In September I was slapped across the face with a bout of depression. I don’t use that term lightly, I have lived through intense depression before and have suffered the consequences of that hopeless state of mind. So, in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t close to my worst depression, but it was still real and it still sucked.
Depression feels like hopelessness to me. It’s literally living in a state of perpetual lack of hope where the future, and life in general, seems pointless, dull, and ugly. This recent bout of depression would come on everyday around 1-3pm and linger until bedtime. I’d wake up excited for my day, refreshed and renewed, and then by the afternoon I’d wonder why I even continued trying to live. But why?
I am a huge fan of shadow work, leaning into and taking the time to reflect on your saddness, anger, and other “negative” emotions can give you the most earth shattering relizations. It makes you a better person when you stop ignoring those feelings and instead get to the root of the issue. However, shadow work was not working for this recent depression. There was no reason for its onset and there was no reason for it to linger like it did. There was no, “aha, this is why I’m depressed and now that I know that I can fix it!” No, it was just there because it demanded to be felt, nothing more, nothing less. This kind of depression is a special kind of hopeless, but I made it through that fog and I am going to tell you how.
I am not telling you how to cure depression, I’m simply sharing what I did to pull myself out of it. It’s taken me a very long time to learn how to do this for myself and build up the skills necessary to cope. If you are struggling with depression right now you should seek out a therapist. If you’re in college you can probably go see one for free at the student health center. If you can’t afford a therapist there are so many options online these days. Take care of yourself, it does get better. This is the national suicide prevention hotline for the U.S. 1-800-273-8255.
Step 1: Citrus Oil
Citrus Oil is one of my best friends when I’m feeling blah. It’s an instant mood booster, and while the effects aren’t lasting, in the moments while you’re smelling it you do feel just a bit happier. Besides the fact that smelling citrus scents makes you feel less like everything sucks, it also invites you to breath deeply, which we all know helps to stabilize our sometimes rampant moods. Seriously, if we all learned to breath properly the world would be a chill af place.
Don’t have access to a bottle of citrus oil right now? No worries! Just go to the store and buy a bag of cuties. Smelling the peels of those bad boys works just the same. Plus, the scent from the peels always lingers on your fingers afterwards, so you can keep sniffing them hours later when you needs that quick fix.
Step 2: EFT
Emotinal Freedom Tapping, or EFT, is a simple but life changing practice that can help to alleviate mental pain and suffering. By using acupressure and affirmations you can rapidly reduce the feeling of anxiety and depression. I use it daily because, well, I feel anxiety daily. It’s so simple and so effective that I think you should start using it right now.
There are a multitude of videos you can watch online that will explain and guide you through this practice. I suggest you browse and find one that works for you, here’s my girl Shawn Engle showing you how it’s done.
Step 3: Gratitude
I cannot stress enough how life changing a gratitude mindset can be. It, like everything else here on this list, is simple in action but requires persistence. It’s like a muscle, you need to keep working it to keep it in shape. The idea here is that if you allow yourself to focus on the positives in the world around you that you will attract more positive things. It’s simple physics, the law of attraction, like attracts like.
If you follow me on IG then you can watch my IG TV video all about what it means to have a gratitiude mindset. In practice, it’s finding ways to slip gratitude into your daily routine. I start each day by listing things I’m grateful for (as I walk to work in the dark because I waske up before the sun does wtf).
It sounds something like this: I am grateful for my job because it helps me pay mt bills and buy food and those things are so important and I wouldn’t be able to do that without my job! I am grateful for these shoes my friend Alex gave me because they are comfy and I can wear them to work. It was honestly so nice of her to give them to me and I am beyond grateful for that kind of friendship. I am grateful for that tree because oh my godess it’s beautiful and reminds me that I am beautiful too. I mean seriously, look at that tree!
And it truly does help to say these things out loud. You can feel the difference in your body as you get more used to this practice, the feeling of gratitude is so palpable. I find that it doesn’t stop there, gratitude will hit me in my day to day life, like a slap in the face I didn’t know that I needed. And dudes, it feels so fucken good!
Step 4: Long Walks
Walking is great for your body and your mind. There are so many benefits to talking a lap or two around the block. You get some fluids pumping in your body which helps release some much needed endorphins. You also get some vitamin D which is a mood booster. We literally need sunshine to make us feel happy! It’s also a great oppotunity to zone out from the world or zone into the world, depending on what you need at the time.
When I’m depressed I need to be able to check out of the world, when I’m anxious I need to be put back into reality. So if I’m depressed and go for a walk I’ll listen to music or a podcast and relish in my own little oasis, healing myself in this little way in order to make me more capable of human interaction. When I am anxious I need a walk that is headphone free, where I can truly be present. Listening to the birds and your neighbors, smelling the scents of your neighborhood, these are all things that help me check back into the real world.
Step 5: Forgivness
This is arguably the most important piece of the puzzle for me in how I deal with my mental health. Because, let’s be real, none of this stuff is a cure and for most of us mental health is a lifelong journey. It’s a rocky journey of ups and down, wins and losses, but if you can forgive yourself for the low points it’ll make it easier to get back to that sweet, sweet high.
You gotta become your own best friend. Do your best friends fuck up sometimes and sleep through their alarms and miss a brunch date with you? Yup. Do they sometimes stop to get a sandwhich before coming to hangout and don’t even think to call you to ask if you want one? Yup. Does that mean they are horrible, awful people? Do you verbally beat them up over it for hours, days, months? No, you forgive your best friends and move the fuck on because you love them and understand that we can’t be perfect for everyone all of the time.
You need to treat yourself this same way. Sometimes I get behind on goals, sometimes I skip yoga because I’m tired, sometimes I eat a doughnut even though I try not to eat dairy products, sometimes I say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and you know what? I mother fucken forgive myself. If you can truly learn to forgive yourself then you will be set free.
The real tip here is that you have to figure out what works best for you. Yoga, meditation, running, seeing a therapist, painting, drawing, dancing, there are a million and one ways to deal with anxiety and depression. It is the most noble thing, in my humble opinion, to learn how to best take care of yourself. This capitalistic, Western society is a rotting dying machine that feeds off of your self hate, a self hate it inflicts upon us at an epidemic level. Learning how to undo all this bullshit we were born into is punk rock as fuck. So rock on!