Immediate depression coping strategies
September 15, 2011 8:37 AM   Subscribe

I'm feeling really lonely and depressed. My normal coping strategies either aren't cutting it this time or aren't immediate enough. What are some different ideas?

A lot of weird stuff happened in the last couple of weeks, and I've been kind of blindsided by a bout of depression. I'm feeling unloved and unloveable, among other things (yeah, I know this is the depression talking, but it still feels shitty). All I really want to do is curl up in a ball and have someone hold me and tell me I'm great and beautiful. This is not a thing that can happen.

Exercise hasn't worked, a little comfort food hasn't worked, a few drinks worked for a while but that's not too healthy nor a long-term solution, obviously. I've talked to family and friends (not so much about my crappy feelings, just a little. I would prefer not to be irritatingly clingy, because that's kinda where I'm at right now. I'd like to keep my friends!). I've made some plans with friends in the next couple of days and yes, I see a therapist regularly. But I'm more on an infrequent maintenance-therapy schedule and my "emergency" appointment isn't until next week.

So I know it will be better, but none of that is really helping NOW, at this very second, when I'm all sad and lonely and crying about everything. What else can I do? Preferably for free, as much as a trip to the salon or some retail therapy would be great.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Sunshine. Take a day off work or school, grab your sunscreen and a friend, and go to wherever it is people where you live go to get sun and hang around in it until it goes down.

Also, there's a big ole difference between coming to a friend with a serious problem, and being irritatingly clingy. Talk to your friends and family about your crappy feelings. It's not like there is good time to come to someone with "help I am miserable." So as long as they don't have ten thousand things on their plate -- bear in mind the difference between "incredibly busy at this moment" and "busy like everyone else" -- just go to them. They'll help.
posted by griphus at 8:51 AM on September 15, 2011

Go do something that will make you feel accomplished. For me, this would be rock climbing or a big hike up a 14er that I haven't done before.

I don't know what makes you feel accomplished, but while you are in the middle of doing it, there's no room for pity.
posted by TheBones at 8:52 AM on September 15, 2011

Also: you don't have to make concrete plans to do a thing in order hang out. Is your friend spending the night watching TV? Well, ask if you can come over and watch TV with them. You don't have to talk about your problems. Hell, you don't even have to talk. Just being sad in a room with someone you like doing something mind-numbing is better than being sad and alone and thinking about how sad and alone you are.
posted by griphus at 8:56 AM on September 15, 2011 [6 favorites]

Give into the grief. Whatever it is that has happened, it must be very serious to trigger this very valid reaction.

Acknowledge the truth of your feelings. Talk about them to your friends and family right away!! The longer you try to surpress this, the longer it will last.

Accept that one thing, or a series of things, has made you very very sad. Why can't you curl up in a ball and cry for a few days? Why not? Go with what you feel. Accept your humanity. So you have strong feelings? So what?? You can process these uncomfortable feelings and move out of this state when you let yourself feel whatever it is that you are actually feeling.

They say depression is anger turned inwards. Who or what are you deeply angry with? Or are you mad at yourself for some reason?

The quickest way through is for you to be honest with yourself and honor your true feelings. I know no other way. You don't really need a therapist to do this, just an honest sit down with yourself. And a little time to grieve and process whatever the issues are.

Best to you.
posted by jbenben at 8:58 AM on September 15, 2011 [8 favorites]

When I feel this way, first, I give in to it. I say the things to myself I wish someone would say. If I feel pathetic or sad, I try to yell back at that voice and say, I deserve to stay home, watch mindless television tonight, hide in my room, and feel sad and bad.

I allow this for no more than two evenings in a row. In the mornings, I exercise. I get on the elliptical and crank the resistance up to as high as I can withstand. I listen to music with themes about struggle. I push myself really hard, for 30 minutes. When it gets really hard, I think about the things I am frustrated about that I know I need to push through emotionally. I squint my eyes and bear down and push through it. If I feel like crying, I cry (even though I am that crazy lady on the elliptical making squinty faces and possibly crying). After it is over, I feel tough, and I feel like I did my best, and I feel better. This does two things for me: 1.) I allow myself to feel all of the bad things. 2.) Because I am doing it in a healthy, productive way, I feel like a fighter instead of a sad sack.

I am so sorry you are feeling this way. You will feel better.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:02 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

OK off the top of my head, the following come to mind:

- Search youtube for videos of kittens or other cute animals doing funny/awesome things.

- If you have a digital camera, go out and take pictures of things (not people, at least not without permission). The world is really interesting and a camera can help you find niftiness in the mundane. Try experimenting with unusual angles and whatnot.

- If you have netflix or similar, find some scary or weird movies to watch. I know the conventional wisdom is to suggest silly/funny movies, but honestly when I was at my loneliest one thing that helped was watching a depressing medical drama.

- Put on some music and clean house or something similarly physical.
posted by aecorwin at 9:02 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Meditation class/group/meeting or something similar.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:03 AM on September 15, 2011

Oh, and stand up comedy - I like Katt Williams. He has a great way of making light of difficult times.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:03 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

The common thread above is the word/concept "go". I find this is the biggest help. Move, physically, and do something. Almost anything will work as long as it isn't done sitting. Extra goodness from outdoors activities.
posted by trinity8-director at 9:11 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yoga. Many studios have cheap deals for first-time students, or reduced-price or by-donation community classes; check around. For just plain-old feeling relaxed, I prefer restorative classes to the more athletic classes, but anything is good.

Although it's a band-aid rather than a long-term solution, getting immersed in a book, video game, movie, entire season of a TV show in one go, etc. can provide an immediate distraction from the sadness. I wouldn't recommend this in place of therapy and exercise and so on, but for those days when you're alone with nothing to do and no one to talk to, it can be a comfort to pay attention to someone else's stories for a while.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:21 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do something nice for someone. Know someone busy? Offer to do their laundry. Show up at the farmers market and offer to help unload a truck. Mow the neighbors yard after mowing your own. Plant some secret daffodil bulbs on public property or next to the curb and anticipate them growing in the spring.

Do the unexpected. Sleep with your head at the foot of your bed, just to change things up. Try to go all day without smiling (if you tend to smile too much), or get up early and watch the sun rise. Play loud classical music (if you don't normally). Go try on clothes you wouldn't normally try (leopard prints!).

In all of these, don't try to anticipate what it woukd be like to do them or how they might make you feel---let it be a surprise.
posted by vitabellosi at 9:32 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think in terms of activities, it's good to try new things, but also just keep plugging away at the things you have been trying, even if they feel like they haven't been working. I say this because for me, one of the things my depression brings out for me is my impatience. I know you say exercise hasn't been working, but it can't be true that if you keep exercising regularly for x amount of time you won't see a single benefit. It just takes tiiiiiiimmmeee which sucks but it's true. I say this because sometimes I think advice like in this thread can be well meaning but it kind of piles up -- now I have do paleo and plant daffodils and what else now?

Although -- yes, watch puppies and kittens on YouTube. Where would we be without them.
posted by sweetkid at 9:41 AM on September 15, 2011

Regarding talking to your friends, remember one very important thing: your best friends will be honoured to be asked for their help in your bleakest time. That is the best thing about being a friend - when someone asks you for help and you can gladly give it.

It is absolutely not a burden, or clinginess. If I found out one of my friends was going through what you are and didn't ask for my help, I would be sad that they did not. If you can, allow your friends and/or family the privilege of being there for you.
posted by greenish at 9:42 AM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

getting immersed in a book, video game, movie, entire season of a TV show

This has helped me in the past. I recommend Arrested Development or Party Down for this - both available on Netflix.
posted by jeoc at 9:44 AM on September 15, 2011 [6 favorites]

One thing that has helped me is writing stuff down in a notebook. Not necessarily a "journal" but just a record of how I'm feeling- probably not even legible to anyone else. Somehow it's empowering to get it out on paper instead of holding it inside.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:48 AM on September 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

In addition to kitties and puppies on Youtube, don't forget bunnies!
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:49 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is cute enough to make anyone feel better. Give it a try!
posted by Fister Roboto at 10:46 AM on September 15, 2011

Do small tasks of housework. Wash the dishes. Clean the bathroom floor. Scrub the tub.

I've been in a funk for a while and these really do help. I don't know why I need to be constantly reminded.

This blog post helped (she's very controversial and kind of loopy, but take what you can from it):
“And also, sometimes you have to look in far reaches and odd corners to get back to feeling okay. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. I think hot water or a good book or even just cleaning the bathroom floor helps you get to whatever is next for you. You just have to do something.”

There's also a really great metafilter comment:
"You can take advantage of your time in pain by doing something that would have hurt a LOT before, but pales in comparison to what you're feeling now.

I was in a long distance relationship for a year or two, and there were a lot of goodbyes, and we couldn't afford much phone time, so there was a lot of loneliness and worrying about how to keep the relationship alive. During a particularly mopey period, my roommate said "You know what you could do? Clean the bathroom." I said "that won't make me feel better." She said "It won't make you feel worse, and we'll have a clean bathroom." Whenever it looks bleakest, I clean the bathroom."
posted by valeries at 11:26 AM on September 15, 2011 [9 favorites]

Try a hot bath. Go for a walk somewhere beautiful.
posted by callmejay at 11:31 AM on September 15, 2011

This is just a little thing, but it helped me this morning- Emotional Bag Check. Actually, I found responding to other people's stuff made me feel much better. Works especially well if you are a believer in the healing power of pop music.
posted by Concordia at 12:23 PM on September 15, 2011 [9 favorites]

A craft such as knitting or needlework really helps me. Do you remember the scene from Like Water for Chocolate when she looses her loved one and knits a ridiculously long blanket? It's like that. Also, whenever I am really upset I take baths. I don't know why it always helps.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 12:29 PM on September 15, 2011

Keep yourself mentally busy. Don't give yourself time to think about your problems. Get some audiobooks out of the library, and listen to them whenever you're doing other things, like exercising or driving or walking or cleaning the house. Gives your brain exactly no time to dwell on...well, whatever you dwell on. That particular tip got me out of a post-breakup funk.

Go to a part of your city you don't go to often. Explore stuff. Do you have cheap museums nearby? Take pictures. If you do something slightly creative, you'll find you again have less time to dwell.
posted by clone boulevard at 12:48 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thinking that you're being irritatingly clingy is a symptom of the depression, not your reality. Lean on your friends. You're not irritating them.
posted by judith at 2:11 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fantasy retail therapy. Leave your money and credit cards at home, then head out to browse around at either your favorite retail therapy shops, or ones much more expensive than you could usually afford.
posted by yohko at 4:06 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know it sounds like I'm joking, but when I'm depressed it's good to stop being 'me' for a bit. Marcus Fenix isn't depressed. He's main problem is killing aliens, so once he's killed a bunch of those aliens his problem is solved. If you don't have a console, poke around Jay Is Games and Orsinal until you find a Flash game that appeals.

Write stuff down.
Do a small task, like organizing your music collection, so you can say you've accomplished something.
Do some low-impact socializing. Do you have a favorite bar, coffee shop, bookstore, etc? Go there for a bit... just be around people.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:21 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Keep trying some of the things that have worked in the past for you -- give them time. I find that getting outside helps, but sometimes it takes a week or so of having an hour of daylight each day before I really feel the difference. (Note I don't say "sunshine". It helps even if there's only gray skies or even drizzle all week.)

Invite yourself over to friends houses, in the most low-key way you can manage. Ask if there's any nights they like to watch T.V., and could you join them to watch, and you'll bring the chips/beer. That way you will be less alone, without needing to be clingy or talk about feelings. Sometimes it's enough to bemoan Dr. McDreamy's life choices together.

Bake something. Preferably something big or lots. Then bring it wherever you go most days -- work, school, etc. (Don't forget the little note that says what it is, possible allergens, and that you made it.) Then you have accomplishment (you baked something), yummy (it tastes good), and compliments (everyone thanks you/says how yummy it is), and people going out of their way to talk to you (to say "Thanks, yum!")

Think back on what have been some good comforts for you. Whether it's watching Dirty Dancing nonstop, or curling up in blankets with hot chocolate, take part of each day to just pamper yourself. (And, er, speaking of making yourself feel better, you might try masturbating more. Endorphins and all.) I know when I'm not feeling well, it's fuzzy blanket, Bend it like Beckham and hot ginger drink for me.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:37 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

One time in my twenties when I was miserable and lonely and my job sucked this worked for me: on the way to work one day, I stopped at the supermarket and bought myself a mylar helium balloon that said, "Congratulations!" I carried it into work and had it sitting next to me all day. Everyone who saw it stopped and asked me what it meant. I can't even remember exactly what I said, but I had conversations with people all day long. Sometimes I made a joke about it, or said "I like to congratulate myself for being awesome!" It forced me to be a little extroverted and talk to people and call myself awesome.

It was a totally nonsensical thing, but if you're like me and just talking to people about any old thing makes you feel better, something like this may help.
posted by bendy at 8:02 PM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is just a little thing, but it helped me this morning- Emotional Bag Check. Actually, I found responding to other people's stuff made me feel much better. Works especially well if you are a believer in the healing power of pop music.

Wow. Thank you for posting this. This is amazing.
posted by threeants at 9:20 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

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