Almost everyone will go through a period of depression in their life. It could be due to circumstances like the death of a loved one, a bad relationship, or even physical illness. The worst thing about depression, however, is that it feels never ending. Depression makes you feel like you have always been depressed and will always be depressed. It creates a negative cycle of thinking that is very hard to break free from. However there are some steps you can take to overcome depression:
- Get Help – The first thing you should always do when you are feeling depressed is to get help. This could mean going to the doctor to see if you have some health reason for it. Perhaps your hormones are out of whack or you have mono or another illness that is subtle but devastating. Even something as simple as mild anemia or vitamin deficiency can cause depression in some cases. By treating the physical causes first you can more easily deal with the mental and emotional side effects. If medical reasons are not to blame then you need to consult a therapist. From psychiatrists to psychologists to counselors there are many people that you can go to for mental help. If you feel that you need medication to balance your brain chemistry then a psychiatrist is the way to go as they can prescribe medication. However they usually do not talk very long with you beyond assessing your medication needs. If you feel the depression is related more to negative thinking or outside circumstances than a psychologist or counselor would be a better bet as they take more time to talk to you and deal with the issues behind the depression. If you can’t afford professional help there are many places that have discounted rates based on your income and some communities, like churches, offer free counseling to those in need. The point is to get outside help from a professional who is experienced in depression. They can help you more than anyone else.
- Connect With Others –After you get professional help you need to reach out to other people. This can mean friends, family or even online communities. Connecting with others who can support you and ground you is very important. Friends can help to remind you that there is still good in the world. Other who have gone through depression can tell you what helped them through the hard times. Family can offer other kinds of support like help with finances or even simple things like food or cleaning up. When you are depressed even simple things can seem overwhelming and having someone there to help out every once in a while can make a big difference. While depression may make you want to pull away from everyone in reality you need to draw closer to them.
- Be Open –Remember not to pretend everything is okay. This is a time you need to be open and honest with others and with yourself. It is hard to be open about something like depression. It makes you feel vulnerable and you can’t stand the thought of being hurt any more than you have been. However hiding from the world will not make things better. When you open up to others about your pain and struggles you can get support. Yes you might get hurt at times as well, but if you stay closed you WILL be hurt and you will not get any support. At least when you are open you can get some positives along with the negatives.
- Quiet Times – With all this talk about drawing close to others you also need to remember to make time for yourself. We can go the other way and lose ourselves in others. Partying or constant activity is just another way to hide from your depression instead of dealing with it. Although you need to be careful not to dwell in your depression, you do need quiet times to cope and think about why you are depressed and what the root causes could be. Only by dealing with the source can you throw it off completely. Meditation, prayer, contemplation and so on can help you to quiet your mind and think past the distractions of life. Sometimes the source of the depression is obvious, like a failed relationship. In that case you can look back and see the warning signs. Then you can change your thinking or behaviors that led to the failure. Through finding a solution you can push off the weight of your depression. You can also forgive the other person and move on. However depression that is not so specific is harder to deal with. Sometimes you have to go back to your childhood and see where your thinking went wrong. Perhaps something bad happened to you to make you react poorly to certain circumstances. By uncovering the core of the issue you can resolve it and become aware of behaviors and thoughts that are unhealthy because of it. This is not to say that your depression will magically vanish with one epiphany, but by dealing with the source you can often get it under control for the long term.
- Change Your Thinking – Speaking of control, your thinking has a lot to do with your depression. As I said earlier depression makes you feel like it will never end and that there is nothing good in your life. However you know that is not true. You have people who love you and things you enjoy doing. What you have to do is change your thinking. When you think something negative, like “No one loves me” counter it immediately. “No, that is not true. My spouse /parent /friend loves me.” What you think is what you feel, so make sure your thoughts are guarded. This can be very hard to do, but dwelling on bad thoughts or reinforcing them just completes the depression cycle. Break the cycle by countering wrong thinking with the truth. Make sure you know what the truth is, too! Depression can make you feel like everyone is against you. Do not rely on your feelings. Instead try to look at it from a stranger’s perspective. “My boss hates me” can be countered by “My boss complemented my work last week.” When you push past negative feelings you can start to see the reality in front of you.
- Do New Things – Depression has another side effect that you may not be aware of. It puts us in a rut where we keep doing the same bad habits over and over again. From overeating in front of the television every night to binge drinking to slacking off at work these bad habits reinforce our negative image of ourselves and of the world. One way to counter this is to do something new. Instead of heading home to sit alone in front of the television try to get out and go to a sporting event. Your brain won’t have a pattern associated with that and you will find, to your surprise, that the depression seems to lag behind. At work you can team up for a project, sit in a common area instead of your office, or go for a walk on your break. Breaking free of habits where depression strikes is a great way to see the difference between a pattern of thinking and actual feelings.
- Practice Healthy Living – Last but not least, take care of your health. One of the easiest ways to beat ourselves up is to say we are fat, unfit, sick, achy and so on. We use this as an excuse to not get moving, not go somewhere new, and stay and wallow in our depression. Getting moving is not easy. However you can start small. Just walk for ten minutes a day. Then work up to twenty. Then jog a minute out of that twenty. Then five minutes. These little incremental steps can make a big impact on your life and how you feel about yourself. It is a real way to feel better physically and mentally. You are taking literal steps towards feeling better! Eating healthier is another big obstacle. Gorging on chocolate and ice cream can make you feel better for a moment but leaves you with regrets. Instead use it in small quantities as a reward for accomplishing things. Three M&Ms for doing the dishes, three for going on a walk, and so on. This is positive reinforcement for your brain plus you get to indulge in something in a controlled way. Find ways to make healthy eating fun too; cook with your favorite foods, indulge in expensive herbs and spices, try new recipes. By making healthy eating a part of trying new things you can break bad habits and create good ones instead.
As you can see, depression can be very harmful and hard to overcome. However with help and time you can overcome it. Change your thinking, your lifestyle and your habits to create a new way of life. Just one step at a time can help you stride out of the darkness of depression.