I know that I’m not alone in feeling grumpy, anxious and out-of-sorts right now. It’s the depression about the recession, and many of us are suffering from it. We work silently, eyes glued to our computers, hoping just to be able to come in again the next day. We turn away from the restaurants, games and places we normally enjoy to save money to pay our ever-rising bills.
So when the jobs are hard to come by, people everywhere are irritable and there seems to be no hope in the near future, what can you do about it? How can you find motivation to keep going? What ideas and techniques help you to find some peace in the chaos? Different things work for different people, but here are a few things that work for me.
- Wallow in your self-pity. (But only for a little while.) Sometimes emotions like sadness and depression bother us because they have not been expressed. So many of us have family situations where we are stuck in a job we don’t like because of the economy, but we can’t whine about it to our spouse because they don’t even have a job to hate. This could be a sign we need a little private pity-party. Whether we rail against fate, pray for a change, journal our frustration or cry alone in the bedroom for an hour or two, it can bring a little relief to simply give in to our pain for a little while.
- Sunlight therapy. Believe me, if you’re in one of those rainy or snowy climates, right about now you probably notice the one day a week you get some sun. So revel in it. Take a walk outside, preferably with some upbeat music to listen to. Enjoy how the golden light brightens everything around you. Stand in direct sunlight for a moment or two and let it warm you through your coat. And try a few sun substitutes at home – those “true light” and “real light” light bulbs that have more of a white glow rather than the dull yellow glow. Also you can use a light box, or turn on a salt lamp or colored lights to liven up the colors in your home.
- Take your vitamins. I’ve caught myself several times eating unhealthy meals because “I just don’t feel like making anything today.” Sadness over time can make you feel disinterested in your usual activities, even eating. If you are feeling tired, having headaches or having more aches and pains than usual, try taking some daily vitamins. You may just find a little more energy and pep.
- Clean up. Sometimes staying busy helps us work through our anxiety and fear. When we use that nervous energy to make our home clutter-free and beautiful it adds an additional element of joy to our sanctuary from the world. Remember, even if you can’t control what happens outside your home, you can control what’s within. As an added bonus you may find a special delight, like say a cool Bugs Bunny watch that you forgot you had because the battery died and you put it away.
- Mental break. Take it from one who knows, the more mental time-outs you can fit into your stress-filled day, the better off you will be. Whether it’s 5 minutes to close your eyes in silence, a music meditation, reading the funnies, or watching those cute puppy videos online, any time you can slow down, relax, or have do something fun is time well spent. Tranquility is a worthwhile goal to work for.
- Compare yourself to others. Most people have problems, some hard, some easy. One thing you can do is to find someone who had the same or a similar problem and see how they got past it. You can also look for worst case scenarios – for instance the problems in Haiti come to mind right now. Certainly none of my current problems are anywhere near that bad. Sometimes comparison, especially exaggerated comparison can actually make you feel relief. Lastly, you could find someone with a problem that you can solve. Helping others lets us recognize our own skills and worth and a hearty thank-you never hurt anyone.
- Watch something (or someone) stupid. This is another silly but sometimes effective technique. The Internet is full of people doing stupid things. Watching this craziness can help you realize that it’s not some lack of skill on your part causing your problems. (If you are doing something stupid it may help you see that and put a stop to it.) Also it could cause excessive laughter which many experts agree helps us find unique solutions where we thought there were none before. It’s worth a try.
- Do something different. When things aren’t going our way or obstacles appear in our path, many of us (including myself) fall back on old patterns of dealing with things. When we’re feeling depressed it seems like nothing works – including the old things we used to enjoy. So instead, try something new. Take a different road to work just to see the view. Go to a store you’ve never been in. Join a fossil club, reading club, or go to that Harry Potter convention. Talk to a new person at work. Apply for a job you think you can’t get. Just take an action that is out of the ordinary for you and see what happens. Remember “if you keep on doing the same thing, you’ll get the same results.”
Of course this list is by no means an answer to everything. In fact I’ve written others lists like it before. See here, and here. And this won’t cure clinical depression. But for those of us who are feeling more just than the simple blues, these ideas might help us gain a new perspective, fresh solutions or at least a change of pace. Good luck!