My dad said, “You can make a game out of anything.” It is a coping mechanism that has served me well my entire life. Making a game out of life has pulled me out of depression more times than I can count. Depression (diagnosed, as well as undiagnosed) seems to be part of the genetic makeup of my family. Mine has never been diagnosed (how could it be when—and this is not a plan of action I recommend—I only go to doctors when I’m almost dead?), but it has most definitely been part of my life from time to time. Dad’s game theory has real merit. Let me explain.
Most of my own personal depression has been minor, but there have been a few periods of my life when it was almost debilitating. I have had days, weeks, and even months when I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. That’s when I made up a game. The object of the game is to count how many things I can accomplish in a day. (I have never gotten through a whole day of counting; the point is to get me out my funk, so I quit counting when I’m well enough to function.)
Counting accomplishments begins with the little things: Make the bed, lay out my clothes, brush my teeth, let the dog out, shower, put on deodorant, brush my hair, dress, put on watch and earrings, put in hearing aids, put on glasses, eat breakfast, read my email, etc. Most days, I begin to feel significantly better before I hit 25 items. The point is to get me up and moving—something which can be difficult when depressed. By the time I get to 25, I’m thinking, “Oh, look what I’ve already done, and I’ve been up less than an hour!” I realize that I can get through the day.
Counting helps me accomplish certain tasks throughout the day that can feel daunting while depressed. For instance, since I don’t have a dish washer, I have to wash dishes by hand. Each dish, fork, spoon, glass, bowl, pan, etc. is counted as I go along. By the time I finish, I feel fantastic that I was able to wash 45 or 50 pieces (even if the reality is it took me only 15 minutes). It feels like a much bigger accomplishment by the sheer number of pieces washed.
Laundry is more challenging because I count each household member’s items separately, which requires me to actually think. Two pair of socks for me, three for my husband, now three for me, now four for him, etc. It takes a little concentration by the time I get to ten or eleven pairs for one person and seven or eight for another. Before I know it, I’m actually thinking about something besides how I’m going to get through the day.
A family member of mine uses games to clean her house. She has a variety of “random” methods that she uses. There is a jar containing little papers of household chores, as well as some fun things. She pulls a paper out of the jar, and whatever is on the paper is what she does that day—whether it is paint the living room, or go for a picnic in the park. She also has an app on her cell phone of random things she can do. (Actually, she lives her life this way, including which restaurants she frequents and which board games she plays.) Can you imagine the fun that would put into your day?
Many of us struggle with depression of some form—some minor, some needing the care of medical professionals. Each of us have our own “triggers” when it comes to depression, and many people are triggered by the holidays. Add a worldwide pandemic lasting a year with no end in sight, civil unrest, and a volatile political climate, and you have a recipe for disaster if not checked. If you need professional help, please get the help you need! If you are just going through minor depression, try making a game out of life. If counting or random selection is not your bag, make up your own game. Be creative!
I love to decorate my home for Christmas. There is something about twinkling lights and the smell of pine that soothe my soul. I’ve reached the age where my decorating game needs to be seriously downsized, and I had planned to do that this year. However, I thought we needed that boost this year more than ever before, so I went all out for one more season. Next year, I’ve really got to cut this down to a reasonable size for an old lady.
I don’t have a fireplace, but the fake fires on television are mesmerizing. Sometimes I sit and watch the flames until they completely consume the stresses of the day. The aroma of fresh baked Christmas cookies brings joy to my soul, but if you don’t have time or energy, a stick of cinnamon simmering in water on the back of the stove elicits the same joy.
While games are a wonderful way to jump start life, it is even more important to remember the basics: Prayer and the scriptures. No game can equal the peace gained from pouring your heart out to Heavenly Father and feasting on the scriptures. The games do, however, get you out of bed and willing to humble yourself to read the scriptures and pray. If you are depressed, create games, feast on the scriptures, pray, and, if necessary, seek professional help. You are not alone. Talk to someone. There are resources at your disposal.
For more information and resources regarding mental health, visit the Church’s mental health site.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.