In part two of her series on mental health, Brodie Chapman shares with us some of her tips for how to recognise a bad mental state and her tips for combating it.
Feeling ‘depressed’ one or a few days when life hasn’t been too kind is something all of us experience.
Being in a longer term state of clinical depression feels like you’re being trapped in an indefinite depression and that this will always be the way it is.
This feeling of your fragile mental state being inescapable, or the status quo, isn’t the ideal way to experience life. Feeling melancholy at times is okay,as it’s just another emotional experience, but questioning your will to live and slowly cutting off meaningful relationships and hobbies as a result of your mental state is really not.
Because you feel so hopeless you go around looking for things that affirm your beliefs about the world and yourself. This negative bias towards life keeps you in the warped reality of depression, and makes it harder to believe there is a true way out.
Although you may be averse to good news, here it is!
You are not a unicorn.
You are human like everyone else and although your experience feels extremely lonely and unique. It’s a human experience. The good thing is, there are people in your position who have healed from it and come out of the depths of sadness alive and thriving.
Before I share my resources, which have personally helped me, I must stress; the best step is to actually find a professional who can help you.
There are free resources such as Lifeline who you can just call in the moment you need it. They have heard your story before. I’m sure of it. I have seen numerous psychologists throughout my life depending on my accessibility and circumstances
Here are my tips for how I have worked through my dark times.
Try and understand your own behaviour and attitudes.
This has helped me a lot. By listening to podcasts and talks from expert psychologists, neuroscientists and counsellors. Or reading blogs and inquiring into my own state of mind would help me feel less ‘responsible and hopeless’ and more in a position to help myself and be compassionate towards my experience. Literally using Google to ask
“Why do I < insert behaviour > ?” Or “tips for feeling <insert feeling> And filtering through the things I find helpful there.
Go and get amongst nature
Literally get out of your bed and put your feet in grass. Move yourself out of the situation. Go swim. Walk through a field or a park or botanic gardens. You don’t have to look far to find research that proves the benefits of spending time in nature for your nervous system.
Just start. Ride 500m ride 5km ride 50km. My psychologist once said to me “you can’t clean mud with mud” as in, you can’t out think or try to rationalise yourself out of your depressive or anxious thoughts sometimes.
You are at a point where relying on willpower or motivation to change isn’t going to work. You need to change your immediate environment and connect with your body. Connecting with your body gets you out of your head.
Of course, when you are feeling super low, anything that takes a small effort can feel like a massive effort. So all you have to do is start, the smallest of things can make a difference.
Do 5 minutes of stretching, instead of committing to a 60 minute session of hot Vinyasa Yoga because that’s what an influencer said saved her from depression. Move from your office chair to the office window. Move from the couch to a chair outside on the grass. Lie on the grass. Move from being hunched over crying at the fridge to a hot steamy shower with a quick rush of cold at the end for some good old fashioned sensations.
Help another in need
Research shows that a great way to get out of your own way is to direct your energy into helping others less fortunate. Volunteer with an organisation and although the initial effort might feel hard, over time these experiences will offer perspective, connection, a sense of purpose and so on. Things we seem to miss when we are in a state of depression.
If you can’t get outside to physically volunteer, educate yourself extensively about a cause you care about and make an effort to donate, raise awareness or put a plan in action to how you can one day become involved.
Talk to yourself as if you were talking to a dear friend. Honestly, the cruelty you inflict upon yourself, the berating self-talk, the body shaming, the harshness…would you do this to a friend? Probably not, otherwise you wouldn’t last long as a friend. Approach yourself with the same compassion, softness and understanding you would a dear friend.
Write down helpful not harmful coping strategies:
A good therapist can help unpack some really good coping strategies, and chances are you already know what will help you, a therapist just knows the right questions to ask and how to turn them into habits you will stick with. There is not one size fits all for this so try to brainstorm what might help you.
Here are some tips that work for me
First, PAUSE, before you dive headfirst into something.
- Cry and scream into a pillow with sad music on to draw out those deep feels. Sometimes you just need to fully feel what you are feeling instead of trying to escape it. Don’t resist it. Release it.
- Watch dance or creative art/satisfying videos on YouTube. Something that doesn’t require too much thought on your behalf. Let yourself be purely entertained.
- Put on really loud upbeat music and eventually you can’t help but feel good and dance around
- Call someone, anyone, and just start talking about anything.
- Go swim in a lake or a pool, dam, small stream or the ocean.
- Bake something and make a huge mess with no care for how the process looks and then clean it all up and enjoy the thing you baked and clean up everything and present your baked goods on a nice plate.
The following resources are some of my most cherished and helpful in the mental health sphere:
- Tara Brach; Author, psychologist, speaker and podcaster: amazing practical concepts who I have been listening to and reading for years
- Andrew Huberman: to help you understand your brain
- This comic: for some comical relatability.
Sometimes I feel as if mental ill health is still stigmatised amongst athletes and people in a position of privilege feel as though they ‘shouldn’t’ have anything to complain about.
But the thing is, athletes, actors, and objectively ‘successful’ people’s brains are still susceptible to disarray. It’s not about comparing “how bad” it is between people, but understanding it’s each person’s lived experience.
You can still be all of these things and still experience anxiety and depression. You can still be a great parent and fast cyclist and good employee while experiencing this. However it will need to come with a little softness towards yourself while you work through it.
If you, or a friend need help there are services available such as Lifeline. Lifeline is Australia’s leading suicide prevention service – 13 11 14 or text them on 0477 13 11 14