Before we even get into this, I am not a professional. Sometimes there is a very real chemical imbalance or trauma that I cannot speak to. Please do not think for one second that I am suggesting otherwise. If this heaviness ever takes you to a headspace where you could see harming either yourself or others - its time to stop looking for solutions on your own. Its time to talk with someone who has dedicated their life to helping people in the same predicament. I can only speak to my own experience.
Call it what you will, depression, the blues, whatever name it goes by, it can sweep you under without warning. It can drag you down into a hellish, joyless headspace and feel as though it will last forever. I'm here to remind you that it will not.
And also: you are not weird for feeling this way.
I call it a darkness not because it sounds cooler or more heroic, but because for me, that is exactly what it feels like. A heavy shroud of sadness wrapping around me and snuffing out the joy. Some people merely feel a little "off" but their lives are still manageable, some are lonely, some are exhausted, for some of us it feels heavy, and for others it seems unbearable.
We have stepped into a devastatingly isolated and uncertain world. Many of us are fearful of our loved-one's lives and some of us are fearful of spreading a virus to an unknown innocent soul. There are mass graves around the world and it is scary. We've been told to stay away from others for over 7 months now.
We are isolated, frustrated, and we don't know when its going to end. We've turned to social media (probably more than ever) for comfort and often only find more despair.
On top of all this, we've seen some frightening natural disasters, we've witnessed people lose all of their worldly possessions overnight, we've heard of lives lost to fires that came mercilessly fast.
We've seen devastating injustices and riots. We've witnessed the ugliest side of humans up close. We've lost jobs, our children have been kept away from their friends, school and daycare feel like they are on a day to day basis. The list goes on. This year won't quit.
This is hard. Really effing hard.
So it doesn't surprise me one bit if it is finally taking a toll on you. You are not alone. I am right here with you. In fact, a lot of people are right here with you.
I desperately miss collaborating in person with colleagues. I miss hugging people, I miss seeing people without fear of judgement and certainly without fear of unknowingly making anyone sick. Fortunately, there's a whole list of things that have helped me get out of this proverbial hump time and time again.
Cry if You Want to
First of all, sometimes you just need to feel what you're feeling and cry.
We live in such a "positive" world right now; its exhausting. We all think we're doing the best possible thing by shoving positivity down the throats of anyone who dares to be sad. Nobody wants to deal with anyone else's sadness, because honestly, its an uncomfortable thing to deal with.
Nobody knows the "right" thing to say and nobody wants to see a friend in pain. So we try as hard as we can to combat their sadness with our positive thinking skills. Which, if we're being honest, are really hard to listen to when you're trapped inside your own head.
But the truth is, its okay to grieve. Its okay to be sad. Its okay to feel depressed. So you know what? Cry if you want to.
Sadness is necessary in life to feel joy. Its a natural thing for us. So you don't always need to fight it. But you do need to recognize it. And when you're ready to lift yourself back up, move on to the next steps.
This one is huge. This one is priority for me. I'm pretty soft hearted and I'm a pro at comparing myself to others. When I start to feel the dip in my emotions, I know that I need to pull away from social media. It is not a healthy outlet for me.
The negativity, anger, judgement, and picture perfect lives of others get to me. They really get to me. The awful news sticks with me for days on end, the negativity hurts, the judgement makes me fearful, the perfection makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with me. I know I'm not the only one.
See, no matter how much I understand this little tidbit I still get swept in: Bad news sells. It used to be newspapers and now it is the insanely powerful social media applications pushing "news" into our faces that they think we'll click on. When we see happy news it lifts us up, we smile, and move on. When we see bad news we want to do everything in our power to keep that from happening to us, so we open it up to gather all the information we can. Even when it riddles us with anxiety, fear, and sadness.
Do you see the cycle yet? You click on the bad news, you get to see more of the bad news in the future... because that's what you clicked on.
Disconnecting from that is huge.
So disconnect from the world inside the screen. Focus on your intentional relationships. Focus on the ones who call you, the ones you bring you coffee when you're having a terrible day, the ones who love your kids like their own. Focus on being intentional with them. Text, call, FaceTime, meet up if you can. Just BE with them, when you're with them.
I journal frequently for many reasons. Personally, I love looking back at the things I've gone through, I love having proof that I'm constantly growing. More than that though, journaling is a huge outlet. It shoves things back into perspective.
There are times (more than I'd like to admit) when I let my crazy emotions rule my behavior. It never makes me feel better. In fact I usually just end up adding guilt to the list of negative thoughts. But when I write the situation down, when I take the time to process my feelings and the circumstances, I'm usually able to separate how I feel from what's really happening. This is huge if you're going through some deep turmoil (you know, like a pandemic).
Pull away from your stressy-depressy-anxiety-riddled emotions for a moment before you address a situation. Especially if you're like me and act on your emotions.
Take a Small Step Towards a Better You
We are fairly selfish beings by nature. But it is not always a bad thing. You need to put your oxygen mask on before you can help others with theirs.
And during these crazy times, that little flaw of ours can actually help us out. Switching your focus onto yourself can be a huge distraction from everything that's going on out there! So use it! Use your ability to focus on yourself for something good. Take this time to focus on you little mama!
Ready to shed some pounds? Focus on your fitness and nutrition! Ready to finally learn how to play the piano? Do it! Ready to bust out of debt and into financial security? Go get it! Study, learn, and grow! Start that business, start that blog, do the things you've been promising yourself you'd do for years now! Make something in your life come out better than it was when COVID started.
Take the step!
You know this one. You've known this one all along and you don't need me to repeat it to you. Any article you read, any peer reviewed source you find, will tell you that exercise will reduce anxiety, depression, and negative moods. So go do it. Walk, bike, run, dance in your living room, play with your kids - I don't care. Just. Do. It.
Help Someone Out
This tip can get a little tricky sometimes. For the most part, when you are helping someone out by doing what they actually need help with, you'll walk away with a sense of joy. I'm a firm believer in doing good things for people. When I do good things, I feel amazing. Even if I didn't really want to help out to begin with.
The tricky part is, if I choose to help someone out because it will make me feel better: the focus is on me, not them. When that is the case, I tend to try to do what I want them to need.
For instance, when a friend is overwhelmed with a problem at work and I'm trying to do something good so I'll feel better, I'm not really listening. I'll swoop in, acting the part of the savior and take over the project for them. Now I've added a ton more work to my plate and I've taken their opportunity to shine. I've shown them that they can't handle it. I've knocked them down a peg while getting annoyed that I'm doing it for them.
If I were truly helping them, I'd step in, offer good advice, and ask them how I can help. Chances are, they take the advice and walk away feeling like they can do it. That's helping. That makes me feel all glowy and bright.
So when you set your intention to help someone out, listen to what they really need. Make it about them, not you.
There is so much goodness in this world. It doesn't matter where you look, it doesn't matter how little you have. Be obsessively grateful.
Be thankful for every little beautiful thing in your life that you can think of. For me, the bubbling laughter of my perfectly chunky baby boy does it. Watching my toddler beam with pride over a brand new skill, that's the good stuff. No matter how crummy my day was, those are the little things that I can focus on.
Practicing gratitude leads to more positive emotions, feeling more alive, sleeping better, and granting us a greater capacity to show kindness. All things we're trying to accomplish here, right? So start taking the time to focus on all the wonderful little things going on around you. A stranger's smile, a pumpkin spice latte, autumn leaves, the warm sun against your skin, whatever it is - take the time to notice it.
I get it. It can be hard to be thankful when you may have lost a lot recently. But you know what? You're here, reading a blog, trying to make your life better. Be thankful for that. When we lose a lot, we tend to forget about the things we still have. Life is something you still have to be thankful for.
Do you have tips for getting rid of those stressy-deppressy moods? Drop them below, I'm dying to know more!