Methods & Techniques
The Do’s and Don’ts
When combating depression and anxiety, here are a few quick pointers that will help in the battle:
|Reach out. Discuss your challenges with people you love and trust, and seek professional help from your doctor if you are struggling to cope.|
|Enjoy yourself. Regularly set time aside to do activities that bring you pleasure. These can easily be overlooked or forgotten during periods of depression or worry.|
|Eat healthily. As frustrating as this fact may be, minimising processed sugar and junk food contributes heavily to a feeling of well-being and a positive mentality.|
|Take steps to get a good night’s sleep, such as; establish a bedtime routine, ensure your bed is comfortable, take any clocks out of the room, and utilise relaxation techniques.|
|Challenge any feedback or negativity from others. If you receive criticism or judgement, first evaluate if it is meant as helpful or unhelpful, and firmly disregard anything unhelpful.|
|Turn to social media for empathy and support, as it is rarely forthcoming from there. Use of these forums is best restricted to pictures of kittens and impersonal gibberish.|
|Become dependent on stimulants such as alcohol and nicotine. Alcohol in particular is a mood enhancer, therefore if your mood is low, it will ultimately make you feel even worse.|
|Blame anyone or anything for any negativity you are feeling. Although you cannot control the world, you are fully in control of how you respond to it.|
|Spend time reliving past hardships, fighting historic battles or predicting future disasters. Keep your mind focussed on the present.|
|Internalise anger and frustration, as they have the power to consume you. Effective ways of release are exercise, or ploughing your energy into the achievement of new goals.|
Changing Your Behaviour
Without even realising it, our lives can become clogged up with all sorts of activities that fuel negativity and distract us from reaching our fullest potential. The perpetual dark thoughts in my own mind took many forms included self-hatred, fear, anxiety, doubt, a sense of futility, inadequacy, hopelessness, and being lost and worthless. Other than that, I felt just fine!
There is more you can do to create an uplifting and fulfilling lifestyle, though. I learned a valuable study where you can analyse how you spend your time over a normal week. For me, the results were as follows:
Depression and anxiety dominated me at every turn, and you will see there was very little balance, no fun, no joy, no respite. There is every chance your own equivalent chart could be similar in that sense, so I would urge you to do this study honestly and carefully, and find what your life may have become without you even noticing.
It was vital that I made some changes, as I was basically swimming around in a mental cesspit every day, which is not half as much fun as it sounds. But why bother changing my life balance and activities, if mental illness is all in the mind? The simple reason is, from a certain perspective, depression is not just one adversary – it is in fact two, a toxic duo who attack both your mental state, and your physical behaviour. These villainous twins feed off each other, one polluting your mind with negativity, which then fuels the other to make you lethargic, tired, and devoid of energy. This decrease in activity then feeds your low mood, and round and round and down and down goes the spiral. The overall result is an overwhelming feeling of “what’s the point?”, usually ending with just lying in bed or slumped in front of the television.
You can spot the particular little gremlin attacking your energy and behaviour when you carry out the “activity analysis” exercise. So now for some good news. In the same way you can use various techniques to defeat the beast attacking your mind, you can also bludgeon the behaviour monster too, simply by making the effort to change your life balance. Just as positive thinking is like Kryptonite to mental depression, making physical, enjoyable changes to your lifestyle has the same uplifting effect, such as:
- Providing something different to focus on
- Creating energy, reducing feelings of tiredness
- Providing a source of pleasure and accomplishment
- Building self-esteem
- Increasing motivation
- Using up excess adrenaline created by anger and anxiety
- Stimulating the body to produce natural anti-depressants
- Often forces more social interaction
t’s all part of the same battle. Making positive lifestyle changes in order to defeat depression is known as “Behavioural Activation,” and is another effective way to break the cycle of this mental illness. When your behaviour is improved, it no longer acts as rocket fuel to your low mood, breaking the cycle, and making it much easier to fight just the remaining enemy attacking your mind, instead of the overpowering tag-team of both adversaries at once.
In my case, it was definitely important to “mix it up a bit,” and apply my focus to a longer list of activities other than just mainly singing and work. But where do you start? What do you change? A good place to begin is to look at your typical routine, and make basic variations. In my case, instead of watching TV every night, sometimes the wife and I would go for a walk. Or a drive. Anything to get off the sofa and leave the house. Since Covid-19 appeared, leaving the house has not been as easy, so instead I ploughed my energy into writing this book, learning about the human mind, and making YouTube videos with our son. Or telephoning friends. Or sitting in the garden with my wife. These changes do not necessarily have to cost money, they just need to break up the daily grind.
When changing your routine, it is well worth considering two factors; activities that you enjoy, and anything that forces interaction with other people. Often, these can be one and the same. Among the advantages of doing something that makes you happy are, it will give you an alternative focus to the negativity clouding your mind, and therefore gives you a break from stress and anxiety. Interacting with other people is an excellent way of reducing feelings of loneliness, however I recommend that this is either done face-to-face or over the phone or video call – simply clicking “like” on a social media post doesn’t have the same effect. Overall, both of these approaches provide potential to make you smile and laugh, which in itself can put a huge dent in depression.