When struggling with a mental illness like depression, sometimes there are days when getting out of bed feels improbable, showering unattainable and interacting with the outside world, downright impossible. On tough days like these, “traditional” coping strategies may not work as well as we’d like. To combat the depression symptoms that can affect us in surprising ways, sometimes we must get creative with our coping techniques.
For those of you who feel like you’ve exhausted every coping strategy in your arsenal and still can’t find any relief, this one’s for you. To give you some fresh coping ideas, we asked members of our mental health community to share the unexpected coping techniques that help them manage depression.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “Being in the outdoors by myself. There’s something calming about the quiet with just nature around me with fresh air.” — Tess B.
2. “I read ‘Harry Potter.’ I’m escaping reality for a short time and spending it with characters I have grown to love so dearly over the years, and it is extremely comforting and refreshing.” — Stephanie N.
3. “Seems really childish… but I love to put Elmer’s glue on my hands and peel it off when it dries. This is so satisfying to me that my depression and anxiety lessen when I do it.” — Geriann C.
4. “If anything helps, it’s video games. They are like an escape for me, as well as a way to make my mind busy. They often give me help when I feel the depression is too much.” — Matthew Z.
5. “I talk to my mum in the morning if I have depression or anxiety. She always knows how to cheer me up. My days are getting so much better.” — Emily K.
6. “[I keep] a daily gratitude list. When you’re in a depressive funk, it’s difficult to think of anything to be grateful for, but it’s like strengthening your gratitude muscle… Sometimes it was as simple as the sun coming up or the fact that I had food that day. Now, people call me one of the most optimistic people they know, and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that now I’m always in a state of gratitude.” — Chris B.
7. “[I do] whatever I don’t feel like doing. If I don’t want to study, I do that. If I feel like skipping gym and sleeping all day, I get my boxing gloves ready. Music helps. A shower helps. Just ruffling my own hair or giving myself a hug or a compassionate pat helps.” — Basma A.
8. “Being totally alone. Walking, biking, hiking through our bush. Hacking at weeds in my garden. Just being outside in general. But I need to be alone. No kids, no husband around. Just me and my thoughts until I can push past them.” — Kaitlyn P.
9. “Cryptograms. I know it sounds like a small thing, but I find that if I busy my brain with puzzle solving, it distracts enough from the depression/anxiety.” — Helen L.
10. “Community service! I would force myself to get out and go volunteer! I’ve always loved service and was even in a service fraternity in college, so I’m lucky to know so many organizations in the area that need some extra hands! Giving back always restores my sense of purpose, and being around such caring people really helps distract me from the darker thoughts depression can bring.” — Kacie S.
11. “Listening to sad music, as ironic as that sounds. It helps me to express my depression and emotions, and then I usually feel better. Sad songs help me cry it all out. Definitely a way to release all the emotional tension and then I generally feel better afterwards.” — Katie M.
12. “Crossfit! You have no idea no much 15 strangers motivating you to strive for your best boosts your esteem and makes you feel good!” — Doniqua R.
13. “I carry crystals around with me. Different ones are for different things, but when I get sad or nervous or anxious, I reach into my pockets and roll them around. It helps [me] get out the negative energy and keeps me focused on something positive.” — Jen D.
14. “Laying on the floor. It helps me feel ‘grounded’ in a literal sense. I need to become grounded and muster up the strength to get moving with my day. The first obstacle is getting out of bed. Picking myself up off the floor is more bearable.” — Kara M.
15. “[I treat] my depression as a person. I am able to separate myself from him and talk to him, let him know I’m not going to be involved with him, but he can stay a little while.” — Lanta S.
16. “Dancing. I teach Zumba classes, and as long as I consistently teach, my anxieties and depression stay away. It forces me to be around other people who are ready to have a great class and depend on me to pull them through it. Plus the music is so uplifting and I try to choose music that empowers myself to be a better ‘me’ every day.” — Kara K.
17. “This might sound weird, but I get myself to cry… I will watch something or listen to something that I know makes me cry and then just let it all out, bawl my head off. Sometimes I pace and pray and let the tears flow. A good cry seems to wash it all away and I feel better afterwards.” — Jen V.
18. “Doing crafts I used to do as a child. Going back to when things were simple and life hadn’t hit just yet. Popsicle sticks, glue, glitter — all the silly things I used to play with. Then my imagination starts to develop.” Jennie L.
19. “Doing ‘hands on’ things. My boyfriend is a mechanic, and him and his co-workers get me to stay up at the shop with them to make sure I’m safe… Right now, they let me help with tire changes and oil changes. It’s also relaxing for me.” — Jessica D.
20. “Taking a social ‘day off’ — not looking at social media, ending conversations quickly (still politely), having lunch alone and going right home to my dog after work. These are dry shampoo and yesterday’s makeup [kind of] days. Limiting social time greatly reduces the accompanying feeling of guilt for not trying hard enough on my appearance. Allowing myself to view my depression as private rather than isolating has truly saved me.” — Riley F.
21. “Watching YouTube makeup/fashion tutorials. People like Learning to be Fearless, GlamLifeGuru, Sometimesglam and GlamandGore help me to get out of bed, feel OK, and [it] takes a lot of the pressure off trying to figure out what to wear or how to get ready for the day.” — Erin W.
22. “[I] go to the flower nursery… to be around all those beautiful and colorful flowers. [It] makes me feel happy, and if I get to buy one, even better! I love doing this with my fiancé.” — Kim S.
23. “I constantly send myself messages on Facebook [and] tell myself things like, ‘I love you.’” — Momina M.
24. “Praying and staying cool — as in lying directly in front of the fan or having air directly on me. I [have] MS, which at times, heightens my anxiety and depression. I have to stay cool for the many ‘flashes’ I get from the MS, but I find that the air actually helps me to calm down and relax. I kinda think of it as being alone on an island, and I just go into relax mode.” — Christy L.
25. “Making a good cup of tea. First, I make [the tea] nice and strong and black, then I add the milk and watch the milk clouds swirl in the dark cup, creating a lovely beige brew. It helps me to remember it’s not all bad. It’s not all darkness. All [I] have to do is add a dash of milk.” — Jade W.
What would you add?
Thinkstock photo via openeyed11.