Monday, August 11, 2008

"In the Moment " Tips for Coping with Depression - Part 1: Get a Grip

Coping with depression isn't a neat, clean process. I'm reminded of the advice I was given as a new mother trying to calm an inconsolable baby: try 10 things and the 11th might work. Same applies here. If one thing doesn't work, keep trying, as well as combining various tools and techniques until you've somehow reached a better place.

The following tips are my best attempt to share what I've learned and what's worked for me in coping with episodes of depression. Today’s entry includes Part 1: three basic tips focused on getting a grip. Part 2 will address engaging the body in dealing with depression, and Part 3 will offer strategies aimed at taking control of the mind.

Stop, Drop, and Get Mindful. Mindfulness is the crucial first step that allows access all other suggestions. It is imperative while in the swirl of despair that you stop long enough to get in touch with the 'observer' part of yourself, drop into your body and into the moment, and very intentionally choose to be mindful. Mindfulness means "just noticing" - without judgment or attachment - the facts of the situation: what you're feeling, what you're thinking, what events occurred, what the circumstances are. Mindfulness is like pushing the pause button on your experience long enough to gain some perspective and be intentional about how to respond.

Once you have gotten still, you can ask yourself what do I need? What works for me? What help or tools can I access?

2. Breathe. The importance and effectiveness of intentional breathing cannot be overstated. Breathing deeply provides instant access to calming energy, to our deeper spirit, and to significant relief. It also distracts the mind, at least temporarily. It only takes a couple intentional breaths to relax deeply and completely, and shift stuck energy. Try reading this out loud slowly:

Quiet the breath.
Soften the breath.
Slow it down.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Let the breath just trickle down through all the cells of your body.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.

(doesn't that feel great?!)

3. Vent!
Others may disagree about the value of venting, but I've found that until you unload your baggage one way or another it's difficult to move on. Venting is a means of both validating your very real feelings and simultaneously expelling all that negative energy. I find journaling or emailing very effective ways to vent - I just get on a roll and it all spills out. The great thing about email is that you don't ever have to actually hit 'send', but spilling it as if you're telling someone makes the writing easy and is very cathartic. Actually telling someone works, too, but sometimes putting it in writing helps to really highlight repeating themes and patterns which you can begin to address more effectively in the bigger scheme of things.

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