December: Time for festive lights and great food and fun with the family and holidays and presents and singing and cheer and… suicide. What?! Yes, despite the festivities, this is the time when depression and suicide are most prevalent. All the pressure to have a good time and the fantasy of how perfect it is going to be, can cause downright misery, and if you’re already prone toward depression this can really take you down the spiral.
Depression is a whole body-mind phenomenon, and so there are many things that you can focus on and shift in your life to both prevent and treat depression. Of course, if you’ve already gone so far down into hell that you can’t even imagine implementing these things, then you need to get some help, but my xmas wish for you is that you take note of these things before you disappear down the rabbit hole.
This is a summary of my full depression checklist that I use personally to give myself a leg-up when I need it. Check in with yourself regularly and make sure that you have these basics in place:
- EXERCISE/MOVEMENT: This is the single most effective and most underutilized treatment for depression. Get up off the couch!
- DIET: The key things here (other than good all round nutrition) are Omega 3s, probiotics, magnesium, Vitamin D and the B Vitamins and water. Make sure you’re getting these in your diet, or supplement.
- ILLNESS: Make sure your depression isn’t a remnant of a previous illness. Allow yourself time for recovery.
- ENERGY LEVELS: Take a break. Get enough sleep!
- STRESS LEVELS: Breathe, breathe, breathe.
- HORMONES: Don’t confuse your life falling apart with a bout of PMS.
- APPEARANCE: Look after yourself – treat yourself to a manicure, a new outfit, a homemade facial mask.
- PURPOSE: Do something every day that moves your soul.
- BOREDOM: Sign up for an online course, go to an interesting talk, read a good book.
- DAILY GRIND: Add some fun into your week and prioritise.
- GOALS: Take some baby steps towards something meaningful for you.
- TRAUMA: Find the growth points in what you have been through or get some help to work through your past.
- SEASONAL: Brainstorm some fun ways to make the season more bearable for you.
- SOCIO-POLITICAL: Stop watching / listening to the news. Change the subject. Don’t get drawn into other people’s fears and negativity.
- CLUTTER: Do some Spring (Summer) cleaning. Start with a small area or just one drawer.
- MUSIC: Switch from Leonard Cohen to The Beatles!
- TOXINS: Clear out harmful chemicals from your home and life.
- CONNECTION: Reach out to a friend who really cares and is open to listening.
- FUN: Find enjoyable things to do with your family other than just day-to-day necessities.
- TIME: Get rid of irrelevant time wasters and see what in your life can be delegated to somebody else.
- WORRIES: Take action on niggling worries.
- ASSUMPTIONS: Question the things you are thinking (eg the mess in the house means nobody cares about me)… always ask: “Is this really true?”
- PERFECTIONISM: Let it go. You are enough (write this on your mirror now!)
- FANTASY: Let go of how you think life “should” look and appreciate it as it is. Find 3 things right now to be grateful for. Do this daily.
- DEPRESSION IS BAD: Depression is there to help you to grow, to re-prioritize your life, and to get on track living your purpose. Question the idea that it is bad and see if you can gently welcome it in and allow it to change you!
Life is not always going to be happy-go-lucky, and just because the festive season swings around at this time of year does not mean that your mood will too. Let go of the pressure to be joyous and filled with fun and allow yourself to be as you are. Take tiny steps towards addressing the things in the list above – just start with whatever you can manage and see how little changes over time amount to massive shifts.
This festive season, be real, be safe and look after your whole self.