DEPRESSION: How I am crawling out of it one day at a time

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You know the feeling. It’s a sensation of pressure on your chest, a lump in your throat, a deep dark hole you fall into. And when you’re in it – you feel like you’ll never be able to find your way out.  Something is wrong – and you can’t quite put your finger on what it is. You’ve forgotten about the things that bring you joy, and if you remember what they are – you don’t care enough to do them anymore.  You let go of your self care routine – life is about getting through the day.  Trust me – I’ve been there. 

I am describing how I felt for the last six weeks. I was in a dark place that I never thought I’d ever crawl out of, and I thought I was on the verge of losing myself.  It all started after a lengthy bout of stress at my day job – the feeling of complete overwhelm morphed into depression.  I visited my psychiatrist and asked for help – and he referred me to therapy in lieu of medication since I don’t react well to SSRIs. Due to some financial constraints (boo crappy health insurance) I haven’t been able to make my first appointment yet, but I have managed to shift things in a different direction in just a short time, and here is how:

balance-blur-boulder-355863.jpgI stacked positive experiences and habits.

I opened up to a friend I trusted. This was the last thing I wanted to do, to admit to someone in my circle that I was feeling – sad. Verbalizing the way I was feeling helped me gain some self-perspective on the situation. And the knowledge that my friend had my back made me feel good.  If you do this, make sure that you open up to a friend who you trust – who can relate to your circumstances. There are people in my life who would just tell me to “suck it up”, these are not the types of people you want to open up to. Find someone with a kind and patient ear.

I started paying attention to the little things I do for SELF CARE. I began documenting little things I was doing on Instagram with the hashtag #SELFCAREIS. Self Care Is: going for a walk out in nature with the pup, taking some pretty pictures of flowers, cooking a healthy breakfast, putting a mask on your face, giving yourself a pedicure, going to bed at a decent hour, doing some stretches, spending 15 minutes in the sauna, etc.  Don’t worry about going hard on a nutrition or fitness routine right now. Focus on small gestures of love towards yourself. Even the tiniest things can make a profound impact on your mood.

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I ate more fruits and veggies (mostly fruits). I will admit I don’t exactly LOVE veggies, but I do eat them and often. Fruit however, is natures candy!  And natural foods are full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber, all the goodies!! I packed my kitchen with my favorites: mangoes, cherries, raspberries, and watermelon! Yum! I never met anyone that didn’t feel good after eating a bowl of bright and colorful fruit.

I filled my mind with the good stuff.  When you’re depressed, your thoughts are toxic.  The narrative in our minds that we’re hopeless, a failure, or not good enough needs to be drowned out by the sound of hope and positivity.  I started searching for “motivational speeches for success in life” on YouTube and it changed my world.  Every single day, I am listening to the words of some inspiring figure – gaining little nuggets of wisdom. Some of my favorites are Les Brown, Tony Robbins, Joe Dispenza, Mel Robbins, Tom Bilyeu, Eric Thomas, Gary Vee, and TD Jakes.  When I’m not listening to motivational speeches, I am listening to podcasts such as Invisibilia, Cut the Fat, Planet Money, and Optimal Living Daily.  Find content that grows you.

I set boundaries with my time. My job stress was overwhelming me. The need to stay late, to come in early, to work on days off – all for unpaid overtime. I realized something very important – I can only do my best in the eight hours I am paid for.  Any work that doesn’t get done today, will still be there tomorrow.  I don’t need to be the best, and I certainly won’t be the worst.  I surrendered to the fact that I might never be perfectly caught up on everything, and that’s okay.  I committed myself to just doing my very best while I was at work, closing that laptop when my shift was over, and going home.

I wrote down the thoughts that paralyzed me. And I listed next to them why my thinking was flawed. For example: “I am afraid my employer will fire me”. This thought would hover over me like a dark cloud all day.  But the honest truth? My performance ratings at work were just fine!  In fact I was exceeding my goals. I was not on the verge of being fired. And I realized that people who do get fired for performance are usually “coached” for months on end before it actually happens.  And if I did lose my job? I’d bust my butt to find a new one! Why use precious mental space worried about this?  My thinking was flawed.

clean-decoration-home-6412.jpgI cleaned up my environment.  While I listened to all the awesome podcasts I downloaded, I did little tasks to “tidy up” around the house.  If I tell myself I am CLEANING then forget it – I’m overwhelmed just typing it out. But tidying up, I can do.  Once I got started, it became easier. That cluttered catch-all kitchen table? It’s causing you stress. Physical clutter is stressful, so work on clearing surfaces.  Put stuff away, light a scented candle, and put some fresh sheets on your bed. Again, the smallest things help.

I [tried to] meditate.  Meditation is hard if you have a mind that races all the time. But if you can at least try it out, it may have some benefits for you. My idea of meditating is lighting a scented candle, plopping myself on the sofa, and staring up at the flickering shadows of candlelight at the ceiling – and focusing on my breathing.  Maybe for you, meditating is going to the park, sitting on a bench, and watching the trees sway in the wind. Find quiet moments in your day. Even if it means going out to your car during your lunch break to just CHILL and get away for a bit.

I washed my face and made my bed.  I made it a point to do my skincare routine every night before bed.  It felt refreshing and I felt I was doing something good for myself.  And in the mornings, I made my bed. Not the fancy comforter with the stacked pillows and all that – I just neatly folded my blanket and fixed my pillows. It immediately gave me a sense of control.  Part of the reason why we get depressed is because we feel a lack of control in our lives.  Little things such as making sure the kitchen sink is emptied and clean before going to bed, straightening out the throw pillows on your sofa, and putting your dirty clothes in the hamper make such a difference.

… My list is growing every single day.  This is not a battle that I have beaten. However I can tell you that just doing the things listed above have resulted in a definite shift in my mood, and the feeling in my chest is gone. The lump in my throat isn’t there anymore. I feel a defined sense of calm and peace again.  Remember, I am not a professional – just a real human who battles depression. These are little things that worked for me – I encourage you to seek professional help if you’re feeling down. xo

 

Why I’m Ditching Meal Prep

 

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Meal Prep. You can’t go on Instagram these days without seeing posts of perfectly portioned food containers laid out on a countertop with little bits of chicken, sweet potato, and broccoli.  There is a sense of pride one feels after posting a photo of your week’s meals, ready to be stacked inside the refrigerator.  You feel accomplished because you adulted, like the fitness gurus.

Unfortunately, life isn’t a perfect Instagram picture. Sometimes, we just don’t feel like eating that grilled chicken or broccoli for the 4th day in the row, and frankly – IT DOESN’T TASTE AS GOOD. I don’t care how delicious the meal is fresh, you’re going to get tired of it.  And some of us just don’t like leftovers. Last night (Sunday night), I was so proud of myself. I made a low carb sandwich roll-up thingie using a low carb tortilla, some nitrate free honey ham, mayo and cheese. I placed it into a pyrex container with a side of cherry tomatoes and olives. I packed a bowl of bright and colorful fruits. Something happened between the proud moment I packed that low carb roll-up and when the time came to eat it this afternoon.

I just didn’t feel like eating it.

I looked down at the food, and immediately felt a sense of “blah”. I begrudgingly took a bite of the sandwich and laid it to the side while I worked. I didn’t even finish half of it. I ate a few of the olives and left the cherry tomatoes behind. Where did the food end up? In the trash. I realized something – this happens to me – A LOT. And I feel like a total jerk when I dump the food in the trash. I feel even worse when I don’t meal prep at all, going to work empty handed. Why? I don’t particularly know, because when I go out to eat I make pretty great choices.  I think it stems from a feeling of “failing” as a bariatric patient.

So I decided to do some online research – am I the only person who secretly hates meal prep?  What is wrong with me? Well guess what – a lot of other people hate meal prep too, and there’s actually quite a few trainers and coaches that aren’t a fan of it either.  I breathed a sigh of relief. I am not alone in this growing hatred for leftover food.

And then I started thinking – if I stop beating myself up about meal prepping and just wing it, would it really cost me more money? No – in fact it may cost me less. I work from home two days a week, so that’s only THREE lunches I need to plan for. Cool thing is that my office is located smack dab in the middle of a busy area with tons of food options. I can get a small greek salad one day, a poke bowl another (which is 2 meals in 1 for me), and a Jimmy Johns Unwich on days I don’t feel like going out to get food. There are options. I am good about scrambling up a couple of eggs for breakfast before I run out of the door, and since I actually do enjoy cooking – spending 20 minutes in the evenings preparing a fresh meal is totally fine by me!  Work from home days are chill, I can make fresh food during my workday.

I am a big believer in the notion that the best health plan for you is one that you will follow without struggle, and can be consistent at over a long period of time.  You have to look at your own unique situation. Some people love meal prep. Some people only get 20 minutes for lunch, so they don’t have time to run out for food – so it makes sense to bring something.  You have to find what works for you.  Maybe you hate meal prep too, so instead of cooking in one giant bulk batch for the week, you just make a bigger dinner and eat leftovers the following day.  That way you’re not eating the same thing five days in a row [bleh].

Flexibility is so important – because LIFE happens. Our moods and tastes change. Things come up – maybe a coworker wants to go out to lunch.  Those of us on a fitness and health journey can be far too rigid with ourselves, and for what? Do you get a meal prep award at the end of the year? No! Can you still make gains or lose weight just by making smart decisions when you go out? Absolutely.

Food is fuel, but it’s also meant to be savored and enjoyed – otherwise we wouldn’t have taste buds, amiright?? Meal prep took the pleasure out of eating for me. No matter how creative or tasty the recipe is – I just don’t want it sometimes.  A salad from the Whole Foods salad bar tastes a THOUSAND times better than if I made it at home and it sat in my fridge for a couple days. Our brains are weird. I’m going with the flow now, and enjoying food again.  My days of meal prep are over.

The days of visiting drive-thru’s three times a day are far behind me. But looking forward to getting out of the office for a little while to enjoy a poke bowl with a coworker totally brightens up my day.  So I am hopping off of the hashtag mealprepsunday bandwagon and doing what feels right for me.  I encourage you to forget about what looks good on Instagram and do what’s best for you as well. xo