Thursday, January 21, 2010

Singin’ the Blues—Part 2 of 3

© 2010
By Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

Last time we covered the concept of creating a Blues First Aid Kit for down days. It’s very important to stress, if you haven’t read Part 1: This exercise is aimed at people who have occasional, not chronic or clinical depression. If you even wonder if your depression is more serious, Google “signs clinical depression.” Take a self-test and talk to your doctor.

You might also want to read a book that helped us understand clinical depression a lot better while we were in the middle of it in our family. It’s called When Going Through Hell … Don’t Stop! A Survivor’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety and Clinical Depression by Douglas Bloch. It rates five out of five stars among readers on Amazon, and you might even find it helpful if you only have occasional bouts of the blues. If anyone you love suffers from depression, consider it a must read.

Get Away to Music

Back to our project of creating first aid kits for the more garden-variety blues. I’ll start with the Kit for Innies, ‘cause I are one and have a personal feel for it. Another good reason to start here:

Depression is much more common in introverts than extroverts. Some of the reasons are obvious, starting with much more time spent ruminating alone on thoughts and feelings that can take on a life of their own.

If possible, I’d suggest that we introverts start with enough cash or plastic for at least a two-day getaway, up to a week if you can swing it. How long you can afford a healing escape depends on many factors, including time off work. However, a quality weekend can often give you more of a booster shot than a mediocre three-week vacation.  Introverts thrive on retreats.

Sometimes it only needs to be to the Motel 6 down the block, but if it busts you out of your routine and takes you away from your family or your daily stressors; it’s a lifesaver. It can be as important as an EpiPen to a person with a severe allergy. (For most introverts, our “allergy” is sensory overwhelm or hypersensitivity.) To make it impossible to spend set-aside cash or credit, I suggest getting a lodging gift card or certificate. Let that be item #1 in your blues survival kit.

Moving from the literal getaway solution, you don’t always have to leave home. If you live alone, there’s no respite needed from family or housemates. Simply turn off your cell and landline and don’t answer the door. The world will keep spinning without you for two days, no matter how important you think your job is or how many friends or relatives can’t live without you. I do suggest letting your key significant others know you are dropping out for a couple days so they don’t worry—or worse, call the police and disturb your peace.

Whether home, abroad, or at your down-the-street retreat: You need a box or goodie bag of things that soothe your soul. Music is one of the world’s most mood-altering drug substitutes. Not only does it do no harm; it heals.

Some people find the literal blues to be the most helpful. We all know from modern psychology that there is something to “getting it out,” which singing the blues does with heart and soul. If it’s not your bag, classical, New Age, easy listening—whatever leaves you serene and comforted. For some of us, it can be spiritual, like Gregorian chant, praise or church music. Whatever feeds you. If you need additional music suggestions, I discovered an amazing book full of them—The Healing Energies of Music by Hal A. Lingerman (1995).

Teas, Books, and Aromatherapy

Include some non-medicinal mood enhancers.

What music makes you feel like a fresh breeze just blew gently over your heart?

Include essential oils or herbs in your sanctuary. Lavender is always a winner—easily accessible as a live plant, dried, infused in oils or bath products. I suggest pure oils. It makes a huge difference in how well they work. Besides, who would want to breathe in anything but the purest? Some other heaven scents used for depression are Clary Sage, Ylang-Ylang, and Sandalwood. Read more on

“Soggy days” are the perfect time to pray, meditate, read lightweight inspiring material—whatever heals you. Pack any tools you need for these activities in your blues box or kit. Consider candles and incense for prayer and meditation and your favorite books of affirmations, prayers, or spirit boosters. One example that comes to mind is the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

A hot cup of herbal tea in the many varieties that now exist to soothe and calm is a much wiser choice. One of my favorites is Tension Tamer from Celestial Seasonings or any of the sleep enhancers, such as Sleepytime, also by the same company, if you think a good dose of extra rest will be the most healing of all. Anything with chamomile will tend to soothe a tense tummy.


Caution: Alcohol is a depressant, and I urge you not to drink when you’re down, no matter how tempting.

I am a quote-a-holic and love books like Prayers for Healing: 365 Blessings, Poems and Meditations from Around the World by Maggie Oman. In my kit, you’d also find The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Illusions by Richard Bach. And to help crack me up and out of taking life and myself too seriously, at least one humorous mystery novel by Janet Evanovich is mandatory!

One last thought we touched on already. Sometimes you just need to give yourself a safe place to be blue. As the title to Douglas Bloch’s book suggests, depression is a place to walk through, not get stuck in. Crying, giving yourself permission for a time-limited bout of self-pity—these can all be utterly therapeutic versus working to chase the blues away. It’s often better to let them wash over and through you … and down the drain.

Journaling and Flower Essences

If, by now, your box is getting full or the bag is heavy, be sure you leave enough room in your kit for a journal and pen. This is a great time to get to know yourself through letting your thoughts flow onto paper. If you’re like me and are much more comfy at the keyboard, use your computer. I have a special letterhead and file for journaling on soggy days or other days. I have a different letterhead for my dream journal, another writing exercise to lift your spirits through contact with your subconscious—that inner wise one that truly knows all about you. Your dreams can be your one true oracle when you learn to decode your own personal night movies.

As a flower essence practitioner for over 20 years, I feel no kit would be complete without Rescue Remedy (Bach) or Five Flower Formula (FES)—same ingredients, different makers.

You can usually find one or both of these brands of natural calming tinctures at your local health food store, such as Whole Foods. Rescue remedy also comes in a spray and pastilles (they taste like low-sugar gum drops), a form that’s great for kids or kids at heart. Other flower essences often recommended for depression are Gentian, Borage, and Self-Heal. Here’s a moving case history about how flower essences helped a depressed actor.

You might also like my introduction to flower essences post to get a feel for how essences work and their potential for you.

Collect Kudos

This practice works for both introverts and extroverts, and I think it is an incredible morale booster. Whenever I get an email of appreciation, especially when people acknowledge how my writing has helped them, I keep these “love notes” in a special Kudos file. On down days, they are perfect to read. You can do the same with greeting cards, thank-you notes, and any other expression of how you make a difference to others. My fantasy on down days is to have a time machine that could show me, like Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” just how the world would have been without me. On those blue days, I feel the most worthless. I am not in touch with how I have mattered. Short of getting that magic machine, the kudos file gives me the same reminder that I play an invaluable role in the world, as each of us do.

Logistical Tip

You probably have many of these things scattered about the house, but remember when you need them most, you will have little energy to go hunting and gathering, even in your own digs. I suggest duplicates for the blues box or bag. If you feel that’s too expensive or redundant, here’s another idea. Pack a list of the items that are located elsewhere with their location, so you don’t have to go digging. (This would not work for me or others like me. I am notorious for moving things from any sort of permanent placement. What I refuse to do myself—I’d rather have a root canal without benefit of anesthesia than to move my household—I’m more than willing to do with the “stuff” inside.)

Make It Your Own

This list is not all-inclusive. It’s meant only to give you a start and some food for thought in customizing your own kit. What are you waiting for? Don’t let the next down day hit without having your home remedies handy. Just as Vitamin C can shorten your cold, your blues kit can keep your down days to a bare minimum. Who wouldn’t drink some herb tea to that?


Blues Kit for Extroverts

Disclaimer: This article is provided purely for informational purposes. Readers are asked to make their own determination regarding the quality of the services and products described above. This article is not meant to be advice, and the information is not meant to replace medical or psychological treatment.
Photo credit: OLD MICROPHONE © Damianpalu...


Pop Art Diva said...

I'm an extrovert but your advice works for us too!

Getting away from your normal environment is such a great stress reducer - if you can only get away for a few hours it helps! I just spent my whole birthday crusin' around Newport, Laguna, Dana Point & old haunts in the OC and it really refreshed me and reinforced some long buried goals & wishes!

I'm with you on the aroma therapy too - I swear a little lavender on my pillow makes me sleep better and even scented candles can be a signal to your body and mind to relax a little. (I am, in fact, sitting here with a few lit right now after working all day!)

As for drinking when you're down - NEVER do it! It won't make you feel better and could make you feel worse in the morning. I love my martinis and an occasional glass of wine but I made a promise to myself decades ago never to drink when I'm angry or depressed, it's a recipe for disaster.

One of my best ways to keep myself from going into depression is to work. I love my work as an artist and it keeps my mind from worrying or obsessing. I also have the benefit of having created something at the end of the day.

This was a great article and a good reminder to be good to myself every once in a while! Thanks Joyce!

You're a pretty extroverted introvert, lol.

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks for your wonderful feedback, Ms. Pop Art, Martini, and Tiny Foods Diva!(Are you sure you're not a Gemini?) I bet there will be many tips that cross over between introverts and extroverts.

I am a very extroverted introvert. On the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory, I'm only one point into introvert. I used to test as an extrovert, but time told the truth. I recharge away from people, and that's the true difference. When I need to soothe my soul, a crowd is the last place I want to be. Yet, being so close to center, I find I have to have alternate human contact with alone time in a 51/49 blend. The test is right-on in its results for me. For those who are curious about my type: INFJ.

Eileen Williams said...

Like our friend the Pop Art Diva, I'm also an extrovert. However, when I'm feeling down I can also find myself isolating. Not a good thing since I derive my energy from being around other people.
I've found one of the best ways to get me out of the dumps is to exercise. I know it sounds a bit trite and over prescribed, but movement really does work. It gets the blood flowing and the endorphins going. Another thing I've heard is to take fish oil to bolster your spirits. Although I'm a vegetarian, I do break the rules for that and it seems to keep me on an even keel.
Anyway, that my two cents. Great series on an important topic--thanks Joyce!

Joyce Mason said...

Eileen, thank you so much for commenting on the issue of exercise. Due to some unfortunate experiences as a kid, I am so "not a jock." I struggle to get even minimal exercise; thus, I often forget to mention it. Yet I know it is an essential tool for everyone's blues kit, Innie or Outie!

Exercise is such a wonderful way of altering body chemistry in the positive. Thanks for exercising your right to add your wisdom to this post. If it helps even one person out of their next bout with the blues, I'll feel I've done a public service.