You might be surprised to know that some of the most driven, successful people around you are fighting a constant battle with depression. Depression doesn’t have a face. Those who harbor this burden become professionals at hiding their struggle.
I’ve been struggling with it for years; more than half of my lifetime. It has developed overtime and fluctuates with intensity. Sometimes it’s easy to bear. It’s dead weight that I have to drag around, but still manageable. Other days it completely consumes me.
Long lost are the extended stints of time where I physically could not get out of bed and face the day. Where I’d hole up in my misery, blowing off plans and alienating myself because I’m too much of a drag to be around. I just don’t have the time for it. I’m better than that. I’ve trained myself to push through, to focus on the big picture. I am a firm believer in the credence of mind over matter.
The constant reinforcement of a few key principals help me to get through the day. To overcome the darkness that constantly tries to pull me down. Without these resonations I wouldn’t ever get anything done.
My peers sometimes tell me they don’t know how I do it. How I manage to stay motivated and strive for my goals, given my hindering affliction. It isn’t easy. Most days I feel like a failure. But a few key elements and practices ensure that I don’t fail. That I’m always headed in a better direction.
1. One thing at a time.
Do you ever have those days where you really just can’t? You’d rather just curl up in bed and call it a day, better luck tomorrow? Me too. All of the time. To curb this, I set a small, manageable agenda for myself to get myself going.
It can be something as small as making the bed or doing the dishes. I always start my day by doing both. When I’m done, I feel accomplished and am ready to move on to the next thing. That’s how I get the ball rolling.
Some days I honestly just can’t. After completing my morning chores, the drive still just isn’t there. And that’s okay. Sometimes I just need that time to crash and recharge. But usually this method works. On days when I wake up feeling like I really just can’t, those turn into some of my most productive days after proving that I really can.
2. Have a routine.
Routines can feel soul crushing and monotonous. That’s why it’s important to create a routine that includes both obligations as well as rewards.
As I’d mentioned before, it’s imperative to get the ball rolling by starting off your day with something small, and go from there. After I’ve finished my morning chores, I follow it up with a quick workout routine (some days). This helps to energize me, and give me self confidence. The benefits of exercise are undeniable. When you look good, you feel good. It releases endorphins, so it improves your mood. Plus, that butt. Getting started can be tedious and deflating. Trust me. I know. But once you make a practice of it, you’ll start to look forward to it.
After exercise it’s time to get to work. But I begin with a personal project. (I.e. a blog post, or working on a personal project). This is my reward system. To work on something that I genuinely care about, and can feel great about making progress on. Once I feel satisfied, then I can move on to actual work.
I imagine your routine is very different than mine. But the point is, at the end of the day, you want to feel accomplished. Always have an agenda.
3. Actively set goals.
Always keep the big picture in mind. Always be working towards something. It’s going to take a series of time consuming steps to get there. But you will. In the mean time, you will cross off many small accomplishments along the way. Literally.
Make a list. Make a bunch of lists. I have various notebooks filled with checklists to keep myself on track. Start off with a daily checklist. What can you get done today? Be ambitious. You probably won’t get it all done. But if you’ve written down 8 tasks and manage to complete 4, you will feel accomplished. It feels soooo good to cross off those tasks. It will motivate you to keep going. And you won’t feel guilty for taking a little downtime. You’ve earned it.
Every once in a while, write down everything that you want to accomplish on the broad scale. Career wise, in your personal life, skills that you want to master, places you eventually want to go, it could be anything. Always remind yourself of where you want to be. Your mindset will eventually shift. Everything that you do now is gearing you towards these goals.
4. Accept regrets.
Depression rarely hangs around without it’s even shittier friend, anxiety. The bitch that keeps you up at night, reminding you of every mistake you’ve ever had. Leaving your mind spinning and milling, reliving those terrible moments. Torturing yourself with what if’s and should have’s.
I know it’s not easy as first, but it will get easier with time. When these dreaded thoughts and memories start hammering away at your well being, you just have to say, “fuck it!”
There’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t change the past. It sounds like common knowledge. And yet, here you are allowing the untouchable past to consume you. Fuck it. It’s over with. You can’t do anything about what’s happened, but you can make moves to make it better. To improve your future and overcome those mistakes.
When it’s late at night and your mind is spinning out, I want you to literally say the words out loud. FUCK IT! It might seem ridiculous at first. But just keep saying it. Hammer down those thoughts with this mantra.
And once you’ve told those thoughts to fuck off, now would be a good time to make a list. Think of all of the ways that you can make this situation better. For every issue, try to come up with at least two solutions. You’ll realize that you are in power of your situation. You are not helpless. And whatever it is, you can kick its ass.
5. Fake it til you make it.
It sucks, and it’s hard. But sometimes you really just need to push through. Force yourself if you have to. If you really just can’t, then that’s okay. But at least you’ll know that you gave it all you have within your means.
Give yourself a reason to get up in the morning. Something that will deter you from hitting the snooze and rolling away from starting your day. In my case, I have a needy dog who breathes her excited hot breath all over me as soon as I crack my eyes open. I have to get up to take her out, to feed her. And once I’m up, I feel more inclined to get on with my day.
I’m not saying get a dog. But just give yourself a reason. It could be something as simple as placing your alarm clock on the other side of the room so you have to get up to turn it off.
6. Sometimes, you just need to ride the roller coaster that is depression.
If you suffer from this ailment, you know all too well that sometimes you just aren’t in control. It just gets to be too much, completely steamrolling you and taking you for everything you have. It’s not because you’re weak. You’re not because you’re trying. You’re not playing the victim to your circumstance and using it as a crutch.
And if you are, it’s time to buck the fuck up. You can only be better if you try. You can’t blame the heinous experiences you’ve been through. I’m not denying that they happened. But don’t let them define you.
You were doing so well. You were rising above the odds, above your torturous mindset and striving for the things that matter to you. You were getting shit done. But now that motivation is gone. You’re hitting a low. A serious low. And now you feel like a failure.
Well, guess what? You’re not. You can be ambitious and confident and a go getter. Just because you don’t feel like that today, it doesn’t take away from all that you’ve done. Depression is a cycle. Sometimes it’s just better not to fight it. But don’t ride it out for too long. Give yourself a day or two to veg out. Don’t worry about what you’re not getting done. Take this time to indulge in some self care. What makes you happy? Hiking? Netflix? Cooking? Just do it. You can get back on track later. Sometimes you do need to force yourself and push through it, but you can spare some time to focus on simply what makes you happy.
Take a day. Take two days. Get back in touch with your serenity. Level yourself out. When you start to feel a little bit refreshed, formulate your game plan. Make a list. Set an agenda and get started. Just one small thing at a time.