Depression and activities are on friendly terms, when I get more depressed, I would do less activities and when I am in my normal mood range, I am relatively more active. Knowing that this two elements are somehow correlated, I like to share my personal journey about taming my Depression with Physical Activity.
Perhaps it is how this illness present itself. When depressed, I lose interest in many things to the extent that I am not concerned of its progress nor outcome. In this apathetic condition, I am not motivated to cook meals nor do the laundry. My family will be the first to feel its effects as taking meals is a daily occurrence. By the end of the second week, clean clothes become short in supply. Do I feel bad for not preparing meals? I felt numb then. Do I feel irresponsible for not doing my job for laundry washing? Yes and no as I felt lifeless most of the time.
Often I wonder about my behavior, is it my illness or is it me being a lazy and unreliable home-keeper? I no longer know and the more I ponder, the more unmotivated I become. Or perhaps my thinking are just excuses to avoid work.
So be it an illness or a character flaw, the reality is how to counter my spiritless apathetic lifestyle. How is physical activities related to depression. It seems that by doing one thing, followed by another thing, then after another thing, being active physically proves to be effective in tackling depressive symptoms like lethargy, sleepiness, overeating or not eating, apathy, helplessness.
My Morning Challenge … Waking Up
Mentally I do not look forward to waking up, so to kick-start the day (standing on my feet), I will think of watching online drama as a beneficial token for my effort to get up from the bed. Before I enjoy the benefit from visuals, I need to wash up and change into my day attire; and to prepare the breakfast, I will need to boil water to make coffee, spread the butter on the bread. While waiting for the water to be boiled, I’ll put the clothes into the machine for washing. The broom and dustpan is at the laundry area, I pick them up and begin sweeping the floor. Last but not the least, I return to making coffee, and have my breakfast while watching drama, and wait for the washing machine to finish its job.
I know the downside of online drama-watching, it’s a passive activity, in the sense that I will likely be stationary in front of my lab top for countless and endless minutes. This passiveness will ensue with sleepiness and my return to the bed for long naps. To counter it, I have clothes to hang dry when the machine finishes the washing cycle.
For me, online dramas is the bait I used to get myself out of my bed. It’s also the positive reinforcement that I reward myself after doing undesirable household chores. Strangely, the momentum I kick-start with a fair bit of physical activities, builds up bit by bit. It serves as a distraction from my negative thoughts and feelings.
In my depression dump, when apathy sets in, I push myself to exercise, which is a physical activity. Walking is a convenient and cost-free strategy, and its intensity level can be adjusted to my level of mood along the spectrum. The challenge is how I get myself out of the house when I am withdrawn and hiding in the comfort of home. The bait with a reward system helps sometimes. Quite often, I have nothing to do or rather being too much preoccupied with negative thoughts and feelings, a short walk becomes a break from the vicious downward spiral of depression.
So when my mood is very low, I walk in the neighborhood for 10 to 15 minutes and I can do so twice a day, morning and evening. For me, taking walks by myself helps in the sense that I look around at buildings, gardens, the clouds, the traffic, anything that will keep my focus away from my negativity.
When the mood is better, I will start brisk walking and increases the exercise to 50 minutes. My pedometer keeps track of the number of steps I cover, and looking at the number increasing to 10,000 steps each day is constructive strategy (I want to maintain the 10k record). When the mood has normalized, I will go for the weekly badminton games, a much more intense and physical activity.
Mid-way Setback … how now?
The morning challenge bait-and-reward system and exercises are two forms of physical activities that are not fail-proof. Often, rather many times I find myself refusing to wake up. Countless times I am unable to go for a walk, even for a minimum requirement of 10 minutes. The feelings are numb, lacking in responsiveness while I go through the motions in living. So what to do … how now?
One thing for sure, when I set the record to be up and doing some form of physical activity, there is unknowingly a deep desire to keep the record going. Usually with the momentum kick in, I yearn silently for the uplifting ride up the normal mood range. What about stubborn setbacks that are challenging beyond my means, I have to reach out for help to anyone.
Making connection with my inner circle of friends is critically essential. Companionship do works like taking a walk with my sister, talking about anything or everything with a friend (though most of the times it’s the other party doing the talking), and email to my psychiatrist. Likely an appointment with the psychiatrist will be brought forward, and to make sure I keep to the ‘date with my Psychiatrist’, I strongly request someone to go with you.
Do Physical Activities Always Work?
Personally I believe it does. When I lack mental strength and being submerged in the deep sea of depression, physical actions lighten my mood. I may be overwhelmed with pessimism while doing simple task like brushing my teeth or making coffee for breakfast. The range of physical and mental challenges to do something opens up to a ray of light through the window of opportunity, a chance to feel good.
The Way …
One way (or rather the way) to subdue negative thoughts and feelings is to do physical activities. The body movements are like the car engine being ignited, ready to push my energy level up to Gear-One-mode. I may stand still (neutral gear) then after or the car dies off on me, it is all right. Keep keeping on, seek for the slight ray of sunlight seeping through the window, strive for the life chances to feel better.