I imagine you're wondering how television can cure anybody of anything. The news is depressing. Insipid sitcoms are depressing. The endless sea of reality TV is depressing. Doesn't it just give people headaches? How can I use television to treat my depression‽
For those reasons and more, TV is not my coping strategy of choice. I try to limit my TV time, and expressly avoid vegging out in front of it. TV is an ADHD sink hole. However, I can't deny that it helped me out one day. Let's explore why it worked.
The First Step Is to Be Aware
Last week, I felt particularly down in the middle of a project. I recognized that I was moving into a deeper depression, but what was I going to do about it? I couldn't go out for a walk because I was ticking. I couldn't exercise for the same reason. Besides, I was in the middle of a big project and couldn't afford to waste any time. Exactly at the moment I was resigning myself to grinning and bearing it, I realized that I was useless to the project as I was at the moment, I'd been working on it for an entire day without a break, and that I needed to stop pushing and just let my mind spin for a bit. I needed a TV break.
I sat down and watched one show, then analyzed how I was feeling. I decided I needed more time. This wasn't a situation where I was hooked on a show and needed to watch more. I could tell not enough time had passed yet. My depression was slowly abating, but hadn't lifted entirely. I watched one more show, felt much better, and then quickly got back to work with renewed vigor. I chuckled to myself that I had just used TV as therapy, because I usually avoid TV when I'm depressed.
The secret to why this worked for me that day lies within a combination of strategies that my TV break employed. Because I manage my depression and am skilled at self-analysis, I intuitively knew what I needed. That day, the solution was TV. Another day it could have been a long walk, a good book, or a phone call to a friend. I've got a long mental list of activities that I pull from.
This particular solution puts points 5, 6 & 7 of my Fighting Off Depression coping strategies together. Let's discuss them briefly so that you can think out of the box and come up with tailored solutions for yourself.
No. 5: Ignore It
Can you really ignore depression? You can if the depression is mild. I think of it as the difference between a headache and a migraine. The former is painful, but you can power through it. The later is debilitating and can't be put out of your mind. When you get better at analyzing yourself, you'll start to recognize which level of depression you are experiencing. I knew that my depression was mild, so ignoring it could work.
What does ignoring depression do? Depression is a chemical imbalance of the mind. Sometimes you just need time to let your mind regulate itself, but I have known people to despair when depression begins to settle in. Ignoring depression is something that they have to work at. We're all different.
However, if your depression is too deep, ignoring it is tantamount to putting off coping, so be prepared to shift gears to use another coping strategy if ignoring isn't effective.
No. 6: Do Something Fun
If your brain can't regulate itself on its own, then it'll need some help. I have found that doing something fun boosts endorphins and can swing the pendulum away from depression. Deciding to watch a favorite program fits into this strategy. Television can excite our emotions. I was careful to pick a show that was filled with adventure and thrills, not tragedy. Since depression colors our thoughts so bleakly, it's important to come up with a list of upbeat activities ahead of time. Make your list diverse. For example, maybe TV worked for me this time, but next time I might want to bake sweets, or hang out with a friend.
No. 7: Engage your Mind
I chose to watch some anime with subtitles. In this case, doing something fun and engaging my mind were combined in the same activity. Usually, they are separate coping strategies. All that reading fired up my neurons and prevented me from drifting off into a TV stupor. The world is filled with things that can engage your mind, so make a list of your favorites to pull from when you are down.
Perhaps because of my ADHD, I often utilize distraction as a coping strategy for my depression, especially when the depression is mild. Sometimes, I have to go through a lot of activities before I can beat depression back. The deeper the depression, the more effort I have to put in to lift my spirits. This is the way I manage depression without medication.
While I entertained myself with some anime, I engaged my mind, and gave my brain some time to relax and regulate. I guess TV isn't so bad, after all.
If you liked this article, you'll probably like my book. It's better than reruns.