June 5, 2016

Top 10 Tips for Fighting Depression: Keep Fighting

The Greatest reminds us all: Keep fighting. Even when your back is flat on the mat.
By Jack Smith

The death of Muhammad Ali moved me in unexpected ways. He was brash and cocky, but he backed it up. I love Ali because he stood for something—whether you liked it or not. He didn’t care.

He did what HE thought was right. He didn’t spend his days trying to please others or tell them what they wanted to hear. (Paging Jack Smith!)

We can learn a lot from Ali’s life and boxing career.

You know what I learned?

There’s greatness somewhere inside of me even when I can’t see it. All I have to do is never quit searching for it—even when I’m face down on the mat like Joe Frazier after taking a right hook from The Greatest champ who ever lived.

So I credit Ali and a new blog friend who reached out to me a while back from far away and told me I have to keep writing. He said men need help more than I know, and my blog for some reason helps them. Or at least him.

His outreach inspired me to get this post up today. It reminded me that I write this blog to give people hope and help me cope.

So I’m sharing my list of Top 10 Tips to Battle Depression. These are things I try to do in my battle with depression and anxiety. I hope it helps.

I rarely do them all at once. Sometimes my report cards reads like an old “Leave it to Beaver” episode. Wally brings home all A’s. The Beave brings home Bs and Cs—at best. I’m more like The Beave than Wally most of the time.

Here goes, with apologies to Wally for any typos. Posting without much editing is exposure therapy for me:

1. Exercise. Running was once a passion, and it always helped me. It’s like a mental flush. Running is like rebooting my crazy computer, giving me calm and focus. I just started back after a stint on the Disabled List.

I’m already addicted again. You don’t have to run. Swim. Walk. Cycle. Do something even when you don’t feel like getting off the couch—especially when you don’t feel like getting off the couch.

2. Set realistic goals. I try and write down 3 things each night I need to do the next morning. I always start with an easy one. Like “text Fred and tell him Happy Birthday.” It gives me positive momentum. Add one or two things that must be done, like pay the water bill. Do this before bed. It will help you sleep.

3. Get a massage. I don’t know what the research says, but I know what my mind and body think. A good massage always helps me feel better physically and mentally. Even emotionally.

4. Take my meds: All of them. I now use “PillPack,” a fantastic mail-order service for prescriptions. They handle it all. I never deal with drug stores anymore. Pill Pack fills and refills them all and mails me little plastic envelopes that are so easy a monkey could do it.

The one I just ripped open and took said “8 AM Sunday.” It has today’s date and a list of them. You tear out the envelopes you need for each day. No more bottles. I highly recommend PillPack.

5. Focus on family: It’s different in divorce, but I’m happiest if I can really focus on my kids when I’m with them. It’s hard for all of us to turn down the white noise and not worry about things. It’s hard for me, too. But I try mindfulness tips like focusing on the details of what they’re saying or watching what they are doing, noticing the little things. It helps.

6. Seek work-life balance. Okay skip to #7! I’m awful at this but have made mild improvements lately I’ll share more about later. The short version? Don’t stay up all night working. It will be there tomorrow. So live a little.

 7. Stay spiritually fit: I am a believer. I don’t judge anyone for where they are in their walk, but good mental health is a real uphill climb for me without a personal relationship with God. It’s still uphill a lot of the time, but at least I can see a Light in the distance. It matters. A lot. 

I often forget to write in my prayer journal and make a gratitude list. When I do journal and pray, it’s better than “An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away.” More like "a few prayers a day keeps anxiety at bay." This isn’t perfect for me or probably many others. But it helps.

 8. Go to therapy! Just go. It helps. I’m at my best when my psychologist and my psychiatrist are both in the huddle. Talking is therapy. It’s better than running sometimes for flushing toxic feelings.

9. Music: Music lifts my mood, touches my heart and stirs my soul . I might bounce my head to Flo Rida and think about nothing or get into deep stuff with classical music so powerful it can transform my thinking and give me hope. It all works. Cash and Springsteen. Sheeran and Simple Minds. R.E.M. and Rachmaninoff. And of course Bono (lead healer) and The Edge. They are all part of my therapy team.

10. Give back: Even if you're having a hard day, give someone a nice compliment. Shoot someone who is struggling a text to ask how they are. Help a friend in need. Giving may be the best medicine of all, even when all we feel like doing is sitting. Giving beats sitting all day long and twice on Sunday. It works. Give it a try!

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