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5 Tips for Getting Through an Inconvenient, Depression-Induced Breakdown

It seems like the minute I have a hundred things to do, my brain decides it’s the perfect time for a breakdown. Even though I have no time for it, it’s not convenient and I really don’t want to think about all the things my depression brain focuses on, I find myself doing all of those things instead of my full calendar. So I’ve put together a list of things that help me put a pin in my symptoms momentarily so I can finish up what I need to do.

1. Set aside time for yourself.

Trust me, as someone who understands all about procrastinating, this can seem like both an obvious thing and an impossible thing to do. But I’m talking about a five minute break here or there. Drink your cup of coffee, slowly. Smell the steam, watch your creamer swirl in the cup. Live the experience fully. Go get the mail. Do you hear any crickets? The sound of ice crunching beneath your feet? This little break reminds you to catch a little perspective and maybe distract you long enough to work through it.

2. Let yourself be upset.

Telling yourself that you’re not that upset only makes you worse. If you absolutely can’t be upset — do math. It can be simple, like 1+1, 2+2 and so on. As it turns out, your brain doesn’t like feeling emotions and doing math at the same time, so you can usually stall your tears for a moment. But if you have the ability, just be upset. Again, it can be a little five minute moment in which you feel like the world is crashing around you and all hope is gone. I ugly cry, take a tissue and blow my nose then get up and grab some water. I’m not saying I’m done being upset, but if I let myself be upset in little bits, then it doesn’t come out in a marathon. It’s your right to be upset. Even if you don’t think there’s a reason. The way you’re feeling is completely valid.

3. Find something you wanna smile about.

I hate the advice, “Just turn that frown upside down.” Sometimes that’s the absolute last thing I want to do — and even then it just makes me angrier, or cry harder. But what I’m talking about is finding something you know you enjoy and experience it. If you think penguin’s laughing is cute — find a video (I think it’s fantastic). If you know you smile when you make chicken parmesan, make it. Like bubble baths? Take one. Because finding something to enjoy usually results in some kind of self-care and let’s be honest — is that ever a bad thing?

4. Take a deep breath.

This isn’t a novel idea, but it’s important. Your whole body needs oxygen to function. Your brain is absolutely no different. Think about how hard your brain is working, trying to manage everything, fix problems (especially the ones you’re worrying about “for nothing”). You need air. Plus, if you take a moment and focus on your breathing, sometimes you’ll find that you already knew the answer to the problems, you were just so focused on everything all at once that you didn’t notice.

While you’re breathing, try this little exercise. Take one breath in and list five things you see. Breathe out. Take another breath and list four things you hear. Breathe out. Take one more breath and list three things you smell. Breathe out. One more breath and list two things you can feel. Breathe out. Take another breath and list one thing you can taste. Breathe out. Take another breath and carry on about your day.

5. Get a validation outfit.

This is one of my favorite things, and it happened completely on accident. I got a sweatshirt a couple sizes too big and washed it and decided that I would only wear it when I felt like a terrible person. I told myself that while I was wearing it, I wasn’t allowed to degrade myself. The shirt itself has a graphic about always loving yourself, so I thought I’d wear it when I needed a reminder that I’m not a monster, and that I matter. It hangs in my closet until I feel depressed, or feel worthless and then I put it on and read the words. And when the thoughts popped into my head like ,“I’m an idiot,” or “I’m unlovable,” I look at the words on my shirt and force myself to take 10 seconds to say something nice about myself. “I am fierce. I am valid. I am irreplaceable.” The nice thing about validation outfits? They can be anything: a business suit, a pair of shoes, earrings, a bracelet, a pair of socks. The important thing is to remember to love yourself. Soon enough, it’ll be your favorite piece of clothing.

Life is hectic and hard sometimes. But the important thing to remember is that you can do it — even when you’re convinced you can’t.

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Thinkstock photo via Poike