**From time to time I’ll receive an unsolicited request from a reader or listener asking to use my platform to share content. Rarely is the topic as important as this article submitted by Michael Stephenson. Mental health was an issue before the COVID pandemic, but now more than ever people are isolated, confused, lonely, and in many cases clinically depressed. If suicide has impacted your life at any point, you know the residual effects that continue for generations. Be vigilant, be aware, and self-care intentionally. – jw**
When you are bombarded with feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and despair, it is easy to feel alone. It may help to know that even though you feel that way, you are not alone. Every year, millions of people deal with mental stress and negative emotions that lead to suicidal thoughts. However, societal stigma encourages people to keep their experiences to themselves and avoid talking about it, so we end up thinking we are the only ones dealing with troubling thoughts.
So why all the emphasis on the thoughts behind suicide and not so much the action? The truth is, suicide most often results from a person trying to control or overcome symptoms of a mood disorder. These disorders are medical conditions caused by changes in the chemistry of the body and brain. Some people are born with such illnesses, for instance, like depression and bipolar disorder. Other people develop them after a prolonged state of substance abuse. The damage caused by drugs and alcohol on our bodies and brain can affect our mental health long into the future. No matter the cause of mood disorders, they can be treated and controlled with the help of medication, therapy, inpatient treatment, lifestyle changes, and support.
Here Mixed and Manic provides important guidance on recognizing when you need help and how to treat yourself with care.
What is a Depressive Episode?
A depressive episode is the equivalent of a medical flare-up when you have a clinical mood disorder. Everybody experiences depressive episodes differently, but generally, when a person is experiencing suicidal thoughts, they are in the midst of one themselves. Symptoms of a depressive episode include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness
- Sleep problems
- Changes in appetite
- Neglecting regular hygiene
- Loss of interest in social life
- Lack of energy
- No motivation
- Frequent bouts of uncontrollable crying
- Thoughts of death or dying
Self-Care and Depressive Episodes
If you are experiencing a depressive episode, the most important thing you can do is be kind to yourself. Experiencing feelings of despair is hard enough, there’s no need to feel bad about feeling bad on top of that. To help recover from the worst of it, try the following self-care practices to help reset your brain and body and contribute toward you feeling better soon.
Build Yourself Up
As hard as it may sound, simple efforts to limit or eliminate self-criticism can go a long way toward helping you feel better, and this can ultimately help you feel more confident in your day-to-day life. As ZenBusiness notes here, rather than focusing on the past, it’s better to turn your mind to the future. You can’t fix what happened yesterday, but you can change how you handle and react to tomorrow. Keep a journal and jot a note every time you are able to turn your thoughts around. Seeing your progress will reinforce that your efforts are working and that they’re worthwhile.
Drink Water and Eat Healthy
When dark thoughts and emotions cloud your judgment, sometimes the best thing you can do is something simple. Getting up and drinking a glass of water is especially helpful if you have been crying or neglecting food and drink for some time. When the brain is dehydrated, it doesn’t function at its best. You may be surprised about how much clearer you find yourself thinking after you drink a simple eight ounces of water. It’s also crucial that you don’t neglect your nutrition. Certain foods can help regulate your mood, such as eggs, lentils, avocados, and wild salmon.
Take a Shower
As mentioned above, neglecting hygiene is a common symptom of a depressive episode. Taking a shower is another simple thing you can do to help you feel better. If you have time and enjoy baths, make the most of it and draw yourself a hot soak and really care for yourself. Take your time, and after you are done, dry off and put on comfortable clothes.
If you have a friend or family member that you can talk to about your emotions, reach out to them. Social support is one of the most important factors in suicide prevention. Often when people attempt suicide, they do it because they feel like the world would be better off without them. Talking to someone you care about can help dismiss those thoughts and contribute to a healthier mindset.
If you can’t think of a loved one you can reach out to, don’t worry. There are hotlines and organizations where people are standing by ready to listen to you. Many of the volunteers that work with these organizations have been in situations similar to yours. Don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or text HOME to 741741.
Suicide is often the result of a person trying to escape the painful symptoms of a mood disorder. Many people experience suicidal thoughts while going through a depressive episode. When recovering from a depressive episode, it is important to be kind to oneself and practice self-care. Drink some water, take a bath, and reach out to someone to help support yourself and start feeling normal again.