As a late teenager, I went through a bout of depression where I could sleep 24-hours straight, waking up only to use the bathroom. I had a stable circle of friends, was respected in school by peers and teachers and was active in many school organizations and was loved by my family.
Like anyone who experiences depression, the feeling of depression is exhausting and depleting and doesn’t turn off like a light switch. It was a long journey to unravel all the internal pain and like a bad memory, the feeling doesn’t just go away. I’m now in my 30’s and I feel that a lot of my depression stems from comparing my life to others. My ego often gets in the way of my own happiness, but I use small things to remind myself that I have joyous things and experiences in my life to celebrate.
While I would never claim to be an expert in depression, I do notice that when I go through moments where I might start to get into a funk, I notice some things I now cling to that help. While I am undergoing a drastic lifestyle change by becoming a minimalist, I find some of my practices can be applied to anyone to help alleviate depression as well.
When I was deeply depressed, I found ways to cope including writing down things to do or places to go and holding myself accountable to do these things. They could be as small as going to the convenience store, just stepping outside, taking a shower or listening to a specific song. If I still had that list, I would add some things and take off a few things based on my experience.
I would add the word “cold” to the item “take a shower.” Though it’s 45 degrees outside and winter is coming, I take a cold shower daily. It started when I would take long drives to the ocean and jump in — whatever the temperature! When I was connected to the ocean, all my concerns and deep fears vanished and I had a deep understanding that I was ok and I will do good things in life. So, when I went home, with the help of a friend, I would start to carry the feeling of the ocean in my own shower. If I feel lost, confused, a bit down (because I don’t feel the deep depression anymore), I promise myself to stop wherever I am, grab a towel and hop in the shower. I pretend I’m back in the ocean and within a few minutes, I feel revived.
Is taking a cold shower easy? Yes and no. The more I think about the shower, the less likely I am to do it. So I go in without hesitation and carry this ‘just do it’ attitude with me as a tool for other challenges. I encourage you to turn off the hot water and revel in the joy of what the ocean does for you. Going toward the cold shower process took me about one full year. Now I detest hot showers — they dry my skin and scalp, my body’s oil levels are all messed up, and I don’t feel the refreshing feeling that I do with cold water.
If you’re too scared to try this (you do know cold showers help keep your skin nice and youthful, too, right?) then make a little trip somewhere to a pool, pay the money if it’s an indoor pool and soak in the experience. THEN hop into your cold shower and remind yourself the big ideas you had in big area of water.
It’s time you let yourself experience joy and celebrate your life with silly little things like a cold shower. At the very least, it’s a good story to share with your friends to say “I took a cold shower when it’s 40 degrees outside!” Athletes take cold baths after their intense workouts to minimize inflammation. I used to take 10 minute ice-cold baths after my long runs during my marathon trainings. It’s time to try something different and weird (and practically free!)
Go to your shower and brave the cold water. You might just love it.