If you’re in Jamaica, it’s a holiday so drink whatever’s on the shelf at home. No one’s judging you. And if you’re not, well…get back to work, you wine-chugging heathen! But not before you finish reading this email though…
I had a whole email about mental health that I drafted to send out yesterday. It was a beautifully crafted piece reminding people struggling with mental illnesses that they are not alone and that they can get the help they need.
It was also a bunch of hypocritical crap. So I deleted it.
Because I have clinical depression and anxiety (and maybe a few other mental illnesses I have yet to learn about), I know that when people talk to me like I’m some broken, wind-up doll that needs to be glued back together with “professional help”, it just makes me want to scream.
So instead, I’m taking a different approach. I’m sharing the exact things I do to actually function during and get through my depression phases without doing things I might regret later. It’s a list I’ve honed over the years and while it isn’t completely bulletproof - my depression is still very present every now and then - it does help me to cope. I hope it helps you too.
(Important note: These are all from my perspective and based on my current life. Not everything will work for your situation, but some might.)
1. I cancel everything - Some days, I just can’t people. So I don’t. I postpone meetings, I push deadlines, and I put my phone on silent. Luckily, most of my clients are friends (or at least friendly) and my work doesn’t involve much time-sensitive stuff, so I can do that. If there is something I absolutely have to do, I do the bare minimum then skedaddle.
2. I cry (a lot) - My tears take up so much space in my house, they should be paying rent. Crying is therapeutic for me, so when I feel it, I let it out. I almost always feel better afterwards. (And when I don’t, I cry some more.)
3. I watch entertaining shows - Yes to game shows and cooking competitions. No to dramas and documentaries. Even comedic movies and TV shows are out of bounds for me. They always have some tearkerking lessons at the end that send me right back down the rabbit hole. Damn you, Fresh Prince of Bel Air. (My most recent fav is Big Fat Quiz vids on YouTube.)
4. I ask for help - Friends who have never dealt with depression are the worst with helping you through it. It’s not they don’t want to help, they just have no clue how to act. And when they say the wrong things, it just makes it worse. So instead, I try to ask for specifics. Can you get me some food? Cn you take me somewhere? Can you make a call for me? Those they can do.
5. I have a system - One of the worst things about falling into a pit of depression is having to get back to work and life afterwards and being so disoriented, you don’t know where to begin. Having a system for my life (using Notion), with clearly laid out tasks, projects and routines, means that I can see exactly what I’ve missed, what I need to catch up on and what needs to be rescheduled.
Shameless plug: I plan to share my system as a template in a few weeks, and my newsletter folks will be getting it first, so stay tuned for that if you’re interested.
The general idea here is to give yourself space to breathe, recuperate and organize your life in a way that you can take a break and return when you need to. And most importantly, to not guilt yourself into thinking taking time off isn’t important. It’s probably the most important thing you can do.