make space for positive energy and practice the art of letting go!
Whoever said crying is a form of weakness had clearly never experienced the tremendous amount of relief that follows a good old ugly cry. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a time and place to release the waterworks (I would highly recommend refraining from coming unglued at your place of work). Crying makes us feel vulnerable. It has been portrayed as a negative way to express emotions for decades and I think it’s time we put an end to the ridiculous notion that tears equal weakness. If something has triggered such an intense emotional response in you it is crucial that you find a way to release this negative tension! Crying allows you to embrace the way you are feeling in the present moment while also allowing you to let go of unwanted emotions in order to move forward. It’s your bodies way of processing and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
The word itself evokes a sense of calm and ease. When I think of comforting myself several tactics come to mind without hesitation. Curling up with a hot cup of tea and a cozy blanket, relaxing in a hot bubble bath full of lavender salts, or simply enjoying my favourite homemade soup for lunch. You may not realize it off the bat but there are many ways we choose to comfort ourselves throughout the day that we’ve developed over time. Anything from throwing on your softest scarf to listening to your favourite song can create a feeling of coziness and content. Whenever I find myself drawn towards a particular scent or colour I acknowledge what it is about these things that has attracted me in the first place. You may be pleasantly surprised at just how many ways there are to nurture yourself during stressful scenarios!
Our sensory receptors are always running in the background. Everything we come into contact with inadvertently sends a signal to our brain whether we deem it pleasurable or not. Take a minute to think about a particular scent that you find overwhelmingly nostalgic. Maybe it’s your first cup of coffee in the morning, a holiday candle, or your go-to fragrance. On the contrary there are scents that immediately turn us off. Waste, chemicals, and other toxins are all examples of unpleasant smells our body comes into contact with and negatively associates with danger. All of these trigger an emotional response within the body. It only makes sense that we instinctively attract comforting stimuli into our living space. Often times the colours, scents, art, and music we enjoy is due to an internal reaction we are completely unaware of! What signals is your body sending you when you are depressed? How can you satisfy your needs by tuning in to your senses?
Can you think back to when you were a child and your parents would put you down for a nap when you were cranky? As a kid I remember hating the idea of nap time because it meant missing out on all of the exciting activities taking place without me! My adult self no longer experiences FOMO. If I could peacefully drift off every afternoon for at least a couple of hours I’m positive my anxiety and stress would decrease. Here’s why. Resting has the ability to calm the mind and repair the body. When our moods fluctuate and our serotonin levels are low we depend on sleep to aid our emotional stability. This is a form of nurturing. Yes excessive amounts of rest can lead to worsening symptoms which is why monitoring yourself is key! Self soothing allows us to feel safe and protected. Decreasing our mental stimulation for as little as one hour can help our mind tremendously.
What can you do in this exact moment to help alleviate your suffering? We are the only ones capable of saving ourselves from the depths of our depression and the all-consuming negativity it encroaches on our lives. Relax your mind, be patient, practice forgiveness, and comfort yourself. You’ve got this!