Depression is something many of us have suffered from or are currently suffering. Over 300 million people live with depression worldwide today. I certainly have suffered from depression. After my father passed away when I was fifteen years old I began to struggle with my mental health. Then in difficult moments of life like my time in jail and the years after that when I had to fight my deportation. The consequences of those events, and of so much pain, stress and uncertainty caused me to really question my value as a woman, as a good citizen, and as a human. Even though I continued to fight for a better life I had very low points. I had moments when I really wondered if the world would be better off if I closed my eyes and never opened them again. Those were the darkest moments of my life!
It wasn’t until my health was at risk when I was diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses that I realized I had allowed too much pain. As I watched my body deteriorate slowly and I reached that point of touching the bottom, I had to say enough is enough! I got my second wind to fight. So I understand where you are coming from if you are there right now. I needed to dig myself out of the whole of pain, guilt, and self destruction, so do you.
But depression is not something you can one day wake up think positive and voila . It takes a lot for someone to fall it will take even more to get back up. The pain you feel today is valid, but know you and your wellbeing are more valid. Your happiness matters. It is time to get back up! These are 24 things I did to take control of my mental health.
This is the first and by far the biggest and hardest step. Sometimes living with sadness it becomes a norm, it did for me. But it is when we really dig deep and think of moments when we were truly ourselves we can sometimes have an aha moment of “this is not me.” Recognizing that will allow progress.
2. Separate yourself from depression
Something I learned from the amazing Mel Robbins is that we are not our bad moments or habits. Allowing ourselves to separate our identity from depression will allow us to have hope for a better tomorrow. You are not a depressed person, you have depression. Don’t allow depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue to define you.
3. Talk to someone
Don’t live with this in silence. Speak up! Go talk to a therapist. If you have insurance call the costumer service number, they can help you find a therapist in your area. You don’t have insurance or can’t afford therapy? Talk to a friend, your siblings, your parents, talk to someone you trust. Just make sure to speak up! What talking allows us to do is to get it out of our heads. Running thoughts and scenarios in our heads will only convince us that we are hopeless.
4. Drop toxic behavior
When we have depression and we feel hopeless we can tend to self sabotage. I did, after my father passed I drank my pain away, sometimes I pushed people as far as I could, and I would say negative things to myself. When recognizing there is an issue, the next step is to begin change. Leaving our undeserving habits behind is the only way to move forward. This won’t happen overnight but with continuous practice and not giving up on yourself it can happen.
5. Drop toxic people
This is so important! When you suffer from depression or any mental health issue you are already feeling down, the last thing you need is someone pushing you down with negativity and toxicity as well.
6. Change environment
Now, this is something that I didn’t realize until I really analyzed what had happened to me in the past decade. But the biggest breakthroughs have happened when my environment has changed. Sometimes it was moving to a different country, other times different states, but some have been just been me rearranging me home, who I surrounded myself. Believe it or not just the simple actually opening my window curtains began to change everything for me. Look at your environment, start fresh, open the windows, the sunshine wants to come in.
7. Separate events
There is something about being in emotional pain, we tend to search for validation to our pain. However, when we begin to live a chain of bad events to validate our pain we tend to drag ourselves more down into a deeper hole. Instead of being one bad day and the next a new one it turns into a bad decade. Be careful with that.
8. Find an outlet/ creativity/ hobby
Jason Silva, a philosopher, has a video talking about why we listen to sad music. He explains that as humans we need an outlet to allow our pain to be expressed so we can be able to move on. I couldn’t agree more. In the past I had dance as my outlet, now I write. Find something that you can pour your pain into and turn it into a positive therapy for you. It can be painting, sculpting, or singing, get creative.
9. Get spiritual
Now even though I will not push you to a certain religion, I will encourage you to do a spiritual search. This is a search for something bigger than you. It allows us to have a different perspective on life. It helped me feel protected and less alone. It provided this feeling that things happen for a reason and that my difficult moments in life were to place me right where I needed to be for a better life.
10. Find a purpose
In finding my spirituality and realizing life is bigger than me I was able to search for my purpose. That is what began the steps to get back up. Up to this point we have been eliminating things that don’t serve us anymore. Now its time to do things that will serve us. Finding something bigger than you that you are passionate about is something that will allow you to bring color back into your life. Now, remember, nobody is born knowing their purpose. The more you try the closer you will be to finding it.
11. Go outside
Even when you don’t feel like it, go outside. The outdoors and fresh air will allow you to change environment. Remember tip 6, new environments allow new perspectives. The University of Harvard calls it ecotherapy and they are conducting more research on why there is such a positive outcome when it comes to the outdoors and reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. They say it can be the soothing sounds and views that are not available in cities that help. I agree but I also think is this realization of a new environment (tip 6). It causes to open our eyes wider, it allows us to be in the moment. It also allows us to witness the fact that there are things bigger than us (tip 9)And it allows us to feel grounded, connected to earth and therefor feel protected.
There are countless studies connecting exercise and our well being. There are also many studies connecting exercise with mental health. Its no secret that exercising allows us to release the feel good hormone, endorphin, which helps with your mood. The great thing about exercise is that it also begins a domino affect of other good habits that aids with improving your mood and state of mind.
13. Eat healthy
Having a good diet will allow your body to be healthier and have healthier mind. A good diet allows your mood to be boosted, it helps with alertness. On the other hand poor diets with high sodium and chemicals boost cravings of other unhealthy food, it lessens concentration, and it drops energy.
14. Lower stress/ keep it simple
Being on a routine can help reduce stress of uncertainty but make sure you are not over doing your schedule. It is easy to want to do everything. The world runs at 100 miles per hour after all. The problem is that a busy schedule will not only increase stress levels, it increases our chances of not accomplishing things which leads to not feeling good about ourselves. Get a routine, yes, keep it simple though. Slowly you can build on it. Be patient with yourself.
Meditating allows us to silence our thoughts that clutter our mind. This is a great thing for dropping toxic self talk (tip4) Not to mention it helps you manage stress. According to the University of Harvard it helps you focus, and is good for your memory, which helps dealing with stress and anxiety.
“Laughter is the best medicine” We have all heard the saying but according to the University of Loma Linda humor affect the levels of cortisol, dopamine, among other hormones that improve our mood. And lets face it, how good does it feel to just laugh until your breath is gone? It feels so amazing. You tend to forget any stress, anxiety, sadness, or pain. Laugh more.
Sleep better! Okay this is something I myself need to work on still but it truly does make a difference. When I sleep seven hours or more I feel so refreshed. Which leads to more alertness, less stress, less anxiety, and better mood. I find it that when I don’t sleep well I tend to have a foggy mind and body aches, which leads to grumpiness, which leads to not eating well, because when you are tiered your body craves energy in the form of a donut, not good. Then that leads to anger which leads to being stressed and anxious, by mid day you end up feeling overwhelmed. Now imagine that on a regular basis. It leads to feeling bad about yourself.
The last point can show you how we as humans can allow something to spiral out of control so quickly and without even noticing. We are to focused with work, traffic, social media, it all seems so normal now. That is why mediating (tip15 ) is so important. It allows us to focus which allows us to be aware of moments when we are at the beginning stages of overwhelmingness . Awareness allows us to stop and breath. Take control and breath. Not to mention when we practice breathing it allows more oxygen to reach our brains and helps with alertness.
19. Take social media breaks
Social media is such a big factor now with depression. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others. How much they have accomplished and how much we have not. We end up feeling like we are not enough. Taking a break from the expectations of the outside world will change your mood, the way you see yourself, and it will give you peace. As I am writing this I have turned off my phone no social media for me. It allows me to disconnect and really focus on what matters, like creating content for you guys, or spending time with my family. You can turn off your phone when you go outside into nature to practice your meditation and breathing.
Allowing your thoughts and feelings to come onto paper is helpful for two reasons. One, it allows them to leave your head therefore decluttering your mind. Two, when we write down our problems or our thoughts it provides us a chance to solve them. Journaling has been proven to help you solve problems better because you get to see them in order. They no longer are cluttered thoughts running in your head.
21. You are capable
We can sometimes forget that we are capable of so much. Our pain, and sorrow narrow our vision to our capabilities. I want you to write a time when you finished a big project, or did something out of your comfort zone. This will help your get confidence in yourself back. You are a badass and you can do this.
Helping others allows us to step outside our own pain, and place the focus on someone else. You will find that helping others will remind you that we all suffer and we all go through hard times. It will make you feel good about yourself for helping and maybe allow you to see how fortunate you are.
Being grateful for what you have will allow you to see the positives of your life. For example, I’m grateful for a roof over my head, for having food and water. Be grateful for waking up another day. Find something and a domino affect of gratitude will begin.
24. YOU ARE NOT ALONE
You are not alone. As harsh as that sounds there have been many people before you that have been in similar situations as you and there will be many more after. But the beauty of that is there is always someone you can reach out to for support. Someone has seen similar pain in their life and can help you. There are therapist wanting to help. Plenty of people are willing to lend a hand if you only speak up.
I hope these tips can help you deal with depression or a hard moment in life. I want you to remember that like a wound needs time, attention, and care to heal, so does getting your mental health on track. Be patient, keep trying, you deserve to be well. Remember, you can do this!
Written by: Lupita G.