The phone rang. I lifted my head up off the tear-soaked pillow and searched for the phone under a mess of tissues and blankets.
Hello, I said, doing my best to sound as if I hadn’t just finished crying.
Hey man, how are you doing today?
Damn him. I felt the tears welling back up, begging to be released.
*cough* I’m ok. You know…just taking it one day at time.
But I hadn’t been able to take it one day at a time for weeks now. My world had been shrink-wrapped and all I could manage was to pray that the next 60 seconds wouldn’t send me over the edge. Minute by minute, hour by hour.
I wasn’t battling my depression; I was trying to survive it.
Depression is terrifying. It looks like sadness, feels like exhaustion, sounds like defeat, but in truth it’s a monster much bigger than the sum of its parts.
I had encountered it on a smaller scale half a dozen times growing up. However, this last time it didn’t hold anything back. Yes, circumstances were difficult: unemployment, relationship troubles, and health problems among other things. But for those of you who have ever faced depression you know that it can seem like it towers over every area of your life, regardless of circumstances.
I wracked my brain for months on how to get out of depression. I read books on the subject, watched videos, and even attended professional counseling. Some things helped, most didn’t.
Now, after a year of being depression-free I can see that I was aiming at the wrong goal.
I was consumed with the idea that I had to get out of my depressed state. That if I could just escape somehow then I would finally be “normal” again. It doesn’t work that way.
What I learned was that you don’t get out of depression, you get the depression out of you.
My counselor described it like this. We all have a cup. This cup is filled with the different parts of our life. We get depressed when the cup is filled with more bad than good.
I want to offer you some ways of filling the cup back up with good stuff. The more good you put in, the more bad stuff gets pushed out. This is not a magic cure, just one human talking to another.
1. Read Positive Influences: quotes, non-fiction and fiction books, uplifting stories from the new paper. Show your mind over and over again that there are good things happening in the world.
2. Listen To Uplifting Music: This does not necessary mean religious music. Anything that’s upbeat and can put a smile on your face will do. Just make sure the lyrics are putting good material into your mind.
3. Find Good Atmospheres: I had to force myself out of the house during my month of depression, and it only got more difficult towards the end. But this is also one of the most effective ways to speed up your recovery. Find places you enjoy being with people you enjoy being around and spend time there. Even when you feel like your going to break down, go to the bathroom – cry it out – then come back and stay another hour. Just the presence of certain people can help cure a damaged mind.
4. Talk About Anything: A lot of the time I had no idea what was wrong or what I was actually sad about. I just felt heavy and dark. Find someone who will listen to you without having to offer advice or cast judgment. Talk about anything; just get your mind active in speaking. It will help loosen its grip on the heaviness.
5. Exercise Your Body: During those difficult months my body felt as if it had picked up an extra 100lbs. Even doing everyday tasks had grown exhausting. How was I supposed to exercise? Truth is this really does help. Start small. Walk around the block twice a week. Spend 5 minutes in the morning stretching. These small blocks of activity will give your body and mood a kickstart in the right direction.
6. Sleep Whenever Possible: Trying to sleep a full 8 hours during my depression was impossible. I’d wake up after 3 or 4 and then feel guilty about not being able to rest. Don’t beat yourself up. Sleep whenever you can. If that’s a few hours a night mixed with a nap or two during the day, that’s fine. If you need supplements to help you sleep, ask the doctor and don’t feel bad. Sleep is a scarce friend when depression hits, so welcome its presence when available.
These are all things within your control. Coming to grips with the fact that circumstances are always changing and that we cannot control the world is a huge step towards feeling better and bouncing back.
Focus on the things you can control. Food, exercise, conversation, your free time. Chip away at your depression, activity by activity, and take your life back inch by inch.
The depression slowly grew over time, before I felt like I was completely consumed by it. In the same way it will take time to shrink back down again. Be patient and believe that there is a better tomorrow down the road.
I promise you, you will be happy again. And you will be stronger.
If you’ve faced depression, what things helped you survive and overcome that period of your life?
About the author: David Ramos is a serial blogger and author of the upcoming book Builder Chaser Dreamer. His goal in writing and sharing what he has learned is to become a dream enabler – helping people create the lives they want from the passions they have. Read more of David’s writing on his blog.
Increasing Self-Esteem and Happiness: 8 Steps to a Fulfilled Life
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” ~Buddha
A few nights ago I did a search on Google Ad Words to compare the words “self-esteem” and “happy.” I discovered that over 55 million people search for the word “happy” every month, whereas just 800,000+ people search for “self-esteem.”
Okay, I get it; we just want to be happy. But in order to be happy we need the foundation first, and the key ingredient is a healthy self-esteem. Once we increase our self-esteem, happiness comes with it.
Creating a healthy sense of self-esteem might mean tons of work for some of us. It all starts with disciplining our thoughts.
When I was in my twenties I was as far away from understanding this as you can imagine being. I used to think I was the ugliest person on the planet. I went through two terrible depressions, and I even contemplated suicide.
All of this happened because I lacked gratitude for being alive, and I struggled with self-acceptance, discipline, and forgiveness. I had trouble forgiving myself because I would be too tough on myself whenever I made a mistake, and I had trouble forgiving others because I used to take things too personally, when in reality what other people say is a reflection of them, not me.
Growing up I didn’t develop confidence in my ability to create change. I was “allowing things to happen to me” instead of “making things happen for me.”
The last time I was depressed was 12 years ago. I could have died after taking a whole box of sleeping pills. After that I finally realized how ungrateful and selfish I had been by only focusing on myself.
I decided to take 100% responsibility for my life because the idea of dying was scarier than the idea of living. If I was going to live, I decided I will do it in the best possible way.
And I did. In the process I laid a strong foundation for high self-esteem and ultimately became much happier.
Now, I love my life, I’m extremely grateful, and I continually learn how to keep improving as a human being while also teaching what I learn.
Being the woman I am today doesn’t mean I never get sad, or that I never have problems.
Being happy with who you have become, being grateful for the opportunity to live and for all you’ve experienced so far, being open to teaching and helping others helps you to deal better with challenges that life puts into your journey.
Life is a cycle: sometimes everything is great and sometimes everything falls apart in a matter of seconds. But we can choose to see each experience as something that will help us grow and become wiser.
My conclusion after years of self-growth work is that a high self-esteem equals a high level of happiness, which leads to a fulfilled life. The keys?
It takes discipline to direct your thoughts to love, to increase your good habits, and to look after your body and soul every day.
One way to increase your discipline is to write down the “why’s.” Ask yourself, why it is important to improve the quality of your thoughts?
How would you feel having more loving thoughts? How would you feel if most of your thoughts were self-hating? Can this be a compelling reason? How would your life change if you treated your mind as sacred? How would life be if you treated it with respect?
I used to have very low self-discipline, but step by step I kept improving it because I found compelling reasons to do so. Find your “why’s” and start with the first step. Today.
Ask your family and friends for support, join a community, or seek professional help as you work toward increasing your self-esteem. Alone we won’t get anywhere.
Choose a mantra that will guide you through this process and repeat it three times a day (thirty times each time). One of my favorite mantras is “Every day I am better in every area of my life.”
We can’t always avoid negative people; they are everywhere. But you can choose to surround yourself with people who support you and encourage you to be a better human being, while you also do the same for them; and you can create some distance in relationships where this isn’t the case.
Trust that by creating some distance, you will make space for more healthy relationships. Give yourself the opportunity to be surrounded by great souls. You won’t be alone, I promise.
Every day is a new life. It’s not that hard to be grateful when everything is okay. The tough part comes when you need to continue being grateful during hard times.
When I’m feeling down I thank my body for being able to breathe, I thank my eyes for being able to see, I thank my hands for being able to create, and I thank my values for leading me toward positive experiences.
Write down everything you are grateful for and read it every morning or any time you’re feeling low.
By practicing gratitude for parts of yourself you may otherwise not think to acknowledge, you will value more who you are, and this will help you to create a higher sense of self-love.
By learning to not worry so much about the past and the future, you can start focusing on the moment, seeing each day as a new opportunity to do your best.
By being in the present you will have more confidence because you’ll know that whatever negative experience you had in the past does not have to repeat itself. You will feel empowered to create a compelling future regardless of what’s happened before, which will strengthen your sense of self-worth.
When you’re feeling helpless, go out and help someone else. Perhaps you can join a non-profit to volunteer your skills.
This will allow you to see other realities, which will help you appreciate how fortunate you really are. It will also make you more confident because you will feel you can add great value to others in need.
We are not alone; we are all connected. Whenever I find myself trusting only my own strengths, I get insecure. But if I have done all that I could in a particular situation and then I also trust that the universe is supporting me, insecurities go away and miracles happen.
Get out there, do the best you can, and allow the universe to give you a hand.
I’d love to know what your challenges with self-esteem and happiness are! Will you take these important steps? What else would you add to this list?