Psychological First Aid
Just like so many people, I’ve been through the ringer. I’ve fallen prey to depression as a young girl, adolescent, single young woman, new wife, and run down mom. It seems that I’ve always been prone to depression. Post pardon, post breakup, mid-life crisis, and more…. It’s something that I’ve been blessed to put an end to many times, but not something I’ve ever been able to lose for good (yet).
My depression has shown itself in many different times and varying degrees. The kind where I just wanted to stay home alone in the dark for a weekend to where I couldn’t even get out of bed to take care of my kids for a full week. My holes of darkness have been filled with tears, hurt, confusion and utter helplessness. It’s not something I’d wish on my worst enemy, and I hope no-one ever goes through this without someone to turn to, but the truth is that so often people do.
Over the years, and mostly during the better days, I’ve written down notes and suggestions on how to kick my depression to the curb when it hits and ways to support myself (& my family) while going through it. I have yet to learn how to completely avoid it….. but I’m still trying!
Here is the guide I’ve made to help me get out of the darkness, I hope it may help you too. (I keep this in my wallet, by my bedside & a copy in my hubbys wallet too). When I feel the twinge of sadness creeping in, the heavy weight of overwhelm take hold of my breath or just feel like I’d like to be more me, I pull out this paper and go down the list.
Steps I must take to help get through the hopelessness:
Watch lots of funny movies and tv shows.
When I’m feeling too many overwhelming emotions (or none at all really) I need something uplifting, something not real (& not at all similar to my real life like dramas). So I go for funny. Like Big Bang Theory funny or Wayne’s World funny or cats falling asleep in their food bowls funny.
Funny. Funny. Funny.
Laughing, they say is the best medicine & it usually doesn’t take me long to crack a smile. I don’t always feel better after a half hour show, but that’s why it’s a must as often as possible.
Go for a run.
When I quit smoking 7 years ago I took up running. (crazy I know), but running was the only thing that kept me from lighting up. It got rid of the stress and frustration, the feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, and it does the same to this day. When I’m feeling like my life is hanging by a thread or I just can’t adult anymore…. I run. And if I can’t get out of bed, I keep a post-it note near me that reminds me how amazing and different and happy I feel after a run. Then I fall out of bed, into my running shorts and promise myself that I can come back after a block if it doesn’t work. Sometimes I come back in 15 min, sometimes I come back in an hour. Either way it’s a win for me.
It’s scientifically proven to improve mood. Endorphins charging through the muck and sludge, it cheers you up.
Listen to uplifting podcasts.
The same could be said for music (but make sure it’s uplifting and not sad, sappy teenage heartbreak stuff). I have a few podcast and power ladies in particular that, when I listen to them, they seem to empower me. Empowerment is crucial to getting out of the funk. Empowerment to the point where I have no choice but to get off my ass! Sometimes it’s just enough energy and self love to get dressed (maybe even wash my hair or brush my teeth) I need the confidence they have in me desperately when I’m depressed. They lovingly share their confidence, empowerment and love with a passion that I admire.
As a nutrition junky, I also am very aware that supporting my body with key nutrients is huge when it comes to overcoming the darkness. Sometimes I need an extra boost with supplementing (I have a list on the fridge of what my family takes daily for supplements, but I have a special *note on the back when myself or anyone is feeling anxious, stressed or depressed).
Ways to support myself nutritionally:
Double my B-12 & B3
The B Vitamins group are our energy team, they give us energy, keep us moving and help in a host of other ways. When we’re stressed, this group tends to get exhausted (like us) and we need more. Doubling up on this vitamin is safe to do for short duration as it’s water-soluble (which means that any excess we have just gets excreted in our urine, which is also known to turn a brighter yellow so don’t fret), just make sure not to take it after mid-late afternoon as it may keep you up all night!
Therapeutically Magnesium is used to treat stress, fatigue, pms symptoms and muscle cramps. Symptoms of deficiency include stress, mental problems, migraines, irritability, personality changes, tiredness, irregular heartbeat, loss of hair and more. Sounds familiar to other symptoms when you’re feeling down? It’s common to be low on this supplement as the general public tends to be short on supply. A nice cup of warm water and some fizzy Magnesium right before bed can help calm you and set you off to lalaland. This is especially helpful for me as I tend to sleep a lot (I mean A LOT, like 10-15 hours), when I’m really depressed. It’s not always restful, but Magnesium is a the reason I can recover sooner.
Up my Vitamin C
Think of Vitamin C as a sunshine pill, it not only helps with our state of mind, but it’s depleted quickly when we’re stressed out too. Vitamin C is actually needed by humans everyday (we are the only ones that can’t make it ‘in house’), and the amount that’s absorbed by our bodies at one time is small, so get some yummy chewables and take them throughout the day. This vitamin also helps our body repair some of the damage that is caused by excess stress we go through too.
Eliminate processed, sugary foods & alcohol
This seems like a no brainer, but never-the-less, everything I’m stressed or depressed I find myself enjoying a small pint of Ben & Jerry’s and a big ol glass of red. I’ll admit it calms me and makes me feel like everything is going to be ok, but like clockwork it takes me on a roller-coaster of emotions and drops me 12 feet at the end. I’m physically, emotionally and nutritionally exhausted and the guilt doesn’t let me forget that I just polished off all that ice cream! If I do have an appetite at all (because sometimes I just don’t), I try to at least get in some fresh green juices, eat fresh, raw fruits and veggies (because they’re packed with so much goodness).
I have found that having a cheat sheet to help me get though these rough times has been a lifesaver not only for me and my recovery, but also for my family, who has to live with this too. I mean come one, it affects them because it affects me! My kids have even, ever so sweetly offered to help start prepping dinner if I need to go for a run! They all understand that with their support I can bounce back better, stronger and sooner than if I had to deal with this all alone. Family after all is a team sport, and we all have to support each other.