There is a lot of glaring going on in these pages. Comic made in Manga Studio EX5, as usual!

Today, I want to talk about coping with a bad day.

At the college I attended, we had a joke that we knew what week in the quarter it was by how depressed the students were. In fact, this article at states that a Scientific American article confirmed that artists and writers are up to 20 TIMES more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder and ten times more likely to suffer from depression.  (Note: I tried to get to the Scientific American article, but it’s behind a paywall.)

So obviously, I’ve been dealing with depression- not always well- since long before I got on to medication for it. And I thought I’d share both some of my tried-and-true methods for coping, as well as some new ones that are working  for me right now.

  • Doing something else. I used to get periods of time where I wanted to draw but I just was too depressed to. Sometimes I would open my sketchbook and just stare at a blank page, telling myself that if I drew something, I would feel better. But the stress of the blank page would then just add to my depression, making it even worse, and continuing the cycle. Instead I learned that sometimes, I just had to do something else. Read a novel, look at artbooks, watch a movie or a documentary, find a new recipe to try. I just had to do something else until the mood passed and I could pick up a pencil again.

  • Get a few minutes of exercise. Even ten minutes of exercise a day is better than no minutes of exercise. When a down mood strikes, I often find that a playlist of music that reminds me of my current project, a pair of tennis shoes, and the outdoors are all my best friends. Usually after a nice walk with some rocking music, my brain has reset and I’m ready to jump back in to whatever I was supposed to be working on before.

  • Free-writing. This one I’ve found to be very effective when I’m severely angry or sad. I grab a notebook and a pen, sit down somewhere, and just write anything that comes to mind. When I’m done, I’ve usually had revelations about why I was feeling sad or angry, because the issue was something deeper than I thought. With the thoughts all out on paper and not a jumble in my head any more, it’s easier to sort through to the root of the problem and try to deal with it. (I used to keep an artist’s journal of Morning Pages, as suggested in The Artist’s Way, and I found that helped a lot with clearing away the “day to day clutter”)

  • Meditation. This one is actually new for me. I’ve always heard that I should practice meditation but I never felt like I could do it, because I’d always been told that you should be able to “silence your mind” while meditating and frankly, I can’t do that yet. So I felt like I was a total failure at it because I’d have lots of random thoughts and couldn’t stop them. But since I’ve gotten my new phone, I stumbled across an app called buddhify2, right when I started to realize this year just how bad my depression had gotten and started trying to turn it around in a real and positive way. Buddhify2 is a “modern mindfullness app” that has a beautiful, easy-to-use interface and lots of guided meditations for different situations. What I’ve learned from using the app is that my thoughts don’t have to be an enemy or a hindrance, so long as I use them in a constructive way during the meditation. My favorite meditation categories are Going To Sleep and Feeling Stressed. If you don’t have a smart phone, the meditations are available on Amazon as mp3 files. And there’s an update coming soon with more meditation tracks! This past weekend I also took a class called “Intro to Meditation” at a local shop and learned some more there, so I’m hoping to do some more independent meditation as well (which I can then log in the buddhify app).

  • Keeping track of happy moments. It’s said that those who are grateful for what they have and recognize even the little things that make them smile are happier people. For awhile I would, every morning, make a list of the things I was grateful to have in my life. If I didn’t write it down I would at least think about those things and say “Thank you” to a higher power for them- this was mostly done when I was running in the mornings, so I’d do it then, and I’ll likely start doing it again once I can get back to running more regularly. I’m like an app addict though since I got my smart phone, and I found an app called Happier- which also has a browser equivalent for those without an apple phone. Happier is simple: click on “Share Happy”, write about anything that made you smile that day, and hit send. You can add a photo to your moment too, and follow friends to see their happy moments. Even just trying to think of something to add to my journal makes me feel better sometimes, because I have to think about all the good things in my day and pick something.

So those are some of the things that get me through a rough time. What about you? I’d love to hear some more tips, or your thoughts on the ones that I’ve shared!