Let me start by saying thank you for the amazing feedback on my previous post, the language of men. I truly was not expecting the feedback, and it keeps on coming.
This piece is a follow up to my promise to share some of my everyday habits, for conquering depression inducing stress & anxiety.
1. Make time for sleep
I work a lot, and when I am not working I read. I have a very curious imagination and suspended periods of non-activity frustrate me. I love movement. The problem with this is that when I am depressed the movement never stops, night and day my body just wants to move. I used to think I am weird or I was a freak of some sort until I listened to stories of prolific leaders who suffered from depression. They had the exact same experience.
Sleep deprivation is dangerous because it denies the body the opportunity to recover and to heal itself. It denies the brain an opportunity to shut down from external stimulation and just dream. But more so it exacerbates the chemical imbalances in your brain that are causing you anxiety or depression in the first place.
Sleep is an important component of productivity. It’s the oil that keeps things flowing without friction. Prescribed medication is helping me to regain a healthy sleep routine. That’s why you need to see a professional. DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE.
2. Have commitments
The most difficult thing about depression is that your body shuts down, especially in the mornings or when you have to be performing at peak. Depressed people will tell you, that the most difficult times in their day are getting out of bed and falling asleep. I schedule meetings and appointments so that I can get out of bed, prepare for them and then show up. My meeting frequency is not the same compared to when I am not going through a depressive state but you can bet on the fact that I will show up. Appointments keep me away from isolation and non-productive downtime. That’s the devil’s playground.
3. Get organised
Exaggeration is one of depression’s most effective characteristics. Whatever it is that is depressing you, your mind has imagined it to be three or five times bigger than it really is. Depression makes you sweat the small stuff. Yes, we lead busy lives with various responsibilities and commitments. But we only have 24hrs in a day and a minimum of six hours of that belongs to sleep – non-negotiable.
So what do we juggle emails, content creation, report writing, creating side hustles, running a family, supporting siblings, being a friend, loving your spouse, being a parent and finding a little playtime? I write down my priorities. Not only that, but I am specific about what needs to be done and when. I’ve learned that productivity is the difference between busy people and effective people. For example, my diary entries look something like…
08h30 – 09h30 Write report and submit
10h00 – 11h00 Attend meeting
11h30 – 12h00 Call so and so
Activities or tasks must have time next to them. That’s my rule. My other rule is that it is okay not to be available. A diary like this not only helps me to stay organised with less clutter and fluster. But it also helps me to regulate my daily shutdown time. That means more time for sleep.
4. Find your place of solitude
In this space, I am not solving any problems. I am not worried about meeting arrangements or calls I need to make on my way to work. My only focus is fortifying my mind to face the day.
I don’t know what your position is on spirituality but I have morning devotions before I leave the house. Before I listen to the news. Before I check Facebook, WhatsApp etc. I prepare my mind for positivity, by absorbing life-giving stimulus. I keep an audio devotional book so that I don’t waste precious morning time paging or reading. In addition, I do mindfulness exercises to help me with clarity and calm; also in audio format. I would recommend Headspace.
In the evenings, when my family has gone to bed, I try to read, do a bit of research but most importantly, listen to relaxing music, I am a pluviophile, so I keep my rain sounds album on repeat. Yes, I have an album of that kind. At night, after my diary for the next day is done, I prepare my mind to sleep and rest, the latter is very important. Rest.
That’s why you need to get yourself a pair of my high-quality water-resistant Bluetooth earphones. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.
5. Stress is energy take advantage
Apart from keeping a diary of commitments and having morning me time. I try to keep a regular exercise routine. I now use the stress and tension in my life as an alarm clock for exercise. Exercise releases endorphins also known as feel-good chemicals. These chemicals are also known to help your brain to respond much better to pain. Add a good eating plan to that and you’ll have a six pack of a brain in no time.
With that said, I try and stay away from unnecessarily stressful situations.
6. Manage your screen time
Ever wondered why all your favourite social media networks are themed blue or white or both? Well, your brain interprets those colours as daytime, therefore it stays awake.
Cellphones and computer screen are becoming notorious for triggering sleep deprivation and anxiety. In my line of work, all I do is switch between devices. So, as a response mechanism, I use night mode on my computer to help cut out the amount of blue light my brain absorbs.
FACT: Blue light suppresses the release of melatonin in our brains, which leads to a lower quality of sleep, which in turn can contribute to a variety of negative health effects.
That’s why it’s important to shut down the computer and walk away from the phone. Check out this list of apps to help you manage your screen time.
7. Accept and move on
Apart from taking up professional counselling, I took the decision to accept that pressure is a part of life. I accepted that there are so many things happening around me, that I cannot control, and as soon I learned that, I immediately realised that they were not for me to control in the first place. But more so, I had more peace of mind and more time to focus my energy on things that are in my realm of control. For example, I cannot change the fact that the economy is down and that is causing the people to be pessimistic about life. I just cannot control how they should respond. But I can control my response to the economic decline and how I can better position my attitude to survive the times.
8. The power of conversations
You are as good as the conversations you entertain. The most powerful conversations are the ones we have with ourselves. It is in these that we talk ourselves into becoming better-versions-of-ourselves or the direct opposite. It is for this reason that I pay special attention to my self-talk about myself.
In addition, I have developed the skill of not only listening to my conversations with others but the direction of the speaker’s thinking as well. Is the person I am talking to discussing solutions or just decorating problems with fear, hopelessness and despondency? Are they inventive or just amplifying crisis? I want to be around solution driven people. I don’t need mini-pity conferences, I already know the problems in my world. Let’s talk about change.
As soon I pick up that the person I am talking to has no interest in creating solutions or worse, they want me to do the thinking for them, I immediately re-evaluate the conversation and plan my exit. Part of staying stress-free is knowing where and when to add value.
9. Attitude is everything
If depression is something I am susceptible to and that I would have to contend with for most of my life, then that battle will be in my terms. I have never been bullied in my life – at school or in the workplace – because I fight back all the time.
So I won’t be bullied in my head, that’s just how it is. That’s just who I am.
I see depression as a bully and the thing is with bullies, they can’t fight. They just talk big and they depend on the amount of fear they can instil in you if you allow them. Allowing yourself to take on a negative attitude on life is the equivalent of teaching your bully how to fight. So each morning when I wake up I try to make it the worst day ever for depression, by keeping a positive outlook on life, even when things seem to be falling apart.
I have more to write on this but I will stop here for now. Was this helpful?