Depression is a low mood that begins as a result of things going wrong in your life. It can have a devastating impact, not only in how bad it makes you feel, but also in the way it can negatively impact on all aspects of your life, including family, friends and career. It’s bad enough to constantly experience low mood, but depression badly affects the quality of your sleep (read more...), and it robs you of that all-important sense of life having meaning and purpose, as well as your ability to take pleasure from it. It is as if all the energy has been sucked out of you, affecting your interest in doing anything, to the extent that it is easy to stop engaging with life and withdraw into yourself. It can express as an inability to feel emotion. When you process life through a tired and depressed filter, your thinking processes are inevitably dark, self-critical, sad, hopeless, sometimes destructive; thinking becomes very black and white, all-or-nothing
Overcoming Depression Requires Taking Action
80-90% of depressed people can be helped significantly, but unfortunately most do not seek help. The cycle of depression is a downward spiral, and often grows so slowly, that you and those close don’t notice what’s happening, until things start to go badly wrong in life (e.g. relationships, jobs, health).
One of the big ironies is that to move out of depression, you need to start taking action, but the physical and mental fatigue, the sense of “why bother” apathy, is a massive impediment to this, as is that helpless sense of not knowing where or how to start. This is why it’s so important to have someone who understands what’s needed and who can help you, normally a therapist (read more...)
Where do I start? Do an Emotional Needs Audit.
So what does it mean to take action and where do you start? The good news here is that there are a great many options, many different things that can work. The important thing is that you start to do try doing something different, however small, in order to kick-start and generate some sense of momentum.
You started to get depressed, almost certainly, because something knocked your life off balance, whether a major event such as bereavement, job loss or relationship breakdown, or perhaps it was something that seemed inconsequential, but which triggered difficult emotions at an unconscious level. When things start to go wrong, it will often mean that one or more of our emotional needs are no longer in balance/not being met, and this hole in our foundations can lead to the onset of mental health problems. So an important starting point is to do an emotional needs audit. Once you have identified which of your needs are not being properly met, (Human Givens therapists always focus on this as a core part of the therapy), goals can be set, and you can start the important work of finding ways to bring those emotional needs back in balance.
Bring back into your life things that are enjoyable and pleasurable.
A depressed brain needs to be stimulated, so an early goal would often be to take yourself back to the things that used to bring enjoyment and pleasure into your life, to restart the things that you gave up as the fatigue and apathy of depression took hold.
Did you enjoy: gardening, cooking, knitting, tinkering with cars, painting, photography, walking, cycling, dancing, a game of pool or bowls, meeting up with a friend? Start by easing yourself gently back into one activity, like helping your partner prepare a meal, baking something simple, going for a short walk alone or with a friend, spending a bit of time when the sun is out, doing something in the garden. Plan a simple routine and reward yourself each time you do it.
The fatigue and hopelessness of depression makes taking any sort of action hard, so enlist friends/family/ a therapist to support you in this. Often it requires some gentle cajoling to get us going. Take it slowly in achievable steps and over time the spark of pleasure you get from positive activities can then become self-sustaining.
Find ways to re-engage with people and life
It’s about finding ways to get yourself reengaging with life, to redirect your focus outwards and away from that internal self–critical, undermining, rumination. Start small and build up. As you start to engage with an activity in this way, you might be surprised as you start to notice the changes, maybe only slight to begin with, in the way you think and feel. The feel-good factor generated from doing this, can then motivate you to steadily do more, so that this positive activity starts to become naturally incorporated back into your life.
Picking activities that give you regular contact with people, particularly family and friends, is doubly good, because re-incorporating a regular social dimension into your life is a key component for recovery and normality. The more reengagement with positive activities and normal life you do, the more that leads you to increasingly focus outside of yourself, which means the more your mood will lift.
Exercise is Brilliant at Combating Depression
Starting to do some exercise everyday, however short and gentle, is particularly helpful and calming, as it not only encourages the production of feel good endorphins, but it eats up the stress hormones in your body, countering the anxiety. Exercise can be very motivational, as it is amazing how quickly you can find yourself being able to build it up and do more. But do this slowly, so that it feels manageable and sustainable.
Walking is a great way into exercise if you haven’t done anything much for a while, and it gets you out of the house. Use little tricks to encourage yourself to build walking (or any form of exercise) into your life, like using a motivational device/technology that measures distance/effort/speed, or choosing to walk to the farther of two corner shops for the paper, milk and bread. Getting (or borrowing!) a dog has helped many people get into a good exercise regime.
Learn to think more healthily
Rumination, the endless spinning of anxious thoughts, is a major cause of depression. Rumination pins us down, locks us into helplessness and paralyzing emotion. Learning to challenge the critical, negative thinking patterns that tend to predominate with depression, becomes easier as you start to build positive stuff into your life. A good therapist can be invaluable here, in teaching you ways to challenge unhelpful thoughts and rigid thinking styles. Remember, you don’t have to listen to what isn’t helpful.
Learn Life Skills to Control Strong Emotions
Another essential component of tackling anxiety and other strong emotion, is to learn one or more techniques, that help bring down emotional arousal, whether breathing exercises, mindful meditation, yoga, emotional freedom technique (EFT), self-hypnosis, there are many to choose from. Having these skills in your toolbox can give an important sense of confidence and empowerment, as it means you have the knowledge and resources to counter strong emotion whenever it floods in.
Like most aspects of life, Mental Health needs to be managed
Bad things happen to everyone, and when they do we all take a knock and experience a depressed mood. In order to be able to more effectively deal with these difficult experiences/moments in life, it is important to better equip yourself to deal with the emotional consequences. You need to be able to manage your mental health effectively and on an ongoing basis. This means educating yourself about depression and how it affects you; you need to learn and become aware of your symptoms, your vulnerabilities and triggers. It’s so important to learn the skills, tools and techniques that enable you to regain control and manage each situation as it arises. Having these skills is a key factor in preventing relapses, which can be an ongoing threat. A good therapist will help with this.
Acquiring the knowledge and skills to better manage emotions and thinking patterns will enable you to overcome depression now and bounce back effectively from serious setbacks in the future. You can recover from depression, so if you feel stuck, don’t delay, get the help you need now.