I’ve been a bit quiet lately. Have you noticed? 🙂
To be honest, I wanted to reach out but I simply didn’t know what to say. Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I struggle with depression on occasion. It seems to be seasonally based, and can hit me anywhere between November through April. I never know what to expect. This year, things were cruising right along and the holidays were great. In February, I noticed an undercurrent enter…I simply felt a bit off my game, but nothing terrible.
Then March rolled around and I thought, “Oh, thank goodness! Winter is over! Now I’ll just cruise right into the Spring and Summer feeling amazing.”
That did not happen.
This Spring has been pretty cloudy, rainy and cold in Maryland, and it really surprised me when the depression reared it’s head stronger than it has in years…in March. It showed up as a lot of sadness, self-doubt, inner turmoil and I questioned everything. There were tears right behind my eyes 24/7 and everything made me cry. I could just look at my kids and well up with tears for no reason at all. I also withdrew into myself and felt uninterested in the things that normally motivate and excite me.
So I took a bit of a break from doing my usual amount of work. When I’m feeling great, I’m capable of a lot. When I need to take care of myself, I need to edit. I love what I do with such a passion that it really freaked me out to see that passion wane. I kept trying to force it to come back, but the truth is, I had no desire. Luckily, coaching was one of the things I still looked forward to. Working with my existing clients and my group managed to help me feel connected, of service and grounded, and happy. So I kept the things that were really high priorities – like coaching – but I consciously took a few things off my plate.
Through it all, I took the opportunity to examine my self-care. After all, I am the self-care queen. I talk about it incessantly, and I believe in it whole-heartedly. I leaned into self-care in a way that I haven’t done in a long time. It is always a part of my life, but I revisited certain areas in an even deeper way, making myself a priority above all else. Now that I am through the darkness, I’m reflecting back on what I did to love myself through it in hopes that this will speak to you and help you in some way.
1. Gentleness and Letting Go: Learning to be gentle with myself when I’m experiencing depression is no small feat. I still struggle with my internal voices that can be downright cruel and cranky, saying things like:
- “Snap out of it already!”
- “Why can’t you just get over this already?”
- “You don’t have time for this.”
Learning to find the balance between giving into the depression and allowing space for it is a dance. Finding compassion for yourself while you’re going through it is essential. In the beginning of this most recent experience, I was living in full denial and pushing through, thinking that if I ignored it, it would go away. I was afraid of letting certain things go; of taking a break to allow for more self-care. I worried that if I surrendered, the depression would strengthen and I would sink farther down. I also thought I was already taking great care of myself, not realizing that there was even more I was being called to do.
What I found, however, is that when I surrendered, it opened space for me to let go of the things that were draining me. So I let go of a few responsibilities which freed up time for me to spend on the things that would enhance my well-being and bring me more peace.
2. Upgrading my food choices: I’ll just say it: I survive winter by medicating with food. Over the years I’ve improved my diet drastically. However, with winter come certain coping mechanisms that are my “go-to” when it’s cold and gray. Years ago, I changed my diet in response to a health crisis. A health crisis is amazing motivation to improve one’s eating habits, and mine was no exception. The crisis is now years in the rear view mirror, my food habits forever changed and my health restored. However, time has allowed for a new voice to emerge; the one that says, “You can eat like everyone else. You’re healthy now! Go on, do it! You only live once and you deserve pleasure!”
So I found myself flirting with foods that had previously led me down a slippery slope to sugar-addiction, digestive issues, fatigue and more. My old health issues were creeping back in, chaperoned by the depression. As I write this, I’m wondering how closely the depression is linked to the crummy eating habits I engaged in over the winter. My guess is that there is a direct connection. There is quite a bit of evidence linking depression to processed and refined foods.
Once the depression really set in, it prompted me to take action and reel in my wayward eating. Listening to the wake-up call, I started a cleanse and got rid of all the junk in my diet. For the past three weeks, I’ve been focusing on nourishing my body and bringing it back to balance with whole foods. My body has been thanking me with more energy, better sleep, and improved digestion.
3. Engaging in things I love: Freeing up my time gave me the gift to focus on things I love. One of my motto’s is: When in doubt, engage in pleasure.
- I deepened my spiritual practice
- I overhauled my garden and planted tons of fruits and veggies
- I started meditating again
- I reawakened my Reiki practice
- I restarted my yoga practice and left the house more to attend Nia class
- When the sun was out, so was I
- I went on walks in my neighborhood and spent more time hiking our local trails
- I called on friends and started socializing (I had isolated myself and withdrawn)
- I journaled
- I read fiction (instead of the non-fiction I typically read)
Today, as I stare at the unbelievably gorgeous blue sky, and listen to the birds sing as I sit on my porch in the warm sun, I am happy to say that it has lifted. I feel motivated again. I feel alive again. I feel like me again.
I wish I knew if the depression lifted because of all the self-care I’ve implemented. It’s possible that it simply passed, but regardless, I’m grateful that the sun in shining again, both outside and in my soul.
I’m grateful for the past couple of months because in many ways, it brought me back to myself. It reminded me of things that I had forgotten. Without it, I would not have come back to my meditation or yoga practice. Without it, I wouldn’t have improved my eating habits. Without it, I wouldn’t have come back to practicing Reiki. These were the gifts brought to me through my struggle. I’m grateful.
I’ll leave you with a few questions:
1. What parts of your own self-care routine have fallen through the cracks?
2. How deep is your spiritual practice? Are you focused on centering and grounding yourself daily?
3. What is one change you can make that would improve your peace of mind or bring you more joy?
4. Are you being gentle with yourself and providing for your own needs? Or are you pushing your needs aside, thinking them unimportant or unworthy of your time?
As always, I would love to hear from you, so please comment below to let me know your thoughts and take-aways.
P.S. If you know of someone who could benefit from this, please forward with love.
P.P.S. As always, if you are experiencing depression or in need of help, please see a psychiatrist or a therapist. There is nothing to be ashamed of and depression is something that you should not go through on your own.