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Stop telling me to exercise: dealing with a mild short-term depression

1426 words

The beginning of 2020 was not perfect for me. Right at the start of 2020 (literally, first hour), I started feeling a little sick. On the next day, I woke up with a high fever. Around the 10th of January, with a lot of help from my wife, I was able to fight the disease.

I think that my boss got sick because of that and was not able to spend time with his newborn child. I feel terrible because of that. So, Alan, if you are reading this, I am sorry.

Then, the rest of the month I spent in a mild depression. It was the worst mood and the hardest time I’ve had in my life, psychologically. To be honest with you, I still don’t fully understand why. I have been under mild stress due to a whole bunch of reasons, the main one is financial instability, of course. I have a feeling this might be one of the most popular reasons for sadness. This has been going on for a while, but mostly my mood has been fine, more or less. I guess something happened that sent me to the rock bottom, psychologically speaking.

I am okay now. In fact, I am better than before. Much better. I now wake up super early, which I was never able to do. I exercise almost every morning. I work on my personal projects before I go to work. I eat healthy foods. I have a great relationship with my wife. Everything seems to be going fine now.

In this post, I wanted to share some of my reflections on the depressive state that I went through. I’d like to share some of my thoughts that were running through my head and what helped me get over the sadness. I hope this is useful.

Common Advice

I want to start with a brief list of things that one might find when searching the web for “How to deal with Depression.”

Exercise

It can be very annoying to search online for a solution and get the same advice over and over. Exercise, exercise, exercise.

Will you stop, please? Look, I know exercise is good. In fact, I like to exercise, it makes me feel good. But, when you are depressed, you don’t want to exercise. You really don’t. If, during my depressive state, I do have a glimpse of hope and light, I will exercise. Will it make me feel better? Probably. Will it solve my bigger problem? It won’t! It won’t because solutions like exercise work only when done regularly. You can’t expect a person dealing with mood swings to exercise regularly. It just does not work that way.
What will happen to a depressed person who was told to exercise, but failed to do that? It will only lead to a worse condition.

Exercise is great. Everyone knows exercise is great for your body and mind. However, it is only great for a person who is not struggling with too many things at ones. Please, stop recommending people exercise when they are depressed. It is not a solution to the problem.

Meditate

The problem here is the same. I know it is good for me. In my case, I actually enjoy it. But in times of great sadness, I can’t make myself do it.

Fighting the battle

Every single fucking day, I had to battle myself, my mood. Most of the time, I win the battle, but many times I don’t. The only solution to this is not to have one at all. If you think about it, no human can win each time they fight something. It is impossible, you won’t have the stamina to do that, and eventually, you give up. So, the only solution that comes to mind is not to have the battle at all.

The only problem with that is that it is easy to say that, but hard to do. When you are depressed, it doesn’t feel like you have much control over your body, over your thoughts. So what should you do?

Go easy on yourself

Look, I’m no doctor, I don’t know what the cause for your sadness/depression is. For me, it was that I took on too many projects, too many responsibilities.

One thing that helped me was going easy on myself. After a couple of days of beating myself up, I decided to drop half of my projects, half of my attempt to build good habits, it was too much.

I made sure to enjoy junk food, even after finishing it. I tried really hard not to worry about watching too much television. I stopped worrying about missing exercise for a week. I decided to drop all my worries and enjoy whatever it is I was doing. In a lot of cases, it was nothing, just sitting on a sofa eating junk food.

That helped me a lot. Now, I’m back on track to build some good habits, but this time I’m making sure not to overdo it. Taking a step at a time.

Other people

Another useful tool that helped me get my mood, my desire to do things back was listening to other people. In my case, those people were Jordan Peterson and DHH.

Jordan Peterson has some incredibly useful and insightful thoughts on leaving a good life and on depression specifically. A couple of videos of his lectures I found on YouTube have been crucial in my recovery.

DHH is one of my role models. I find that most of his thoughts and beliefs that he shares align with mine. Whenever I lose track of who I am and what is important for me, I will listen to one of his podcasts, and it will almost certainly make me feel better and more strong.

I recommend that you find people that inspire you, and that makes you remember who you are and what it means to be a good person.

Some resources that helped me

Jordan Peterson - How To Deal With Depression | Powerful Motivational Speech

5:00 - 7:00

  • You want to constraint the negative event to the smallest domain possible.

It is going to be hard, no question about that. But it is crucial to try your best to limit the damage a negative event has. For example, when your recent side project had no traction, it does not mean you are a failure. It only means that this idea is not the one to bring you success.

Another example of this is talking to your partner. When you argue, try your best to limit the exposure to a minimum. Instead of saying, “you always do this,” say, “can you please try doing this next time.” If you are nice about it, they might listen. Whatever the outcome is, it is a ton better than blaming them for everything.

14:00 - 18:00

  • Have a routine.
  • Eat breakfast, eat well, enough.
  • Have family (parents, partner, kids) in good standing.
  • Listen to your partner, they will tell what they want.

Jordan Peterson - Advice For People With Depression

01:00 - 03:00

  • Having a job (a necessary repetitive task) is helpful. It will get you in a routine. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a good reason to go to bed. You don’t have a good reason to wake up. That is big to cause depression in a lot of people.

Not having a set schedule for sleep and other things mess up your Circadian rhythms.

  • Positive emotions are not that secret. Having a calling, accomplishing small things will make you happy. Experience makes people happy, much more than purchases do.

03:00 - 05:00

Having many problems at once makes you almost impossible to help. For example, if you have no job, friends, and relationship. Dealing with one problem is not helpful, because others pull you down.

  • Get a job, even if not a dream job.
  • Get out there and talk to people.
  • Become more intimate with someone.

4:00

  • Learn to negotiate with yourself. “What are you willing to do?” What you should be willing to do is something small. Assuming you want to do better, there is always something small you can do to get closer to your final goal. If you repeat that often enough, those small going compound into something incredible.

DHH - Developer on Fire Interview

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