I have suffered from clinical major depression for 25 years, and the keys the small micro-steps which I am going to share with you today have proven extremely effective for both myself and others for recovery back to full strength after a depressive episode has just ended.
They are particularly great for the first week following the end of a period of depression, when you are still physically and mentally, not to mention emotionally, quite weak after all you have just been through.
I have found that suggestions to exercise or meditate for half an hour, or even other extremely valid suggestions such as to join an online community of fellow-sufferers or to simply reach out to a friend, these can all be way too overwhelming a prospect in your first week following the end of a depressive episode.
Much better to start off small with proven, effective micro-steps that are not so threatening that you cannot start them this instant, or at least the same day. Then you will gain a feeling of accomplishment, increase your faith and confidence in yourself, and strengthen your body and mind.
Also, at this stage, there is no need to do anything else other than these micro-steps, alongside whatever is necessary or enjoyable for your basic functioning, all day long. You can concentrate on Being, not ‘doing’, during this low-energy time. And the micro-steps will give you a burst of new energy along with a sense of achievement.
So, here they are!
4 Micro-steps for Recovery After Depression Ends
Step 1. Drink a Glass of Water First Thing in the Morning, or Whenever you Wake up.
This is the Nutrition aspect of these keys. Hydration first thing in the morning is known to bring sound health benefits. It will get your entire system (especially internally) up and running for the day before you go on to actually eat something.
In later weeks, you can follow up with more Nutrition aspects, like eating a piece of fruit or having some vegetables or a salad with your meal, but for now, by drinking this glass of water as soon as you wake up, you will feel like you are on the right track by completing the first micro-step as soon as you start your day, so that right from the beginning you feel a small yet rewarding good feeling of accomplishment.
Step 2. Do One Push-Up, and then Run on the Spot for Thirty Seconds.
While this may sound rather ineffectual, you don’t need to start off by walking around the block outside nor hot-foot it to a gym to reap the many benefits of physical exercise for depression. We know that physical exercise releases endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ chemical in the brain, and that it has antidepressant effects.
While it is true that these effects mainly kick in at the half-hour mark or more, after the end of your depressive episode, and especially during the first week, you will find it much more motivating and easy to start off with this one-minute micro-step.
And you will probably be slightly puffing, as well as energised, afterward! (If you are anything like me, that is). Starting small will encourage you to want to do more later on, and will motivate you to get started right away, but for now, this micro-step will bring enough results. Try it and see! (Also, of course, a little bit of exercise once done is better than a half hour workout that remains unstarted due to lack of energy and motivation).
Step 3. Read Two Pages of an Uplifting Book
We know that negative thoughts can easily overtake you during a depressive episode, and now that you have just come out the other side of that we need to feed your vulnerable mind with a good dose of healthy, positive thinking!
I found Scrolls 2-10 of Og Mandino’s The Greatest Salesman In the World (whether or not you have the slightest interest in sales) ideal for this purpose, but you could use any self-help book or uplifting poetry, fiction or non-fiction that you like.
Just reading two to three pages of positive material in the first half of your day can really do wonders for your psyche and mood. It will strengthen the muscle of your mind, and give you faith and confidence in yourself.
Step 4. Meditate for One Full Minute
This is another one that is great for strengthening your mind and spirit. Set a timer on your phone for one minute, then sit or lie down with straight but relaxed spine. Close your eyes, relax completely, then focus on your breathing and nothing else for one full minute.
You may discover your underlying thoughts coming in a rush at first, but with a few days’ practice, and if you keep your breathing nice and slow and deep, you should soon be able to rest your mind quietly and just enjoy the present moment as you breathe for just that one special minute.
That’s it! The whole routine only takes about five minutes to complete, although you are more than welcome to space out the micro-steps with plenty of time in between each one. Just do whatever you can.
You may even want to write down what you’re doing in a notebook or journal, and tick off each listed micro-step as you finish it. Add some notes, perhaps, on how you are feeling.
When I did the micro-steps daily for one week earlier this year, following a depressive episode over the holidays, I soon felt such a sense of achievement, energy, and positivity, which is why I am so happy to be able to share them with you now.
When recovering after a depressive episode, easing into greater activity, both physical, mental and spiritual, is preferred, rather than overwhelming yourself or setting yourself up for failure with unrealistic and as-yet unattainable goals.
The micro-steps discussed in this article hydration first thing in the morning; physical activity to strengthen the body and get it moving; uplifting positive reading to give courage and confidence; and meditation to ease the load on the mind all are highly effective in especially the first week following the end of a depressive episode, to restore faith and confidence in oneself, provide a small yet rewarding feeling of accomplishment, and to start strengthening the previously-weakened body and mind of the depression-sufferer.
Finally, we must underline the seriousness of depression. It is sadly true that not all depression sufferers recover from depression. Yet for the overwhelming majority of those who do, I believe you will find the above micro-step keys easy, effective, rewarding, and even fun! But if depression returns, and/or increases in severity due to other factors, please see your healthcare professional seek help, advice, and support as soon as possible.