A few months ago, I posted on social media and asked “What are your best tips for depression” and the response was incredible. Hundreds of people weighed in and shared their best tips for managing depression with OCD and other anxiety disorders.
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This is Your Anxiety Toolkit Episode 291.
Welcome back, everybody. So, I want to set the scene here because things are shifting. Things have shifted. So, I am right now sitting in my office, which is in Southern California, in the United States. But as this launches and goes live, I will be in Australia for the summer. I think I’ve talked to you guys about this in previous episodes, but my husband and I made a decision that the children and I will go to Australia to see our family for the entire summer. Oh my goodness, what a huge undertaking, but we’re doing it and I am so excited. So, really, I’ve had to batch 10 episodes ahead of time.
Now, what I’ve done is I’ve done my best to make these the best episodes I can batch for you, like the things that seem to be coming up the most for my clients, the questions my staff seem to be asking the most, and the things that everyone seem to be really, really liking and appreciating on social media.
And so, in preparation for today, I was thinking about what’s one of the most helpful, most enjoyed, and engaged posts on social media, because I do spend a lot of time over on Instagram. And by far, interestingly by far, my most popular post I have ever made in the whole history of me being on social media is tips on managing depression. What? I’m an OCD and an Anxiety Specialist, but yet my most popular post in the whole time I’ve been there is on managing depression. So, that’s what we’re talking about today.
Now, in order for me to do 10 posts, 10 podcasts, excuse me, in order, I’ve had to manage my time down to the minute because right now we are leaving in 18-- no, what is it? Not 18 days. It’s like 15 days. So, we’re leaving in 15 days. I have all of this in addition to the work because I usually just do these here and there. I’ve had to manage my time, and what I have relied on the most is managing my time using what we call “calendaring.” I talk a lot about this on my online course. If you go to CBT School, we have a whole course on managing time.
But the reason I also share that with you is as we talk about skills today, we’re going to be talking about cognitive skills and behavioral skills. And if you have depression, I strongly encourage you to go and sign up for that course. It’s not an expensive course. It’s jam-packed with how to schedule your time so that you can lessen the heavy load that you’re carrying or the time about the lists of things you have to do and get done. So, I do recommend you go check that out. Go to CBTSchool.com and I think it’s /time management. Yes, it is.
We’re about to get into the show. First of all, let’s do the “I did a hard thing.” This one is from Anonymous and it says:
“I stopped driving and spending time with children because of OCD. But yesterday, I drove my little sister to school. I was scared, but I’m so proud of myself. Thank you, Kimberley.”
This is so good. I can’t tell you how many people when they’re anxious, they stop driving. It’s actually a really common question I get on social media. It actually surprised me at first in that how common it is. It’s one of the first things people stop doing, is driving. So, Anonymous, amazing. You are just all for the correct courage and all for the bravery and I’m celebrating you right now. That is so, so amazing. Great, great job.
And one more thing, let’s do quickly a review of the week. This is from Robin. Robin says:
“I’m not sure how to condense all of my happiness and thanks, but I’ll try. Was recommended to listen to your podcast by my therapist (who is just superb and I’m grateful she exists) and I instantly fell in love with your genuine desire to help which seeps through the sound waves. I am hooked on the real-life stories that I can connect to my own experience and have gotten my sister hooked as well who struggles with anxiety as I do. Thank you for your tools and support!”
Thank you, Robin, for that amazing review. Please do go over. And if you listen to the podcast, leave a review. It does help me help other people and more than ever, that is my biggest mission.
All right, let’s do it. So, let me just give you a little bit deeper context here. So, what I did is I did a poll on social media. So, just to give you some context, I have around 75,000 followers on social media. So, I posted: “Please just give me your best tips for managing depression.” Hundreds of people wrote in and the reason-- I don’t give you the numbers because I’m bragging. I want you to know this is not just from me. This is from hundreds of people who weighed in, who’ve been there, who’ve had depression and they shared little nuggets of what has helped them. And I want to-- in fact, we actually had to split this post into two because there was just so many submissions that we couldn’t fit them all in one post. So, here we go.
The number one tip for managing depression and these aren’t in order, by the way, this is not the one that was most popular. This is just as we went through, these were the ones that seemed to be really coming up for the same a lot of people. The first one is-- this is going to be a fun one for you, is many people reported that having a dog or a cat or a pet helped them to feel like they had a purpose in the world, that they were there to take care of someone, and that that pet gave them an incredible amount of love.
I loved this one. What was interesting, I’ll give you feedback right away, is there was a little controversy and feedback around this. A lot of people were saying, “Please don’t encourage people to get a pet just because they’re depressed. Taking on a pet is a huge responsibility.” There was a little controversy, a little backlash, I would say, over that point. But I really do agree that those who do have a pet and can commit to taking on a pet have found that that’s really helpful for their mental health. Most people said having a pet is the most mindful they are in the day when they’re petting their pet, feeding their pet, cuddling with their pet, listening to their pet, and so forth. So, that I thought was an amazing, amazing tip or thing you could practice.
Number two, probably again, one of the most important from a clinical perspective is exercise. Now, yes, I know, it’s hard to exercise when you’re depressed, but we do have a ton of research to show that exercise is in fact as effective as an SSRI. Not to say you shouldn’t be on an SSRI. I actually am on all four meds. But exercise is an additional benefit. And so, I strongly encourage everyone to at least get out. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, but around 25 minutes was what most people who have depression said, that was the ideal amount. If you get to that point, you actually get more benefit, which I thought was really cool.
The next one is: Practice mindfulness. Now again, so helpful. If you have depression, usually, I’m going to guess, your mind tells you a lot of lies, a lot of horrible lies, a lot of absolute painful lies. And a big part of managing it is using what we call mindful-based cognitive therapy. And so, what we mean by that is, first, we are aware and we just observe thoughts as thoughts. We don’t take thoughts as facts. And then the cognitive therapy side is once we identify that we’ve had a thought, we may actually stop to correct it. So, if your brain says, there’s no point, you’re a waste of space or the future is going to be nothing but terrible or my life is nothing but terrible – when it tells us these lies, we can actually stop and go, “Okay, now, number one, that’s a thought and I’m going to observe that thought nonjudgmentally.” And then you can also go, “Okay, let’s actually check the evidence for that depressive thought. Hmm, do I bring purpose into the world? Is the world going to be terrible?” and look for maybe some holes in this theory and start to be curious about whether that’s in fact correct. It’s so important. Mindfulness. I personally think these two, the exercise and the mindfulness, are key, are major keys to managing depression.
The next one that was suggested by a lot of people was to talk to family and friends, even if they don’t fully understand. And I loved that little caveat to go on. As much as depression makes you want to isolate and shut down, make sure that you are going and you’re just connecting with them. You’re talking with them, you’re sharing what you’re going through, even if they don’t understand, because the truth is they won’t. Even if they’ve been through what you’ve been through, they won’t fully get it. They’re not the ones getting fed the lies of depression like you are. Or if you’re a family member, I want you to understand it’s really not helpful to say to someone with depression, “I totally get what you’re going through,” because the chances are you don’t. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t relate on some level. That doesn’t mean we can’t connect and support each other. So, important. So, so important.
This one was an interesting one. And I want to-- some of these surprised me, but lots of people reported that attending couples therapy, couples counseling, if you’re in a relationship, was helpful for their depression. Now, I wonder if that is because maybe their relationship was a part of what’s very difficult for them, but I can see the benefit in that. I don’t talk about this very often, but I personally love couples counseling. I have no problem admitting that we’ve been to couples counseling before. It is thebomb.com. It is such a beautiful thing to do with your partner. Is it hard? Yes. Is it bumpy? Yes. But there’s something really cool about knowing that you’re showing up to the same place every week with the same goal, which is to strengthen your relationship. That in and of itself is just really, really cool. And a lot of people responded saying that that was really helpful for their depression, which I thought was really cool.
Next one, you guys aren’t going to be shocked by this, and I definitely wasn’t, which was to practice self-compassion. You guys, depression is nasty. It tells you nasty. I’m doing everything I can not to swear here, but it’s like BS. It tells you such nasty BS. And one of the best insurance policies against that, or one of the best defenders against that, or I should say offense, the offense against that is to practice compassion for yourself, to practice being kind and respectful and being tender to the suffering that you’re experiencing. Because believe me, I do know, I’ve experienced depression throughout different parts of my life. It’s horrible and it feels-- the only way I can explain it is you can’t understand it when you’re in depression because you’re in depression. But once you’re out of the depression, for me, it felt like someone had pulled this gray veil off my head that I didn’t even know was there until I’d come out of a depression by going to a lot of therapy and so forth. And I was like, “Whoa, I had no idea everything was under a gray veil until the gray veil was lifted.” So, that compassion piece is really important because I didn’t know the depression was there until the depression had lifted, if that makes any sense. And had I known it, I probably would’ve been much, much, much kinder to myself.
Next point, I love this. It’s very similar to what we talked about before, but it says, no matter how much you don’t want to, get up and move your body. Now, I could have easily put this under the category of exercise. But a lot of the comments weren’t-- this wasn’t talking about exercise. It was saying, stand up and stretch was one of them. Just stand up and swing your body around, move it around, get into the flow, let the blood flow around your body. And they were saying that that is a shift in mentality. It’s a shift in mindset. I know even today as I’m recording all these episodes, I’m going to need to practice this, because if I just stay here and I stare into this microphone and I’m looking at the screen, my brain is going to get a little distorted and strange. I’m going to have to go upstairs, shake it off, get a cup of tea, move around. And so, I love that they distinguish this separate from exercise.
Next point, oh my gosh, this is gold right here. It says, do something you used to enjoy. Now, when we’re depressed, often nothing feels enjoyable. Even food isn’t enjoyable anymore, or company might not be enjoyable. The things you used to love, the vibe is gone. But what a lot of people were saying, and this is again from people who’ve had depression and managed it, is they were saying, whether or not you enjoy it now, continue to do the things you used to enjoy, but also spread out.
This is one thing I didn’t mention here, is a lot of people said, be curious about little things that you used to enjoy that you never really developed as a hobby. So, an example would be, I think somebody said something to the likes of like, I used to love hopscotch. Of course, they loved it when they were very, very little. So, as they got older, of course, they stopped playing hopscotch into their adulthood. But they were like, “I literally wrote down a list of everything I used to enjoy and I just did it, whether I’ve done it for 40 years or not.” So, little things. It doesn’t have to be grand things. It doesn’t have to be hobbies. It could be going, “I remember as a kid, I used to love boba or whatever.” Go and get some. Do the things you used to enjoy, even if they’re teeny tiny.
Another huge group of people said sunlight. Sunlight is a huge part of managing depression. Now, thank goodness for these, my community, because if I was putting together a podcast or managing depression, I would’ve completely forgotten about the people who have seasonal affective depression because I live in California and I wouldn’t have thought of that. But so many of my followers are from all around the world and hundreds of people responded saying, you have to get sunlight. You have to get exposure, UV lights. There are all these really cool exposure lights that you can talk to your doctor about getting. So, thank you to everyone who wrote this in because I would’ve forgotten that.
And for me too, what I will say is I work indoors a lot. I work at my desk a lot. Most of you know I am running two separate businesses at once. My private practice and CBT School. So, the days where I don’t just-- even if it’s go outside and sit in the sun while I have a cup of tea for 10 minutes, I do notice a shift in my mood. Again, don’t do too much. We don’t want you to get sunburn. We don’t want you to have too many exposures to UV rays. But I do believe there’s such a benefit for mental health.
Okay, next one. This one is amazing. So, many people wrote some variation of this, but we pulled it into this one point, which is write a list of “I can” statements. Meaning, when you’re depressed, depression will tell you can’t. “You can’t do that. You can’t do this. What’s the point of doing that? You can’t. Don’t do it. You won’t do it. Don’t do it.” And so, a lot of people were talking about writing a list of either your strengths or your characteristics or things that you can do. And I think that that is such an amazing shift – to write a list of I can’s. I can work out. I can call my friend. I can get some sun today. I can go to therapy. I can play with my dog. It’s very similar to the term “should.” That simple move of saying “I should exercise” to “I could exercise” like “I should be kinder to myself,” or you could say, “I could be kinder to myself,” those small shifts in sentences can make such a difference. So, I like either of those.
Next one, appreciate the little things you do for yourself. You might start to see a trend here. When you’re depressed, the big stuff feels really hard. So, you got to zoom in on the little stuff. And they were saying, appreciate the little things you do for yourself. So, an example might be, “It’s really nice that you made yourself a cup of tea before you recorded these podcasts, Kimberley,” or “Wow, it was kind of you that you bathed today. Great job. Making sure you ate breakfast. Great job. Getting out of bed today.” Often with depression, we go, “Oh, that’s stupid. Why would I celebrate getting out of bed? Everyone gets out of bed. I’m such a loser because I can’t get out of bed.” I mean, that’s the mindset of someone with depression. And so, we want to shift that away from such critical voices and going, “Good job you got out of bed. That’s a big deal when you’re depressed. Good job on brushing your teeth when you’re depressed. That’s a big deal. Good job on saying no to that thing you didn’t want to do. That’s a big deal.” Really, really important.
I have three left. The third last one is, take your medication. Hundreds of people wrote this in and I just loved it. It filled me with joy because whether you choose to take medication or not is entirely your decision. But 10 years ago, I remember when I was-- 15 years ago when I was starting to do my internship, there was this article. I think it was like a USA Today article or something, and it was talking like, let’s take the stigma out of medication. And so, great. We’re starting to have those conversations. But to see now how the response was of like, “Just take your medication,” it just really made me feel joyful that maybe that means there’s a little less stigma about it, and I really hope that I help you to take the stigma out.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking medication. In fact, I’ll tell you a quick story about myself, when I-- you’ll probably remember I went through a period in 2019 and 2020 where I was very, very sick and I had severe depression alongside it. And I remember the doctor saying, “Okay, we’ll prescribe you such and such for this condition and such and such. And we’ll prescribe you an SSRI for your depression.” And he didn’t really even ask if I was depressed, he just prescribed it. And I was like, “What? You didn’t even ask me if I was depressed.” And he goes, “No, no. Most people who have POTS,” I have pots, “they get depressed.” And I was like, “Huh, that’s interesting.” And I thought to myself, okay, I don’t-- for a second, I thought, no, I don’t really need it. But then I was like, “You know what? What a gift to give myself the help. If it’s going to help, I’m going to do it. What a gift.” Not that I’m at all encouraging you to take medication, but I just want to share with you my experience. I could have seen it as like, “Oh, I’m so bad. That’s weak and that’s lazy and I should try without it.” But I was like, “You know what? I’m really not well. I’m going to take all the help. And if one form of the help is to take a pill, I’m going to take a pill.” I’m not going to tell myself a story that that’s lazy. In fact, I’m going to say that’s pretty badass, that I would accept the help. I’ll get going. Sorry, I had to tell you that really important story from my perspective.
All right. Two to go. Second last one: Surround yourself with people who help keep sight of what’s important. This is important. If you’re depressed and you’re surrounded by people, whether it’s physically or on social media, people who are very materialistic or they are striving towards things that actually make your depression worse, find different people. You want to find yourself around people who strive for similar things that are aligned with your recovery.
I’ll tell you again a different story. As a business person, I love business. I really do. I love being a therapist, but if I wasn’t a therapist, I’d go to business school because I just love it. But I notice that if I’m hanging around with other people who are business-minded, it can get really icky and the messages can get really gross. And I can find myself falling into this trap of winning and wanting more. I was finding that I was starting to be hard on myself until I caught this and was like, “Whoa, I need to unfollow these people because this is not good for my mental health. I need to surround myself with people who have the same goals, like what’s important as their goal.” And that was really, really monumental for me. So, do an inventory of your friends, your family, your social media, your colleagues, and try to only surround yourself with people who support your recovery.
Last one is, when you’re having this feeling, don’t numb it out. I’m leaving this at the end. I probably should have put it at the front, but don’t numb it out. It’s okay. Sometimes you will need to turn your brain off and watch some TV. But if that’s all you’re doing to manage your depression, the chances are you’re going to get more depressed. That’s why I keep talking about scheduling and calendaring. Because often when we’re depressed, we want to just stay in bed and numb the feeling out. Sleep all day, watch TV just to numb the depression. But that only makes it worse. And this is the behavioral piece of managing depression, which is one of the gold standard treatments for depression is what we call time blocking or activity scheduling so that you schedule your day. Nothing heavy, nothing crazy. But you do that so that in doing that, you actually reduce your depression because you feel accomplished and you don’t feel like the day was a complete waste. Again, there’s a balance. You don’t want to overschedule, but you do want to engage in the day. You want to make sure that you’ve got things planned. So, don’t numb. Try to activity schedule.
If you need help with that, head over to CBTSchool/-- sorry, you’ll go to products and then there’ll be time management there, or CBTSchool/timemanagement. You can learn that in that course. It’s a really pretty cheap course and it’s pretty quick. It’s like a two-hour course and I walk you through exactly how I do it.
All right. So, that’s it. There are tips for managing depression. There’s like 12, maybe 15 of them. They’re from hundreds of people who have been there. I just love this community so much. If you haven’t followed me on social media, head over to Instagram under Your anxiety Toolkit, and I’ll be there. Thank you.
All right. Have a wonderful day. I will see you next week. Next week, we’re talking about sensations and anxiety and panic. So, I’ll see you there. Have a good one, everyone.