5 things you can do NOW to break the cycle of depression
Our mental wellbeing drives our lives every day; how we feel, how we think, how we work, how we love- everything.
It is part of the roller coaster ride where things are completely beautiful on the top, and things are messy at the bottom. It is part of the exhausting adventure called ‘being human’.
With October 10 being World Mental Health Day, I would like to start the conversation by sharing 5 important things I learnt to break the cycle of my depression.
The secret to having it all is knowing that you already do.
As Rhonda Byrne (Author of The Secret) puts it, the more you are in a state of gratitude, the more you will attract things to be grateful for. Here are three habits to start being more grateful with what we have:
- Think about three things that you appreciate before the day ends.
- Say thank you to people that made your day and don’t forget to say thank you to yourself for being strong.
- Ask yourself: Did I do something for myself today?
Self-care and taking time to do things that improve our mental wellbeing are often overlooked. It is in fact, a way to show gratitude to ourselves.
Things like being appreciative for the little things in our daily lives and making time for ourselves to delve into deep thoughts or doing absolutely nothing, can clear our headspace and increase our capacity to face upcoming challenges.
Yes, they sound too easy to be true, but gratitude is the key to love, and to be loved. It rewires your brain and brings inner peace.
Practice gratitude and see how it changes your life.
Putting things into perspectives
We need filters to constantly change our perspectives.
It could be confusing at times, but this allows us to understand differences and that things aren’t just black and white. It helps us to validate our experiences and feelings.
It alters the way we see the world, the way we think and the way we feel.
There is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth. Which wolf wins?
The one you feed.
(Tale of Two wolves- unknown author)
It all starts and ends in our minds. What you give power to, will have the power over you.
Developing awareness on thoughts that we are persistently focusing on can help us make the choice to feed the happy ones. Remember, you are not your thoughts, because you always have the power to control them.
Reconnect with your world and prioritise yourself
Putting on a smile every day when we don’t really feel like it could be tiring. Persistent low mood can damage relationships and make us feel isolated. At our worst times, we might believe that people don’t care about us and we have lost everything.
However, no one will know what we are going through without us reaching out. And only you can take the step to reconnect with people you trust and reconnect with yourself.
It is okay to be vulnerable; it is okay to be not okay. Strengthening our support system prevents us from being isolated in these overwhelming battles against ourselves.
We need to express ourselves, talk to people, share our thoughts and there is nothing to hide. Try rebuilding relationships with people you trust and people who care. Be it your family, your friends, you colleagues, we are all in this together, to share our ups and downs in life. It is hard times that bring people together.
With all these years thinking about what others think, it is time to put ourselves first. Reassess your priorities and focus on yourself. Rebuilding the lost relationship with yourself involves picking up that long-lost interest that you had, catching up with that old friend who used to share your happiness and invest time to do something for yourself.
You want to know what it is like to wake up in the morning and be so in love, with yourself.
Appreciate this one chance, to live this one life to the fullest.
Embrace your feelings and don’t over analyse
When things get overwhelming, a lot of us fell into the trap in over analysing WHY.
There is no one to blame, because we are humans. We need to create meaning in our experiences to make sense of our lives. However, in this insane world, things can get complicated and fighting our thoughts and feelings might transform into an endless cycle of what we called rumination.
Rumination is a habit which our train of thoughts are fixated in a way that exacerbates our negative emotions. It starts when we think about the same problems repetitively, wiring a pathway of neurons inside our brain, just like how habits are formed. When this continues, we become obsessively focused on our problems, almost addicted to the distress and pain they cause and start to lose our sanity, hope and energy. This is a common self-limiting trap when we try to figure things out, focusing on the problem but not the solutions.
This is a hallmark feature leading to depression, where people suffer from low mood and loses energy, eventually affecting their appetite, sleep and ability to enjoy things they used to love.
To break the mental habit of rumination, here are some simple steps on how to go through your train of thoughts and identify unhelpful ones. When we say ‘unhelpful’, they are the trucks carrying the bricks to build the endless cycle of negative thoughts. If we put in specific road blocks and stop them, we have a chance to break free.
- Be aware when rumination starts
You can confront and address each of your thoughts, or distract yourself if you are feeling too overwhelmed. Go for a walk, find someone to talk to, read the news. Come back to it when you are ready.
2. Address your thoughts
Identify what are the triggers that lead to the cycle of thoughts. Write down what goes through your mind. It could be one single thought, it could be a couple, or it could be a list.
3. Take a moment to absorb your feelings
It is okay to have feelings, you don’t have to hide them. Express them, let them out and accept them.
4. Read through what you have written
Are they logical thoughts? Identify things that does not make sense, try to take a step back, look at the connection between the train of thoughts, challenge each of them.
If these steps don’t seem to be working or this have been persisting, seek help from a mental health professional.
Emotions come and go, but only you can make the decision to let them go. You are not your thoughts. Get out of the trap.
Don’t ever lose hope.
Only YOU can make the change
I know there isn’t a single pill to bring you out of this mental breakdown, crisis or stressful period of life. I know you are carrying a heavy burden. I know you feel like you are all alone. But you are the only one that can make the decision to overcome this. I understand how hard it is, I know.
But the world is not going to stop for you, life goes on.
Make the decision to get yourself out of the cycle of depression, do this now:
- Reach out and seek help
- Stop the rumination
- Reconnect yourself with the world
- Practise gratitude and prioritise yourself.
“You’re gonna be happy” said life.
“But first, I’ll make you strong.”
– Chavela Vargas
No matter how bad it gets, better days are always waiting. I hope you know that you can change your life by committing to make different choices, to think and express differently, and to change the way you see things that are beyond your control.
You don’t own all the problems in the world.