HOW TO BE ON TOP OF YOUR SHIT EVEN IF YOU'RE DEPRESSED
Instituting these saved my life from years-long clinical depression. They're easy to do when I feel ok, but I've learned it is important to stick with these even when I have a relapse, thereby shortening it. So much of this has been trial and error and a lot of it is me finding a point of entry and going from there.
- •When I started doing these about 15 months ago it was a half-hour by half-hour struggle. That turned into hour-by-hour, then morning-to-night, then day-by-day. Sometimes it becomes week to week, sometimes it's back to day-to-day. That's where these habits and the courage to be honest with yourself kick back in.Look hard at yourself and what hasn't been working for you (scary as fuck, I know). It's hard and also been so rewarding for me. The reason I'm writing this now is I had a couple bad months recently and have pulled myself back out again (for the time being), back to where I feel like myself and am accomplishing the work I need to be and want to be.
- •Do It NowIf you get an email that will take less than 10 minutes, do it now. This applies to as many areas as you want, but emails is my minimum. Nothing makes me feel worse than feeling like I waited too long to reply cause now replying would draw attention to that fact! So DO IT NOW. Getting started is 100% the hardest part for me, so I set an alarm for 10 minutes. I do 10 minutes of the thing. By the end of the 10, I usually want to keep going, but if I don't, I give myself permission to walk away.
- •Avoid mistaking inertia for bonafide rest.Television is my favorite thing and best friend but when I'm honest with myself, I know that more than one episode isn't TRULY restorative for me. At my best, I limit to when I am cooking, eating, or exercising (I watch Jeopardy on the elliptical most nights). Actually sitting down at the piano, translating a few lines of poetry, or cooking have proven much better restorative projects for me.
- •ExerciseI fucking hate exercising but endorphins make you happy and happy people just don't shoot their husbands. They just don't. Watching Jeopardy tricks me into going on the elliptical for half an hour. Fitbit helps me too - I make sure that my daily average steps always sits around 10k. Take a lap around your office a few times throughout the day to refocus your priorities or ground your breath - steps add up in a real way.
- •Eat a Green ThingI do this thing where I overcompensate and you better believe it applies here. I wait until a time of week when my body starts to feel bad and then I make BIG SALAD™ and it lasts a couple days and it's most of what I eat for those few days. I also do SMALL SALAD™ which is just me putting a bunch of raw spinach on top of a piece of pizza. 🍕
- •Sleep as much as you need. But not more.I am currently working off a massive sleep debt from college (yes, still, because I only slept 3 hours a night for 3 years). At first I thought that meant I could sleep 14 hours a day plus a nap. Turns out ✨surprise✨ not actually good for you! I budget more for sleep than most people because I have to - if I sleep less than 6 hours a few days in a row, I start to feel my telltale symptoms coming back. I budget a solid 9.5-10.5 hours of sleep most nights and I prioritize the hell out of it.
- •Trick yourself into doing necessary shit you haaate.I hate folding clothes post-laundry, so I put on an episode of my stories and drink a glass of wine and take my time. I HATE dishes so I give myself an episode and a glass of wine. A few times a week I look around my room and pick shit up. I know I'll only do this if I have Parks & Rec in the background, so I let Leslie Knope babysit me. The freedom you reap from having these mundane trivialities taken care of is often the difference between starting to fall into a slump vs avoiding a slump
- •Organize the living hell out of your calendarStart saying yes to things slowly over time and organizing your color-coded calendar to 5-minute intervals. I have work in grey, music green, gym yellow, lessons/classes blue, orange other (usually social/laundry/dishes), and RED IMPORTANT. If I'm feeling down, I can jump to the RED to know what I need to prep for as the bare minimum. This way I also focus on TIME INPUT rather than freaking myself out with "expected output," which will send me into a panic and stop me from even starting.
- •Do not keep a To-Do ListUsed to do this but no more. Instead, go by the calendar, which already serves as the to-do list. I always kept staring at all the hard things and feeling bad about them every night when they weren't done. The calendar has worked way more for me as a visual representation of time blocks. If I have an important email to write, there it is in RED for me to do, at this time. I delete when done. Blammo
- •Instead, I keep a longer-term "Goals/Dreams" list.To think about every so often when you feel that there's space in your head for learning that new language, going to go buy yarn for your next knitting project, or flesh out the outline for your next novel you have percolating in your head. Having big dreams ready for when you feel better is all part of the Hope element of being alive.
- •Have patience and accept yourself. I like the metaphor of scuba diving - you can't come back up too fast from the depths. Give yourself the space and the room to start incorporating healthy self-care.
- •Would love to hear yours, too.