Keeping Depression from Driving

woman behind driver's wheel of a car
Although my car isn’t as fancy, and I do not have fashionably-ripped jeans.

Depression isn’t satisfied with riding shotgun, and while it’s one of the worst back-seat-drivers I’ve ever encountered, that’s still better from letting it have the wheel. Unfortunately, keeping depression from driving isn’t easy.

8 Tactics to Control or Reduce Depression (for Me)

I haven’t found any long-term solutions so far (nothing that cures it forever in one go), but these tactics help me:

1. Hide Books.

This is likely a very personal tactic. But books are my escape. They’re how I comfort myself and hide from the world, which means they have a negative relationship with depression.

I’m not sure if I get depressed if I read too much (I think it may put my brain into negative thought-patterns), but I definitely read too much when I’m depressed. Sometimes, that’s all I manage to do outside of the work I get paid for (the minimum I absolutely have to do). The downside is that the more I read, the harder it is to stop reading.

And escape is a holding pattern. While it might keep the depression from getting worse, it doesn’t help me get out of it. So if books are harder to get to, it’s harder for me to get dragged into them all the time.

Granted, ebooks and online books have made this tactic a lot harder. If I can keep from getting sucked in early on the weekend, however, I have a better chance of doing other things. It’s a lot harder to stop reading than it is to avoid starting (not that that’s easy either).

2. Stick to a Schedule.

Scheduling every minute of the day doesn’t work for me. I doubt it works long-term for anyone. What I can do is set a kind of schedule for when I need to meet goals.

  • I have to do x amount of writing before going to bed each day.
  • I have to post to the blog MWF by the end of the day.
  • I have to get up and dressed by 7 AM at the latest.

It’s not a horribly demanding schedule. Just a specific set of goals – the minimum that I have to accomplish each week or day.

It’s really another holding pattern, but it does help keep the depression from getting worse. Feeling productive is antithetical to depression. So I try to make sure I get at least some productivity in (even though it’s generally the opposite of what depression pushes me to do).

3. Don’t Beat Myself Up for Failing.

If I don’t manage to meet one of my goals that day or I get sucked into a reading vortex, I have to let it go. Try to break free of the pattern, yes. Yell at myself about it, no. If I go after myself and criticize myself about it over and over again, I’m just making the depression worse.

So while I have to try really hard to meet the goal, I also need to acknowledge that it’s ok to fail. I will try again and do better.

4. Be Alone.

I am an introvert. It’s not that I don’t enjoy other people’s company. It’s that recharging requires time by myself. If I don’t get that regularly, my depression gets dramatically worse.

When I live alone, this isn’t too hard. When I have housemates, this can be incredibly difficult. Some people simply don’t understand that need or even how to leave other people alone. Or they make so much noise that their presence is felt even in other rooms or sections of the house.

Of course, an extrovert might need the absolute opposite (Gimme people!), and that’s fine. You do you.

5. Exercise.

Endorphins are the body’s natural antidepressant. A small amount of cardio can have a huge effect on the spirits and overall wellbeing. Plus, I get the added self-approval of having been productive and exercised.

When you think about it, exercise is practically depression’s kryptonite. Which is why depression works so hard to keep me as far away from it as possible. I’ve already cycled through the “I should exercise” > “Here are a bunch of reasons to put it off” pattern depression gives at least 3 times as I write this. It’s like trying to break free of a strong current.

That said, if I can get myself to do it, it’s worth it.

6. Do Activities That Make Me Happy.

I like writing and painting – those are activities that make me feel happy when I do them. So making sure I do them regularly helps keep my overall emotional state happier.

It’s not a cure-all, but it helps a lot. It’s stress relief that also “sparks joy.” Which is why depression tries hard to keep it from happening. Like I said, it’s the worst back-seat driver on record.

It can be hard to be sure they’re the right activities, too. After all, reading makes me happy in some ways. Because that is so tied to my depression, though, it doesn’t count in this category. I guess it has to be something that doesn’t cause the depression-style thought patterns.

7. Let It Out.

I feel like we spend so much of our lives trying to hide how we feel, to stay in control, to keep the cracks from showing to other people. Well, walling up emotions doesn’t work. I can personally attest to that. And although it doesn’t have to be in public or even in front of anyone else, letting it out from time to time is an absolute necessity.

Cry. Curse. Scream. Rant or whimper. Write it down in a journal, tell it to a therapist, or talk to a friend. Try putting the feelings into words.

When I sit in the feelings and thoughts, they feel real and invincible. When I write them down or say them out loud, I can start to see the holes. The gaps in logic or reason that depression doesn’t want me to see.

And the emotion gets vented. Suddenly, what was an overwhelming wave of feeling has shrunk to a manageable puddle. Or maybe a small lake. It depends. In either case, it helps me feel more in control than when I try to stay in control without letting it out at all. A bit of a contradiction, but it’s true.

8. Get Away from Stressors.

I found out the hard way that escaping depression isn’t possible when the main causes are always in your face. If it’s temporary, I can put up with it and use other tactics to stay afloat. If the cause of my stress isn’t going to change, however, I have to.

That can mean…

  • Leaving a relationship,
  • Changing a job role or company, or
  • Moving to a new home.

Etcetera. They’re not always actions I want to take. In fact, I feel like they’re usually not when I first consider them. Or, at least, there’s always some reason for not considering them at first (which is partially the depression’s lies).

It’s usually when I get a short break from that stressor, and I feel my mood and general quality of life change drastically that I finally realize it’s time to get out. Or take some other action to change the situation.

Because something has to change.

I’ve gotten better at recognizing situations like that faster (experience has to count for something, right?). When something becomes negative over a long period of time, however, it can be harder to see from the inside. That’s one reason vacations are important.

The Most Important Thing Is to
Keep Trying

I’ve decided driving is a bad comparison. While it’s true I want to keep depression from taking control, the metaphor doesn’t work beyond that. Depression wants to stop you more than it wants to go anywhere.

More accurately, depression is a snowstorm. If you stop moving, stop fighting, you’re finished. So I have to keep moving forward even if it’s only a tiny step at a time. Even when it clings to me and numbs me to the point that I have to struggle for each cm.

If you fight the same thing, I hope you keep moving, too. Even on days when you don’t want to. If you have other tactics that help you, please, share so that others will know.

Let’s all keep pushing forward.

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