These days most people experience some feelings of depression, anxiety, grief or general lack of motivation. This is a normal part of life, however, if we don’t take productive action, these states can linger and interfere with our functioning at work and in relationships. Here are some simple yet highly effective tools that can help you out of a dark period and propel you back towards balance and wellness.
Acknowledge and accept
The first step is simply to acknowledge the situation and the pain you’re in and accept your feelings as they are. When we’re in the throes of a depression or an unmanageable situation we often try to first fix our way out of it before we address the root cause and emotions. Verbally acknowledging how sad or depressed we are to ourselves or others and allowing ourselves to fully feel the depths of our pain brings our attention into the present moment and gives us the opportunity to simply be with what’s there. Denying our feelings and resisting the situation by numbing ourselves, distractions, or engaging in addictive vices such as food, alcohol, substances, or internet addictions can make the pain worse and perpetuates a vicious cycle of avoidance and dysfunction.
Reach out daily
Reaching out and telling people who care about you that you’re having a hard time is crucial. So definitely make sure you’re doing that. But beyond that, reaching out and simply having a genuine connection with someone in your life, every day, is a simple remedy for darker periods. Even though our natural tendency when we feel depressed is to hide, withdraw and shut down, the act of making an effort every day to talk with another person has enormous therapeutic value. Being in connection is the key. Make a list of the people in your life and call them one of them each day and have an ordinary chat. Report about the small things in your day: what you ate for breakfast; something pretty you saw on a walk; the TV show you’re watching. Sharing the small details of your day and having someone listen makes you feel like you matter.
Building on the importance of connecting with another person on a regular basis, working with a trained professional is crucial. Therapy is not just for people with mental-illness. Everyone can benefit from talking to someone regularly regardless of the problems they may or may not have. The simple act of talking to a neutral and objective person has the effect of reducing anxiety. We all need to be listened to, heard, and seen for who we are at our core.
There are many kinds of therapy and many different therapists. It’s about finding the right fit and modality for you. With the right therapist, therapy can actually be a fun and rewarding process. If you’ve experienced trauma, Somatic Experiencing and EMDR are quite effective. Most cities have low-fee counseling centers that train psychology interns, which makes seeing a therapist every week highly affordable. Google search “low-fee counseling,” and many options will pop up. Insurance often covers sessions as well. Expensive prices should not be used as an excuse to avoid getting professional help.
Walk 30 Minutes a day
Getting out of the house, rain or shine, and taking a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood or running errands on foot like picking up dry-cleaning or heading to the post office, can instantly change your mood and perspective. This is more of a mental-health intervention as opposed to physical exercise tip. This may or may not be what your body needs to stay physically fit. However, the act of walking outside in any setting and letting yourself explore your senses will breathe new life into your day and force you to engage with your environment and neighbors in new ways.
This tool is so effective and powerful that I tell all my clients they must learn to meditate, otherwise they’re putting themselves at risk for anxiety and depression. The research indicates that the benefits of meditation are endless. There are many different styles of meditation, and so finding a type of meditation that resonates for you is key. Looking up meditation or mindfulness on YouTube and following along to a guided exercise is an easy way to get started. Apps like Calm and Headspace can also be helpful. Group classes are the best way to learn. All it takes is just five minutes a day a couple of times a week while gradually working up to a longer practice.
Take breaks from social media
When we’re feeling depressed, anxious, lost, or in the throes of grief, seeing other people supposedly looking happy with their spouses, kids, or on some great travel trip can make our painful feelings feel even more acute. It’s human nature to compare ourselves with others, but having that stimulus all the time is unhealthy for our sense of self-worth. See if you can minimize your time spent on social media by utilizing the monitors on your smart phone or apps or extensions that block access to those sites.
Often when going through a dark period we isolate and neglect our basic needs. Isolation compounds the darkness, which reinforces more negative thinking and poor self-care. Getting out of the house and receiving a massage or other kinds of bodywork such as acupuncture or fascia-release can change how we feel on a physical level by breaking up emotional patterns stuck in the body. Giving and receiving touch is a form of human connection and one of our basic needs that must be met in order to feel loved and cared for. Find a good bodyworker and be as regular and consistent as your budget or schedule allows. Quality massages can be quite inexpensive, so don’t let finances deter you.
Dr. Sarah Neustadter is a psychologist in Los Angeles. She specializes in suicide survivor loss, suicide prevention, and millennial issues. Her first book come out in June 2019 entitled Love You Like the Sky: Surviving the Suicide of a Beloved. You can follow her on Instagram at: @sarahneustadterphd or on her website @ www.sarahneustadter.com.