Michelle Obama's Advice for Coping With Depression: ‘Develop Your Own Tools' and Give Yourself a Break

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Former First Lady Michelle Obama opened up about the strategies that help her cope with depression, during an interview with CBS' "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" Tuesday.

"Over the course of your adulthood, you develop your own tools," Obama, 57, said. "And for me, it's turning off the noise that is upsetting." She said she takes breaks from "reading all the feeds that are fueling my anxiety."

"I surround myself with things that make me feel good: family, friends, walks [and] exercise," she told Colbert.

In August, Obama shared that she was experiencing "low-grade depression" on an episode of her podcast, "The Michelle Obama Podcast."

Particularly during the pandemic when everyone's lives are disrupted, keeping a consistent schedule is also helpful, Obama said. "I woke up, I took a shower, I worked out, I got dressed every day," she said. "There wasn't a day that went by that I didn't do that, because it's just the doing that gets you out of the funk."

Obama said it's important that young people understand that it's very common to experience highs and lows in life, but they are temporary. This is something she teaches her own adult children, Malia, 22, and Sasha, 19.

"They have to be prepared to handle the highs and the lows," she said. "I'm trying to get them and other young people to start thinking about what are your tools, the things that bring you joy, the things that bring you calm and peace."

Patience and self-care is also key in tumultuous times: "There are moments in all of our lives, particularly in the middle of a pandemic and racial unrest, you're going to feel kind of way about it so give yourself a break," she said.

On her podcast, Obama said her depression was due to just the pandemic, "but because of the racial strife, and just seeing [the Trump] administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting."

Low-grade depression, also called "dysthymia," is characterized by loss of interest in normal daily activities, feeling hopeless, lacking productivity and sleep problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, anxiety and depression rates among Black Americans spiked in the weeks following the circulation of the video of George Floyd's death at the hands of police. Hearing news about Black people "being dehumanized or hurt or killed or falsely accused of something" contributed to the weight of her feelings, Obama said.

In the interview Tuesday, Obama reiterated that depression and mental health "is a part of life," she said. "Nobody rides, life on a high."

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