I am sitting on my dorm bed in my spiritual home of Amrit Yoga Institute where I spent last four days and I feel called to share with you about my recent depression down spiral and how I navigated through it.
I know this time of the year can bring some blues and a feeling of something dying inside to make room for new growth and inspiration in the Spring, so I hope that my process of moving through depression can be helpful to you. I also see this as an opportunity to share how when we shine light into places of darkness within ourselves, there is always a gift, a gem waiting for us to receive. My gem was a deepening feeling of compassion towards all people including myself and … surprisingly … this 7-step How to Move out of Depression Protocol.
I experienced almost a month of feeling absolutely no energy, like all of my life force was drained out of my body. I felt lethargic, uninspired, tired, and foggy. The worst part of it was that my mind was not able to focus on anything. Every little task felt extremely overwhelming and difficult to accomplish and my internal voice was saying “I can’t do this”. I wonder if this is at all familiar to you?
What was different about this depression experience was that I used it as an opportunity to remember and feel empathy towards all people who are suffering. As a result of my deepened empathy, this “how to move out of depression” protocol came spontaneously because I want to share what worked!!!
So here it is! You can use it to move through any emotional challenge, such as anxiety, burst of anger, frustration, etc. In the future articles, I plan on addressing each emotion (fear, sadness, anger, guilt and shame) separately and giving you a deeper appreciation of all of your emotions – they are truly our friends even though not respected enough in our culture. I will also share in a future articles a deeper view on depression and anxiety, how it is related to certain thought cycles, the functioning of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, biochemistry of the brain and how from the yogic perspective we can address the core of these imbalances.
So, how did I navigate through my depression?
At first I was hard on myself. My inner mean girl was telling me: “You were doing so amazingly well for so long? Why did you bring yourself back into a hole? Why did you bring your body out of balance by overindulging in sweets – I went overboard with sugar on a recent trip to Portland and Seattle. You spoiled it all and that was all your fault”.
Then a compassionate wise voice of the Higher Self came and started comforting me. The first step was to FORGIVE my “mean” thoughts. I forgave myself for being mean to myself. I forgave myself for overindulging in sweets. I forgave myself for letting my morning yoga practice go and for becoming lazy.
In the second step I ACCEPTED how I was feeling in the moment. This stopped me going deeper into the down spiral. Accepting how I feel means to be present to what is and disengaging from my critical thoughts about how I should be feeling differently. When I accepted myself, I came to the reality of sensations in my body and away from the fantasy that my thoughts were telling me about how I should be feeling or what I shouldn’t have done.
The third step was a realization that I don’t have to stay in depression very long, that this is a passing state, just like joy, sadness, anger, happiness, insecurity, etc. Knowing that I have the capacity to be with my sensations in the body (it was a feeling of heaviness all over my body) and allow it to pass is the most important realization. I don’t have to fix it! There is no problem with this, unless my mind is telling me there is a problem. I have the capacity to simply WITNESS and be with it provides healing in itself. The only problem about how I feel exists in the mind that is telling me that there is something wrong.
The fourth step was to ask myself “How do you want to feel instead”? My answer was “I want to feel balanced and inspired”. This is very powerful to know how I want to be because this creates an intention or a direction of where I want to go. Having an intention is an empowering tool because it helps me know that I am not helpless and powerless. I am the creator of my life and the way I feel influences everything.
In step five, I asked my wise Self (I call it the Inner Healer or Higher Self) to guide me in the direction of how I want to feel. I asked myself questions: “What would give you energy right now. What do you need to refill your reserves? What will inspire you?” I meditated, rested and slept a lot. Then a subtle voice told me to go to my spiritual home and spend few days practicing yoga with my spiritual community and although at first I felt guilty to take more time off and “indulge” (especially after being sluggish and “unproductive” for many days) I did follow that voice, rearranged my client’s appointments and got a plane ticket. So here I am, three days later feeling a miracle just took place. I am on the other side of this struggle and feeling balanced and inspired.
In step six, I reflected on what worked and what didn’t work in this process. This is an important step in being self-reflective and noticing which thoughts and actions moved me away from my intention of feeling balanced and inspired and which thoughts and actions moved me closer towards feeling balanced and inspired. I realized the things that brought me out of balance in the first place: sugar, focusing on external goals (such as doing a hard core exercise challenge, pushing myself with meeting deadlines on several projects that I am working on). Thought that moved me away from feeling balanced and inspired were: “You shouldn’t be so lazy. You should be more productive. Going to the Amrit Institute is a luxury that you can’t indulge in right now”.
Activities that brought me back into balanced and inspired state:
- Eating healthy grounding foods – lots of cooked root vegetables.
- Practicing Amrit Yoga Sequence and Yoga Nidra which are designed to bring sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system into balance – activity and relaxation.
- Meditating with my teacher yogi Amrit Desai for a powerful session where he guided us back to our center of peace and love where we are all living in harmony and balance with ourselves and with each other.
- Being in nature: I swam in the lake and cold salt springs and walked in the woods.
- Talking to friends and sharing about how I was feeling helped me not feel alone and “wrong” for feeling low.
My synthesis from this experience is this: WHEN I am BALANCED, I have so much energy to give and I am filled with inspiration that is bursting out of me. Being balanced is my #1 priority – it’s a state when sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system are working harmoniously, when doing (making effort) and being (surrendering) are in balance.
The final seventh step is Celebration!!! I celebrate feeling good. I celebrate life. I celebrate you for reading this far!!! I celebrate the connection we have through this medium and my ability to share with you what I learn form my life’s experiences and inspire you to live in alignment with what brings your heart joy and peace. Celebration is being grateful for the good things in your life. The more we appreciate what is already good, the better we feel and the more goodness there is to celebrate.
Here is the summary of this 7-step How to Move out of Depression protocol:
- Forgive yourself for falling off the wagon
- Accept how you are feeling right now
- Witness the experience. Nothing to fix or to be upset about.
- Set an intention of how you want to feel – direction you are moving in.
- Ask yourself: “What would support me in feeling this way and moving in the direction of my intention?”
- Reflect on what worked and what didn’t work to move in the direction of your intention.
- Celebrate, Celebrate, Celebrate!
If you live in Indiana, I invite you to join me for the next Blissful Rejuvenation mini-retreat on December 1st at the Tibetan Cultural Center. We will be clearing the slate, releasing what isn’t serving us anymore so we can leave it in 2019 and open a door for new beginnings in 2020.
Over the second weekend of January 11-12, my husband Gabriel and I are very excited to offer a full weekend retreat called Restore You Balance which we designed to support you in starting the New Year with creating balance and solid foundation for your year to unfold with harmony and attention placed on all important areas of your life.