So Who Am I Going to be Tomorrow?
To say my battle with depression is behind me would be anything but truthful. I still have bad days, but now I have a much better sense of what causes them….for the most part. You don’t just walk away from depression and slam the door on its clutches. Depression isn’t like that. It’s part psychology, part chemical, part physical and part emotional. For all these elements to be firing in harmony all the time is unrealistic. It’s like waking up one morning and saying to yourself, “I’m not going to have any more bad days, ever”. That’s just not realistic, nor should you have that expectation. It should be, “how do I do a better job of managing the bad days that I have?”.
When I first started suffering from symptoms of depression, I let depression control me and not try to take control of my depression. My behaviour created an environment for depression to thrive. I likely did not feel like exercising. Therefore I wouldn’t. Perhaps, I was more content with binge-watching Netflix than going out for a walk. There were days that I’d eat crappy processed foods, loads of sugar, carbs and gluten. I’d hang out in bed or on the couch all day. I would break my regular regiment of good habits and behaviours for those that didn’t necessarily serve me well. And I have news for you, and bad habits are a lot easier to adapt than good, healthy ones.
What’s a Bad Day Feel Like?
Some people admittedly don’t understand what it feels like to have feelings of being depressed. Covid has given many of those people a truer sense of what it’s like, but many people are experiencing situational depressive symptoms.
Many people who have never suffered from depression can get easily frustrated with people like me. I don’t intentionally set out to be lethargic, sad or unable to get my usual workload accomplished is what those individuals don’t understand. In fact, I probably try not to let on that I have a bad day to try and compensate for it.
A bad day for me feels like looking to take any shortcut I can take. It feels like I have a weight tethered to my neck. As a result, I lack motivation, usually battle lethargy and fall victim to procrastination. It means allowing my “Labrador” brain to take over for my Human brain. Our Labrador brain is a fight or flight response to things going on in our lives. It can mean giving into cravings, making poor decisions and feeling like you don’t possess any willpower.
Feeling Depressed is Not the Same as Having Depression
We all experience bad days. It can be from the loss of someone you love, a bad interaction you have at home or work, and sometimes there’s no reasonable explanation for it other than you get up on the wrong side of the bed. Sustained depression is when you have a series of these days and can still shake it off.
We all come equipped with resiliency, but we don’t always have the same ability to use it effectively. Resiliency allows us to dust ourselves off and move on with our lives without harbouring resentment, sadness or anger. Some of us have greater levels of resiliency than others.
The easiest way to describe what depression feels like is like having a series of bad days that never seem to end. Seeing any positive light in day-to-day activity is almost insurmountable, and not necessarily seeing a way to navigate away from the dark and stormy seas.
For me, depression often manifests itself in some form of Brain Fog.
What Causes Down Days?
As much as I’ve been able to minimize my number of “off days”, I’m usually aware of certain things that I’ve done from the previous couple of days that have precipitated into me feeling off.
Sometimes it’s something unavoidable, and sometimes it’s a product of an environment that we’ve created for ourselves.
Some events inevitably make me feel sad, like the anniversary of Maddie’s passing or her birthday. For me, these gloomy days are not avoidable, so I typically don’t book a lot in my calendar those days and give myself a free pass to embrace it.
Then, there are those days that come out of left field. There’s usually a cause and effect that is somewhat predictable.
My diet is probably one of the easiest things to attribute to waking up lethargic and uninspired. If I’ve had any alcohol the night before, then that is a pretty strong predictor that I’ll wake up in a haze. I’m not talking about a crazy night out, but it can be as little as a drink or two. Another contributor is having a lot of sugar. This can be in the form of carbs, fruit and gluten. Any types of preservatives or artificial flavouring also actively contributes to how I feel the next day. These foods all contribute to our mitochondria’s inflammation. Inflammation slows us down, and our brain is usually affected first and foremost.
Exercise has long been called one of the greatest natural anti-depressants. However, the type of activity does play a significant factor in how I feel. Although going for a walk is better than doing nothing at all, the best kind of exercise to improve your mood is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). There is nothing better than an intense workout to get your body moving, oxygen pumping and endorphins firing. It can be for as little as 15 minutes to reap the benefits.
We all can’t predict how we will feel on any given day; however, we can set ourselves up for success by avoiding the things that we know slow us down or do the things that pump us up. We may occasionally still have a day that doesn’t go the way we hoped it would. Events may not go according to plan, but we can set ourselves up to be the best version of ourselves. I’ll take feeling powerful ninety percent of the time over rolling the dice and leaving to chance that tomorrow will be an all right day.
Chris Coulter is the Founder and President of The Finish Line Group. He works with business owners to leverage their businesses to increase their wealth, reduce corporate and personal taxes, create viable succession strategies, enable employee retention strategies and allow them to exit their businesses on their terms.
Chris’ passion for what he does evolve from the mistakes he made in his first business; by not diversifying his risk and not utilizing many opportunities to create significant wealth. Chris found out the difficult way and now educates business owners on avoiding many of his former oversights and ultimately controlling their finish line ends.