Depression, do you know what causes your depression, when it is at its worse, or what helps? According to the book Taming the Black Dog, we need to consciously be aware of our present circumstances and lifestyle and how this is interacting with our depression.
This entails doing a little research to understand the nature and habits of your own depression. To start with you need to have a journal that you can write in every day to record your depression when you start experiencing it. This can look like the following:
Monday 20th April
6 am - woke up and felt depressed. Negative thoughts of having to get up and go to work.
7 am - went for a walk and felt a little better
11 am - had a meeting and felt inadequate around my peers
12 pm - went to lunch and had junk food
2 pm - felt that terrible slump and started to feel really sluggish and depressed.
6 pm - came home and had a glass of wine and felt a little better.
9 pm - fell asleep on the couch and woke up feeling a little depressed and dragged myself to bed.
So what should be recorded? Your alcohol intake. Keep an accurate account of what you drink, how much you drink, when you drink and why you drink. Food: are you eating three meals a day, missing meals, snacking or eating for comfort? Leisure time: what are you doing in your leisure time, who are you spending it with and how do you feel before and after doing it? Your metabolic clock: such as how much sleep you need, when is the best time for you to go to bed and wake up, when are you more productive; the morning or evening?
What do you do with the information? As you review your week you will start to see patterns such as how you feel after spending time with certain people and engaging in leisure time activities, and how you feel after eating, and drinking. Is there a certain day of the week that you feel more depressed than others? I remember Sunday being a tough day for me, resulting in feelings of emptiness and loneliness. Once you find a pattern you can slowly make changes.
So we feel depressed, but how do we manage our lives when everything feels so overwhelming? The book, Taming the Black Dog suggests that we plan each day and week to create a happy and more fulfilling life, keeping our depression at bay.
There are three aspects to effective planning such as making a list of everything that needs to be attended to and prioritizing each item such as being attended to immediately, to be done in the morning or afternoon. Then allocate a time for each item, such as 15 minutes for three phone calls. This way if there is something that you do not want to do you can allocate a day and time for it and just get it done.
Effective planning is not only about writing down the things that must be done, but must also include your personal commitments such as exercise. For example, 40 minutes of walking each morning, quiet time by myself or with a friend for 30 minutes, positive affirmation habits for five minutes every morning and evening and once a week going out in nature. The reason this is important to schedule is to ensure that you will do it. Scheduling your personal commitments is going to help you get out of the hole of your own depression.
Taming the Black Dog also suggests that you plan the night before for the next day because you will be more relaxed after having experienced the pressures of the day. You are then allowing your brain to wander and for you to realize what you want to accomplish the next day. Writing down your thoughts on paper helps with anxiety and allows for better sleep.