Depression isn’t just sadness. Sometimes it’s emptiness or hopelessness. Sometimes it’s struggling to get out of bed in the morning. Other times it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and there’s nothing you can do to change it. When I’m struggling with my depression, it can be hard to bring myself to do even the simplest things without proper coping mechanisms. Having depression can even feel shameful. When I first began struggling with depression, I found myself constantly thinking, “I’m not supposed to feel this way…why can’t I just be like everyone else?”
One of the main problems in society today is how much of a stigma there is surrounding mental health conditions. On top of having a mental illness, people often feel guilty for having them. However, people do not make the choice to “have” depression. It’s an illness, like many other physical ailments that people regularly seek treatment for. But unlike those visible illnesses, it’s in the brain and hard to see.
As someone living with depression, I know it’s easier said than done, but realize that your mental illness is not who you are. Don’t let it define you. Every person on Earth is beautiful and unique in their own special way.
Try to find coping tips or skills that work for you. Coping skills are activities that help relax/calm you. Through my struggles with depression, I’ve found it very helpful to make a ‘coping skills toolbox.’ A coping skills box focuses on making it easy to use a variety of objects that can help you cope with negative emotions, anxiety, and stress whenever you need to.
Coping skills toolboxes can include:
- Self-soothing objects (things you can touch, hear, see, taste, or smell) for comfort. Eg: A teddy bear, tea, soothing/happy music, candles, etc.
- Distraction-oriented objects to take your mind off of a problem. Eg: Music, television shows, sports, books, etc.
- Emotional awareness objects that will help you identify and express your feelings. Eg: A mood chart, a journal, art supplies, etc.
- Mindfulness objects that will help keep you ‘grounded’. Eg: A yoga mat, grounding objects like rocks, etc.
- Opposite action objects that emphasize focusing on a positive activity or emotion. Eg: Motivational decorations/prints, funny movies/books, etc.
- A crisis plan that includes the phone numbers of your therapist/counselor/doctor, family members, closest friends, a support hotline, and other helpful people.
If your coping skills toolbox doesn’t seem to be helping, try seeking support from others. Know that it’s okay to ask other people for help when you’re struggling. We’re not meant to go through life alone and you don’t have to. Seeking support can look like going to a counselor/therapist or simply talking to friends or family about what you’re going through.
Know you’re not alone. There is always someone out there who is going through or has gone through something very close to what you’re experiencing. There are people out there who want to help you. Your life is meaningful and you have a story to tell.
Coping Skills Toolbox