When I wrote Through the Dark Woods, I thought I was done with depression. A decade on and I have to conclude that much as a weakness remains where a bone has broken, my psyche has some residual fragility. Because of this, I have incorporated some disciplines into my life that give me a fighting chance of staying on an even keel most of the time. Here are my top five:
1. Go to bed on time
I am fanatical about my bedtime. You can mock me all you like, but I’ll be in my jammies with the light out by 11pm unless my duvet is on fire and there is no one in the room to put it out for me. Sleep deprivation, as all parents of tinies know, has a lot of the same symptoms as depression. Staying on top of life is all about the eight hours of oblivion for me.
2. Get regular exercise
I try and go running at least twice a week. I don’t go very far or fast and I have the most boring routes imaginable but the fact I do it is one of my greatest achievements. I’m working against the powerful inclination to stay on the sofa eating cake.
3. Start the day with the Bible, a journal and a cup of tea
My journal has been a hugely helpful way of sorting out my thoughts over the years, and the Bible has drip fed me with God’s thoughts so I have truth and wisdom and clarity to draw on. Tea is the reason I get out of bed.
4. Build in margins
One of the lessons I seem to have to learn over and over again (the hard way) is that I don’t cope very well with being over-busy. We all have to figure out the line where busy becomes over-busy for ourselves. I am experimenting with capping evening plans to three a week and keeping one day of the weekend clear.
5. Limit alcohol
I have to admit I enjoy a tipple and I particularly like how life starts looking all jolly and twinkly as you proceed towards the bottom of the first glass. What I’ve discovered however, and sadly the science backs this up, is alcohol is a depressive and not a great idea if you’ve got dark and twisty tendencies.
This is not an original or very exciting list, but I’ve found living within self-imposed limitations to be helpful as someone who has to be wary of depression. What would you add?