Nine Ways You Can Help Yourself Through Depression
By: Velinda Peyton
I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t suffered from depression at some time in their life. Depression can be anything from a natural reaction to a difficult situation to a severe and long term condition that can overtake your life. If you suffer from serious depression, especially if it has lasted a long time, you are likely to need professional help and possibly medication. Deep depression is not something to ignore, nor is it something you have to live with.
Some people are more prone to depression and suffer from a low grade depression their entire lives. Highly sensitive people, for instance, are more prone to depression. Many people have depression that is associated with other conditions such as Bi-polar disorder. The most important thing to remember is that no one has to live with depression. There is help from counseling to medication that can balance the brain chemicals and relieve the suffering.
In addition there are ways you can deal with depression to relieve its hold on you. Yes, it takes effort, but the results and profound difference is worth it.
1. Challenge Your Thoughts: Depression is distortion is what I would always tell myself when my thoughts were running rampant with doomsday scenarios that life would never get better so I might as well just give up. Challenging those thoughts with the truth is one of the best ways to lift your spirits immediately. Dr. Phil calls this the Authentically Accurate Alternative where he recommends asking authentic, honest questions about the situation. Ask if the thoughts you are thinking are true and do they serve in your best interest? Out of control runaway thoughts can immobilize you. When you ask yourself realistic questions about “is this really true,” you realize you are likely imagining the worst and deep in nonsense with scenarios that are never likely to happen. The answers to those questions alone can lift your spirits. Actually challenging your thoughts is something you should do even when not depressed!
“Negative internal dialog steers you away from the truth. It poisons your self-concept. It becomes a vicious circle of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Positive internal dialogue is rationally optimistic self-talk. They are thoughts and messages that are fact-based and allow you to live in accordance with reality. It is truthful engagement with the world”
Dr. Phil McGraw
2. Challenge Your Emotions: The emotions you feel are powerful and can make or break a situation. However, emotions are not necessarily reflective of a situation, as your emotions may be out of control and causing you more pain than necessary. Some people, for example, live in constant fear that something bad is going to happen and then react in a habitual way to that fear. Ask, “Is this true or is it only fear?” Emotions can be an enemy just as strongly as they can be beautiful. To master your emotions by challenging how you are feeling can also bring proper perspective to a situation that may be over exaggerated.
“A man who is master of himself can end sorrow as he can invent a pleasure. I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them”
Particularly important to challenge are the dangerous emotions of rage, anger, revenge, hate and jealousy. These emotions make you do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do and then later deeply regret. Sometimes these emotions can be so out of control that they change our life forever. There are people who are spending the rest of their life in prison because in a moment of rage killed someone and many times that someone is a loved one. All this devastation over a regretful moment of out of control anger. The best thing to do when overcome with negative emotions is to walk away and calm yourself so you will be able to think clearly. Nothing is worth the consequences of acting on these negative emotions.
The two above suggestions are not easy. Thoughts and emotions can take over our being and become a part of us so much so that we feel we have no control over their power. However, we are not powerless to our thoughts and emotions as behaviors and habits also play a role in how we deal with thoughts and emotions, and both can be changed. Just know that you can change your thoughts and control your emotions. There are many books such as the recent book “Super Brain” from Deepak Chopra about the power of the mind that are opening up a whole new perspective about how we can control what we think.
“The mind acts like an enemy for those who don’t control it”
3. It is a Big World Out There: Many times when people are depressed, they don’t feel like being around other people so they isolate themselves. Isolation is not the same as needing to be alone to reflect and sort things out. Isolation is shutting yourself off from life and is a debilitating, self-destructive habit. People isolate thinking that it keeps them safe from experiencing anything that could cause further suffering. However, remember that isolation is definitely not without pain. Even if you have to force yourself to go out and be with positive people, the benefit of this decision is incomparable to isolation. Being with other people, especially in an atmosphere of fun and good times, is one of the best therapies you can do for yourself. If you know the people and their history, it is even more encouraging to see how they have transformed their pain and found new life. And you never know who you may meet that can become a big part of your future.
“What if your new life is based on the new you that you have become…not the past you that you left behind?”
“Follow your heart and think bigger than the lifestyle you are slaving away for. If you jump outside of your box and commit to a bigger life, the world will say “Yes” and support you”
4. Be Grateful: This one works every time, everywhere, no matter what. We all know people who have had real tragedies and our hearts ache for them. Count your blessings and start being grateful for what you have…family, health, youth, education, intelligence, personality, a home, food, friends, pets, a job, a car…tomorrow. Usually the things we are grateful for are also what we value and add needed perspective as to what’s important.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what you have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of your past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow”
5. Treat Yourself…You Deserve the Best: Another uplifting decision is to do something you love just to make yourself feel better. As long as it is not destructive, such as substance abuse, even if you drift away once from that diet, treat yourself. Treating myself to something I love always makes me feel better. Indulge in a latte or a brownie…just one, take a walk in nature, play with your pets (pets are wonderful therapy), get some sunshine, rejuvenate with a nap, take a relaxing bubble bath, take a drive to your favorite place, visit a positive friend, put aside all the responsibilities for the rest of the day, buy something new you’ve always wanted, take a “mental health” day off from work, play some music, dance, exercise, or whatever it is that you love to do. See how positive the results are when investing some time in yourself because you’re worth it.
”When you treat yourself with respect and deservedness, you will expect the same from others.”
6. Friends and Family can be the Best Counselors: I found when I was going through my storm that my friend Linda, my Brother and my Dad were the best counselors I could possibly have. They knew me, cared about me and had my best interest at heart. They had insight into what I was going through. These people can be just as valuable, and sometimes more so, as a professional. This does not mean in place of if you desire professional help. But don’t underestimate the value of talking with and listening to the perspective of someone who cares about you.
What I’ve Learned from Life: “That having good friends to talk with and inspirational books and quotes to read are more comforting and therapeutic than a counselor”
7. Do Whatever Motivates and Inspires You: I love to dance and exercise. For me walking in nature is one of the best therapies I can imagine. It is my alone time to think and put it all together. And the exercise always makes me feel better. Sometimes I will take my IPOD and listen to music or uplifting programs I downloaded. I also love to dance, and when I’m with my friends, music and dancing, my mood is rehabilitated. Also, reading inspirational stories and articles uplift me. And the hundreds of inspirational quotes posted are not just inflated words…they are truths we need to hear so we can be inspired by their insight. Whatever you love to do will make you feel better and enhance your mood during times of depression. Don’t set aside what gives you joy just because you’re going through a difficult time.
“Surround yourself with everything that inspires you, and is more in tune with your vision of how you want to live.”
8. Try Something New that You have Always wanted to do: Many times when life changes, it is the best time to start what you’ve always wanted to do…a new job, going back to school, learning something you have always wanted to learn, enrolling in that new yoga class, moving to a new City…whatever your heart desires. This is another way to treat yourself and say, I’m important and this is what I long for so now I’m going to start.
“Actually I just woke up one day and decided I didn’t want to feel like that anymore or ever again, so I changed…just like that!”
9. Nothing Lasts Forever: Always remember this too shall pass…no matter how long or how overwhelming what you may be going through, it will end. Change is constant and new life is everywhere, but we have to get out in it. Nothing happens without effort and persistence. During times of depression and life transition, it may be difficult to take even that first step, but there is no new life until you do. You never know what beautiful horizons may be waiting for you if you just subscribe to the realization that nothing lasts forever and something better is waiting for you…so go get it.
“You need to be patient and relax when you are numb from the storms and learn to accept that there is new life ahead. There are new dreams to be dreamed, new emotions to feel, and new relationships to love.”
Life is up to us to create. It is the decisions we make, the actions we take and the behaviors we practice that make our life what it is. Even in the worst of transition, we are in control of how we handle ourselves and our future. Getting through the storms can define who we are and our lives can evolve into so much more than we ever imagined depending on how we handle the hard times. All of the above suggestions will make a profound difference in how we evolve and how long the depression or tough times will last. We have to live with ourselves always and it makes no sense to live it being depressed when we don’t have to be.
“What your life has been in the past has nothing to do with what can be in the future.” “Do not define yourself by what happened to you from the outside but from the metamorphosis that has occurred on the inside. Trust that there is life, hope, renewal even when it appears there is not. Hold on to the vision of what can be…even when nothing seems to be presenting itself to you. There is a time of blossoming that is mysterious. Your future is waiting, a work already in progress. Each step forward invites cosmic forces and unexpected miracles into your life”
Daphne Rose Kingma
Many excerpts in this article are from my book: This River Called Life, A Letter to My Children
Article by Velinda Peyton, www.velindapeyton.com