tips for going back to normal life when dealing with grief or depression

Today is World Mental Health Day, and I've had this post brewing in my mind for a bit.  A friend on Facebook shared her experience in a post, and it inspired me to get this post out there.

Mental Health is widely not talked about. We don't know how to deal with it in our society and culture. When I've struggled with depression or grief, I know my friends and family are trying their best but I still often find myself frustrated with our lack of skills around it, and not knowing how to cope with it myself. I want to be transparent and honest about mental health to help destroy that concept, and help those who are suffering and those who love someone who's suffering.

Sometimes when dealing with a mental/emotional struggle, we need to sit on the couch and cry and rest for a week. In other times, getting back to regular life is the most helpful thing for getting us to a healthy place again. I've realized some strategies that have helped me return to regular life in those fragile days, and thought I'd share them today.
These tips might be written in a weird tone that is sarcastic, humorous, and wholehearted all at once, but often that's how grief/depression is.

1. Find music that doesn't give you all the feels. I am a very music sensitive person and music that is too feely, sad, or hopeful can really set me off. Finding some music that doesn't make me emotional and just keeps me going throughout the workday is key. My favorites for this need are the Movie Musicals station on Pandora, Taylor Swift's most recent albums, and hits from the 2000's.

2. Let go of restrictions. If you are pretty restrictive in your life over how many Starbucks runs you make per week, how much Netflix you binge, how clean you keep your desk, or how often you yell the F word in your head, try to let that go for a little bit. You are showing great self-control just by going back to normal life. Let the other things slide and let those little things bring you the joy they can. For me, Starbucks runs and retail therapy are aplenty when I'm just trying to get by. Sometimes being fabulous is the best momentary cure for being sad.

3. Give yourself the little ingredients needed for health. Try to soak in a little sunlight, even if it's just a quick moment next to the window by the copy machine. Make sure you're eating enough and getting sleep. Try to find something that makes you smile or laugh, even if just for a second.

4. Allow room for sadness. Going back to work and real life is a great distraction, but we can't completely heal while denying what is happening. Give yourself permission to have a good cry, rage-journal, or vent to a loved one. In fact, when I'm going through a hard time I try to check in with myself weekly to make sure I've done one of these things.

5. On the other hand, escapism is good. Does a Saturday evening spent watching Harry, Ron, and Hermione hunt down horcruxes make me feel better? Yes, absolutely, it does.

6. Have a confidant in most of your settings. One safe, caring person at work who knows what's going on with you can be a huge reprieve. They might be able to give a little extra encouragement and grace. Try to communicate clearly with them how you want to address your situation, like if you want them to bring it up or wait for you to bring it up.

7. Don't be afraid to reach out for help. Counseling is a HUGE asset, and I've gone more than once in my life. A professional who is totally unbiased and wants to listen to your feelings is extremely validating. I find sometimes the hardest part is admitting that I need counseling, but once I go it's so helpful.

8. Type on an imaginary keyboard. I do not at all remember how I came up with this, but when fighting very present emotions and trying not to cry/laugh/scream, I find it helpful to imagine there's a keyboard on my lap and type whatever I'm hearing on the imaginary keys. I think it just takes enough focus that it removes the intensity of the emotions for the time being.

9. Try mindfulness. Name your feelings, recognize them, and accept them. "I'm sad right now, and that's ok." Sometimes that helps and is enough and allows you to move on to the task at hand, sometimes it is totally not.

10. Realize how brave you are. You are so strong for continuing to face the daily hurdles of life amidst what is going on emotionally. Everyday you are showing up and continuing to grow and heal. Give yourself grace and recognize you have just been through or are going through a horrible thing. If you are not firing at all cylinders, it actually makes total sense.

11. Or throw out these tips and just go home and cry. All this being said, recognize that sometimes normal life is not the key, or it might have been the key yesterday but it sure isn't today, and we might need to have another day on the couch at home. Try to listen to your body, soul, and mind and figure out what you need right now and let yourself do that.

What helps you return to normal life when experiencing depression or grief? For more on mental health, and especially when struggling to comfort someone who is down or struggling to receive help from well-intentioned loved ones, check out my post when there's no answer to "is there anything I can do?"


  1. This is a post that I'm sure can touch anyone at a certain time in their lives. Thank you Kelsey for this information.

  2. I love this. And the fact that there is becoming a more public conversation about mental health. I am super sensitive to music too and I'm all about the upbeat 90's/2000's music when I'm feel anxious.

  3. I find that escapism is SO IMPORTANT during really hard times in your life. There's only so much one person can feel. I went through a period in my life when 30 Rock was my saving grace because it made me laugh and forget for 30 minutes at a time. Thanks for the post.

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