If you’ve had depression at some point in your life you’ll know full well that there are bad days.
Actually ‘bad day’ is a bit of an understatement but it’s a useful catch-all term to communicate to others that you’re struggling without going into detail.
Those are the days when you feel like you’re alone in an ocean and at any moment the current is going to pull you under.
Those days are bad days.
Figuring out a way to cope on a day-to-day basis (beyond any support you’re getting through your local mental health services) can go a long way to lessening the impact of those bad days when they happen.
Possessing as many tools in the toolbox as possible can make a massive difference to your overall mental health and your long term recovery.
Be Compassionate to Yourself
This is the hardest but most important thing to get right. Whilst there are times when we have to push ourselves, there are times when we have to say ‘I feel like this and that’s okay’.
Having depression or anxiety is as incapacitating as having a disease or breaking a leg.
If someone is in hospital with norovirus they aren’t told to ‘buck up’ or carry on regardless. And nor should they be. But the same approach should be applied to mental health issues.
Muddling through, the stiff upper lip or cheering up aren’t solutions, they’re just sticking plasters that cause the wound to fester.
If you feel too exhausted to tidy the house, recognise that it’s a valid feeling to have based on how busy you’ve been and allow yourself to do it tomorrow.
Taking this compassion further, in addition to being kind to yourself on an emotional level, there are also times when it’s okay to treat yourself.
Whether it’s to a coffee and a muffin on the way to work, buying yourself a new shirt or picking up that Blu-ray you wanted; it’s important to recognise that you deserve to have nice things in your life.
You may feel guilty but challenge that thought. Unless you’re spending your very last penny on a movie when your cupboards are bare, you’re doing nothing wrong.
Despite decades of terrible parenting advice, crying is both for big boys and big girls. In fact it’s for girls and boys of all ages, sizes, shape, colours and creeds.
Crying is one of the most natural and healthy things you can do. It’s tied to our core emotions and is tied to our feelings of frustration and sorrow.
If you’re experiencing depression then you’re probably experiencing those two emotions in spades. And then some.
But more importantly, crying helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Holding in those feelings can not only exacerbate your mental health issues – especially anxiety related issues - but also have long term impact on the cardiovascular system.
So if you feel like crying: do so.
Keep in Touch with Friends
This is a tricky one because broadly speaking; talking about mental health issues still carries a stigma.
Also one of the funny quirks of depression is that individuals either don’t want to talk to anyone or don’t feel important enough to ‘bother’ anyone with their problems.
But your friends care about you and want to be there for you. Fact.
The other challenge is that friends often desperately want you to feel better so offer up well-intentioned but unhelpful advice.
When talking to friends about your challenges it may be helpful to ask them to just listen and only give advice if you ask for it.
Whilst awareness surrounding mental health has greatly improved, it’s still difficult for someone who has never experienced depression to understand how it feels.
Keep to your Routine
This can be a lot easier said than done but hiding from the sources of anxiety or depression only helps the problem. It gives power to these objects of fear.
When you start to feel anxiety or experience low mood when thinking about an activity try breathing exercises to calm your nerves and reflection techniques to help challenge the negative thoughts you’re having.
If needs be build breaks in to your day so the feelings you’re having don’t overwhelm you.
It’s really important to recognise that this isn’t ‘carrying on regardless’. This isn’t sweeping the problem under the rug; this is about not letting these challenges define you.
Don’t Try to Be Perfect
Despite what you read and hear, no one is perfect so don’t try to be.
Attempting perfection is about as productive as jumping off a cliff and trying to knit a parachute on the way down. It’s only going to go one way.
When you have those bad days it’s about getting through the day as best you can. On better days you can focus less on existing and much more on living.
Either way, all you ever need to do is try your best. For those who love you all you ever need to be is yourself.
Eat healthily, avoid sugar & alcohol where you can and be compassionate to yourself as much as possible.
Let yourself breathe, let yourself have nice things and let yourself feel.
Holding yourself together on the outside usually means you're crumbling on the inside. Remember, bravery isn't just wearing a uniform or catching bad guys. Bravery is having the strength to admit you're struggling, that you need support or just having a jolly good cry on the shoulder of someone who cares about you.
Encompass Dorset supports individuals with enduring mental health problems in the Dorset area.
If you or someone you know could benefit from our help, contact us today. Or to learn more about our services click the links below.