May is Mental Health Month. But you probably already know that if not from the title than from the fact that it’s the end of May and like every site has been putting out mental health-focused posts.
My own brain in its glorious wonderful helpful-ness (*drips with sarcasm*) decided to help me zero in on what mental health is for me this month by taking me on a wild ride through my depression. I experienced the peaks the dips and the wild loops in between. Fun.
And while it definitely is NOT fun and totally, totally sucks to live through, as I wearily climb out from the other side I can’t help but be grateful.
I KNOW. Ew, yuck, ugh are we really going there? Yes… we are.
Because every cheesy quote about seeing the stars in the dark and only getting flowers from rain despite feeling corny as hell are, well, true.
This month I re-learned a lot. That’s a thing that happens with depression – relearning.
Depression takes so much away from you. Happiness, hope, energy and with it the memories of how you coped with the darkness last time and the time before that… and the time before that.
So after implementing *all the things*, giving myself some much-needed space from expectations and giving myself permission to just exist as a person – and not the endless idea/creation machine I wish I was – I’m feeling better.
While everything isn’t better, everything *feels* better. And that feels so damn good right now.
If you need an artsy metaphor it’s like the end of a mid-day thunderstorm and the birds come out to sing again and the suns rays slowly creep back out from behind the clouds and you dip your bare toes into a warm puddle on the black pavement.
Truth be told those are some of my favorite days.
But see? No rain, no flowers. No dark, no stars. No storm, no warm puddles to splash in. The cheesy, corny roll-your-eyes-till-they-get-stuck quotes are just true. It’s exactly like that.
Anyways, every time I find myself on the other end and in full damage control mode I’m thankful that it’s a little easier than last time. And using those tools that have helped me time and time again over the past decade is like surrounding myself with old friends. It’s comforting. Familiar. Dependable. Like settling into a favorite chair that has been well worn to fit the shape of your butt just right.
It’s everything you need when the carpet aka reality has been ripped out from under you.
So in honor of Mental Health Month and my latest spiral here are my go-to tools:
Gaia’s Yoga Studio
I’ve been using this app for yeaaarsss which I think really says something since I’m a chronic download-try-for-a-week-then-delete kind of person. I’m grandfathered into the core features but I still think it’s worth the $2 a month or $20 for a year subscription structure. And the fact that you can literally make your own routine by picking your poses and the length of time to hold them and then they “smooth” it out for you by adding transitions in between is just really impressive to me. When I’m at my lowest but can bring myself to…like, move I love to do the 10 and 15-minute beginner sequences.
Stop, Breathe, Think
Another app I’ve had for years and has turned to a subscription model. What I love about this app, though, is the check-in feature. You start by rating how you feel both mentally and physically out of a scale from bad to meh to great and then choosing words that words represent your mood which it then uses to recommend a few meditations.
It’s the word feature that I have found to be an incredibly useful tool for managing my depression. There are 5 tabs each with its own emoji face basically like the great to meh to worst feature that have two columns of words to choose from. This feature, super unexpectedly, has helped me to gauge my emotions and how good or bad they are. Because let’s face it depression skews your perception of how bad things are and this has helped me to shift my perspective so many times.
Because staying hydrated us important and as a child of the 90’s I’m more motivated to keep a fake Tamagotchi-esque plant alive than my own human body. It’s super cute and you can choose your glass size to check off glass by glass instead of typing in how many ounces each time. Your plant (which you can choose which type you want to grow) has different evolutions, just like Tamagotchi and Pokemon, and levels up as you stay consistent with hitting your daily intake goal. Each glass you drink adds a little more to it’s HP bar and it takes more to fill the bar the more advanced your plant becomes.
I don’t rely on this app as much but I have in the past, but that’s because of the skills it has helped me build up over time. Full disclaimer: MoodKit isn’t the prettiest or most intuitive app out there. But it has hands down been the most critical for me. It utilizes several CBT techniques to help you work through stressful problems, track your moods over time, create healthy habits, and a good amount of journal prompts to help you reflect.
It’s the Thought Checker feature that has been a legitimate life change for me. It walks you through a distressing situation and analyzing it through a different lens to help spotlight where you might (aka are) distorting the situation and how to approach it differently.
For relaxing pre-made playlists that I can listen to as much as I need to… which is usually all day. Music soothes the beast and all that. Some of my favorite playlists are:
For staying organized. I use this for literally everything you could possibly think of. Most importantly is my This Week board but my Mindset Work and Self-Care Manual boards are equally helpful. I’ve been wanting to write a post all about these boards so if that’s something that interests you let me know and I’ll move it to the top of my list!
Creating a morning routine I can stick too
Emphasis on “stick to”. This is kind of like the whole make your bed in the morning idea except I hate making the bed, I mean I’m just going to rip out all the blankets to get comfy before bed. Anyways, the point is to give yourself a nice to start to the day and some small “wins”. These are things you can’t really mess up.
For example, my routine right now is 1) splash my face with cold water 2) brush my teeth 3) At least 10 minutes stretching 4) eat breakfast and take medication 5) Write out my goals and gratitude list. But it has been as simple as 1) Splash face 2) Eat breakfast and take medication 3) Brush teeth.
It’s very dependent on my energy levels and where I’m at mentally with depression but having a regular routine, no matter how small, makes such a difference. This is always one of the first steps and put emphasis on implementing when I realize I’m “slipping” or when I need to pick myself back up.
Calendar blocking is how I schedule my time throughout the day. It’s actually very much how it sounds – creating blocks of time throughout your calendar with each block dedicated to certain activities. I use this alongside Trello as my planning system. I have blocks for my morning routine, work hours, lunch, working on Rare Broad, cooking dinner, reading and even getting ready for bed. Amy Landino just made a really great video breaking down how you can make your own calendar blocks that work for your schedule.
Going for walks
This works for so many reasons. It gets me out of the house (which doesn’t happen very often), it gets me moving, I can breathe fresh air, absorbing sunshine and if I’m walking with someone have a conversation that gets me out of my own head. Years ago I used to walk a local trail frequently rain or shine. And one of the things I miss most about living in Brooklyn and being carless is being forced to walk everywhere. Plus, there was just so much to see every time I left the house.
One effect of depression that hits me hard is having tight sore muscles what feels like 110% of the time. The whole not leaving the house or moving from my desk much doesn’t exactly help either. So again this gets me moving but it also gets me to tune into my body, focus on my breathing and get out of my head. This is another tool I incorporate ASAP when I’m designing a depression management plan.
Journaling is something I have always struggled to stay consistent with. I’ve always wanted to be the person that wakes up and journals 3 pages everyday morning page style. But when I do sit down and pour my brain out onto the page or through the keyboard huge shifts happen. Journaling is my best therapy. I could turn over the same dilemma over in my heads for weeks or sit down to write about it and suddenly have clarity in under an hour. How I journal has evolved a lot over the years but one of my favorite tools to keep me writing is Jennifer Louden’s Life Organizer. I also successfully sat down to write every day while working through Mastin Kipp’s Claim Your Power and made a lot of breakthroughs in the process.
Less time on social media
We all know it’s true more time spent on social media = a super bummer mood. When I’m depressed I find myself mindlessly scrolling through my feed more and actually engaging with anyone way less. So I take a huge step back, usually by deleting the apps off my phone and limit the times I do check in to be around the half-hour mark.
Cleanup my social media feed
I also find this is usually the time I need to start “cleaning up” my feed by going on an unsubscribe binge. I find that I feel like I owe people a follow if I like their work or have talked to them once or twice… but the truth is I and you (!!!) don’t owe anyone shit. At least, not in terms of a follow. There are a million and two ways to follow someone online and if there social media presence sucks or it just doesn’t happen to be my thing I’ll find them somewhere else or nowhere else. Whatever… because it’s not a big deal. This also applies to the twelve thousand and two emails I subscribe to. Basically, unfollow becomes my BFF and I try to be as ruthless as possible.
Guarding my time
This is why I try to be ruthless with my unfollows and spend less time one social. Usually, if I’m starting to spiral, in the spiral or coming out of it I’ve been spreading myself really flipping thin. So I also try to cut back on as many responsibilities and expectations as I feasibly can. This might look like backing out of something, asking for someone to help pick up my slack for a little while, being okay with doing a mediocre job…or even *cringe* a “good enough” one. Depression shrinks our mental bandwidth to what can feel like microscopic levels. The ordinary and mundane become incredibly difficult and so everything above that feels damn near impossible. If I can bring everything as close to “baseline” as I can, I do.
Spending time with supportive family/friends
Depression is incredibly isolating. It will also convince you that the best thing to do is hole yourself up alone in a dark room sobbing over sliced cheese. This is one I struggle with the most but am starting to get much better at with practice. If I’m feeling really, really shitty I’ll just text someone to start a conversation. I might tell them I’m doing terrible or I might just send a funny meme. The next difficulty? Calling someone. Usually, this will be my Mom or Grandmother. And the most difficult: making plans and sticking to them. I know. I know! I like to ask my low key and/or dog-owning friends to hang out and watch a movie together. There isn’t pressure to be “on” and entertaining and, well, dogs… DUH.
As a kid, I was a voracious reader. I may or may not have read the entire youth section of the library. I was pretty damn close at the very least. These days my appetite for reading is very “feast or famine”. I can go months without reading and then read like eight books in two weeks. All that to say – I love reading. It’s my one true, consistent hobby in life. So when depression I make an effort to pick up a book.
Yoga With Adriene
Adriene motto is “find what feels good”. Her videos are always about working with where you are at and never forcing a pose or being a human rubber band. Reason ten thousand one hundred and two why I love her: she has practices designed specifically for depression and anxiety. Yes, please. She has tons of playlists so whether you want a beginner practice, something quick or to follow a series you will find it here. I really can’t recommend her videos highly enough. Just go pick one and start!
I love Fitness Blender for their website. It’s designed so that you can search all of their videos by length, difficulty, focus (arms, core, legs, etc), type (strength, stretch, cardio, etc) and then schedule them into a calendar. Then you just have to log in and the videos you schedule for that day will be right on the homepage. When you complete all of your scheduled videos for the day you get a big ole satisfying checkmark on the calendar. Their lower difficulty level workouts are just right when I have little energy but know I need to move my body.
Cassey is such a bright and bubbly person. Even though she isn’t physically in the room with me I always feel personally encouraged when watching her videos. I’ve done her beginner calendar several times. It’s perfect for coming out of a depressive slump. I also love that Cassey includes motivational messages in her videos to encourage you not just to care for your body but mentality as well–like in this thirteen-minute stretch video.
And stay tuned because I plan on updating this list with even more resources in the near future ✌