The alarm rings and you face the day with dread. You’re sorry you woke up.
There is nothing you look forward to, no light in the bleak darkness.
Friends are tired of hearing you moan and complain. Unless, of course, you’ve kept up the cheery demeanor expected of you and no one really knows what you’re experiencing.
Either way, you’re desperately lonely.
You dream of pressing some delete button on your life to simply no longer exist. Suicide is not the option you want, but sometimes you wonder. And that thought scares you – sometimes.
It’s bad. It’s really bad.
Depression is a powerful energy lodged in your body. It can control your thoughts, moods and actions. It can control your life.
Yet you are the one holding this energy. That takes effort and stamina. As depression threatens your existence, can you actually use it to enhance your life? Can that same effort and stamina be used to observe your depression and let it guide you to see what changes in your life are needed?
Consider taking one week – 7 days – and consciously take on your depression with gentle compassion. While this involves some effort, the intention is to take baby steps. You will use a set amount of time to bolster your body, your mind and your spirit – 17 minutes a day max. During the rest of the time, you will be consciously observing the relationship you have with your depression.
A week may not completely change your life, but you can take baby steps to start the process.
MAKE A DECISION NOW TO TAKE ON YOUR DEPRESSION
This is a huge decision to make, the hardest step. Maybe you’ve made this decision before and it didn’t work. You had big plans and a marathon schedule of self-improvement. But the reality of implementing all of it was too much.
Maybe you decided on a new approach of being strong, disciplined and happy. The New Improved You would go on forever. That only lasted a short while. It was a great idea, but perhaps lacking some support systems to ensure its success.
This time, take it slowly, in small steps. Try a finite moment in your life – one week. Put some support systems in place. Set small goals and take baby steps.
See what happens.
FOCUS ON YOUR DEPRESSION
Don’t avoid it or ignore it.
Get to know it. Be really – really – curious about it.
Where in your body do you feel pain or discomfort when you experience depression? Direct your awareness to what is going on inside your body. Do you get headaches, shoulder tension or stomach issues?
Now you know where you’re feeling depression in your body. How does it feel? Leaden, trapped? Perhaps there is alternating anxiety, that caffeine overdose in the veins feeling?
What triggers the feelings of depression? Events, people, that inner damning voice we all have?
With gentle curiosity, listen to your internal dialogue (The Voice). Notice how The Voice in your mind creates your emotions. Watch how your emotions alter your moods. See how your moods affect your actions. Watch yourself going through the day and develop a conscious awareness of your depression.
The more you can describe your depression – what it feels like, where you experience it, what The Voice is saying, how that affects you – the more you can separate it as an entity which has entered your life. It is not you.
If you like to write these details, do it. Or record it into your phone. Or draw it. At the very least, make a mental note of your relationship with depression.
BOOST THE BODY (7-10 minutes max daily)
Depression is exhausting. It sucks the life out of you and clouds your judgment.
Below are some points to consider for supporting your body:
First of all – go to sleep.
You may know the amount you need. If you don’t, start with 7-8 uninterrupted hours. Lack of sleep is a huge contributing factor to depression.
Schedule eating times.
Look at your week’s calendar and schedule in when you eat – 3 meals a day is great, at regular times. Eat as healthy as you can – without going to extremes. This is baby steps week.
Schedule a few minutes of daily exercise.
Do not go all-out and engage in an exercise marathon! 7-10 minutes is fine. (Remember – baby steps.)
Schedule in Bodywork
At the beginning of the week, see if you can get a session of body work. Massage, acupuncture, chiropractic – whatever you choose. It will help jump-start this process – like taking your car in for maintenance before a trip.
MIND THE MIND (3-7 minutes max daily)
Give the mind a chance to quiet down, for at least a few minutes daily. This makes it possible to hear yourself think about what you want to feel.
Start slowly, in small increments. Consistent short periods, daily, at regularly-scheduled sessions will bolster your self confidence and clear your brain.
ONE minute of non-thinking is an incredible – and attainable – goal! Later on when your mind is bombarded with a million thoughts … you can take a breath and simply remember that feeling of clarity. This will start to shift the overwhelm.
Try the following 3-7 Minute meditation practice:
1. Turn your phone on airplane mode and set an alarm for 3-7 minutes. Set the alarm to a soothing sound, rather than hard beeps.
2. Close your eyes and listen to your breathing. Notice how your body feels sitting in your chair. When you exhale, imagine yourself exhaling the tension.
3. End your meditation when the alarm rings and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Don’t worry about your mind wandering during meditation. It happens. Just gently bring your focus back to your breathing when it does. If you’re a beginner, you might try these guided meditations to get a hang of it:
These may be the only minutes in your busy day when there is nothing you are obliged to do. Savor them. Breathe.
SUPPORT YOUR SPIRIT (you choose the amount of time)
Supporting your spirit elevates your moods, affecting your thoughts and even your body symptoms.
One way to do this is to connect with nature.
The beauty of nature soothes the spirit. Nature is alive and living, reminding us that life is in a constant cycle. Change is – literally – in the air.
Even if you live in an urban environment, you can take a few moments as you walk to your car, subway or bus. Look around you. There are clouds above you. There are plants and trees, which give off oxygen. Oxygen increases brain flow which helps move depression.
Again, make this a daily routine this week – consciously schedule it in.
Consider doing your daily exercise in nature.
Another way to support your spirit is to schedule in some joy
Engage in at least one activity each day that brings you joy. It could be as simple as eating an ice cream cone, mindfully, savoring every last lick.
Maybe anonymously surprise someone – put a flower on a co-worker’s desk. Leave a big tip for a small cup of coffee. You are doing this with no expectation of their response. You just want to notice how it feels to bring pleasure to someone else.
CONSIDER OUTSIDE SUPPORT
Do you want a friend to keep you focused? Or a therapist to help make sense of the issues that contribute to your depression? Or a coach to spur you on to accomplish some of your goals?
Open up to friends and colleagues (whom you trust and respect) for some referrals. Think about what that may look like – frequency during the week, time allotments. Consider what you want to address, and ways in which these sessions may be helpful.
This may not be the week to get outside support, but it is a time to check in and see what you need. However – if you are feeling strong urges that it is necessary to get outside help, do it now.
WHAT TO DO AFTER THE 7 DAYS
Be pleased with any and all accomplishments you have made. Be patient with yourself if you fell off your schedule.
Consider these questions:
What have you observed about your relationship with depression?
When did you feel your depression lift (even if only a little)
What can you do differently with this relationship that will ease its effects on you?
What do you want to add to your life and what do you want to decrease or eliminate?
How do you want to continue supporting your body, your mind and your spirit?
Do you want support with this?
The questions are key. Know that they will guide you to making changes that will diminish the effects your depression has on you.
GREAT CHANGES CAN START WITH SMALL STEPS
You are sensitive, you are intuitive, you are caring and insightful. The fact that you experience depression means that you are evolved enough to understand the dimensions of the human condition.
You are a finely-tuned instrument tuning into frequencies that more obtuse people cannot comprehend.
Be gentle with yourself.
And know this – the minute you decide to un-do some of the effects depression has on you, your entire world will change.
For the better.
And isn’t that what you really want?
THERESE SIBON is a blogger and alchemical acupuncturist with a busy practice in Manhattan and upstate NY. She believes suffering can be optional.