Down? Get up!
Along with a great number of writers (and just people in general), I suffer from depression every so often. It’s not persistent or severe enough for me to feel like I need to seek help from a professional (although my daughter thinks I should), but it’s there. I can feel it.
In the past, I’ve just ignored these feelings. I’ve put them down to my books not selling well, to my writing not going as well or as fast as I’d like it to, to my husband’s incessant travel schedule (he’s gone almost every week for at least one to two nights a week, but at least he’s now home on weekends).
I’ve gotten a dog to keep me company when my husband’s away and I’ve decided that I’m not going to worry about sales. (To be honest I don’t have the mental fortitude right now to deal with marketing on top of everything else, and I don’t want to spend everything I’ve earned in royalties to pay someone else to market for me – it’s a vicious circle isn’t it: if you don’t market you don’t earn and if you don’t earn you don’t have the money to market. Every so often I’ll lay out the cash for some marketing scheme and invariably it will disappear with nothing to show for it. I’m tired of that, so I’m giving it up for the time being. I’ll get inspired sometime in the future and lay out the cash, see a spike in my sales and then it’ll go back down to near nothing and I’ll get discouraged again. At the moment I’m tired of it and I’m not going to do anything but write my next book. And yes, this was a very long aside, and could probably be a blog post on its own… next time!)
But, still, every now and then I just get overcome with negative feelings: my writing sucks; no one is buying my books so why am I even bothering to write them (I’ve already decided that I write for me and the few readers who keep coming back to buy my books every time I put out a new one, so I remind myself); what’s the point of all of this?
While it’s tempting to just go back to bed or sit and knit or color when these bouts of depression hit, instead I’ve discovered that just going for a walk does amazing things.
I’d never considered myself a physical person. I’m a horrible athlete. I’ve never played a sport since I was a failure in little league. I can’t even jog because my lungs give out after a block or two—I’ve tried a number of times to build up my stamina because I love the concept of running, but it just doesn’t work (my daughter has been diagnosed with exercise induced asthma and I might have the same thing).
And yet, when I get depressed I just want—no, need—to do something physical. My dishes were at risk one day when I was emptying the dishwasher and just had an overwhelming urge to start throwing them, one by one, to the floor. I wasn’t angry at anything in particular, just depressed.
And that’s when it hit me—I needed to go for a walk.
I did, and I felt immeasurably better! Just the act of being outside in the fresh air and moving helps my mood.
The dog has been terrific in forcing me to get out. As a puppy, she needed to be taken out every 2-3 hours. Now that she’s older she can go for 5-6 hours without having to go out (she’s a small dog with a small bladder). Actually, she’s made it twelve hours without going out, but I need to go for a walk, so I take her with me.
We both love it.
She forces me to walk at a fast pace (she’s small, but four legs allows her to walk really fast), which helps get my heart rate up and my frustration with life out. I can tell you, we book it down the city streets. When things are particularly bad, mood-wise, I take her for a walk in the woods (happily there’s a large park with lovely paths through the woods a little over a mile from where I live). Being surrounded by trees soothes my soul and lifts my mood better than anything.
I don’t think when I walk. My mind goes blank. I don’t worry. I don’t stress. I don’t do anything but put one foot in front of the other and breathe deeply.
I’ve tried meditation (sitting still to do that same deep breathing), but it does nothing for me.
Yoga works too because I can’t think, I’m too focused on the movement or holding that pose. I imagine a martial art would do the same. Kick boxing would probably feel great. Hitting something even better. But walking works for me, and it might work for you too.
Is there something you do to alleviate your down moods? Please share!