Hopelessness is one of the main characteristics of depression. Since coming out about my experiences with depression, I’ve been blessed with many good days and months, and I’ve mostly been on the bright side of the street. I’ve been feeling a lot more hopeful.
Many people have reached out to me, sharing their own stories or asking for advice. By sharing some of my coping strategies, my hope is that someone who may not be sure how to proceed will find some inspiration towards the next step on their healing process.
- EXERCISE: There is one thing that my psychiatrist never forgets to ask: Are you exercising? Exercise is one of the main things on the path to recovery. I’ve been consistent with my running, strength training and yoga. Do anything that takes you out of the house, anything that connects you to your body and lets you feel a pumping heart. Anything that makes you want to take a fuller and deeper breath. Anything that reminds you that you are indeed alive.
- SPIRITUAL ROUTINES: These days we have many online resources and apps on meditation to help you create a morning routine for setting the tone for your day. I particularly enjoy waking up extra early when my apartment is quiet and I can read. This works for me. It creates space in my day. Find out what works for you.
- WHY ME? WHY NOT?: Things got much easier when I let go of the need to know WHY this was happening to me, and instead shifted my attention toward being proactive about understanding WHAT actually was happening to me. It is common to see depression as a stigma, like the bad work experience on your resume that you don’t want to share with a future employer. But if you go beyond that first impression, and learn about what’s happening to your body and mind in depression, it is humbling and enlightening.
- REACH OUT: If you are experiencing common depression symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Don’t think that the problem will go away by itself. Many times we discredit or suppress what we are feeling, and sooner or later that creates a cycle. We get used to feeling that way. Our self-esteem drops to new lows. And we begin to see our life through an even darker glasses. So break the cycle. Reach out! Ask for help. Speak about it.
- CLEAN THE CLOSET: By closet I don’t mean underwear, socks and winter coats. I mean relationships that don’t serve you. Friendships that are not growing. Habits or patterns that go against your ethical compass. Make an inventory of the toxic situations and patterns in your life. And start planning how to move forward.
- TRAVEL: We don’t always have the means to travel. But remember that traveling opens your mind and heart. Experience the vastness and diversity of this planet. Submerge yourself in a different culture and like an anthropologist learn about their history their struggles and their successes. It will give you fresh perspective.
- COMPASSION: At the beginning, I felt very upset by those who discredited what I was feeling through lack of knowledge about the subject. Over time I came to see that I can’t expect everyone to know or understand what I am going through. And just as I needed to be compassionate and forgiving towards myself when I didn’t understand the causes of my depression, I also need to be compassionate to everyone else.
- STUDY: Many of us in the adult world forget the feeling of being in a classroom and expanding our knowledge. As you start to feel better, learn something new. Take a course, a class, a workshop. Study something that has been on your bucket list. I have a few, like learning Italian, and photography. What do you have?
- SERVICE: Do something for someone else. Depression tends to divert all of our attention from the world around us into our own pool of infinite sadness. Break the flow. Find a cause that inspires you. Do something for this world. Take a walk on the beach and pick up garbage. Be of help when you go to work. Help someone to cross the street. Reach out to someone in distress. Be alert to the needs of others.
- BREAK FREE: Life is short, and our list of fears too long. One at a time, try to overcome your fears. On a recent trip to Europe we had the opportunity to take a boat along the coast of Sicily and experience the most beautiful water I’ve ever seen. I’ve been always afraid of open water. Although I can swim, I never knew how to float. On this trip I didn’t hesitate: I jumped into the immense ocean. I felt more alive, because I had scratched one more fear off my list. I am sure you have your own. Facing our fears and moving through them is empowering.
- FAITH: Life’s ups and downs can be rough. Don’t lose hope in yourself and this world. Don’t lose hope in others. Waking up every morning and opening our eyes to a new day — that alone is a miracle. There is beauty everywhere if you just pay attention. Have faith in something greater than yourself that will show you the path to follow. But also have faith in yourself, and endless patience. We are not here to perform or to be perfect. We are here to learn, and to live our life to the fullest.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.