You’re in a slump and you want to know how to feel better.
I get it.
I’ve been there many times… more than I can count, actually.
In those moments, if I laid down, I knew the day would pass, and I wouldn’t move. My bed became my home and my prison.
I suffered from this problem ever since I was 10 years old. I remember times when I would spend days in my parent’s bed, and my mom would cry because I wouldn’t budge. That little boy wasn’t aware at the point that he showed signs of a severe illness; Major Depressive Disorder.
Most people with depression have milder symptoms, and their valleys last for a week or two. Perhaps a little less, maybe a little more. My drops would last for months.
I would come up for air for a few days, and back into what I call an empty, soul-crushing abyss of nothingness. But the kicker is…
I’m better now.
I understand trying to find the light is like attempting to find a vessel in the sea. It’s difficult to keep going. This article will help you reach that boat.
Editor’s Note: Feeling depressed or suicidal? You’re not alone and there is help. Call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text home to 741741 to talk with someone who can help. I know it’s hard, but it really does help.
Why This List Will Help You (Yes, YOU) to Feel Better.
I can never promise you a cure-all, and I won’t tell you I have a perfect solution.
But I want to let you know you aren’t alone.
Read it again. You’re not alone. If you’re reading this, then you don’t feel good. You probably feel a little hopeless… maybe you’re even dealing with clinical depression like I have.
Here’s what I can promise you.
You will leave this article with more tools for feeling better than you had before you clicked.
And I think it’s very likely that these 6 tools will help you, in some small way, to feel better and to move forward… as they have for me.
1. Find Support
It’s something most people don’t do because they think they don’t deserve it, or they don’t need it. This is the best thing you can do right off the bat.
This is a battle, and the first thing any general should do when faced with overwhelming odds is to seek out allies.
Your allies may come from unsuspecting places.
On more than one occasion, when my mother flew into a rage that had me fearing for my life or when I’d gone without food for the day, a neighbor would take me in for the night, feeding me and allowing me a safe place to talk.
Friends and therapists are a more long-term solution.
Finding a therapist that fits you can take time, but don’t give up. Speaking with therapists who really care about me have made a massive difference to my mental health.
Still today, I benefit from those talks.
Depression is like a desert. Water is mandatory. Don’t die of dehydration. Take advantage of your resources.
To make this even easier, check out BetterHelp, where you can find an affordable and effective licensed counselor.
2. Learn Coping Skills
I can’t tell you the number of times people told me to “use my coping skills.” What does that even mean?
Do I breathe? Do I sleep? Do I exercise?
What I’ve found is that this term is a bit of an annoying cliche in the mental health world, but it’s also extremely important advice.
Those of us who are struggling need to have strategies for coping.
That includes sleep routines, exercise routines, breathing routines, and anything else that eases our negative thoughts and feelings.
For example, I’ve found that bathing lets me relax. Something about the neutrality of a bathtub makes me stable. There isn’t anything pressing to worry about, and you can focus on the feeling of hot water. Everything is safe and calm. At the height of my illness, I would take upwards of four to five baths a day.
Later, I found that keeping a chain-mail bag in my pocket gave me something to focus on and play with during intense bouts of depression or anxiety — it gave me a diversion. Things like breathing only worked occasionally, and never helped me in the moment of stress.
Ultimately, you have to find what works for you.
Here are some tools I recommend trying…
- Breathwrk — The way you breathe is way more powerful than you might expect. Certain breathing patterns can energize you and help you focus, while other patterns can calm anxiety and depression. This app created by Laird Hamilton (the famous surfer) is a real gem. It walks you through simple, effective breathing exercises that can make you feel how you want to feel.
- Headspace — This is my go-to app for quieting my negative internal thoughts. Just choose your meditation, close your eyes, and breathe. It just takes a few minutes and it can really help.
- Lose It! — The food you eat has a big impact on how you feel. But tracking what you’re eating and only eating as much as you need is a challenge. This app helps you determine how many calories you should consume everyday, and tracking your progress is super easy. It even has a barcode scanner, which removes a lot of caloric guess-work.
- Beachbody On Demand — Exercise is perhaps the single most powerful game changer for a person’s mental health. But half the battle of exercising is knowing what to do. Beachbody On Demand is a streaming service where you can choose from hundreds of different workouts with various difficulty levels. Just put it on your TV, work up a sweat, and see how much better you feel afterward!
- Other Stuff — There are a lot of different ways to deal with mental illness, And different people will discover different coping mechanisms. You might take a lot of baths, you might drink tea or coffee, you might journal, or you might do something else. Do what works for you.
3. Express Yourself
I have this memory of my sister and I. She took me out in her car when I was 10 or so, and we parked in an empty parking lot in the middle of the night.
She told me to scream, so I screamed.
I howled for a few seconds, and she yelled with me. Something about it helped. My dad had just passed, and I didn’t know how to cope with the loss.
I find other ways to shout, now. It’s not exactly acceptable to yell in my apartment at random times, so I vent differently. The way I scream is by internet streaming, writing, making short films, socializing, etc.
It’s a way to say my existence means something. My life isn’t empty. It’s something. My life has meaning and impact if I can make something. It doesn’t matter what becomes of it. The power is in creating something.
Expressing yourself is a way of venting… and it can help take the edge off.
4. Focus on Getting Better.
I’m not trying to convince you that the power of positive thinking is going to make you better. What I mean is you should prioritize yourself and your treatment.
Because health always comes first.
If you don’t feel well, then you can’t do or be the best that you want to be. So don’t be afraid to seek help, spend money, and do what needs to be done so that you can get back to living the life you want to live.
Remember that it’s okay to push certain unnecessary things to the side for a while. The pressure relief feels great and it’s definitely something I’ve done in my darkest days.
You’re a priority. If you’re physically sick, you stay home and rest. It should be the same with mental illness.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best thing you can do is crawl into bed and pass out.
Sleeping is a skill I used as a tool once I got better. I found out the only thing that would stop me from dwelling and lamenting about the past was sleep.
It stopped my negative thoughts in their tracks and even reset my emotions.
It didn’t fix the problem forever, but it helped me get to a place where I could search out support and try to remedy the issue whenever I have trouble, rather than lamenting and unintentionally making the problem worse.
6. Reach Out
If you think you have a problem, get it checked out. Go to your local mental health center, and schedule an assessment.
You’re not wasting anyone’s time. That’s what those doctors are there for.
Also, letting your friends and family know that you’re having trouble is the most important thing you can do. It’s vital to getting better. People can’t support you if you don’t let them know you need it.
I know it’s hard.
But that’s because our culture has an unhealthy stigma around mental illness.
Fortunately, your friends and family probably don’t… find the people who are willing to help and let them know what’s going on.
The sooner, the better.
I tried to solve my problem by myself for eight years. But I didn’t get anywhere until I accepted I needed more help than I was receiving at the time.
It can feel like nobody understands or cares, but they do.
(Remember: depression lies)
If they don’t, grab someone else who will listen. You deserve help.
Feeling Better TODAY Is Only the Beginning
Each day is new.
And the only goal, every day, is to do the best that you can do.
So which of the above 6 strategies will help you feel better today? Choose one, try it, and see how it goes.
Then tomorrow, trying something else… or don’t if you’re feeling better.
Just take it day-by-day, doing the best that you can do, always making your health top priority.
You’ll be glad you did.
Zack is an aspiring writer who spends most of his time twitch streaming, writing interactive fiction, and generally trying to learn more about the human experience. He lives in Oregon, and you can get ahold of him at Zackary.Baker436 [at] gmail.com