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7 Things I Do When My Depression Is Just Too Much

These days have been happening more and more frequently lately. I wake up feeling anxious or in a ton of emotional pain, and that often will last relentlessly throughout the day until I go to sleep, where I then have restless, anxiety-filled dreams. I often find myself asking:

What should I do when the emotional hurts, emotional pain, overload of feelings, depression, anxiety, loneliness, desperation all become too much?

What should I do when I want to hurt myself or worse? (If you’re feeling unsafe, get immediate help.)

How do I make it through the days where my every move aches and it’s hard to get out of bed, hard to stay moving, hard to be around people because all I want to do is cry all day?

What do I do when everything hurts emotionally so much so I start to hurt physically? I feel it in my chest, my throat, my extremities. It’s overwhelming and can be panic-inducing. And I often go toward catastrophizing and spiraling when I can’t get a handle on my feeling state. When I feel this way, here are some things I do:

1. I tell myself to just make it to [blank]. That I just need to survive until [blank].

For me, that’s typically until my next therapy appointment and I can talk and cry things out. Or, I just need to make it one more day, then one more day again, etc. If I just take it one day or session at a time, things don’t get easier, but they become less daunting. They feel less impossible to achieve. It doesn’t feel like I’m committing to forever, but just until I can talk things through again and recommit until next time.

2. I breathe.

I know this is cliché, and it can feel really frustrating to me when someone tells me to “just breathe.” So, I won’t say that. Breathing doesn’t fix everything, but sometimes it can help lessen the burden of pain and emotion I feel inside. Sometimes, it can make getting from one moment to the next a little easier. And sometimes it doesn’t work at all. I’ve learned various types of breathing, and one I find very helpful is resonance frequency breathing. To do this, you breathe in lightly and breathe out completely and hold your breath until you feel your breathing reflex. Then repeat. You can do this for however long and it typically equates to three to seven breaths per minute.

3. I try to exercise/move.

Even if I can only get five minutes in that day, it helps me feel like I’ve accomplished something. I got on the elliptical for five minutes. I went for a five-minute walk. Anything. It doesn’t have to be hard and heavy. It can be light and easy and be a huge accomplishment.

4. I try to be forgiving of myself. 

I try to be forgiving of what I can or can’t do. For example, if I can’t get five minutes of exercise in, that’s OK. If I struggle moving, that’s OK. If all I can do is cry, that’s OK. I’m still alive, and that’s all that counts.

5. I cry.

I feel my feelings. For me, I often need to release my feelings or they’ll just build up, causing even more pain both physically and emotionally. And as painful and scary as that release can be, it can be helpful.

6. I lower my expectations of myself.

I grew up in a household with high expectations and perfectionistic tendencies. So, this is something I need to work on constantly. When I am severely depressed or in a lot of emotional pain or just feeling a lot or am seriously not OK, I try to tell myself it’s OK to feel this way (it doesn’t feel OK, but it is OK). That whatever I do today, as long as I’m keeping myself safe, is OK. I don’t need to conquer the world, I just need to survive today, this hour, this moment.

7. If I’m unsafe, I’ll reach out for help.

I have a promise with my therapist that if I become unsafe, I’ll contact him before doing anything and he can get me help.

I’m sure there are more things I do when I’m not OK, and sometimes I can do all of these things, and sometimes I can barely do one of these things. And that’s OK. Life can be painful. Living with mental illness can feel impossible sometimes, so hopefully even one of these things can help you when you, too, are struggling.

Getty image by Maskot