12 Things I Keep In My Depression Toolbox


Living successfully with depression requires a large toolbox of tips and tricks. Like most household tools, it takes practice before you feel comfortable using them. These are a few I use regularly. They are not pretty pills that instantly send me to blissville. They are rough and messy and imperfect, but added up over time, they take the edge off.

1. Expressing gratitude.

My depressed mind dredges up negativity that’s been locked in the vaults of my memory. Anxiety creates imaginary threats that paint a frightening future. Every time a triggering thought enters my mind, I try to counter it with gratitude. It doesn’t even have to be related. Panicking over the plunging value of my retirement savings? Counter that with thoughts of how warm and comfortable my housecoat is. Sounds silly, but it helps.

2. Asking, “What can I control?”

Essentially there’s only two things I can control: my attitude and my actions. Negative attitudes fuel negative actions. I try to always think the best of people. It can be super difficult (I have two ex-husbands, so I speak from experience here!) but I still try.

3. Feeding my brain healthy things.

My brain governs every part of my body. If it isn’t healthy, I’m not healthy. I feed my brain in many ways: healthy food (ayurveda), positive reading (I rarely listen to the news), positive relationships (surround myself with quality friendships with people who have their shit in a pile), and making amends when I screw up (it squashes crippling guilt).

4. Getting physical.

I exercise. I turned down full-time work and instead work my desk job four days a week and clean houses one day a week so I could get paid to sweat. I invested in a Bowflex and I actually use it!

5. Being honest with my employer.

I don’t have to, but I tell her when I’m down. I ask for what I need, like Mondays free of meetings so I can focus on project work and getting control of my schedule.

6. Listening to music.

I will never, ever be without a good quality stereo. Music has saved me many times.

7. Admiring nature.

I have a stand of 40-year-old fir trees and a maple in my backyard that I gaze on.

8. Holding my cat.

Sometimes my cuddling borders on abuse, but she doesn’t seem to mind that I need it.

9. Hugging my kids.

Hugs are not in their communication repertoire, but I give them anyway.

10. Reading things that help me to reflect.

I’m a work in progress. I have a set of go-to daily readers that never fail to spark an idea that can lead me to a healthier way of living.

11. Asking myself, “What’s the least I can do?”

I am a perfectionist procrastinator. I turn the simplest jobs into a chore by overworking them. I’m learning that half-assed work is usually okay and what I consider half-assed work is usually better than okay. When I’m faced with an emotional barrier to something I need to do, I ask myself, “What is the absolute least I can do to move this job forward?” Sometimes just opening the file and reading a couple pages is enough to get me started. Other times, those two pages is enough.

12. Keeping track of the facts.

Those laudatory emails from colleagues are like gold. I keep an emotional bank account in my mind and make withdrawals when self-criticism creeps in.

There are more tools I use, but 12 is a nice number, so I’m going to stop there. Besides, someone recently told me my posts are long-winded. Maybe they are right. Maybe I’m not cut out to be a writer. Wait! My housecoat is so warm and comfortable today. I think I’ll put on some music and work out.