In an earlier post this year, Is Depression Hiding Your Career Path? I suggested that your passion, if you’ve lost it, might be hiding behind depression. We looked at a long list of symptoms. How many applied to you?
I think mild depression is a silent epidemic, like not-washing your hands after using the toilet, or reusing single-use makeup remover cloths. But worse.
How do you get past mild depression? In short, with self-compassion and truth. How you react to your blues can mean the difference between wasting time and making the most of an opportunity for personal growth.
Here’s how to make the most of a bout with the blues…
1. Stop struggling. Don’t think of the blues (a.k.a. “the blahs”) as a detour, but as part of the path you’re on. There’s no need to get back on track because you never left the track; you just hit a rough patch. Be patient with yourself and get curious about those blues. Are they trying to tell you something? Or is it just hormones?
I can tell when my blues are hormonal by the fact that there’s no earthly reason for them, and by how long they last; purely chemical moods don’t last more than a day with me. They clear up completely after a good night’s sleep. But until my body chemistry changes, there’s nothing for it but to go with the flow.
2. Pay attention to angry thoughts — but with curiosity, not judgment. Some say that depression is anger turned inward. Are you angry at someone? If so, allow yourself to be angry. Don’t try to figure out if you’re right to be angry. Anger is not toxic or dangerous, so relax.
It’s okay if you get this wrong. You don’t have to act on the anger. No one even needs to know you’re angry. Except you.
Not allowing yourself to consciously experience anger could lead you deeper into depression.
Try to bring any anger you find in your heart to the forefront of your mind and explain (rather than justify) it to yourself.
E.g., ‘I’m angry at my friend for losing the scarf she borrowed; I would have been more careful with her property if the situation were reversed.’
Just focus on the feeling, not the blame. Be angry. Again: You don’t need to do anything else about it, but you must at least be honest with yourself and let yourself feel the way you do.
Good people do get angry; this is not a moral issue.
3. Think of things that happened recently or long ago that you might have had troubling feelings about, but didn’t fully process. Knowing that you have a right to your feelings, is there anyone you can talk to about what happened? Having a compassionate witness who hears and empathizes can move your feelings along on the healing process.
Wallowing can be constructive. You’ve just got to make sure that you:
1) feel your feelings, rather than just thinking about them, and
2) approach the task with self-compassion rather than self-criticism.
If you’re not able to function at all for days at a time, can’t get to work, can’t be bothered to shower, eat, dress, etc., or have started making plans to kill yourself, let someone know and ask for help. These are not your common blues, but rather signs of serious depression.