Although the word “depression” seems to have become normalized in 21st-century discourse, the reality is that living through a depressive crisis or going through a depressive episode is undoubtedly one of the hardest things in life.
The spiritual erosion and self-consuming of a person suffering from depression are deeply personal and overwhelming. While external factors can trigger a depressive crisis, it is often a spiral of emotions where we are unaware of the severity.
It’s like a roller coaster — once you’re up, it’s all endorphins, but once you plummet, no force can get you back up.
For those of us who have years of experience with these types of episodes, resilience has taught us to adopt strategies to adjust, recognize the lows and navigate the waters of depression.
But what can we do when it’s a loved one? How can we help the people we love to navigate the dark passages of depression?
First, it is important to recognize that this is a personal process, and those emotions are fragile. It is not a feeling that can be relieved by a happy quote or a pep talk. As much as we would love for that to be the case, sooner rather than later, these types of responses are often irritating.
To that end, we bring you some gentle ways to help your loved ones — or even yourself — as you move through a depressive episode.
Go on a nature walk or hike
Being around nature helps immensely. Personally, I make it a point to be out in nature at least 2-3 times a week to help get or keep my mind clear. After years of tormenting myself inside four walls, I found nature one of the best medicines. Who would’ve guessed right? Ha! It turns out this recommendation was very true. In fact, a study by Science Advances detailed that: “Nature experience has been associated with improved sleep and reductions in stress, as assessed by self-report and various physiological measures and biomarkers of acute and chronic stress. These impacts on sleep and stress may entail decreased risk for mental illness, as sleep problems and stress are major risk factors for mental illness, especially depression.”
Listen without being opinionated
During these episodes, sometimes, all we want to do is have a safe space to vent. We don’t want to hear your opinion (obviously, if it’s an emergency, please don’t hesitate to intervene!) all the time. We want someone to make us feel safe and listen to what we are thinking of without feeling the pressure or judgment. Trust me, although your mind echoes negativity, you are not alone.
Lastly, recommend encouragement via entertainment
Another suggestion I found truly helpful was when my friend gifted me a self-help book. She knew I was going through a rough patch, and without asking, she gave me You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero. It helped me recover from that episode. Of course, it would be what you or your loved one is into – are they more inclined to connect with an inspiring movie? Or maybe resonate with song lyrics? It all revolves around your/their personal interest. The smallest gesture can make the biggest impression!