Things going wrong are a normal – somewhat frustrating – part of life. They can set us back, but most of the time we can figure out a way to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and keep going. However, when we’re experiencing depression, even seemingly minor, inconsequential things going wrong can have a huge effect on how we feel we might be able to cope.
Depression makes life feel incredibly hard. It can take a monumental effort to get through the day. When we’re struggling so much as it is, the smaller things tend to be the straws which break the camel’s back; they add to the weight of stuff we’re already dealing with. Everything comes to a head, leaving us feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, as though there’s something fundamentally wrong with us, as people. It’s easy to compare ourselves to other people, who seem to be going about their day without a hitch.
There are also the big things that might go wrong: the death of a loved one, job loss, accident or additional illness worries. Even without depression, these events can be incredibly difficult to cope with. With depression, they can feel insurmountable.
Whatever we are trying to cope with, big or small, there are things that can help:
We know: it’s a cliché. But it’s a cliché because it really does help. When something goes wrong, and we start to feel overwhelmed, it can help to take a few slow, deep breaths before reacting. We can even shut our eyes to help collect ourselves while breathing. This allows us to gain a little bit of emotional distance, helping us to stay calm. It’s almost like a short pause, before we react or start beating ourselves up.
Mindfulness or meditation practices which focus on breathing can be helpful in really stressful times, helping to ground us when our feelings are overwhelming. Even just lying down, closing your eyes and taking deep breaths can help.
LET OTHERS KNOW HOW YOU’RE FEELING
If you haven’t experienced depression, you often don’t understand the complexities of it; the fatigue, the lack of energy, the disrupted sleep, how much effort it takes to carry out day-to-day tasks. You also might not understand why your partner calls you in tears from the bus stop after missing their bus, even though the next one will be along in 15 minutes. It helps to tell people how we’re feeling, so that they can support us when things go wrong.
In addition, it’s really common to feel angry and frustrated when things go wrong, especially when we’ve already got depression on our plates. We’ve all had a bad day and inadvertently snapped at a loved one for something small. It can help if we’ve explained in advance how much things going wrong affects us, and that we may react in a way that we don’t really mean. We still need to apologise and make amends, but it’s much less bewildering for our loved ones if they know what’s going on.
ASK FOR HELP
Depression often reduces our ability to cope, but we often still try to take on more and more, heaping our plate higher and higher with tasks, responsibilities, and expectations. When something goes wrong, we feel our plate slipping, maybe even crashing to the ground. We don’t need to handle everything alone though. Often people would love to help us when things go wrong; we just need to allow them the opportunity.
When it comes to major stressors, there’s no ifs, buts, or coconuts: we need to accept help and support from others. This can be in form of friends and family, support groups, or from counsellors or doctors.
LOOK FOR THE POSITIVES
Even when everything seems to be going wrong, there will be things that are okay. Depression (and the natural negative bias of our brains) often highlights the negatives, and blinkers us to those okay things, but they are there. You might be doing a great job of caring for a child, a pet, or even a plant. You’ve made yourself a tasty meal. You’ve helped out a friend. You’ve gotten through a really tough and dark day.
It can often help to journal, or write a list everyday, focusing on the not-so-bad things, no matter how small.
LEARN FROM MISTAKES
Sometimes, the things that go wrong might be down to something we did. We might make a mistake. In fact, the reduced concentration, memory and focus that often come with depression, might cause us to make more mistakes than usual. This doesn’t make us bad, or worthless, or anything else that depression likes to tell us. It makes us human. We all make mistakes – often daily.
What matters though, is how we handle these mistakes. If we’ve accidently hurt anyone, or caused an issue, we can apologise and work out how make things right. We can look for a learning opportunity, so that we don’t make the same mistake again. It can help to tell other people, like our employer, that we are experiencing depression, so that adjustments can be made to our workload.
What’s important to remember though, that mistakes are not a personal failing. They don’t reflect on us, or mean that we are failing.
ONE THING AT A TIME
When something goes wrong, we might start to panic. When we start to panic, it becomes much harder to see how we can begin to tackle the problem, or recover from it. This makes the issue seem impossible and we panic even more.
We can only focus on one thing at a time. If there are a few things going wrong, we need to prioritise one to focus on first, before moving onto the second. We can then break the problem down into bitesize chunks. Once we break things down like this, they suddenly seem much more manageable. We can also work out the stages where might need some help or support. It can often help to write these stages down, and then tick them off as we go along.
Sometimes, when one thing goes wrong, it quickly feels like everything is starting to go wrong. This feeling can be exacerbated by depression, because the negative stuff plays right into its hands. We can halt this downward spiral by pressing pause, talking to someone supportive, and asking for help.
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