1 July 2018
by Steven R.A. Markin
I am not a doctor, and I have yet to finish my degree, and although I have been diagnosed with depression from a doctor and I speak with counsellors, these strategies are what I use to help me therapeutically to deal with my depression, so that I can live a healthier life. Please make sure to talk to your family doctor because depression is a severe mental illness and needs to be appropriately treated. And what are we without our mind? Like really, fish that can’t leave our beds? (sorry – I make bad jokes, and I apologize because I am Canadian.)
Alright. A list!….
Talk to someone. I am not even putting this on the list. Talking to someone is the single most crucial every day strategy for coping with depression. This has saved my life and keeps me from going in too deep inside my mind. Even just talking to a cat can help at times, and cats can be dinkheads, so maybe talking to a dog will be a better choice? But talking about how you feel, regardless of it sounding like whining or bitching, needs to be addressed. Hell, if you have to cry, let it out. I know that finding someone to talk to can even be what contributes to your depression. For nearly three years, I didn’t leave the house. I felt like I had no one, but I was very wrong. I had four great people living in the same house that cares about me. I just had no idea of how to communicate, and as a teenager, I would preferably have kept it all in, no matter how much it was killing me. Now, I talk to them. Usually about different things, as I am more open with my brother, and I look to my dad for advice, where I know my mom will be more sensitive and sweet about things, and my sister is a savage with the truth. I even have a couple of friends whom I can speak to about anything. The point is, I had to learn that there are people around to talk to, and I felt vulnerable and judged, and like a whiny little bitch for talking about being sad. I didn’t want to be looked at like I am suicidal, or to be continuously asked and watched. But, I needed to get better, so I said, “I need to talk to you about something important,” and we sat down, I looked at the ground and cried, and I was honest about how I felt.
Tip: Go in with a plan and write down, maybe in point form, what you need to talk about, so that when you are talking, you can make sure to address everything you need to.
Tip: one-on-one can be much more comfortable in such an uncomfortable situation. You may even get the best of someone when alone with them.
Tip: this may not be a tip, but know, you aren’t alone, and maybe the person you are talking to needs you too. We are all dealing with some shit, and communication is a powerful tool that (perhaps) we can all strive to use it and get better at it.
1) Walking (Yay, number 1!). what I have learned throughout my time in university is that walking, yes boring-old-walking-that-we-take-for-granted-and-often-choose-to-get-out-of, is hugely beneficial and my number one little everyday strategy to help deal with depression. Go for a 20-45 minute walk. There may be some of you who think this is too easy, and then, there are the others, like I was a week ago: not getting out of bed! Well, walking is a low impact exercise and increases the heart rate and body temperature, so it is also a fat burner – maybe not substantial but perhaps I am getting to you? Most health-related studies for exercises that I have had to listen to during lectures had been based on 20 minutes of moderate walking, and the benefits – freaking endless! We are talking about all aspect of wellness. If we could bottle up walking into a pill and sell it, it would be groundbreaking (pun? – I hope not). We could call it an anti-depressant, a fat burner, meditation in a capsule, quiet time from the annoying husband to think and self-reflect of why you are even with his broke ass, all in one – plus more, and we don’t need to get into all the benefits. There has been plenty of studies done on walking. But to me, there is something about moving while thinking that eventually helps me to feel better.
Tip: get off your damn phone. Keep it in your pocket – the social media or arguing with your spouse can wait a moment. Get away from everything for a moment and think. Yes, thinking can be the issue, but it can also be a tool to help you to understand why you are feeling a certain way. Self-reflection is essential for self-awareness, apparently, and to be honest, being alone can be addictive, hopefully in a good way.
Tip: Listen to meditation music and audiobooks. You may enjoy your 20-45 minute walks, and when paired up with learning or listening to something of interest, well damn, that sounds double beneficial. I listen to audiobooks while I am in the gym, like The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
Tip: your surroundings matters, so choose somewhere lovely to walk. If there are paths and hiking trails, dog parks, a river, whatever, if you are where I am, it is nice to get away from the vehicles and people.
Tip: get one of those step counter apps. I am unsure which ones are best because I have always been against them, but recently I have needed to go for walks again, so I downloaded StepTracker on my Android. It can be fun seeing and challenging to get a certain amount of steps. Also, Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate Plus Fitness Wristband, Black, Large.
2) Sleep. This could be #1, and I know what you are thinking, I am depressed and all I do is sleep, OR, I can’t sleep! Poor sleeping patterns, such as too much or too little and irregular sleeping habits like going to bed at significantly different times can contribute to health-related issues, like depression. So, get some fresh air for 20-45 minutes, maybe work out, and try the other steps I’ll give you. In “Fight Club: A Novel,” (well I remember in the movie) Edward Norton was told to chew on Valerian Root. I found it didn’t help me much, but my ex would fall asleep no problem. I drink Herb Tea Sleepytime and listen to meditation music with just a candle, and the monitor on while I work at night, which helps me to relax.
Tip: seriously, get off your damn phone about 40 to an hour before when you want to be asleep, and dim the lights. We all probably have heard that lights from monitors affect us, it excites us and interrupts something called the circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin. Well, my problem is mostly scrolling and searching dumb things and liking peoples posts for far longer than anyone should do it, but yet, if I have a book or a journal in front of me, I tend to fall asleep okay. A Red Light Bulb can help.
Tip: try for consistency. As humans, and not Martians, we tend to adapt to routine. If you are like me and going to bed at 4:00 a.m. and waking up at 11:00 a.m., then keep it as consistent as possible. And avoid the never-ending setting the clock ahead.
Tip: melatonin can help if you are in a dim or dark area. Melatonin isn’t a drug, and you can get it on Amazon or in your local drug store (not a drug!). It isn’t going to work so well if you have all your lights on.
3) Be creative. My favourite, pretty colours on a canvas or silly words in a journal. Being creative allows me to use another part of my brain that doesn’t associate with thinking about who wronged me, or who said what, or what kind of crap I am going through, or money. But when I sit down and put a blank canvas in front of me, I begin to think of what I want to pain. I shift my focus towards art, and I think of the colours and how I want to represent them. This can cause a whole new level of issues, such as being overwhelmed and stressed, but seriously, who cares? Dab the paintbrush and make some strokes. Do it for you. Get messy, and soon the creativity will flow. You must allow yourself to get to that point and often that starts with doing something.
Tip: In my first blog, I talked about giving yourself 15-20 minutes a day to focus on being creative. It isn’t much time, and you can double up, triple up, but the point is, it is a starting point that has mental benefits. If you don’t believe me, take 15-20 minutes and write out a story, a poem, or draw a picture, or paint something, do whatever creative thing you do, and then take a moment and reflect on it. Think about how you felt during that time. Where you sad? Did you focus on what you were doing? Did you use your sadness to motivate your work, as I do? I am already getting to the next step.
4) Write it down. Don’t start a blog – I’m kidding. Write down your thoughts, vent them somehow. This allows times and focus on yourself, but also a reference to improve on and to look back on. I have been writing down my thoughts for most of my life. I have no idea where I got this idea from, but I log how I feel in journals, in stories, poems, and now on my website. I try not to read what I have written, but when I do, may it be years later, I am thankful I didn’t throw it out. And it is even helpful to read about something that I was dealing with. Reading your old logs can potentially also help with what you are going through now.
Tip: have fun with this. You can be creative and write up a short story using two characters, and one being someone who is experiencing what you are, and have them express what they feel, may it be with actions, and dialogue.
Tip: use the voice record app on your phone, or get one. You can log audio entries like a diary. Or maybe going back to being creative, start a website, like I have, to express yourself, or a youtube channel like so many. Let it out and document it. There is a community of us that all need one another.
5) Eat well. I am mostly in the fitness department at school, so talking about nutrition can be a pain in the ass. I am not talking about cutting or bulking (that can be saved for another blog). Each of us is unique, and we can react to different foods in various ways that can impact how we feel. By now, you should probably have a good understanding of who you are and what works for you. Hopefully, you are not just living off of fad diets or some other word of mouth eating habit that you don’t enjoy. Write down on paper or in a Fitbook (or MyFitnessPal) what you have eaten for at least three days, and make sure to include at least one day of the weekend (because we often change up our eating habits on the weekend). Next to each meal, make a little note, may it be an emoji such as a smile or straight face, or sad face to indicate how you felt, maybe even a poop emoji? But get a feel for how you react to food. Play around with it if you are noticing that you are not feeling too great and try to take it out of your daily eating habits. For me, protein bars made my stomach sound like I shook up a pop inside myself, so, I stopped eating them in exchange for something else with the nearly the same amount of macronutrients and calories. And as for dark chocolate, it makes me feel good, even just knowing that I have it makes me smile; however, if there is a chinook (a warm wind in Calgary during the winter), then dark chocolate often contributes to a headache or even a migraine.
Tips: use a free app to monitor your food. I use MyFitnessPal to get an idea of how much I am eating, even if I don’t have a weight goal in mind. I like knowing how many calories I am eating and of what. Tracking macronutrients, micronutrients, water, and even your weight can contribute to making you feel better. There is the idea of having control over yourself and the biological components that are associated with what you are putting into your body. Plus, it can help you burn body fat or put on muscle when you align your eating with other everyday activities, such as resistance training (I am a big fan of calisthenics).
Feel free to share your experience and strategies with depression, or of anything, in the comments below. stevenmarkin.com is my way of reaching out for help, and there is more to come. Thanks for reading.
Additional Resources in Canada:
https://myhealth.alberta.ca/ ,or the AHS app.
Access Mental Heath 403.943.1500 – 1.844.943.1500
HealthLink Alberta 1.866.408.LINK (5465)
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