The inclination to push through a low mood when all you’re doing is feeling worse by the day is completely counter-productive. As your concentration lapses, your energy depletes and you become aware of falling behind, you feel even worse. It may be tempting to do more and for longer but the harder you push the longer it will take you to heal. You are not in a good place so it’s time to lift your foot off the gas and apply the brakes.
I say apply the brakes for a reason. Simply lifting your foot off the gas implies a gradual slowing down, but this really isn’t what you need; it’s far better to simply stop. I’m a realist however and I know this is easier for some people than others. Even so, when I say rest I’m ideally talking about the kind of all embracing rest you’ve probably not been used to for a long time. It means taking time off work, cancelling the meetings, getting help to manage the kids, and perhaps even getting away completely so that it’s harder still to connect with those commitments.
If you’re fortunate enough to take time off work and don’t have the demands of young children or perhaps an elderly relative requiring high levels of caregiving, it may appear you’ve got recovery in the bag. Not so fast. Depression isn’t just about stopping. There’s little point sitting in a chair ruminating on all the things you should be doing. Under-sleep typically comes with depression and this is something to remedy. In the early hours your mind is probably still churning, fueled by negative energy that feeds your self-criticism. What’s the answer?
Time is certainly one of the healers. You’re running on depleted reserves but you need to do enough to displace those nagging doubts and ruminations. It’s really a case of finding things to do that don’t challenge your brain or body too much. Now might be the time to organize your music collection, or catch up with that TV series, or read a book. But be aware that this isn’t an indulgence. You may even find that trying to organize an A-Z of your DVDs is too much effort. Your inner voice then pecks away at you, telling you how pathetic you’ve become. It’s simply a manifestation of your condition. If it’s too much, let it go.
Depression is an intensely inward looking experience and some of the conclusions you draw may be flawed as a result. Guilt over a lack of feelings for others is common. Your sex drive may collapse for a while. Your diet and sleep pattern may be disrupted. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t make rash decisions about selling up or moving out. Allow yourself time to rest. You may find that you recover much more quickly than you first imagine.
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Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.