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Monday, December 15, 2014

(Unconventional) Ways To Cope With Depression

Photo by keeva999 via Flickr
There are a lot of people out there offering advice on how to cope with Depression. With all of the different techniques that you can try to relieve the symptoms of your Depression, how do you decide which ones to use?

The coping techniques that you should use are the ones that work for you. Kind of a no-brainer, right? What I mean is that just as each of our Depression experiences are unique, so too are the coping techniques that will work for us.

The majority of the advice out there pertaining to coping with Depression includes things like eating healthy, exercising, sleeping well, and using relaxation and meditation techniques. In all honesty, when I was in the midst of one of my darkest episodes of Depression, none of the standard advice was helpful (or even do-able). Exercise, eat right, and sleep regularly? Yeah, right! 

Now I’m not saying that this is bad advice. Some of the advice out there is great, and maybe it works for some people. But for me, it was as if the people giving this advice didn’t understand that when you’re spiralling out of control into a deep, dark place (called Depression), you can’t do any of the things that will make you happy.

So, here’s what I did: I did what I felt would make me feel better. I didn’t force myself to do the things that I was “supposed” to do to feel better. I did what I wanted to do.

Here is my go-to list of coping techniques that helped me through some severe episodes of Depression:

1.    Cry
2.    Sleep
3.    Eat comfort food
4.    Watch Sex and the City re-runs (or Dexter, or Family Guy…)
5.    Find yourself a helpful mantra or affirmation (mine is THIS TOO SHALL PASS)
6.    Hug or pet your cat (or dog, or bird, or snake…)
7.    If you don’t have a pet, get yourself a nice blankie (I have about 7)
8.    Reach out to someone
9.    Be kind to yourself
10. Write

I did (and still do) all of these things. Yes, sometimes they only offer a second or two of relief, but it's enough to break up the constant pain and misery of being Depressed. These things work for me, and I hope they work for you too.

What are some of your coping techniques?

Don’t forget that someone you may know may be suffering from Depression or Mental Illness in silence. Share this post throughout your social media networks, because you just never know who may need to see it.

Much love,



  1. I am one of the lucky ones that does not suffer from Depression but I too have methods for coping through the hard times. I have worked through them, walked my dog, rode my horses and I write in my journals. I agree with Rain find things that help get you through.
    Cheers, Judy.

    1. Am getting my hair done,... thinking of full body wax and maybe getting nails done if that doesn't work a massage may help or will pull out the lavander Epsom salts and vanilla candles for the tub

    2. That is so true - whether you are living with a mental illness or not, we all need things to get through the tough times. I think it's also important to explore new coping strategies, because you never know what might work!

    3. A bubble bath and some candles can do wonderful things for the soul :)

  2. I escape the feelings by reading fiction, so escaping into somebody else's world.

    1. I enjoy reading as well! Lately I have started reading books about others' experiences and journeys through mental illness. It has been a great resource for me :)

  3. I completely get where you are coming from Rain. I've had severe and persistent depression for most of my life - some of it formed from trauma in childhood and often triggered in my job as a counselor by compassion fatigue - the result of vicarious trauma many therapists and helpers experience while empathically engaged with their clients who have been traumatized and sharing their hurt and pain.

    Depression is not the same for everybody - the experience can be a mild loss of energy and interest, lack of pleasure and motivation all the way to a sense of self-fragmentation, and loss of identity in a seemingly endless, bottomless pit of emotional agony and paralysis.

    I really get when you write about how "people giving this advice didn’t understand that when you’re spiralling out of control into a deep, dark place (called Depression) you can’t do any of the things that will make you happy." In this place it is impossible to the person experiencing this kind of depression to follow so many of the suggestions offered up by others to "just snap out of it" (what my family used to tell me) or "get up and do something" or "go see a movie, be with friends", etc...

    In the depth of a severe depression you really do experience yourself as a victim - especially if you were victimized and that painful experience is part of what has formed the depression. To hear someone say "you're just playing the victim" is possibly one of the most hurtful things you can hear. Severe depression radically changes our perception of who we are at the time and how we experience our lives.

    During those dark times (and thankfully they are far and few now because I am learning to recognize the signals and take action before my depression goes into a full blown episode) there is one thing that has always worked for me; surrender (give in without giving up) to the fact that I am in a severe depression. Fighting, hating and cursing my depression makes it worse, Understand and allow the reality that at this time depression is my experience.

    Relax into myself. I will often lay down and place my left hand over my lower "tan tien" that place just below the belly button and my right hand over my heart chakra. Then breathe long, slow, deep, even soothing breaths visualizing the oxygen as energy that calms, soothes,caresses, cares and comforts by heart, mind and soul. I allow a sense of self-compassion, inner-safety and belonging begin to form inside. With each breath I can "feed" this sense of self-comfort and compassion.

    Slowly I will notice my perspective begin to change just a little bit. Rather than the depression being so heavy and dark, it lightens a little. Rather than feeling like I am going to be stuck like this forever, I can begin to glimpse memories of when I was feeling better and the glimmer of hope that I will feel like that again. Then, the realization that I have survived episodes like this in the past emerge and I will survive this one as well.

    I hope this helps and would love to be a support for others experiencing severe depression. My website is:

    1. I also experience compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma in my work in social services. It can be difficult to focus on and maintain your own recovery when trying to help others in theirs.

      I agree that when taking advice from people who have not personally experienced this bottomless pit of despair, it's hard for them to understand what we're going through, and what we need. It may seem simple to them - "snap out of it" and "just smile" may seem like reasonable solutions to an unreasonable challenge, but it just isn't that easy. I have been given some very hurtful advice while in the midst of severe Depression, and it can be crippling. Though I try to give others the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are genuinely trying to be helpful, I find that people often don't seem to understand that I don't want advice, or I don't want them to "fix" me. I just want to be heard and loved until I can love myself again.

      I too have come to "surrender" to having this illness. This does not mean giving up, it means accepting the episode, coping with it, and one day moving on.

      I haven't been able to use breathing and relaxation techniques to my advantage yet, but I hope that one day I will be able to. I do have a specific mantra, "this too shall pass", that helps me through an episode. It helps me to focus on the future, a hopeful future, as opposed to a tortured past and a tumultuous present.

      Thank you so much for your insight, Karl.

  4. I feel exactly as you do when I'm depressed, it seems that none of the professional advice even though it is good advice will help me. When I am depressed sometimes nothing but staying in bed all day helps me with my dog and cat. Sometimes I as well eat comfort food (probably why I am overweight). I try to be kind to myself although I am working on that...well, not really but I want to work on that. I do cry and I don't stop that emotion because I know if I do...I'll feel much, much worst. As for shows I try to watch comedy even old episodes of seinfield, King of Queens (my favorite), Mall Cop. Zookeeper, sometimes friends but I do get bored of that show for some reason and my new favorite the fosters because usually if I am in a slump, that helps me get my tears going then the next day I am good. Thank you for writing this. Have a good day. Jennifer