What to do NOW
(If you are feeling suicidal, please go straight to this page on suicidal thoughts.)
If you are currently feeling depressed, here are some things you can do to immediately lift your mood and help give you a wider perspective on your situation:
1. Use a relaxation technique to calm yourself down – 7/11 breathing.
If you are in a negative emotional state, a relaxation technique will help you to calm down and get into your observing self for some perspective on your situation. A good method is known as ‘7-11 breathing‘, a simple breath control exercise that stimulates your natural relaxation response.
Here is how you do it:
- breathe in for a count of 7
- then breathe out for a count of 11
Make sure that when you are breathing in, you are doing deep ‘diaphragmatic breathing’ (your diaphragm moves down and pushes your stomach out as you take in a breath) rather than shallower higher lung breathing. If you find that it’s difficult to lengthen your breaths to a count of 11 or 7, then reduce the count to breathing in for 3 and out to 5, or whatever suits you best, as long as the out-breath is longer than the in-breath. Continue in this way for 5-10 minutes or longer if you have time – and enjoy the calming effect it will have on your mind and body.
This technique is effective because out-breaths stimulate what is called the Parasympathetic Nervous System, a natural bodily response that enables you to ‘rest and digest’ as opposed to ‘fight or flight’ (the Sympathetic Nervous System). Out-breaths decrease your blood pressure, dilate your pupils and slows your heart rate – lowering emotional arousal in the process.
This 7/11 breathing technique for relaxing quickly is the most powerful we know and has been used for thousands of years throughout the world. Practising it a few times a day will lower your overall stress levels in the long term.
2. Talk to somebody
Talking with others takes you out of yourself, curbs how much pointless worrying you can do and is fun. If you have been putting off phoning or meeting up with a friend, make an effort to arrange something. Cutting yourself off from people can be damaging, as you have innate needs for emotional connection and friendship that need to be met.
3. Get some aerobic exercise
As we all know, but perhaps don’t take advantage of as much as we should, exercise releases feel-good endorphins, relieves stress, provides opportunities for meeting others and ultimately raises your fitness levels. To improve your mood, or just get you out of the house for an afternoon, go for a jog, a game of tennis, a bike ride, swimming, or even for a short stroll. Being out in the countryside is a well-known mood raiser so try and get out in touch with nature if you are able to.
4. Force yourself to do an activity that you enjoy doing that has a beginning, a middle and an end
Perhaps you enjoy cooking, reading, painting, DIY you have been putting off, or some other hobby. Take some time and effort to do a fun activity to focus your attention on something enjoyable and lower your emotional arousal. If this task ends with a finished product, a picture, a cake, a mended shelf, it will remind you of what you can achieve and how capable you are.