We need natural highs to relieve pain, anxiety, and stress. Endorphins, also powerful neurotransmitters, are part of our survival mechanism flooding us with fight-or-flight impulses.
When balanced, endorphins translate into endurance and high-level performance. Too high, and you may act out in rage or anxiety. When low, say hello to chronic pain or emotional sensitivity and mood shifts.
Hang out with friends, watch movies, and cat or puppy videos. Indulge in those deep belly-laughs that shake everything loose.
If you’re like me, you will roll your eyes at this. In your head you know that exercise is great—you’ll feel and look awesome. But who has the energy? Just thinking about sweating makes me cringe.
I spent tens and thousands on gym memberships, pedometers, fitbits, DVDs and equipment. I even went to the gym for a few days. Boring. Takes three weeks to form a habit, does it?
In three weeks I can talk myself out of quitting any workout regime—yoga, weights, Zumba, aerobics, circuit and interval training, treadmills, stationary bikes, ellipticals. You name it, I’ve quit it. I loved walking but then discovered Twitter.
Hate the idea of changing into your workout clothes, stepping out into the heat?
My mom and aunt have a hack that may inspire you (and it’s free!). They walk around the house for 45-50 minutes every day (roughly three kilometres). In their chappals, in their nighties or sarees, they clomp from the kitchen to the living room, past the dining table to the bedroom, around the bed, loop-de-loop, rinse and repeat.
Many women use dusting or vacuuming as their exercise props. Find your routine and rhythm. Some of my friends park farther off to get in more steps. Many have quit elevators. Want to go for a walk during lunch hour but it’s too hot outside? Walk in the parking structure or the mall (psst! Lock up that wallet!).
Dark chocolate saves you from the depression that dementors induce when they suck your soul.
Thank you, Youtube. If you want to learn anything, there are mentors waiting for you—just a click away. No attention span for a 13-minute tutorial? Someone, somewhere, can teach you how to hula-hoop or play guitar in 3-4 minutes. Hell, kickbox! Explore. Go down that rabbit hole and lose yourself. Shadowbox your doubts, fears and embarrassment away.
3. Do shots
Music? Reading? Hanging out with friends? Running? Video games? What gets your juices really pumping? Mystery novels (with female detectives) and romances with their just and happily ever afters are my go-to doses of wellness.
So what if they’re unrealistic? They centre women, validate female desire, pleasure, hopes, and fantasies of justice and equity. That’s powerful (tell that inner narrator to shut the fuck up and let you be)!
4. More tryptophan, less sugar
Study after scientific study has proven Professor Lupin right: Dark chocolate saves you from the depression that dementors induce when they suck your soul. Too bitter? Try spicy foods then. Who after all has been depressed when gorging on achaar or chaat? The slurping noises and contented “ahhs” add to the happiness quotient.
Try those superfoods everyone’s been bleating about: dried fruit and nuts, blueberries, goji berries, pomegranates, coconut, avocados, olives, kale (yuck). Anti-oxidants, people! Adding more protein to your diet helps too.
Avoid fast foods, they say—artificial sugar high and then a long depleting crash. Fast food is my go-to comfort food. I haven’t cut these out entirely, nor ever will. I just try to eat a banana and almonds or sprouted moong with chat masala right before.
Wine in a fancy glass? Do it. Because you’re worth it. Merlot has been a good friend to me.
Drink lots of water. It reduces fatigue and repels the blues (just a smidge).
Taking your daily multivitamins? Vitamin B6 is said to be a mood enhancer, but talk to your doc first. Get that thyroid checked.
Hormone test? A friend discovered that Biotin makes her feel more energetic. But seriously, consult your physician. Probiotics? The GI tract’s our second brain and a lot of our head stuff has to do with gut bacteria imbalance.
Also Read: Why I Decided To Shave My Head
5. Inform and arm yourself
Depression has long been a taboo topic in South Asian cultures. For too long, it’s been dismissed as irrelevant, inconsequential or just laziness. We’re supposed to suck it up, be positive, and stop being lazy. That’s some messed up, ableist bullshit right there.
Infuriated by those well-meaning but syrupy WhatsApp forwards about forgiving others, stop wallowing in negativity, don’t worry, be happy? Such messages frame mental health as a personal choice.
Getting help – Medication – Talk therapy: You’re made to feel that all this is silly westernized talk.
“Just be positive!”
“You have too much time on your hands!”
“You are so privileged! Think about those people in ______”
“Have you tried meditating? Yoga? Here’s this baba/yogi/guru/gyaani who can help!”
To them, I say thanks for adding more corrosive layers to my self-loathing!
But gradually, thank god, more of us are becoming aware of the anatomy of depression—its blood, guts and connective tissue. Mainstream movies like Dear Zindagi are raising awareness, as are Bollywood stars like Deepika Padukone and Manisha Koirala.
Mental health is a public health issue no matter how much society brushes it under the rug. Community support and public policy must follow through to create awareness and fund access to professionals.
The Government of Kerala has taken a bold step in opening two clinics that help women and children with mental health: Sarathy and Prashanti. They plan to expand these clinics statewide. Here’s hoping that more states will follow through.
If you want to take on the mantle of organising similar initiatives in your own neighbourhood or block, don’t hesitate. Find avenues to be an advocate or an ally. Still feeling powerless? Donate to worthy causes if you’re able.
Too many studies prove that male doctors tend not to take female ailments seriously.
6. Be your own best damn advocate
When you’re up for it, do your research, contact your primary care physicians and find help. Trust your instincts. Don’t let doctors downplay your experiences with chronic pain, catastrophic thoughts, anxiety, and self-harm. Too many studies prove that male doctors tend not to take female ailments seriously.
But some female doctors may be dismissive too. Shop around. In the wake of #MeToo, my doctor has started asking all her patients if they’ve experienced sexual assault in any form, anytime in their lives. It’s triggering, but they are trained professionals to help you deal with the aftermath.
7. Last word
Depression doesn’t mean forever falling through and living in the cracks. This heavy melancholy may seal doors and windows but could flick open a porthole or skylight when you least expect it.
Researchers are talking about the psychological benefits of being in a bad mood. For many, bad moods have spurred creativity. Artists, poets, writers have gone on to do some of their best work, not despite, but probably because of depression, even Beyoncé. Depression can be fertile terra firma for finding your voice, your passion, your ground.
The hope for a crack of light endures. And in there, maybe the room to brush off those cinders, and like dust, arise.
I can go on, even though not half of the above have worked perfectly for me. They don’t all have to work for you either. Female pain and the dread of exposing it or not being believed are complex.
Women don’t want to be seen as drama queens or victims and hence resort to self-deprecation, snark, and auto-sabotage. But don’t give up. There is hope; an afterlife (despite imploding from the strain) awaits you. Like Dan Harris, it IS possible to be 10% Happier!
DM me on Twitter @msjdubey if you have queries, or if you just want to talk. Meanwhile, here are more resources and inspiration for self-care.
Happy journeys and findings, my friends!
Featured Image Credit: Pexels