1. Recognise that something needs fixing
This is the hardest but the most important part of rebuilding yourself and your life. I spent a long time – I mean years – absolutely convinced that it was everyone else’s fault. Whatever went wrong, I never had any control over it. I became obsessively focused on events way beyond my own influence which only served to deepen my own sense that everything was someone else’s fault.
For me, understanding that something was wrong was half the battle. Realising that I actually could do something about it was the other half. Getting myself into a place where I felt I could influence events in my own life, even in the smallest way, was absolutely central to beginning a process of recovery and rebuilding.
2. Find a focus
Even in the smallest way, you need to find something to focus on and achieve. Take small steps and take the time to congratulate yourself on every little success. It may sound ridiculous, nonsensical even, to many people, but each small goal you meet gives you energy and belief. One of the most damaging parts of being in a depression is the sense that you cannot do anything about it so giving yourself the chance to build and – crucially – recognising that you are building is enormously powerful.
When I was trying to rebuild myself, even having a rational conversation about my state of mind was an achievement. Allowing myself to see the accomplishment of getting outside for a walk and exchange thoughts with my wife became a significant part of my own recovery.
3. Get some exercise
Sounds simple enough but the value of exercise is huge. Even now, regular exercise gives me energy and habit. The scientific research into exactly what produces the feel-good factor after exercise remains inconclusive to my knowledge, but the anecdotal evidence suggests strongly that exercise makes you feel good. It certainly makes me feel good – both in the moment and in knowing that I am taking steps to improve my life.
I also increasingly find that the routine of exercise is valuable. I go early – usually getting up at 6am to train – which gives me energy for the day. Even before I get to any work, I feel I have achieved something. On top of that, I am working towards goals. Of course, those goals change as I reach them, but value of reaching those tangible goals is deeply valuable psychologically.
4. Invest some time in yourself
This is essential: you must take some time for yourself. If your frame of mind is anything like mine was then actively investing in your own wellbeing is vital. This can take many forms – for me, the key was practising mindfulness. This is a technique of meditation that allowed me to regain some control over my thoughts and their effect on me. Learning how to use it took time but it gave me back some strength and clarity.
The most significant part of investing in yourself has to be that it is proactive and positive. Being in a depressed state inevitably means that you will be introverted and spending a lot of time thinking about yourself. Investing in yourself is absolutely NOT that – it has to be done with some intent and a goal in mind. That goal could be as simple as finding some peace of mind but it must be actively sought!
5. Be patient
Hard to be patient at this time, but it really is vital. Whatever path you take from here, you won’t reach the end of it tomorrow or next week. Possibly, you won’t reach the end for years or even decades… You must allow yourself time to make changes and give yourself leeway to make mistakes.
You will find that the more patient you are, the more speedily things will happen for you.