I designed the Lift Your Mood-Help for Depression Sticker Set to help you more effectively manage depression, based on what the both the research and my experience working with clients with depression suggests will help you the most. Before you start to use these with your Life Planner or with a calendar that you may have, please read my post: Some Tips for Using Wellness Planner Stickers. It contains some helpful Dos and Don’ts that will make a big difference in the results you will see using them! If you begin doing ALL the things that are helpful to manage depression at one time, you will likely become even MORE depressed and overwhelmed…not what you want to do! Start low and go slow and you’ll get this.
Depression is a serious mental health disorder that affects every aspect of your life. It impacts the way you think, feel, and behave. Symptoms include feelings of sadness or numbness, irritability, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, difficulty concentrating and problems with memory, problems with sleeping, increases or decreases in appetite and energy, a loss of interest in activities and being with others, and thoughts of death or suicide. Physical symptoms can include body aches, headaches, and problems with your digestion. Depression responds best to a combination of treatments which can include anti-depressant medication, psychotherapy, and making lifestyle changes that support the recovery of your nervous system.
By developing the following lifestyle habits, you can greatly improve the effectiveness of your medication and therapy to treat your depression. For some people, simply adopting these habits alone can provide relief from their depression. Every person with depression is unique and you should seek the resources that may be helpful to you so you start feeling better now. If you suffer from depression, the most important thing I can tell you is to please reach out and seek help for yourself. Despite the lies that depression is telling you, you are worth it and you deserve to feel better. Not sure about this? Take a listen to people who have been there and people who care at Giving Voice to Depression. I’ve contributed to a couple of the podcasts there and support their mission to ensure that we de-stigmatize depression and help everyone who is fighting the depression battle feel good about getting any help or support they need!
Managing depression is a major life challenge, whether it is a single severe episode or a chronic condition due to trauma, a major loss, or having to cope with chronic pain or illness. It seems like a cruel joke that for people with depression to recover from it, they have to do several things differently in their lives…except that one of the “gifts” of depression (sarcasm) is fatigue and lack of motivation. So just when you need the energy and optimism to change the most, you have the least ability to do so. I have spent decades working with severely depressed clients to help them, step by step, recover from even the most vegetative and debilitating depressions. It can be done, but it needs to be done slowly and with great compassion for yourself.
Psychologists know from research and clinical experience exactly what you need to be doing to manage and recover from depression. And we also know how to help you get started without becoming completely overwhelmed and to keep going without feeling defeated. With my clients, what has been most helpful is to begin to make small, slow change with the first things that have the most likelihood of providing you with a boost of energy.
Other lifestyle changes that actually require energy to get going can wait for later. They have their own beneficial and protective effects, but you can’t get a car on the road with an empty gas tank. And it’s not fair to ask a depressed person to be social with other people and exercise every day in the beginning. Early success, rather than failure, is super important when helping to recover from depression!
What I hope to do with this sticker set for your Life Planner is help you, coping skill by coping skill, become more able to lift your mood and manage your depression, without becoming overwhelmed and just giving up because it’s too hard and will take energy you just don’t have right now. You can use your Life Planner to get one coping skill going at a time until eventually these are all just regular life habits. The difference between life with and without them is tremendous.
Here are the most important skills you need to manage your depression and why they are important.
Healthy coping skills to manage depression: (in the order I recommend you set these as goals)
Hydrate: De-hydration influences your mood and thinking in negative ways
Eat healthy: Eating foods that fight inflammation can help you manage depression
Comfort: Setting aside time each day for self-care helps re-energize you
Get outside: Spending time in nature has multiple mental and physical health benefits
Get social: Social support can help you feel supported, less alone, and boost your immune system
Get active: Regular exercise is a natural anti-depressant and boosts mood
Additional helpful depression-management practices: (incorporate these any time!)
Gratitude: Focusing on what you’re grateful for changes your perspective
Happy thoughts: Using positive affirmations are an effective way of refocusing your thought process
The Lift Your Mood-Help for Depression Sticker Set comes with inspirational quotes to help you change your thought process as you deal with your depression each week.
The stickers for developing and maintaining the essential depression-managment habits of regularly hydrating, eating healthy, getting social support, exercising, spending time in nature, and practicing good self-care are best if used to build toward mastery one habit at a time. If you’re not used to doing these weekly already, don’t start trying to fit them all in at once. That’s a recipe for overwhelm! Just pick one and work toward the goal of doing this weekly until you’ve accomplished this and it feels like a regular habit. Then start with another one, keeping that first one going, too. This can take weeks to months, sometimes years to get really good at. Remember progress, not perfection, is the goal.
Your gratitude practice and happy thoughts reminder stickers can be put into your week either on a regular basis, because they will be the most effective if you’re changing your perception and thought process on a regular basis.
The “today I can” stickers are for you to practice changing the way you speak to yourself about things you want to do. Instead of saying “I need to”, or “I ought to”, or “I should” be doing something, you are going to learn how to replace that with “I can…and I have a choice.” So, instead of “Today I should eat healthy”, these stickers can be used to remind yourself to say “Today I can eat healthy…and I have a choice.” You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. And you always have a choice. Shaming yourself will only cause depression to worsen. Empowering yourself will help to lift your mood.
Consider using the star stickers to reward yourself for any progress made towards a goal. Habits are hard to change. That means bad habits are hard to break and good habits are hard to get established. If you are able to make any progress at all, give yourself a star…just like when you were a kid. There’s still a kid in you who I hope will appreciate that acknowledgement of the hard work it takes to make change happen!
Consider using the smiley face stickers to mark when your mood has lifted when practicing any of the depression-management techniques you’ve put into your Life Planner. It can be difficult to remember at the end of a week what actually had a positive impact on you and what didn’t. Especially in the beginning, the impact can be so subtle it would definitely not be remembered by the end of the week. So if you noticed that meeting your goal of drinking enough water on Tuesday actually did seem to make a difference in your mood or energy by that evening, put a smiley face sticker down. It may make it more likely that you will strive to meet that goal again!
Remember that to get to the point where you are regularly practicing all of these habits to manage your depression could take months to years. That’s normal and quite reasonable, particularly given how much else you likely have going on in your life and how debilitating some depressions can be. But working to establish even one of these habits this year is a great goal to work towards and will have mental health and physical health benefits for you not just this year, but for years to come. Please know that I know just how hard it is to manage depression. But I also know you are worth whatever it takes to feel better.
I will be writing more about each of the coping skills listed above and how to get them established using your Life Planner in future blog posts, with some specific examples to help you be successful. So please stay tuned and check in frequently or follow me on my facebook page or on twitter where I’ll let you know when they post!