Do you ever feel overwhelmed by thoughts of self-criticism and overwhelm? When depression feels like it is engulfing me with defeatist thoughts, the conversation in my head circles around a sense of personal failure.
Today I’m reflecting on the words of my therapist, she told me I need to learn to “champion myself”.
As I write, I’m still coming to terms with what my therapist meant by these words.
Taking a long, slow inhalation I sense life is inviting you and me to move into what it feels like to demonstrate self-compassion.
Listening to the soft, silent sound of my breath I drop into my body. My mind is triggered and I begin to feel apprehensive. I remind myself that it’s okay to feel.
I am painfully aware of the body sensations pushing me into a state of feeling jarred from my body.
I return once again to my breath, using the movement of my breath to anchor me. I remind myself that I’m safe now, no need to cower or hide, I can breathe and open.
The memory triggers a flood of automatic negative thoughts, or ANT’s, along with a surge of tension.
It’s okay, I softly whispered, “thoughts are here, just thoughts”
I recalled my therapist telling me that I don’t have to believe or follow any thought. Thoughts may masquerade as facts, but often they’re not.
Self-championing begins with challenging your thoughts. Why? Because when you have depression your thoughts get filtered through a negative feedback cycle – triggered into a heightened state of anxiety.
Start to take note of your triggers. For example, disappointment is something I’m prone to, especially when I’m not managing so well.
When automatic negative thoughts (ANT’s) flood your mind 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.
Always remember: depression distorts thinking and paints a very dark picture of things. You are stronger than you think you are and every step you take in this journey reflects your true strength.
In the midst of a depressive episode, it can be difficult to actually challenge these herrible 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.