Coping With Depression

by S.A. Prince

First, I would like to say that with all issues involving the health of the body or the mind, seek professional help. I am going to give you some solid tips today, which is all well and good, but there are people with degrees that prove their validity. It is absurd for me to claim I am better than them.

Depression is unavoidable. Like the wind it isn’t tangible, but none of us can deny its existence. When depression strikes, it often does so randomly and without warning, attaching itself to our bodies like smelly stickiness from summer’s humid days.

Even though it occurs randomly like lightning, there are certain setting conditions to be aware of. Let’s talk about a few of them that you may or may not know of.

Alone: When you’re alone or isolate yourself, depression can seep in. We are social animals. It is through, and only through our connections with others that we are whole. Other people make us strong where we are weak. Don’t isolate yourself.

After a High: “What goes up must come down.” This is why many people caution against allowing yourself to get lost in the “highs” of successful moments. We constantly are swinging like a pendulum in between two poles. The calmer we keep ourselves during highs, the calmer we will be in our lows.

After Watching Reality Television: You have to be mindful of what you consume. Everything we put into our mind and our bodies has a resulting effect on us. I say this as I wolf down some piping hot chocolate chip cookies and 11.2 ounces of Stella Artois. Reality TV is a racket. Don’t do it, it’s a setup. While on the surface level it may be fun to watch rich people’s drama, in reality this is detrimental to you. Its negativity WILL rub off on you.

The Company you Keep: We are the sum of the 5 people, places, and things we spend the most time with. If you’re around negative people who are in negative places who stay in negative situations, then how can that possibly add up to anything positive?

Before we get into the coping methods, you need to understand three things:

  1. YOU are in control
  2. When depression strikes think ACTION
  3. Never FORGET the first two axioms

“Constant growth is, further, a psychological need of man. It is a condition of his mental well-being. His mental well-being requires that he possesses a firm sense of control over reality, of control over his existence– the conviction that he is competent to live. And this requires, not omniscience or omnipotence, but the knowledge that one’s methods of dealing with reality– the principles by which one functions– are right.”

-Ayn Rand

Depression must be eradicated through action. “Fail to plan; plan to fail.” You must be assertive in creating a plan, BEFORE depression knocks on your door. Depression like guerrilla warfare will attack you without notice. The successful thwart of depression is accomplished through a preconceived plan.

 Coping methods below. Implement these every time you feel depressed.

Do not deny it:

I get depressed probably two to three times a week. When I notice myself feeling down, I first admit it. I can’t do anything about being depressed if I don’t first do this. Being able to admit that you’re depressed requires you to be able to listen to how you’re feeling. This can only be achieved through “quiet time.” It is necessary that you insert multiple quiet moments consisting in between 5 to 20 minutes. During this time, you must ask yourself how you’re feeling. There’s nothing wrong or abnormal with feeling depressed. Embrace it.

Time management:

How many hours do you have to work tomorrow? How many hours will you be at school? If you have to take public transportation, how long does it take to arrive to your destination? Everything in life is based off of time. Why not time out how long you will be depressed for? Some people think that if they’re depressed they should try to get over it immediately. I don’t believe that’s the best course of action as it is unrealistic, however; you want to be sure that you do not wallow in it. I believe an appropriate time to allow yourself to be depressed is in between 1 hour and 1 day. Anything longer is unproductive. Schedule your depression. When the time is up, it’s time to move on.

Depression is relentless:

There are times when some things cause you to fall into a deep depression. 1 day is then unrealistic, because the depression keeps coming back day after day. This is systemic, and you should seek professional help. Even though the depression is systemic, this does not mean you can shut down. You must still schedule your depression. In these cases you won’t get over your depression per se, but you have to get yourself moving. Movement is life. Do not allow yourself to be stagnant for anything longer than 30 minutes. REMEMBER, the two most important things in dealing with CHRONIC depression are:

  1. Seek Professional Help

  2. Do not allow yourself to sit in and wallow in it for anything longer than 30 minutes. Get moving.

Support System:

Your support system needs to be comprised of 3 different levels: the elderly, your peers, and youth.

Elderly: You need to have an elder you can call and talk to. This is not necessarily a parent or a family member. This person should be somebody near to your profession that has already achieved a status you one day desire. As a writer, there are two mature and accomplished media people who I lean on. They’ve already been where I am.

Peer: This should not necessarily be your best friend. Like the elder, this should be somebody who is striving for the same professional and personal goals as you. They will be your buddy-in-arms. Lean on them, and expect them to also lean on you.

Youth: Never unload your personal feelings on a youth. You let the youth unload their personal feelings on you. You were once where they were. Mentoring does not allow you to wallow in your feelings. Take them on like an apprentice. This is NOT to be your child. You will relish in their accomplishments, and console when they fail. The world does not revolve around you.

Help Somebody Out:

If you randomly find me calling you asking if I can help you out with something, it may be because I am depressed. Growing up my father always said, “Sam, when you’re sick it’s sometimes good to get out of your bed and go outside for a walk.” That would be the last thing you’d think about doing when you’re sick, but my Father was right. Changing the atmosphere is very important. If you’re depressed, help somebody else out. Offer to babysit for them. Go hang out with them and cook them dinner, then clean up the mess. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway. If you’re in the store and you see an elderly person shopping, offer to help. Kindness to others will always result in a positive feeling.

Eat something sweet:

My guilty pleasure is ice cream. I don’t go a day without it. I live by this personal axiom. “You can’t be sad if you’re eating ice cream.” Seriously, go to the ice cream parlor and see how many sad people you see there. Nobody is can be sad when they’re munching on something sweet. Find you some sweets and indulge. It releases a feel-good endorphin. This is an extra boost when you’re down to help you get back up.

Create something beautiful:

Write a poem. Send a handwritten letter. Draw a picture. Bake a pie. Make a baby. Buy some new makeup, and a new wardrobe. Creating something beautiful is about changing the atmosphere. It takes the focus off of you, and puts it onto something else. Imagine how you’d feel after writing a handwritten surprise letter to your friend.

Listen to music:

Listening to music is a great coping technique. You must be mindful of what you’re listening to though. It MUST be positive. Listening to Big Sean’s “I Don’t Give A F*** About You” is not acceptable. Classical, ambient, jazz and like music are okay to listen to. Some of our favorite artist do have good songs. Listen to them. Lyrics count for everything when you’re down. Also, motivational speakers are excellent to listen to.

Exercise:

You can exercise your mind or your body, or both. I box, lift weights, play basketball, and play video games. All of these strain both my mind and my body. The gym is an excellent way to sweat your depression out.

Plan next move:

I left this one for last. There’s a reason why you’re depressed. Finances, romance, school, who knows? Whatever it is, you need to plan your next move in response to it, and be able to accomplish that move within 2 days.

For example, you failed a test at school and you’re really down. You need to call or e-mail the teacher, and plan to meet with them immediately. You don’t have any food in your house, and your check isn’t coming for another week. Call your church, call or friend, go to a soup kitchen, or get down to the Department of Social Services immediately.

Now, you have to combine all of these into some sort of workable plan. Here is a Coping Plan I just used last week. I set aside an entire day for myself:

  1. Admit I was depressed.

  2. Told myself I would not allow myself to be depressed for longer than a day.

  3. Listen to this talk by motivational speaker Eric Thomas.

  4. Listen to this song by The Roots.

  5. Go to the gym.

  6. Meet with Nate, and write him a speech for him pro bono.

  7. Call another struggling writing, and encourage him.

  8. Hang out with my little brother.

  9. Buy a half-gallon of Birthday Cake ice cream from Topps for $2.99. On sale with “bonus card.”

  10. Mail a handwritten letter.

  11. Hold the door open for everybody you meet.

  12. Write an article.

  13. Have some one special put together a list of scholarships that I can apply for, and apply for them all within two days.

The next day I was over my depression. And if you plan it out like I did, you’ll be over yours too. I leave you with another quote from Ayn Rand.

“If life is a process of self-sustaining action, then this is the distinctly human mode of action and survival: to think– to produce—to meet the challenges of existence by a never-ending effort and inventiveness.”

You must be productive to overcome depression. Productiveness is “just what the doctor ordered.”

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