An A to Z guide for getting through a depressive episode

Depression is insidious. A sneaky troll, it often creeps up when we least expect it, flinging itself onto our seemingly smooth path like an emotional landmine. The road to healing is full of these traps, but the key is to JUST KEEP GOING. Sometimes, we have to power through the dark times to get to the lighter, brighter ones.

While they’re not always easy, there are lots of techniques and tricks to help you get through a depressive episode. They key is to keep the faith, hold tight to hope and ASK FOR HELP. Here’s an A to Z list to assist.

Always be kind. To yourself, I mean. Depression involves a lot of self-loathing and shame, but self-love trumps all. Cultivate it.

Be honest. Playing Pollyanna isn’t going to make your depression disappear. That’s not to say you should give in to darkness and despair, but it’s important to be honest with yourself–and others–about how you’re feeling in any given moment. People can’t help you if you don’t tell them you need it.

Change your thoughts. Easier than it sounds, I realize, but this is the key to long-term healing. By identifying toxic thoughts and writing out and practicing new, positive ones in their place, you can literally rewire your brain.

Do stuff. No matter how much you think you want to stay in bed or glued to the couch all day, that’s the WORST. Force yourself to get up and do something … anything!

Exercise. In the words of Nike, Just Do It. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even if you think you hate exercising. Even if it’s 20 degrees outside. Find a way. Moving your bod is always a mood-booster.

Friends and family. The people who love us are an invaluable support system. Even if you think they won’t understand or are annoyed with your ongoing gloominess, reach out to those you love. They’ll frequently surprise you.

Get outside. I can’t stress this enough. Mother Nature wields more healing power through one sunny day than a lot of doctors have in their entire arsenal.

Have fun. It may seem like you’re not capable of having fun right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give it the old college try. Fun and play and whimsy are lacking in adult lives, so now’s the time to try and cultivate some silliness. Go to a trampoline park, play Cards Against Humanity or have a water balloon fight.

Imagine. Instead of worrying, work on taking the opposite approach. Set aside a few minutes to use your mind to visualize happy, positive scenarios. There’s a world of amazing possibilities out there — imagine what some of those might look like.

Jokes. Cultivating a sense of humor about yourself and your life is a seriously effective survival mechanism.

Kisses. Physical touch and affection are hugely important, and in our society, we don’t get enough. Hug and kiss the people you love. Life’s too short to be afraid of PDAs.

Laugh. You probably don’t feel like laughing, but it’s the best thing you can do for the body and soul. Watch Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube or go to an improv show. Find something that induces big, rolling belly laughs.

Meditate. Learning to quiet your mind is key to long-term healing.

Never give up. “Never, never, never give up.” – Winston Churchill

Open up. Don’t close yourself off or hide your pain. Talk to people. Be open. Put yourself out there. You’d be amazed how many people are dealing with similar issues.

Pet an animal. Dog, cat, pig, llama—there’s a reason why therapy animals are a thing. They offer unconditional love, which has incredible healing power.

Quiet time. In this mile-a-minute world, we all need time to rest and recharge. Particularly introverts, who can feel totally overwhelmed by the the madness of our wild world.

Rest. Lots of people with depression can fall into patterns of sleeplessness, which only compounds the issue. Make sure you have a healthy bedtime routine, and steer clear of caffeine (and large amounts of sugar).

Simplify. Clutter isn’t psychologically healthy, and most of us have houses and apartments full of stuff we don’t really need. Simplify your life and give yourself room to breathe.

Take medication if you need to. There’s no question that medication is often over-prescribed (and frequently used as a panacea without addressing the real issues). That being said, if you’re in the depths of despair and can’t find relief, consider all your options. For some people, medication can work wonders. Find a doctor you trust, and work with them to find solutions that suit you.

Unplug. Too much media and technology consumption is super unhealthy, and if we’re already depressed, the internet and TV can frequently make it worse. If you need escapism, pick up a book, instead.

Volunteer. Giving back is one of the best ways to put your problems in perspective. Plus, it helps you escape the prison of your own mind. Find a cause you care about and go all in.

Wait it out. Arguably the hardest on the list, sometimes surviving a depressive episode is just about waiting for the storm to pass. While it SUCKS and of course we want to feel better, going through is often the quickest way out.

Xamine everything. Ok, that’s a cop out, LOL, but you guys, x is a toughie. Don’t take things at face value, and NEVER believe your thoughts without first questioning them. They lie, and it’s often our false beliefs and ridiculous thoughts that sink us into depression in the first place.

You can do it. Never, ever lose faith. Cling to it, remind yourself of how much you’ve already overcome, and cultivate persistence.

Zebras. Because z words are scarce, and zebras are awesome.

I’m no doctor, and you should always ask for help from professionals when you’re dealing with hard times. But these things have helped me more than I can say, so I wanted to share them with you.

Anything else that should have been on this A to Z guide to getting through a depressive episode? Share your insights in the comments!

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