It’s that time of the year again when the sky darkens early and the days grow cold and short, and along with them, my mood. I have battled with depression and anxiety for most of my adult life, sometimes thriving, sometimes barely making it from one day to the next. One thing’s for sure, I’m always receiving endless advice. Along the way I took some of the advice and left other bits. I also picked up some of my own tricks that helped me fight my way through the darkest and hardest of days. Today, I am going to share the top 10 coping tips I have discovered with you, my fellow warriors.
May they aid you in your battle.
1.Cultivate a morning routine
The first part of the day sets the tone for how the rest of it will go. I find it very helpful to start my day with self care and productivity, even if it’s teensy tiny little things like take a shower and load my dishwasher. It makes me feel like I have accomplished at least a couple of positive things which helps me with the feelings of worthlessness that come along with depression, and the rest of the day is more likely to be productive too!
2. Set small, realistic goals for yourself
Depression makes motivation extremely difficult to find, especially when you have already been spiraling for awhile. Instead of promising yourself you will wash every dirty dish, promise yourself you will at least wash the ones you need to cook dinner tonight. Then at dinner time you may find yourself more motivated to cook! You might even just decide to wash them all while you’re there anyway! Setting small goals is a good way to get that snowball rolling down the hill and picking up momentum. Seeing that checked list makes this one of my favorite coping tips.
3. Practice mindfulness and gratitude
It’s nearly impossible to do one without the other. I have found that going for a mindfulness walk is the easiest way for me to get out of my head. I make it a point to disconnect from my phone and connect with the outside world around me. Noticing leaves blowing in a breeze, the smell of the pavement after it rains, how blue the sky is. Sometimes that’s all that happens, I just notice, but usually I end up feeling grateful to be alive in a beautiful world. Even ‘just noticing’ is enough to take my mind out of its dusty old depression corner and shake it off a bit.
4. Follow your curiosity instead of trying to force happiness
When I am in my lowest mood happiness is very difficult, nearly impossible, to find. If I can follow my curiosity should it happen to pop up, it’s 1000 times better than being numb and bored. If you notice yourself being interested in something, pursue it!
5. Pursue better nutrition, and if that is something you struggle with, supplement with vitamins
This is one of the coping tips everyone loves to throw at you. But they are not wrong. I happen to be someone who struggles with my diet, so I take a multivitamin and a vitamin D supplement. I can’t promise that your mood will get better, but your body will feel better and be more prepared to fight off illness. This can help prevent you from spiraling even deeper into depression.
6. Fiddle with your caffeine intake
I love my morning cup of coffee but when my anxiety is particularly bad I have to make it a small cup. If I don’t I find myself with tons of energy to obsess over whatever I am anxious about. When I am more depressed, I go for a bigger cup. That extra burst of energy helps me find motivation to reach my small goals. Fiddle around with your caffeine intake and you might find that you’re feeling a little better!
7. Try essential oils
I know, you’re all laughing at me now, that’s okay. I know you hear it all over the place that essential oils are basically a cure all. Again, I won’t promise that they will cure you, but they may just help you cope. They smell nice. When everything feels crappy it’s lovely to have at least one nice thing. I use orange for depression and lavender for anxiety. There are several other scents that are known to help with anxiety and depression too. Putting something (anything really) that is just nice for yourself in your toolkit of coping tips can make a huge difference.
8. Get your heart rate up
Do 10 jumping jacks or take a walk. There is a mountain of scientific evidence to back up that physical activity really does help to chase away the blues. It releases endorphins and that make you feel happy! I like to kill two birds with one stone by taking a brisk mindfulness walk.
9. Practice basic self care
I mean basic. Get enough sleep (at least 8 hours!), hydrate, keep up with your hygiene, make time to do the things you enjoy. Attend doctor’s appointments and therapy. If you’re already feeling mentally and emotionally cruddy, try to avoid letting your body feel cruddy too. Less cruddy feelings = more likely to feel good! Of all the coping tips, if you just take one with you- this would be a good one. It’s simple but it goes a LONG way.
10. Learn to say no
The number one concept that has helped me the most is learning to assert myself. This means asking for what I want in a respectful way. It has given me more control over my life and helped me learn that I am responsible for my own contentment. Learn to politely decline requests you do not wish to fulfill. The less you’re doing things you would rather not be doing, the less miserable you will be. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt this is easier said than done, and things may get worse before they get better. It has taken me well over a year of therapy to get this far. And it is something I will likely have to work at the rest of my life, but it is so worth the work.
These 10 coping tips have helped me to slog my way through the numbest days where I was sure my lack of motivation and ability to feel anything positive would swallow me whole. They have been a boon to me in the thick of my depression and anxiety. Depression is a monster and while talking to your doctor to make a plan to tackle it may be the best option, sometimes the wheels of the medical world turn slowly. Try out a few of these strategies and maybe they will help you make it through. They will at the very least keep you busy trying!