Getting Unstuck When You are Feeling Depressed
“Objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion” is a well known physics principle. Humans also resist change. When we have depressed feelings, we tend to slow down, and it can be very difficult to get moving again and make change happen. Combine life stresses with a world-wide pandemic that has been going on for over a year and you have the makings for a depressed mood. Many people are feeling like they are stuck in the weeds and are having a hard time getting out.
The thing with a depressed mood is that even though it may be caused by external factors and brain chemicals it is up to us to take the steps to get moving again. I think of depressed mood like a boulder that has gotten stuck in the muck and the weeds. Once it’s been sitting there for a while (a day or a week or a month) it can get really stuck. That boulder starts feeling pretty comfy there in the ditch in the weeds and mud. It might even start growing moss on it. That boulder isn’t going anywhere without some effort.
So, we have to start rocking that boulder forward and backward. We need to clean off the mud and the moss that has started growing and get it rolling again down the hill. Sometimes it feels like it takes super-human strength to get it moving. And that really isn’t true; depression just makes it feel that way. Depressed thoughts and feelings have an uncanny ability to make you feel like it would be completely impossible to take any actions that might help.
Here are some tools to get that boulder (metaphor for you) out of that muddy, weed-filled ditch (metaphor for depressed mood). Try these actions. Try a couple one day. Then try a couple the next day. Rinse and repeat!
- Acceptance: First, you need to accept that you are in the ditch. This is not the time to beat yourself up. Notice without judgement. You must be aware of the problem before you can start to make change happen.
- Micro-Movements- Doing small tasks can get things moving again. The idea is to do a few of these, not all of them. Do some more the next day. This will help you to build momentum.
- Exercise: Set out some clothes and sneakers so when you get the energy, you will be all set to exercise. Go for a walk around the block.
- Food: Add an extra fruit or vegetable to a meal.
- Mental: Get off social media or video gaming for an hour and go outside.
- Sleep: Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Establish a sleep schedule. Make sleep a priority.
- Socialization: Text, message, or call one person who you haven’t talked to in a while.
- Self-Care: Take a shower. Wash your sheets. Pay one bill. ·
- Give Back: Do something nice for someone else. Help a neighbor bring in their groceries. Give a compliment. Get in touch with someone that you know is struggling and provide some support. Buy coffee for the person behind you at the drive-through.
- Gratitude: Write down 3 things you are grateful for on a piece of paper.
- Spirituality: Do 1 guided meditation. Say a prayer. Insight Timer is a great phone app for guided meditations. It can be used for free or for a small annual fee you can get a membership.
- Creativity: Go for a short walk and take a few pics on phone, knit, write, paint, whatever creative activity you like to do.
- Use a Lever- We need a lever to help us dislodge that boulder. This could be talking to a trusted friend or family member who can come over and help you to get things moving again. If you know someone who is good at helping you feel better, give them a call. If a friend or family member is good at inspiring you to exercise, invite them over. Who can watch your kids while you go do some self-care? If there is a movie that always inspires you, watch that. The idea is to do something that will positively change your mood.
- Ask for Professional Help- Sometimes we need a professional to join with us in getting out of the ditch. If you have been in the ditch for a long time or if it’s a particularly deep ditch you might need some additional help. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help. In fact, it shows strength. Rates of depression in the US have quadrupled during the pandemic to 44% of our population reporting symptoms consistent with depression. You are in good company and you most certainly are not alone.
- Talk to your medical provider about your depression. Let them know how you are feeling. Medication might help you to get moving again.
- Find a therapist/counselor. Talk to your medical provider and ask for a referral. Ask your friends or family members who they see. Mentalhealthmatch.com or Psychologytoday.com are great places to look for therapists.
- If you are feeling suicidal, go to your nearest Emergency Room or have a trusted person help you find a clinic that has same-day crisis appointments. Do not wait. Get help today.
The bottom line is that you can absolutely start to feel better. As you take small steps it will give you the momentum to take more steps the next day. You are worth the effort. You matter.