How Being Kind to Yourself Can Keep Depression At Bay

We all have bad days.

Yesterday, I was drop-dead tired. I had a busy, out-of-the-ordinary-schedule week, and we topped it off with a night of over-stimulation. Think crowds, hot sun, and loud music. Don’t get me wrong — I had a great time. I like Great Big Sea, I like my friends and family that I hung out with, and I loved the blue, blue sky with the gigantic, dramatic clouds sweeping from horizon to horizon, like giant bands encircling the earth.

But here’s the thing I’ve learned about me: as much as I enjoy those things, they exhaust me. They leave me tired from laughing so much, from seeing so much; by the end of the evening, I was a happy and incoherent mess. And yesterday was my recovery day from the overstimulating week.

I was drained. All day long, even after a great nap in the afternoon, I felt sleepy. I read a book, and I did as little as I possibly could. I tried to recharge.

By the end of the day, I was starting to feel guilty. I began to wonder if I was getting depressed again, since I couldn’t get out of my funk. I was dragging, and then I started worrying. Oh no! I don’t get like this in the summer! This is a disaster! 

Pretty soon, I started to feel more than just tired; I felt horrible about myself. The worries and inner recriminations made the day worse. They added a weight to my exhaustion.

But then I remembered one of my coping skills:

Give yourself a break.

be kind to yourself

And instead of going down that road of guilt and shame and worry, I reminded myself: you’re tired. You’re allowed to be tired. It doesn’t mean you’re spiraling into depression. It means you’re tired. 

It’s important to be able to recognize our triggers. These are the things that make us feel as if our world is falling apart, as if we’re going down a dark road that will never end. It’s tempting, when the triggers are present, to assume that all is lost.

But all is not lost. 

You’re allowed to have bad days, and let them simply be one bad day.

Tomorrow will be better, as long as you can let it be.

Get to know your triggers. Keep a journal, if you need to. Identify the things — activities, foods, people, ambiance — that make you feel drained and less able to cope with life in healthy ways.

Some of mine are

  • Over-stimulation (I’m an introvert. I need quiet to recharge, or else my brain goes crazy. This is an actual, physiological thing that happens in the brain chemistry.)
  • Sugar
  • Hormones (PMS is wonderful. Not.)
  • Not eating frequently enough.
  • Reading depressing books, even if they’re really well written.
  • Music that makes me feel melancholy.
  • Exhaustion, either from over-stimulation or lack of sleep .

When I know that one of those things are present, I have two choices: I can either beat myself up for feeling horrid and tell myself that it’s the end; I’m depressed again. Or I can give myself a break. I can tell myself, It’s okay. Take today to recharge. Tomorrow will be better after you’ve had a rest. The kitchen is a mess, yes, and the kids are eating crackers, but you can clean tomorrow. You can cook tomorrow. 

Learning to recognize the triggers means that we can give ourselves grace. Having a trigger present means we need to attend to our needs: eat something, get some sleep, take a day when we do the bare minimum to get by. Give ourselves permission to be imperfect that day and not have it mean that our life is falling apart.

It’s so tempting to start beating myself up about being a bad mom on those days. I want the best for my kids, and sometimes I feel like that’s not me. But that’s a lie. No mom is perfect. Every parent needs to have moments when they’re not “on.” And so do the kids. So I’m learning to relax and let go of my idea of perfection, and just be. Besides, the kids love eating junk every now and then.

Have you been beating yourself up about any perceived failures lately? Today, take a deep breath, and start telling yourself nice things instead. 

It’s just one bad day.

It will get better.

You’re allowed to be tired.

You’re not a bad parent.

Give yourself a break.