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What To Do When Your Tools Aren't Working

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In my opinion, one of the most important things you can do for better managing your mental wellness is discovering the tools that work for you. Those might include mindfulness techniques, therapy, medication or other therapeutic activities — it all depends on your unique needs. Regardless of which tools you use, it’s important to identify them in collaboration with your healthcare provider, as they can provide professional advice.

Certain behaviors and habits can also be helpful, and there are many of them to try. Do you get really anxious if you have any (or too much) caffeine? I do, especially on an empty stomach. Is yoga a great way for you to reset your mental state? What about weighted blankets for anxiety?

It takes a lot of experimenting, effort, and awareness to learn what to use and when.

From my experience, the experimentation is worth all the effort — you learn a lot in the process, and putting in the work to really understand what you need is incredibly rewarding in the long term.

But what happens if you find yourself struggling, and suddenly your tools aren’t working anymore?

This can be a really difficult space to be in, especially after investing so much effort towards building your personal toolkit. I’ve been there before and recently came across a member of The One Project dealing with it themselves.

It’s really important to listen to yourself and learn to pick up on cues that something isn’t right. Being aware can help you be more proactive in seeking out help as soon as you notice yourself becoming sad or that depression symptoms are creeping in.

We’re all different and have different needs, so what works for me may not be the best option for you. Still, if you feel like you’ve hit a wall, here are my tips for getting back on track.

Reach out to your support network and medical professionals

Your first step should always be to reach out and ask for support. At the very least, let someone you trust know where you’re at and what you’re dealing with. If you’re currently working with a counselor or therapist, you should reach out to them (or even your primary care doctor) as well. If not, it might be worth looking into therapy resources in your area or online.

This will help provide you with an outside perspective on your current situation and open up the conversation for new tools or methods to try out. It can also be helpful to just hear that you’re not alone.

In the case of the One Project member I mentioned earlier, our private Facebook group was able to provide a lot of immediate advice and support that she says helped her a lot. Later that week, she said she was able to see her doctor and talk through what she was experiencing as well.

Assess your current situation

Take some time to write or map out everything that relates to where you’re at right now: worries, fears, challenges, stresses, workload, responsibilities, and anything else related to your current situation. Is there anything that sticks out to you?

From my experience, I’ve found that when I can’t shake the anxiety or symptoms of depression with my regular tools, it’s because there’s something in my life that I’m not addressing or dealing with.

Is there an important (and likely difficult) conversation you’re avoiding? Or are you simply going through a more stressful time than usual?

It’s so easy to get caught up in all the day-to-day tasks and become blind to how we may be avoiding issues that have a large impact on our minds and health. Creating an inventory of the things that are bothering us, or just aren’t working, may provide clarity on the best way to deal with them.

Put a new plan into action

Figuring out next steps will depend on your unique needs. Perhaps you’ll be able to identify issues or blockages once you do the self-assessment mentioned above, or maybe your doctor can help you figure out some specific strategies to test out. If you’re not finding the same sense of relief that you’re used to, then it’s definitely time to start trying out new tools.

But before testing out something new, you may also want to try increasing the frequency or intensity of your current tools to see if that helps. For example, if you’re used to working out (or doing yoga) once a week, maybe you need to add in another session each week to see if that helps.

Maybe you have a regular meetup with a close friend every week. Why not try bumping up the date to meet earlier in the week or make plans to meet more frequently? The action items on your plan will be unique to you, of course.

The takeaway

Throughout all of this, it’s important to keep track of where you’re at, what you’re testing out and any reactions or results that come from it. Over all of the years that I have struggled with depression, it has morphed and changed in so many ways when it comes to how I experience it and what works to overcome the symptoms.

Just remember that you’ve been through things like this before, and you’ve made it to the other side. You have made it through 100 percent of the days of struggle.

Most importantly: You’re not alone.

DEPR-US-NP-00031  JULY 2018