Gripped by a paralyzing sense of complete exhaustion, the conversation in her head circled around how she had failed again.
Intercepting the mental siege, I reminded her to breath.
“It’s okay”, I whispered, “you are doing your best”
She had decided to try something new, not out of desperation but as an experiment.
Suddenly, she recalled the words of her therapist,
“You need to learn to champion yourself”.
She had no idea what her therapist had meant by this phrase but resolved to take the first step.
She began to focus on the soft, silent sound of her breath.
At the same time, she began to observe her thoughts. She immediately recognized these nagging thoughts. Her therapist had warned her about them and it took all her resolve not to follow these taunts. Called automatic negative thoughts, or ANT’s, her therapist had told her to challenge these thoughts.
Focusing on her breath she declared, “thoughts are here, just thoughts”
An automatic negative thought told her she had failed again and she reminded herself, “a depressed mind is prone to unrealistic expectations, it’s totally okay – in fact it’s perfectly human to fail and make mistakes”.
She felt a little more space opening up in her mind.
When depression hits hard, the impulse is to curl up and retreat into a tight little ball. Layered on top of the physical stress, the mental conversation tends to trip into a nasty cycle of automatic negative thoughts. This automatic, split-second response can very quickly escalate into a full-blown anxiety attack.
That’s why if you are being hit hard with depression it’s so important to attempt to interrupt the cycle. Notice I chose the word attempt because depression will interpret things differently, it will say things that aren’t true.
Start to take note of your triggers. For example, disappointment is something I’m prone to, especially when I’m not managing so well. Begin to notice the automatic negative thoughts (ANT’s) and remind yourself not to follow them.
Here’s what you can do to champion yourself when depression gets you down
Stay with your natural breath for a few moments
2. Become aware of your physical body
Follow your breath as it flows into your body and gradually begin to notice your body sensations. This step can feel uncomfortable, stick with it
3. Notice your thoughts
Continue to focus on your breathe, while also noticing any thoughts that are popping up in the mental conversation. Remember you are stronger than your thoughts and you don’t have to follow them. Challenge any negative automatic thoughts or NAT’s in a factual way by seeing if there is any validity to them. In other words, can the thought be factually proved, or is is it based on you are currently feeling?
4. Move or Stretch your body
As you continue focusing on your breath, gently move and stretch your body. Imagine life energy is flowing into your whole body as your breath starts to regulate and settle into a natural rhythm.
Stay with this breath exercise for a few moments. Imagine or get a sense of dropping into, or coming home to, your body.
Other things you can do to champion yourself:
- have a glass of water
- get some fresh air and sunshine
- make a warm, comforting drink
- make yourself a hot water bottle
- wrap yourself in a blanket or simply bring your arms around yourself to gently self-soothe your body
- listen to some soothing music or ambient sounds
- call a friend or family member and let them know how you’re feeling
Be Kind to Your Mind
When depression hits hard, it can be difficult not to completely collapse into the overwhelm. Cue intrusive thoughts. The mind tries to reason, “if I can just sort myself out, it will be okay”. But depression isn’t about sorting yourself out. Depression is a serious and debilitating clinical condition. That’s why it’s imperative to by kind to yourself.
In the midst of a depressive episode, it can be difficult not to actually believe those terrible thoughts. Please always remember, you are stronger than you think you are, and you are not alone.
What do you do when depression hits hard, is there anything you would you like to add to the conversation?
What was your biggest takeaway from this post. Have I missed anything important? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Always remember: depression does not define you. You are stronger than you think you are and every step you take in this journey reflects your true strength.
IMPORTANT PLEASE READ: While I share my personal experiences with depression, I am not a therapist or health professional. Bravely She Blogs is not intended as medical or therapeutic advice. For immediate help please call one of the support lines below.
Depression Support Lines
Mind infoline on 0300 123 3393 (9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday)
Samaritans on 116 123 (UK), 116 123 (ROI) for confidential support
If you are based in the US, you can call the Crisis Call Center at 1-800-273-8255 at any time of the day