Every year since I was hospitalized for depression and anxiety in 2004, I have a bout of depression that usually shows up in May and late October. Normally, around the September mark, my Doctor and I would discuss increasing my anti-depressant dosage to be proactive. However, this year, after 60 days unplugged over the summer and Removing the Mask and finding gratitude in pain where I committed to a personal 30 Day Challenge to not drink alcohol, I thought if I can do that, I am ready to face depression head on! There has to be some sort of 30 Day challenge I can do to take control of my mental health.
In September I began planning: ”What will I need to do to beat the October Blues?”
The first step awareness:
What are the signs?
What are the triggers?
Historically when does it usually begin?
The signs for me personally, (please remember although there are overall signs, yours may be slightly different):
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Withdraw and isolate
- Fatigue and always tired
- I become inpatient
- overwhelming sadness and tears
- I easily go into overwhelm.
The triggers, are many and they all stem from not taking care of myself after a summer of no routine and playing catch up:
- Saying yes to everything
- Working tirelessly to catch up on emails and messages
- Skipping meals
- Lack of physical exercise
- Not connecting in real life with friends
- Lack of quality time with family
Historically the depression usually begins to surface around the middle of October, and as late as mid November and can continue on for two to four weeks.
So manned with this information I was able to move forward with a plan on how I would beat the October Blues. I reflected on what it is I value most:
So how do I break this down for my plan? I decided to practice what I teach, and ask myself some powerful questions:
Chapter 1 – Stand Up with Healthy Boundaries for myself
- Physical Health: How can I commit to taking care of my physical self?
- Boundaries for Mental Health: What do I need to do for my emotional needs?
- Boundaries for Relationships: Where do I spend my time and with who?
Chapter 2 – Speak Up and ask for help with real life connection
- 30 Day Real Life Connection Challenge: How will getting together with friends face to face every day impact my mental health?
- Help comes from the least expected places: Who will show up, when I need and ask for help?
- Revising my Emotional Support Plan: Time to move with changing relationships and be intentional with my support group.
- Kindness and compassion for myself first and then others: How can I give myself the same level of kindness and compassion I give to others?
- Love vs Fear: Where in my life do I need to focus on reframing my beliefs around fear and come from a place of love?
- Daily Gratitude goals: How can I continue to share and commit to daily gratitude?
I purposefully kept this project to myself, even from my husband.
A couple of reasons…
Part of my Bring it On, was a 30 Day Real life Connection Challenge. Losing my best friend to brain cancer in March, and another dear friend in August to Pulmonary Fibrosis, I realized that I never wanted to take for granted the friendships I hold near and dear ever again. I also recognized my personal need for real life connection, to be with my friends, spend time with them and show my gratitude. So I made a commitment to myself that I would get together with a friend every day for 30 days. I didn’t want anyone agreeing to meet to appease me and my challenge. I wanted people to connect with me because they wanted to. You will read more about this challenge and some of the surprising or not so surprising responses and discoveries.
I also wanted to take full accountability and responsibility for my choices and outcome, by not allowing myself to be influenced by suggestions: you should take this, you should do that, and opinions of others.
I am happy to say this little self-experiment was a resounding success. Not only did I beat the October blues, I came out of October and November more alive, balanced and on purpose than I have ever been. There have been hiccups along the way, challenges that I almost allowed to take me off track, and tests of the tools I continue to grow and learn from that serve me well.
As you move into the holiday season, be aware, and consider this:
This is a time for many who deal with mental illness to be triggered by the busyness of the season.
Be proactive and take responsibility for your mental health.
- Set healthy boundaries and stick to them.
- Be aware of your expectations on yourself and others.
The cold winter months in the northern hemisphere can trigger seasonal affective disorder, depression, bipolar and other mental illnesses.
- Check with your doctor or a mental health professional about : light therapy and vitamin D
Who are you surrounding yourself with? Is it people who give you energy or take it away?
I am confident you will find tools, inspiration and hope by reading this 4 part blog series. If you are not afflicted by mental illness, I hope you find education and awareness, and take steps to help and support a loved one, and help to reduce the stigma.
Tomorrow’s post: Chapter 1 – Stand Up with Healthy Boundaries for myself.
Hugs & Love