Depression – Surviving & Thriving

Taking a power nap on his walk across Scotland.
Taking a power nap on his walk across Scotland.

I guess I only ever write about depression when I am either down or I am just turning the corner on the road back out of its throes. But I wanted to share some of my own thoughts and coping strategies, that I reckon help me not only manage it, most of the time, but also maybe even get some positives from it. Needing to get on the front foot and actually see it as a challenge, an opportunity to improve myself.

Depression has been part of my life for some 20 years, with reflection and it is only in the last 6 years that since acknowledging its existence that I have changed my own mindset towards it. The competitor in me sees it as one hell of a challenge to be taken, one that I cannot shy away from and one that is a lifelong pursuit, where it isn’t about quick fixes. But that’s the apt word “quick fixes” these things never help us achieve big, but more the application of doing the little things well and over a long period brings large gains.

My depression is a chronic disorder, although I haven’t had the need for visits to a medical professional in the last few years, I know very well that if I take my off the ball then I can be very quickly in the grip of the black dog. The red flag’s obviously still zero alcohol and lots of lovely exercise. But what intrigues me is that the little things I need to do are completely compatible with achieving success generally. My ad-hoc study of habits and how the brain is always trying to make our life easy by automating everything, sadly the bad ones just as much as the good.

So why have I once again let my mood fall into the grip of depression, because I didn’t go to bed early, because I skipped a run, because I kept working late last night, because I’ve been sat at my desk to long. None of these things a great catastrophe on their own, but when one follows the other, that’s the start of the slow road downhill.  See, just like when achieving big, it’s about the constant application of doing the 1%er’s every time, to the point that we no longer even think about doing, it simply happens! Well whether I am training for a big event or a business goal, it’s the same approach realising that success and more importantly feeling well are directly connected to getting the small things right.

There is no big answer, no quick win but simply restarting with that first small win, that single step, getting out of bed, getting ready. To say the greatest journey starts with a single step isn’t just some clever metaphor it is very good practical advice. Whatever we are looking to achieve stop looking big but start looking small and the quick wins, the things you can do today, that set the tone, that build the confidence, getting on a roll so to speak.

So as I write this blog buoyed by being productive, actually simply from putting my feelings down through this keyboard I am starting the process. What’s the next step? Well in my world it’s getting the ass out the door and going for a run, my most simple but successful strategy. Those beautiful endorphins giving me a big collective high 5 and helping run my blues away.

Those who know depression will know that when in Its grips the idea of going for a run is a painful thought. Well it is no different for me, once I’ve let myself slide down too far. So I must look even smaller first to get on a roll, the most minuet win.  In this case I replied to some emails, I checked off some really small tasks, that when I looked at my faithful diary showed me I had begun to achieve, those small tasks when listed together started to look like a bigger win.

I have learned that we cannot judge success by the same criteria on different days, sometimes the smallest wins are as good as it gets and guess what! That’s ok as we can’t kick the shit out of it every time.

I know from my many miles running and walking that sometimes, when that wind blows in your face, it’s cold, dark and wet making any ground forward a real success. When I struggle most and need to keep going I make my goals even smaller. I do this for real, so when running I start to look not at the horizon but at an oil stain a few feet in front, a leave, a road sign again only a few feet down the road. I check off the micro victories giving myself just the smallest sense of achievement that secretly pushes me on to the next challenge, the poo bin, the curb, the red car. Not big wins, the smallest of wins, but ones that I know keep helping me make progress towards a bigger win.

This blog is a ramble of thoughts, but the point if there is one, well that there isn’t no easy win’s worth having, we don’t achieve big things from one big effort, but from a consistent daily application to the task in question. I have to laugh at the irony of depression, on the good day there is not much that worries me in the world, but on that down day, the smallest task becomes an effort requiring herculean strength.

So depression I guess I owe you a debt of gratitude as without you by my side I maybe would have never worked out these things that help me achieve big. A big win is a million small ones and that’s where my time is spent working out how I create the habits that take the thinking out of the game. When it becomes habit it simply happens, rugby pitch, youth session, business meeting, practice the smallest elements and let the amazing computer also known as our brain do its thing.

Peace & Love

Paul

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