Some time ago I wrote a post about my experiences with depression (dysthymia) and with therapy and how it had really helped me. At the time I was only six months or so out from the end of regular therapy. The legacy of that work is definitely lasting, but in the years since I’ve also learned that I do have a chronic tendency toward low mood (it’s not clear whether the cause is chemical, habitual, or both), and taking care of myself and keeping certain routines plays a much bigger part in managing my mood than I realized when I was all excited about how much therapy helped. I wanted to record this both for my own reference, and as part of my story.
I currently take physical inventory whenever I notice myself getting into a funk, mentally evaluating whether I’ve slept adequately, eaten appropriately, had a moderate dose of caffeine, and exercised recently. I become unpleasant to be around, and to be, if I don’t get around 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep and 25 to 250 mg of caffeine daily, eat when hungry, and exercise almost daily at moderate intensity and a couple of times a week at high intensity. Last week I was in a pretty bad funk one day and realized I hadn’t had any high-intensity exercise for a while. The next day I went running, and it was amazing to notice that while I didn’t feel fantastic, it was no longer almost automatic for me to drop into a broody state the way it had been the day before. (My carfree life definitely makes regular exercise easier, since pretty much every I leave the house, I leave it under my own steam.)
Taking care of the physical inventory is only the first step, but it is often the only step I really need, and if it’s not, it at least puts me into the best possible shape for the rest of the work.