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Five strategies for coping with temporary depression

 

It’s been a long time since I posted here. I never wanted to be that blogger, but… life happens. In this case, life handed me some pregnancy depression and then a wonderful charming baby.

I’m finally back, and I’d like to share some of what I learned about dealing with temporary depression. I say “temporary depression” because if depression is your everyday reality and you don’t even know what you are like without it anymore, you should probably get professional help of some sort. If you’re suicidal, you definitely need some expert help. There are non-drug options out there. I personally had a good experience with a homeopath several years ago. Whatever the case, if your depression is permanent or very severe, these tips probably won’t be enough. These are just suggestions for how to get through the occasional rough patch.

Talk to someone about it

This can be incredibly helpful. If you feel hopeless or discouraged, bottling up your negative thoughts inside can make it worse, because you don’t have the energy to challenge them. Sometimes you need to get those hopeless and discouraged thoughts out in front of someone else so that they can tell you how wrong they are. Of course, if you confide in the wrong person this can be the opposite of helpful. You need a person who wants your good, first of all. Next, it helps if the person has some understanding of depression. “Just snap out of it,” is rarely useful advice. Neither is, “You’re not praying enough,” or “Offer it up.” Prayer is good, yes. Prayer can be helpful. And depression is certainly a cross that can be offered to God. But if you’re really down and asking for help, it’s likely you can’t even remember how to pray. You might feel like you hate God, as well as everything else. You might be able to offer up your misery anyway, but you still need help. So try to find an understanding friend who cares about you and is not currently depressed themselves.

Ideally this person will sympathize and then help you strategize.

When you tell someone about your feelings of depression, it’s helpful if you don’t start with, “My life is awful! I hate everyone. Everyone is awful. No one loves me.” This might be how you feel at the moment, but probably not actually true, and it’s very hard for your friends to hear.

You will get better results if you can objectify your feelings. Your feelings are a real thing that you have to deal with. Just because they aren’t themselves an accurate reflection of reality doesn’t mean that they aren’t real. It is objectively true that you are feeling that way, and that you need help managing that experience. So if you can, try saying something like, “I am feeling depressed. It feels like hopelessness and misery. I know there are good things in my life, but I can’t feel that way right now. I know the world is actually colorful, but it feels gray right now. Do you have any idea what I could do that would make me feel better, or manage my feelings better?”

Get out of your head and do pleasant things

When you’re depressed, the last thing you can usually do is get out of your head. So why is it on this list? Because it’s still what you need to do, even though it’s impossible. So maybe this heading should be something like, “do pleasant things that are easy to start and force you to get out of your head.” But that didn’t sound very catchy.

My personal go-to strategy for this one is to text a friend and say something like, “Hey are you busy today? I’m having a bit of a rough spot and I was wondering if you had time to hang out/chat on the phone/go shopping with me.” I might not be able to motivate myself to get off the sofa and do something useful, but I can at least motivate myself to text someone, and they might be able to get me off the sofa. I might not be able to break out of my negative thought pattern, but at least I can call someone and say hi, and they might be able to make me talk and think about something other than how much I hate everything and what a loser I am.

When none of your friends are answering the phone you can try listening to a podcast, reading a book, or doing an easy-to-start hobby activity to help you get past the worst of it. I spent an afternoon laying on the floor listening to multiple episodes of the Art of Manliness podcast (which I do recommend) while my kids played nearby. It was all I could do that day, and the podcast helped me get out of my cycle of negative thoughts.

I also bought a nice grown-up coloring book and used it toward the end of this pregnancy. It really did help. My kids colored their coloring books and I colored mine. I felt a bit silly, but it got me through the day, and was the closest thing to quality time with my kids that I could manage.

One other thing to try, is if you have a to-do list, pick the easiest thing on it (pro tip: always make sure there’s something easy on that list) and do it. Then check it off. Making progress on a project is a great way to increase dopamine and serotonin levels, which will make you feel better.

Leave the past in the past

I talked to a counselor to help me with my depression and discovered through the process that part of what I was struggling with was not just my current emotional challenges, but baggage from my past. I had previously felt depressed and helpless, and the feeling of depression made me feel helpless again, even though I was in a different situation where I had more control over pretty much every aspect of my life and so many more options for helping myself. Just realizing that I was dealing with past challenges as well as present ones when I really only had to deal with present ones was very helpful. So take a step outside your thoughts, if you can, and see if you’re subconsciously assuming things that aren’t true.

Cut yourself some slack

Another thing my counselor told me was to admit that I was actually facing real difficulties and stop telling myself, “I should be able to do more, do better, be better…”

I was pregnant and had two young children to take care of. This is actually a challenging situation. Just because other people might do something harder doesn’t mean that what you’re doing isn’t hard. Who says you should be able to manage that without some extra help? Who says you shouldn’t lay on the floor and cry sometimes? Laying on the floor and crying isn’t a sin, and sometimes it’s all you can do. Don’t make it harder on yourself by telling yourself you’re a loser for doing it. All that will do is make you more depressed, more anxious, and more likely to end up laying on the floor crying.

Sometimes it’s helpful to remind yourself what you did do. I fed my children and kept them safe today. So what if I also spent a couple hours crying? I accomplished something worthwhile today.

Would I rather not have spent two hours crying? Definitely. But it’s more helpful and more healthy to focus on what you did succeed in doing that to beat yourself up about something you might very well have no control over.

Ask for help

You don’t have to be bedridden, having a baby currently, or dying in order to ask for help. Obviously, you should do for yourself what you can, and be ready to help your friends when you can, but sometimes you do need help with physical tasks. Ask for help before you’re so desperate and miserable you can’t do anything.

And if your friends offer to help, do take them up on it if you want help. Don’t be concerned that it’s weak or selfish. It’s not weak to take proper care of yourself, and no one can do life alone. If you have kids, you will need help all the more. Parenting isn’t supposed to be a solo activity. It’s not supposed to just be the parents. Sometimes you need to get other people to help you. Hire someone if you have to and if you can possibly afford it. Consider it an investment in your most valuable asset–your mental health.

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Starting a Clothing Line

News!

Before I became pregnant with my first child, I had a professional wardrobe I was very happy with, and once I was pregnant, I had this strange idea that I would somehow be able to mostly wear the same clothes I had worn before, just a little differently. As you can guess, that didn’t work. It turns out there is a reason they make maternity clothes. I had to be just like everyone else and get new clothes to fit my new body shape. 

But all the options were terrible. The tops were ugly and unflattering. The skirts had these huge pieces of knit sticking off the top, reaching to strangle me. Everything was boxy and unattractive. The only other option was knit skirts, but I’ve never been able to wear those. What I wanted were skirts that felt and looked like the ones I was already wearing, but that didn’t push on my tummy in painful ways. (My first baby had the habit of kicking anything that put pressure on my tummy, and so this was quite important.)

Since the stores didn’t have what I wanted, I made my own. A little trial and error, and I had some cute and comfy skirts that I could wear in the classroom, at home, or even to church. 

I’ve been wearing that design for the last four years now–even when I’m not pregnant!–because they look just like regular skirts, except that they are more comfortable. 

I still haven’t found anything quite like them in stores, and I finally decided that I should share. For the last few months I have been working on finding a manufacturer to produce them for me, and I hope to be selling them here soon.

Once we have the skirts in production, I want to branch out into other pieces as well. Eventually I hope to have a full line of clothing basics that should take ladies through every stage of maternity and nursing, feeling and looking great.

This is pretty exciting for me, and I hope you’ll enjoy seeing the products. 

Because we’ll be adding a store to the site, we decided to update Enjoying Womanhood’s appearance at the same time. So if the site doesn’t look the way you remember, that’s why. We do hope to continue posting about life and ideas and stuff too. So if you subscribe, or are already subscribed to our email list, we’ll continue sending you ideas every so often. I promise we won’t just talk about clothes.

 

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Why I make time for reading in my life

I’m a wife and a mom with a three year old and a one year old. Both children are very active and inquisitive, and enjoy actively inquiring into my cabinets and the fridge, experimenting to see what happens if they pour water on the floor, and if they hit each other. They keep me on my toes. 

I also cook pretty much every meal from scratch–what exactly is scratch anyway? Does anyone know? I bake my own bread, and don’t own a dishwasher. I do the grocery shopping, keep track of endless piles of laundry–or try– and I go on playdates, by which I mean that I try to hang out with other moms while my kids hang out with other kids.

I have a lot on my plate. 

But I make time for reading. I have read at least 2 dozen books since the beginning of the year. Sometimes I use audiobooks, some ebooks, but mostly I check out print books from the library. 

So with so much on my plate, why do I prioritize reading? 

It Keeps Me Sane

When I was pregnant with my first child, I quit my intellectually stimulating job as a middle school history and literature teacher to stay home and take care of the baby. I need intellectual stimulation, and babies, delightful as they are, don’t provide much of that. Reading gives me new things to think about, and is, incidentally, amazingly compatible with breastfeeding. It’s also easier to do with jumping toddlers next to you than just about any other hobby. So basically, reading is a major part of my self care and self-development routine. 

It Gives Me Something to Talk About

There was a period of a few weeks where I had stopped reading, because I thought I was “too busy.” Not only did my brain feel dead, I also discovered that the quality of the conversations I was having with my husband was declining. I had nothing to bring to the table except stories about the kids’ naughtiness, or what I found at the grocery store. I decided this was not ok, and resolved to read something every day, just so that I would have something to bring to the conversation. My husband married a woman who was interested in all sorts of things, presumably because he liked me that way, and I think I should try to keep being that person. 

It’s an Example I Want to Set

When I prioritize reading, this shows my children, young as they are, that books are interesting, and that reading is something that people do. This will make them more likely to be readers and learners when they are old enough. 

I also want them to see that I am a separate person and not just their mom/servant. I think it’s important for my kids to see me doing things that interest me. And for them to see me continuing to learn as an adult. 

How do you fit reading into your life? If you don’t have a lot of time, here’s five books every woman should read. 

Otherwise, here are some of the books I’ve read and enjoyed this year. I hope you enjoy some of them too.

 A guide to natural childbirth inspired by Catholic principles and illustrated with stories of Catholic moms giving birth. Good information, good stories. I was glad I read this one.

 Why yes, I do love science fiction. Timothy Zahn is one of my favorite authors, and this is quite the series. I just re-read it recently.

This is a new one from one of my fellow authors over at Catholicteenbooks.com (Which you should totally check out if you have teenage kids or students, are a teen yourself, or just enjoy YA fiction.) It’s a hard-to-put-down dystopian story about faith, love, martyrdom, and a bunch of other stuff. A lot of fun.

Yes, it’s a kid’s picture book. I thoroughly enjoyed it though. It’s a story about how some young students protect some Jewish children their age during WWII.

Sort of like grown-up Narnia. This is the third book in the series, and I haven’t gotten around to reading the first two, but I did enjoy this one.

The best book on taking control of your digital life that I’ve seen.

Yes, I love science fiction. This is an exciting story of pursuit, compulsion and conversion.

Editing counts as reading, right? I hope you’ll consider checking my book out as well!

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What I’ve been up to lately

It’s been awhile since I posted, but that’s not because I haven’t been writing.

I just finished an edit of my novel, Heaven’s Hunter, and got a fabulous new cover for it. I’m so excited to share it with you all. It’s available on Amazon as both a paperback and an ebook.

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How Your Tech Changes You

This is the third and last part of my series on relating to technology in a healthy way. I’d love you hear your thoughts in the comments.  If you haven’t read the other two parts, they can be found here: Part 1 and Part 2 

(This post contains some affiliate links. These links allow me to earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

A few more thoughts on our relationship with technology. 

The tools we use change us. Archeologists can tell the difference between the skeletons of sword-wielding warriors and ordinary people because using the sword at that level actually changes the structure of the warriors’ body. The British archers who ended the age of armored knights on horseback as the ultimate weapon of war similarly became one with their bows. An archer’s bow arm became highly overdeveloped, and this is visible even in the skeleton. 

These are extreme examples, but every tool we use changes us both physically and mentally. The swordsman becomes one with his sword when he fights. He does not “use his sword” to fight. He fights, and the sword is an extension of himself that gives him new powers. 

Our phones and computers are extensions of our powers as well. 

My phone gives me the ability to speak to people across the world, to learn new things, to take notes about things that are important to me. I have become accustomed to having these powers, and I do not think this a bad thing. In a certain very real sense, we do become one with our phones and computers. It is not surprising that many people become anxious without their phones. I am sure many swordsmen feel incomplete without their weapons. They are missing a part of what they have come to think of as themselves. How could they not be anxious? 

It’s fine to become one with your tools. In fact, only when you are one with your tools can you work at your highest potential. The only trouble is if your tools somehow diminish you, if you lose the abilities you had before you had the tool. 

If the swordsman gains the ability to fight with his sword, he gains as a warrior, but if he can never set the sword down, he will be diminished as a man. It would be hard to write, to eat, or to show affection while constantly holding a naked blade in your hand. 

The same is true of our phones. We gain abilities from our phones, but if we can never put them down we lose parts of our humanity. The information they make available to us is wonderful, but we can’t lose our ability to just be bored occasionally. As Manoush Zomorodi says on page 5 of Bored and Brilliant, “We may feel like we are doing very little when we endlessly fold laundry, but our brains are actually hard at work. When our minds wander, we activate something called the ‘default mode,’ the mental place where we solve problems and generate our best ideas, and engage in what’s known as ‘autobiographical planning,’ which is how we make sense of our world and our lives and set future goals. The default mode is also involved in how we try to understand and empathize with other people, and make moral judgments.” These are important powers which we can only access if we’re just a little bit bored. If we have a constant stream of phone calls, texts, games, and videos keeping our brains constantly busy, we will never go into “default mode” and we will be less than we could be as a result. 

Keep the control in your hands

It’s also important to keep our tools as tools and not let them make us slaves. We should have tools that fit us, not force ourselves to conform to our tools. Really good sword fighters often had swords specially made for them, or at least chose a sword that suited them better than others. 

We should customize our devices to do what we want them to do for us, and to not do what we do not want them to do. I want my phone to enhance my ability to communicate with friends, to organize my life, and to share my ideas with others. Otherwise I want it to be as unobtrusive as possible. I have turned off all notifications except email, text, calls, and my library app, and have muted everything except calls from my contacts. I have no games and no social media. (I kind of wish the news wasn’t so easily accessible, but I don’t usually have a problem with it.)

I installed Google Docs for writing, Todoist for organizing, and I take lots of pictures of my kids so I can send them to my parents and in-laws. I have been trying to call my friends more than I text them lately, as I think the level of connection achieved is higher, and I can do other things (like laundry and dishes) while talking, but not while texting. 

My phone—while I do use it very extensively–is my tool and not my master. It is an extension of myself that I am comfortable with and which I believe makes me better at being what I want to be. 

I hope you’ve found these ideas useful and interesting, and that you are inspired to make your devices healthy and welcome extensions of yourself. It will probably take a long time and a lot of adjustment to find the exact set of tools and rules that helps you lead your best life, but it is worth every bit of effort you put in. Your future self will thank you, as will your friends and family.