Thursday, February 9, 2012

put it in your toolbox: hobbies

One of the best ways for me to deal with my depression is not to dwell on it. (crazy, huh?) Distracting myself does wonders to help me stop thinking about myself :D

My cousin suggested one day making a list of things that make me happy. Though there are other things on this list as well, a number of them are hobbies of mine. When I'm doing something that I enjoy to do and that has a purpose, I feel like I'm working toward something, even if that something is to finish crocheting a scarf.

Here's just a few of my favorite hobbies, things that help me when I'm down:

1. Writing. I've been working on an epic fantasy series for a number of years now and am trying to find an agent. I also have a ton of other ideas and projects in the works, and in each of them I love the characters and the world I've created. Working on this huge project of five 100,000 word novels has shown me just how much I can do when I'm determined. (If you'd like to follow me on my writing adventures, check out my other blog, Victim of Writing)

2. Singing. This one is less 'productive' and more just pure joy. I love to sing, and it always, always makes me feel better. My voice is the one thing that I acknowledge is beautiful about me. I love putting emotion into song and telling stories through the lyrics and melodies. Also, since I am taking voice lessons, I can say that it's productive even when it's just for fun :)

3. Reading. How's this productive? I have a lot of friends in the writing world, and I have about a billion books on my to-read list on goodreads. Each book I read, I not only get to escape for a little while, but I get to cross another book off my list (and I LOVE crossing things off lists!). I also view my reading as a sort of 'volunteer job'--I've had a number of people send me their books over the past few months for me to read and review on my writing blog (see writing above) so I'm serving my fellow writers by doing it. Which brings me to...

4. Service. One day, this will be a post in and of itself. Yes, service is a hobby. I'm always looking for ways to serve other people, whether it be just doing the dishes before my roommates come home or writing a nice note to a friend that I know has a busy week. Sometimes it's as simple as a text message letting someone know you're thinking about them. When you focus on others, it really does make you feel better about yourself. Funny how that works, huh?

There are so many other things I love to do--draw, act, bake, play games--and so many things I'd love to learn how to do--knit, play sports, graphic design, arrange music. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do. Anything you love to do, anything that makes you happy, is a fantastic hobby for you!

Day by day, I'm realizing even more that life is beautiful :)

What hobbies do you have?


Monday, February 6, 2012

what you do after a hard weekend

You pick yourself up.

It's much easier said than done, I know. This past weekend was one of those that you dread, the kind that make you question why you're even trying. Nothing particularly bad happened, I just spent the day sitting around not doing anything, and I let myself think too much.

That's why it's important to have hobbies, things to keep us busy. It's great to make plans with friends, but that doesn't always happen, especially when they're all studious college students.

But this isn't about how to avoid those weekends (I'll save that post for another day). This is about how to recover.

The most important thing is that you can't keep doing what you did over the weekend. If you spent the weekend munching on snacks and watching "Heroes" on Netflix (like me) you can't let yourself do that on Monday. Yes, I love "Heroes", and I want to watch the rest of it, but I can't sit all day and watch it. I have to give myself a one-episode-a-day rule, or maybe even less. And I can't keep buying snacks when I know I'll just end up eating them all in one sitting. Neither of these things help my depression--in fact, they hurt me.

The next most important thing (and very close to the first) is that you need to look at what you did right over the weekend. Even as I typed that, it was difficult for me to find something to talk about. It seemed like I did everything wrong. But that's not true--I kept myself from giving up, and I kept up with two of my goals: scripture reading and journal writing. And, from a spiritual perspective, I had one of the most spiritual prayers of my life Saturday night, so the Lord obviously doesn't think I'm a lost cause.

Third, make goals for this weekend. What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to visit someone? Plan for the weekend ahead of time, and it will be easier to make it through without falling back into old habits and thoughts.

Obviously I'm not an expert on this, but just going through these steps has helped me not only recover but be hopeful. I feel more prepared to take on future challenges, whether or not they're on the weekend. There's a lot of mental power in doing something for yourself, no matter how small.

Best of luck! I know you all can do it!

Remember life is beautiful!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

put it in your toolbox: exercise

Picture taken from this article
I've always, always hated exercise. I'm overweight, so it's hard for me to do physical activity. And, as some of you may have experienced, depression can make it hard to motivate yourself. Why would I want to go to the gym and get even more sore than I already am?

This morning, I just got back from the gym. Every Tuesday and Thursday I'm there at 6:30 AM. And I love it.

My family is shocked at my newfound dedication to the gym. It's not like me to do anything active, aside from dancing occasionally. Even when I go swimming, I usually hang out on one side of the pool and rarely actually swim around.

So what's changed? I went for a second time. And a third. I got past that original hump of getting off the couch and have turned this into a routine. I go at the same times every week, and I go with a friend. If I don't wake up, she doesn't bring me down, but she does say she's looking forward to the next time we go.

Also, my attitude towards it has changed. It's no longer because I have to lose 100 pounds, because I want to be thin. Now it's because I want to be healthy, I want to be able to go on hikes with my friends and run to class if I'm late. I want to ease the pain in my knees from my weight.

Yes, my knee sometimes acts up right after I've gotten home, but it's slowly getting better. And exercise makes me happy--there are these wonderful things called endorphins that your body naturally produces, and they give you a sort of 'natural high.' Exercising has helped my depression so much.

So how can you get yourself into the gym and stay there? Here are some things that have worked for me:

1. Find something you like. Try different machines and exercises. I for one love the elliptical. I have another friend that loves weight training. Another loves the bike. All of these are effective. Don't let someone tell you you should be doing something more strenuous. If you like it and it works for you, stick with it! If you like a couple different things, switch it up so you're not always doing the same thing.

2. Bring someone with you. Someone you trust. It's so much easier to go if you have a work-out buddy, even when you're not depressed. Everyone has trouble finding the time or motivation to work-out, so when you're supporting each other both of you have a higher chance at success.

3. Don't worry about the other people in the room. This is much easier said than done, but it's an important step. The other people in the gym aren't looking at you. If anything, they're impressed that you're there (especially if you go as early as I do). Everyone there is rooting for each other, and everyone there is trying to better themselves. It doesn't matter if you're a professional athlete or a professional couch potato, size 4 or 24. Mentally support the others who are there, because they're doing the same for you.

4. Start slow, and work your way up. If you haven't been exercising for a long time, don't try to run a marathon the first time you go to the gym. Take it easy. As you get more comfortable going to the gym, challenge yourself. If you start out too hard, you'll be discouraged. But if you start out easier, you'll be able to keep at it and do better each time you go.

Here's something very, very important to realize: exercise is not a cure. It helps--it helps a lot--but it doesn't replace therapy and medication (if you're taking medication). For me, 90% of exercise is mental, as shown in this study. You're doing something good for yourself, so you'll have hope of progressing. You can change your thinking to think that recovery is possible.

Exercise is not the only way, and it is not a complete solution. But it is a great tool.

Always remember that life is beautiful!


Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I'm glad you've found my blog. I am a college student recovering from depression, and I want to use what I've been through to help others who are struggling. The most important tool you have when fighting this is your support system. This can include parents, siblings, friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, spouses, coworkers, religious leaders, God, and whoever else helps you. I hope it can also include me.

I'm not going to pretend I have all the answers. I'm still figuring this out myself. But I've come a long way, and I know how much it hurts. I know the struggle you're going through.

This blog is not a place to talk about how horrible you're feeling. This is a place of hope. You can share experiences, you can share your struggles, but keep an eye toward the progress you have made and are making. Even when you fall back, realize it's all part of the process. None of us want to fall back down, but stress has a way of pushing us back toward bad habits. Realize that every day is a new day and you can pick yourself up.

You can choose to be happy, as hard as that seems. What happens around you doesn't control your emotions. That guy that called you fat doesn't control your thoughts.

Depression does not control you.

I know it feels like it does, and that it's hard to believe, but trust me. Your pain can go away. Things will get easier.

Have hope.

I look forward to getting to know you, and to sharing my experiences. I hope that this blog can be a place where I can help you see the good in life, see how you can change the way you look at things.

Until next time, remember that life is beautiful.