Escaping from depression spirals?
April 14, 2018 8:23 PM   Subscribe

Lately I've fallen into a series of negative thought spirals due to stress and I'm looking for ideas to prevent myself from it getting worse day by day.

I have a history of anxiety and depression but I'm under medical care now. They tend to start towards the end of the evening where I feel completely hopeless and a burden on society/friends. Typically, I've played games to zone out the terrible thoughts but I would want to be more productive now. I'm aware a lot of it is stressing over aspects I cannot control and 25% items I have some influence but I'm not doing "enough." Reading books helps but then I find if I'm seriously worried I can't focus on the story or words.

Also, I feel like I can't stop comparing myself with others in my age range at 26 years old who have stable jobs, housing, degrees, and "normal" lives vs I'm just on the edge of surviving day to day life. I have taken steps like to never look up old classmates and limit social media. Any advice to break out of my negativity spirals would be great. Thanks.
posted by chrono_rabbit to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Do you exercise? That might help your mood generally and help you fall asleep faster.

Also, you might try telling yourself "I'm not helping myself by worrying about this now. The smartest thing I can do is to relax, go to sleep, and work hard on [my resume] tomorrow." Sometimes my self-critical voice can be defeated with logic. "You say I'm not successful in life? Well, the fastest way for me to become successful is for you to stop tormenting me so I can fall asleep and work toward more success tomorrow." "Hmm, you're right!" *Poof, disappears!* (Of course, it's not always so easy. But it might be worth a try.)
posted by salvia at 8:30 PM on April 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Wow, I see a lot of myself in this question. Here goes:

The best thing I can do for myself when I'm at risk of spiraling down into depression and anxiety is to do an activity that takes me out of my head and makes me feel better. When my depression is trying to get the upper hand, it makes me want to do stuff that makes me feel more depressed and anxious: stay in bed all day, staring at a screen and checking the same sites over and over. It makes me feel awful but if I don't make a choice to do something else, that's what will happen.

It also tries to talk me out of doing the things that I know from experience help make me feel better: talk to friends and family, get out in nature, and exert myself physically. It throws up barriers and reasons for why I don't really want to do those things, or why I can't right now, or why it would really be better to just stay in bed for another five minutes, or fifteen, or an hour.

At this point though, I've been through this enough times that I know my depression is wrong. I know that it's precisely when I least feel like getting up and moving that I most need to do it, and I remember that soon enough I'll be enjoying myself and feeling better about life if I just push through for a bit and do something positive for myself. So it's pretty rare for me to fall into that trap nowadays, although the risk is always there.

Also, I do still have bad days. I have days when I get up late, accomplish almost none of the things on my list of Things to Do, feel anxious and sick all day, and go to bed feeling bad about my accomplishments and my life. At these times, I remind myself that one off day is not catastrophic. Even an off month or two (and I've had lots of those over the years, though thankfully not recently) is not the end of the world; life goes on afterward, and there will still be good times to be had.

When I have bad days it is super important for me to just forgive myself unconditionally. If I need to just write off a day, so be it—the important thing is to feel better, not to castigate myself about how I'm wasting my life. Forgiveness is key: I need to just sit with that upset feeling for a moment, and then consciously let it go and move on. If I carry it with me, trying to avoid thinking about it, it will get worse. I need to let go of it.

Looking at what I've just written it all seems rather pat and simple compared to the complicated reality of dealing with these feelings and patterns in the moment. I feel like I'm not expressing myself as clearly as I'd like, but at the end of the day you're going to need to find your own path in this and develop a practice that works for you. If you're thinking that it sounds easier said than done, you're right; it took me years of self-observation, not to mention painful trial and error, to get to the point where I can pretty reliably recognize this stuff and head it off before it gets bad. You have to start sometime, though. Good luck.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:51 PM on April 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

It's such a cliché, but for me, going for a run or hard aerobic exercise between work and "home" time acts as a real circuit breaker for these negative spirals.

It noticeably lifts my mood for the rest of the evening and makes going to sleep a lot easier for me.

I also listen to lecturey audio books to help myself go to sleep and distract from negative thoughts.

Best of luck, and good on you for trying to mix it up and do something about this.
posted by smoke at 2:48 AM on April 15, 2018

You might find it helpful to look through the answers to a very similar question I asked: How can I save each day from failure? 7.5 years on, I still use some of these things when I’m depressed.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:44 PM on April 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

If your brain is like mine, it's possible that reading might be a little too passive.

I've had good results with making a playlist of music that I know very well - enough to sing along to. This works for me because trying to sing along, or the whisper equivalent if volume is a concern, doesn't take much effort and because in order to properly get into a spiral I'd have to stop singing first. After a little bit, I'm usually feeling better enough that I can start on something productive. It's great for when things that require more exertion, like exercise or social stuff, aren't back on the table yet.

It's like the musical equivalent of taking a walk in your neighborhood to feel better, if you know your neighborhood really well. The idea is that even if you wander off route you can't really get lost. What that means for me is that it's easier to stay focused because even if I do lose focus, I can pick up wherever I am in whatever song is playing.

Also I want to make sure to say that I am tone deaf as fuck and am not suggesting putting in the effort required to sing well. Just singing, if it helps.
I hope you find something that works for you soon.
posted by Verba Volant at 11:54 PM on April 15, 2018

Have you spoken with your care provider about these late-in-the-day downturns? Perhaps you need to be eating something different for dinner, or you're on a medication which needs adjustment? In the meantime, try a warm shower that finishes with cold water when the negative thoughts start cropping up.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:14 PM on April 16, 2018

If you can, it might help to keep busy with a close family member. It’s a distraction; and it’s also smiling at the thought of being close to someone you love ...even if the person you love desperately is no longer alive.
posted by Bridgeman3 at 5:24 PM on September 27, 2018

« Older Introducing wife to old crush   |   So lonely its making me depressed? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.