Three Little Things to Fight Depression

For all my posts about mental illness and brain injury, I haven’t talked about depression, because up until now I didn’t have any useful coping methods to pass on. However, the last few days I’ve felt the depression gremlin creeping up on me, but instead of it dragging me into the murky depths as usual, I figured out a couple of ways to ward it off that actually seemed to work. So in hope that these methods might help someone else (although very aware they might not), here goes…

Spotting the Warning Signs

It’s important to recognise the early signs that depression is curling its fingers around your thoughts. Once the depression has you fully in its grip, most methods of escape are useless (including the following ideas). For me, the warning signs are: believing that nobody likes me, ruminating on past unfairness that doesn’t matter anymore, and thinking of myself in a negative way. When I notice most of my underlying thoughts are like this, bubbling under the surface, then I know I’m in trouble. The sooner I spot the signs, the more able I am to stop a full attack.

So if you notice the first hint of the blues, this might be something to try to stop them taking hold…

The First of the Three Little Things

Focus on small but lovely sensations/events.

This sounds twee I know, and seeing it written down is already irritating me, but when I tried it it simply worked.

Method

Every time you find negative thoughts crowding your head, stop and take a moment to pay attention to something pleasant. For example focus on how your feet are warm, or think about a friendly text message you got earlier, or just remind yourself that something nasty isn’t happening: eg I’m really happy I don’t have to go to the dentist today. Properly focus on that good thing, let it be all you think about for a few seconds.

If you are anything like me, you’ll now be thinking: but how can I focus on my warm feet when my hands are cold? Or Maybe I don’t have to go to the dentist, but I do have to go to work!  The thing is, there are always going to be bad things happening, I’m not asking you to pretend that there aren’t, I’m just asking you to try ignoring them for a few seconds and focus on something good. Don’t just do this once, if you find it helps, do it repeatedly.

And with the negative response, I don’t believe it’s the clear and rational thought that it seems to be, but the depression messing with your perspective. Because the depression gremlin is very persuasive and he wants to survive, he makes sure that you perpetuate behaviour that will make you miserable. If you try and do anything that might quash the depression, then he needs to convince you you’re wrong. So, ignore the nasty voice telling you to dwell on shitty things and, for a few moments, concentrate on the delightful; relish your senses, or a memory, or just anything nice. Give your mood a few moments of relief.

I reckon this method works because a big part of depression involves the build up of whispered nasty thoughts. You might not even notice these thoughts until they have taken you over, but they are there: telling you you are crap, that your life is awful, that everything is going wrong, that you can’t cope. It’s very difficult to just stop thinking these thoughts because they are so insidious and constant, but it is possible to drown them out with positive repetitive thoughts.

Next method on Wednesday…

Let me know if any of you find this helpful. I’m always very aware with depression that any advice on overcoming it can seem like trivialisation of a very serious and complex illness. I’ve been battling the gremlin for most of my life, and I know that there are no simple, cure-all solutions, but I’ve managed to figure out a few methods that seem to help me,  and I really hope they might benefit someone else too.

 

24 thoughts on “Three Little Things to Fight Depression

  1. what about medication for a few moths to a year and the problem goes away? I tried my best not to take medication two years ago because I felt it best to fight but I ended up severely depressed and disturbed thoughts. Last two weeks I succumbed to medication and I think its the best idea. My brain just cant produce enough serotonin and needs that chemical boost. In the past I would swim eat healthily etc but this tie I felt this experience is bigger than me, henc the meds. Just a thought.

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    1. I avoided medication for the same reason, but ended up on it eventually (am now v. slowly trying to quit, 10 years later). This is very much an idea for when depression has not fully taken hold. For more serious states medication and or therapy are essential, sorry if I was ambiguous about that.

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      1. I think in the beginning we all think we can beat this and I have a few friends including myself who adopt the suspicious of big pharma groups but I am glad to take medication and see a dramatic reduction in my problem and I’m actually feeling quite perky and happy for the last few years. Not quite the happiness I was expecting but still. Thanks again.

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    1. Yes, I’m a gardener, I get plenty of exercise! I have quite a few methods for fighting depression, this was just one I hadn’t tried before that worked, and one that I hadn’t seen written anywhere else. But thanks for advice! 🙂

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  2. Firstly, i’m sorry to hear that little gremlin has been trying to worm his way into your thoughts again. He is a most unwelcome guest. I’m so glad that you’ve found ( and posted) these coping strategies though.

    I’ve been having a few tough days recently myself, So suggestions such as those mentioned in this post are valuable- and appreciated!

    I do think that a change of focus can help tremendously when you start to hear that shitty little voice telling you all the shitty things. I think that’s why i’m so obsessed with comedy and comedians. It might seem like pure escapism, but really, an onslaught of abuse from my inner self-hate coach isn’t something i can feel too bad about wanting to escape! Plus there’s nothing like a good laugh to shift your mood and perspective. I always feel more positive about things after a laugh.

    One of the most helpful things for me was getting a cat! It wasn’t even my idea; my friend was desperate to give one of her cats a new home due to her other 2 bullying him ( poor bubby!). I really didn’t want the extra responsibility, but she ( and my daughter) pestered me until I agreed on a trial. Now, i’m so grateful they did. My kid even remarked once that since we got our cat, i’m “not as cranky” as i used to be (!) . Pets ( even cats!) seem to be able to pick up on their human’s moods. My darling kitty certainly seems to. He cuddles up to me when i’m sad, and it really does help.

    (Obviously, my above suggestion always practical or possible for everyone, but if there’s a way to even pat someone else’s pet, or even just watch animal documentaries or silly cat videos, they could still provide a lovely alternative focus to the intrusive thoughts)

    Although my latest medication seems to be helping more than the previous one did, it certainly doesn’t work miracles, and shouldn’t be relied upon as a “cure” in of itself. (No disrespect to David up there, btw. I think it’s awesome if pills alone CAN make the problem go away for people out there…but unfortunately that’s not the case for many of us). For me, it’s absolutely vital to have other coping mechanisms at hand for when the going gets rough.

    I think the most important aspect of the things you’ve written here is the reminder that thoughts are just that: thoughts. NOT fact. Recognising this can be hard or impossible whilst caught in the full grip of such thoughts, but it certainly CAN help if you notice them while still in that “sneaking up” stage. It’s then that i plunge myself into a good comedy, or pat my cat, look at the sunset, etc.

    Of course, it’s a really difficult and complicated thing. Depression tells lies about who we are, and unfortunately we can end up believing those lies. Personally, even though i know that depression is an unavoidable aspect of bipolar disorder/ manic depression, i’m finding lately that many of my self sabotaging thoughts are there due to habit; from years and years of awful, negative, hateful self-talk. But realising this provides some hope that maybe i can somehow, someday, break some of those thought habits.

    Wow, sorry for the essay O.o. It’s unfortunately a huge aspect of my life, and has caused so much- some irreparable- damage to every single aspect of it. When i talk about it, it all just seems to spew out!

    Anyhoo, thanks so much for sharing; these are very important thoughts, and i’m grateful to you for sharing them with us. Looking forward to reading more. Until then, i hope you can keep the nasty gremlin at bay. *cyber hugs*

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    1. Aw thanks Siddie, many insightful and wise thoughts there, as always. I think you are absolutely right about a cat, I’ve been wanting one for ages, but work and rental agreements make it difficult for now. If things change then I’m definitely getting a cat!
      Weirdly enough I have a half written post about anxiety as habit, and I think depression is much the same. Like David said, there can be an underlying chemical cause, but I think with time your brain just settles into unpleasant thoughts and repeats them like a routine.
      I’m very sorry you’ve got the gremlins too, but glad you seem to have found some great coping methods. And I’m jealous you seem to have found a real empathetic cat! Look after yourself 🙂

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      1. Oh, i do hope that can happen somehow! I’ve noticed how extreme the whole ‘NO PETS” thing has become in the rental market :/ I think it’s really shitty that people looking for places to live may have to face giving up their beloved pets ( which are essentially member of the family) just to avoid homelessness. Either that, or they have to lie about it, and then they live in constant fear of being “found out” ( for the despicable crime of having pet!), and potentially being made homeless again. Grrrr. I could go on a rant about the coldness and heartlessness of some landlords…but i wont 😉
        But yes, i do hope you can get a cat someday! They’re such cuties. And low maintenance, too.They’re pretty self contained! And they CAN be really empathetic. They can be cheeky little shits, too 😉 But, all in all, they’re sweet little devils.
        Yes, definitely; the brain creates this shitty routine of self sabotaging thoughts and behaviour. How to break it? I guess that’s kinda what cognitive therapy aims to do…I feel that i should have been more aware of these things yeeeears ago…could’ve salvaged something of my wasted life. Sigh. But, better late than never, i guess!
        Anyhoo, definitely looking forward to reading the post regarding anxiety. It’s a pretty widespread issue. (I’ll try to write a more concise comment next time too; holy hell, that last one was an epic! Embarrassing O.o)

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      2. Nothing wrong with writing lots, that’s one of the things I love about having a blog – getting to know people and hearing what they have to say. And you always have interesting things to say, so it’s great.
        I had cognitive therapy for a while and I didn’t like it at the time because the guy teaching it was a dick, but I know that now I use techniques I must have learnt during it. It’s especially useful for spotting unhealthy thought patterns, I think I forget that not everyone has learnt how to do that.
        Have fun with your sweet little devil! 🙂

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      3. Aww, well i’m glad you feel that way; when i look back on such long comments i’ve made, i feel as though i’ve hijacked the post! I don’t really talk about depression/ mental illness with anyone face to face, so when the subject is brought up online, all the pent up thoughts come rushing out! Thanks for being so cool about it.
        Damn, sounds like he was in the wrong job O.o. But yeah, definitely a useful thing. It’s quite hard to identify thoughts for what they are, especially when they’re such emotive ones. I probably should try the ol’ CBT again. I think i was too stubborn for it to sink in when i was younger 😉
        Haha, i will, cheers! ^_^

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      4. Long may you continue to comment! On here is the only time I really talk about MI too, so I appreciate the interaction. Have a beautiful day 🙂

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      5. On one hand it’s unfortunate that the internet is our only “safe” place in whuch to talk openly about such things, but on the other, it’s certainly a blessing that we do have it. A lot of people just find this stuff too difficult to talk about face to face, and the relative anonymity that the internet offers can be quite liberating.
        Hope you have a beautiful day too! 🙂

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  3. What is so interesting about this thread is that , finally, people are willing to talk openly about depression. I used to suffer from it too – those terrible thoughts of self-worthlessness and longing for death – but since I’ve got older it happens less and less. Perhaps I just care less or maybe, just maybe, it’s a benefit of old age. There must be some!

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    1. It’s great that you’re doing so well. It’s such a complex illness, that I think it can affect people in many ways.
      I agree with you that people are talking more openly about it. I still get a fear when I do write about it, but having seen people cope alone, and the harm this has done them, I think talking about it is generally a good thing.

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  4. One thing to remember is that its often the strongst most intelligent people that become depressed. And more importantly you are not alone you can probably look out of the window and a passer by is going through the same thing. Maybe they just hide it better?
    Really interesting post

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    1. Thank you, I’m glad it connected with you. And you’re right, it’s something many people go through, it’s only now people are starting to talk about it. Take care of yourself

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  5. Thank you for sharing your experiences and how you recognize the depression when it begins. All of the pain and suffering we are seeing in this world stems from unresolved traumas that need to be healed. We can focus on the external, rather than face the darkness we all have within us, but that can take us down a further path of anger, sadness and depression. It is very brave of you to share openly and I am grateful that you have. Emotional honesty is key to self-freedom. No matter what you are experiencing know you are always worthy of love and of living injoy and freedom. xoxo

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    1. Thank you very much for a lovely comment, I’m really glad you enjoyed reading. I hope you come by again and I wish you a peaceful, joyful day 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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