As Chief Everything Officer, sometimes the weight of our daily lives can be a little too much. Perhaps we are caring for an aging parent. Perhaps our child is suffering, doing poorly in school or being bullied. Maybe we have a relative fighting our foreign wars and we long for peace. Maybe the sight of one more load of laundry makes us want to go back to bed and wake up when our kids can do their own laundry. Whatever the cause, we may feel deflated, barely able to meet our daily responsibilities, let alone start anything new.
At times like this, the top priority is self care and energy replenishment. It’s so important to figure out what you need in the present moment and do your best to meet that need — even if that laundry doesn’t get done or your kids have chicken nuggets and fries again.
These are a few strategies that I find useful. I hope a few of them help you too!
1. Eat a cream cheese and strawberry toaster strudel.
What I really mean by this is “count your blessings”. But that has been said so many times that it sounds completely trite. But if you strip away the platitude and focus on the message, it may be helpful.
Depression feels like the cold quiet fog I sometimes run into when I’m out driving early in the morning. I’ll be cruising along a road and it will go down a gentle incline near a creek and suddenly I’ll find myself deep into a fog. Everything I was seeing or feeling or thinking about goes right out of the window. All of my senses are filled with the fog, it is all-encompassing. I can barely see the road. I’m so disoriented, until a traffic light shines through the fog and I think, “This is where I am, I know where I am going, just another mile and I’ll turn right and be fine”.
Something that you are truly grateful for can be the “traffic light” that reorients you. The trick is that it has to be something that you actually feel grateful for, not something that other people are grateful for or that you think you should be grateful for.
So getting back to my toaster strudel. I ate one of those last week after a year of abstaining because I thought they were too processed and too fattening. And I could not believe how delicious it was. I ate it very slowly, thinking how wonderful it is that I live in a modern miracle of a world where, for a couple of dollars, I can pop one of these strudels in the toaster oven and be treated to such a delectable concoction in a few minutes. The crispy flaky coating, the sugary glaze I’ve drizzled over it, the sweet creamy cream cheese mixing with the strawberry flavor — I ate it slowly, savoring every bite.
So what do you truly appreciate? Is it your dog? What specifically about your dog? The way he runs to greet you at the door? The way his tail wags when you walk into a room? The way he curls up on his dog bed by your feet when you are watching television? Recall all of the details as closely as you can. Try to relive them, or better yet, go find your dog and sit next to him and pet him and think about all of these things.
2. Change the scenery.
I don’t mean hop a plane to Fiji, although that would certainly work! Any change of physical location can help. If you are in your house trying to get work done, maybe go to a coffee shop or to a library. If you are feeding the kids breakfast in the kitchen, maybe pack them up and go for a long walk. The idea is to get your brain off of autopilot, to add new ingredients for your senses and mind to process so your brain can hopefully give you a new emotional output to replace the blues.
3. Connect with someone.
It’s wonderful if you have that best friend you can reach out to for a soul cleansing and rejuvenating phone call. But absent that, is there anyone you can think of that you could call or meet for lunch or coffee? Even if it isn’t someone you feel especially close to, connecting with a casual friend can still give you a morale boost. If you aren’t feeling very chatty, just be a good listener and ask a few questions to keep the conversation going. By nurturing some of your casual friendships, you may turn them into close friendships down the road.
4. Move your body.
One of the things about the blues is that everything slows down and feels heavy — your body, your very thoughts. Getting your heart pounding and your blood flowing is a great strategy for fighting the blues. In my fog analogy, I think of it as stepping on the gas pedal when I am driving through the fog — I get beyond it faster.
So why does it work? Apparently heart-pumping exercise can release endorphins and chemicals that promote well-being.
Honestly I don’t think I exercise hard enough to experience an endorphin release, but on my long walks with my dog, I am usually reminded of things I appreciate, I am experiencing a change in scenery, and I am connecting in a positive way with someone (pets count!) on my walk.
We’ve all heard this many times before, usually as part of advice to practice meditation. For years kind of rolled my eyes, I didn’t understand and couldn’t imagine how it would be useful. I thought, “I breathe every day, why would breathing a little deeper and thinking about my breath matter?”
But then I took a Tai Chi class, and was introduced to a Qigong meditation called “Small Universe”. I was shocked at how calming and energizing this practice was. It’s a form of breathing where you visualize your breath being pulled through your body in a circle.
More specifically, I take a deep breath, and as I do so, I visualize my breath being pulled through the top of my head. Then I exhale slowly, and visualize it being pushed out of my forehead. Then I inhale deeply, and visualize my breath being pulled in through my forehead, and as I exhale, I push it out through my nose, and so on. I continue to pull the breath in and out through various spots down the front of my torso, and then up the back of my torso and my head, completing the loop at the top of my head.
If you are interested, you can learn more about “Small Universe” at this website, Energy Gates Qigong.
Once I discovered the value of my breath through “Small Universe”, it was much easier to try meditations and practice mindfulness using my breath to calm and center me.
If you’ve been feeling blue for a couple of weeks, or are seriously depressed, please go to a medical professional today and get help. Depression is like a leech sucking on your soul, feeding on your life force. You need to get rid of that so please go get some help. And if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm, please click this link and talk to someone at the suicide prevention hotline.
That’s it for now. Let me know in the comments if any of these strategies help you, and if you have your own.