If you follow me on any of my social media channels, you may have noticed that I’ve been feeling a little lower than usual these past couple of weeks – no doubt as a result of our recent cross-country move, which has left me feeling deeply unsettled and very homesick.
It’s no secret that I battle with depression, and although I’ve been coping quite well this winter (my depression has a habit of getting particularly bad during the cooler, darker months), I’ve found that these past two weeks have been really, really tough. I’ve been snappy and more irritable than usual, I’ve been avoiding phone calls every chance I get (phone calls – especially from unknown or private numbers – leave me feeling incredibly anxious, so I tend to avoid my phone during bouts of depression), and I’ve found it very difficult to get out of bed in the mornings. I also find that I’m typically a much less involved mom when I’m battling feelings of depression, and that I’m not as focused on my work as usual – all ok if it lasts for a day or two at the most, but definitely not helpful if the period of depression continues for a week or more.
This got me to thinking about all the women I know who have openly shared their stories of their struggle with depression, and the fact that the majority of these women all happen to run their own businesses as well. How do they do it? How do they cope with these dark feelings of depression, while trying to keep a business afloat at the same time? I find it incredibly difficult and often end up giving my all to the business (because = BILLS), which means that I don’t have a lot of energy or time (or anything, for that matter) left over for the people that truly matter: my husband, my son, my family, and my friends.
So I did what any modern, millennial woman would do: I headed over to Twitter and sent out a tweet, asking fellow business owners how they manage to keep their businesses on the go whilst in the throes of depression. The answers ranged from ensuring that they get enough sleep and that they exercise regularly, to allowing themselves the odd duvet day and relying on a psychologist to get them through. Although I didn’t find any new answers, what I did find was some comfort; comfort in knowing that I’m not alone, that there are other women who are facing the same daily struggles as I do, and that it’s ok to mess up every now and then.
It was a great reminder that “everyone is fighting their own battle: to be free from their past, to live in their present, and to create their future… so have heart.”
It was also the push I needed to relook my current routine and to change things up a bit – here are a few of the steps I’ve been taking to help me get out of my funk. They may seem small and insignificant, but each one of these steps has played a role in lifting my mood somewhat. They’re certainly not magic and they won’t rid you of your depression forever, but they may just help you feel that teeny little bit better about yourself and your situation. Why not pick one and give it a go today, or – if you’re really up for it – try a handful of these suggestions and see how they make you feel?
Embrace a morning routine
Ok, so this may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re depressed, but it’s a sure-fire way to start your day on a more positive note and to ensure that you don’t dive deeper into depression, thanks to feelings of worthlessness and unproductivity. I don’t know about you, but when I’m depressed, I find it really difficult to drag myself out of bed, so I often end up working from bed for days on end. Thing is, I don’t get very much done at all and the drop in productivity makes me feel even worse – I end up feeling like a lazy, worthless slob. When I feel those dark feelings sneak up on me and I’m struggling to get out of bed in the mornings, I know it’s time to start embracing a new morning routine: a couple of months ago, I started waking up at 5am to exercise every morning, but this past week I’ve been waking up earlier and spending the first hour of my day playing Lego with my son. It really doesn’t matter what you do, but try and incorporate a little time just for you – 10 minutes of meditation before checking your emails, a quick yoga flow, or simply going for a stroll around the block all work wonders at getting you out of your head and out into the world.
I hate this one. Google ‘how to manage depression’ and I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll find ‘meditate’ right at the very top of the list – and with good reason, as much as I do hate this point! To be honest, the only reason why I dislike the reminder to meditate is because I find meditation difficult, like so many other women out there. The thought of sitting still for 5 minutes and doing absolutely nothing but focus on my breath scares me – but it’s the one thing that actually works to help calm my frazzled nerves and to settle any feelings of darkness in a matter of minutes. I started meditating at the yoga studio I used to go to, and I also rely on the HeadSpace app to help me when at home. I also find this article really helpful.
Make a list
For some reason, being really productive and ticking a bunch of tasks off my to-do list goes a long way towards easing feelings of depression, so I generally start by making some sort of list: do a load of laundry, unpack the dishwasher, reply to emails, write a press release, take blog photographs… you get the picture. I like to put the most arduous and difficult tasks right at the very top of my list, and I tackle these first (these tend to be phone calls for me). I also like to set a timer to help me get through as many tasks as quickly as possible – that way, it’s a race against time and I don’t have a lot of time to think about each task. I find that this helps to eliminate any anxiety and unnecessary overthinking.
So many women I chatted to over on Twitter mentioned that the number one thing they do when they feel depressed is exercise, and it was a great reminder to myself that I need to get back into the swing of things and that I need to start working out once again. Regardless of whether it’s a quick stroll around the neighbourhood or a 10 minute yoga video on YouTube, every little bit helps.
Get out of the house
I often wonder whether the act of working from home is what causes my depression – it can be an incredibly isolating experience after all, and it can be far too tempting to stay in your pyjamas and work from bed all day long. Whenever I’m having a down day, I like to call up a friend and head out for a cup of coffee – and I pretty much always come home feeling better than I did before. If you’re having a rough week, why not set up a coffee date with a friend, or make a plan to take your kids out to do something fun? (I plan on taking Beanie to RUSH tomorrow – a great way to get rid of some pent up energy for him, and a sure-fire way to make me feel a whole lot better, too!) Having something fun to look forward to later in the week also goes a long way towards improving your mood.
As soon as my husband picks up that I’m feeling a little bluer than usual, he hauls out the Vitamin B tablets – and somehow, they always end up making me feel better! Vitamin B is fantastic for dealing with stress and I’ve found that taking Vitamin B continuously for at least a week has a huge impact on my overall mood and my ability to cope with life’s little curveballs. Give it a go and let me know if it works for you, too!
On a similar note, if you’ve been battling with depression on your own for a good few months, it may be time to book an appointment with a psychologist or psychiatrist – and if medication is going to help you, it may be worth looking into. I’ve been on anti-depressants for about two years now, and after attempting to wean myself off of them (with awful consequences), I’ve come to the realisation that they are very, very necessary for me. I’m able to handle life’s little challenges so much better when I’m on meds, and I’m a much nicer person to be around – I’m friendlier, I’m more patient, and I’m a whole lot less irritable at the best of times. (The only downside? The loss of libido – but that’s a topic for another post!)
Do something that makes you happy
During this most recent bout of depression, I did a lot of reading up on ‘how to be happier‘ and I decided to start my own little list of things that make me happy in the notes app on my phone. That way, I can look at my list and pick out something to brighten my mood anytime I’m feeling blue. Examples of little things that I’ve included on my own, personal happy list? Indulging in a mug of hot chocolate while watching Bachelor in Paradise, treating myself to one of those single-use face masks from Clicks or DisChem, listening to this song – loudly, and on repeat, going on a mini road trip, watching a feel-good film (think Picture Perfect, Notting Hill, Love Actually, and the like), starting my day by spending an hour reading a good book while sipping coffee in the sunshine… Why not start your own happy list, then pick something on your list and do it next time you’re feeling down?