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A Quick Primer on Overcoming Depression

Depression vs. Sadness Defined

We all have bad days. It is normal to have bouts where we feel sad. Sometimes it lasts for a few minutes or a few hours. Sometimes it lasts for a few days.

When a person has a "bad day," (a day with a lot of sadness) then wakes up the next day and has another bad day, he or she then makes a decision: "I will not have another bad day." When this happens, when they try to "snap out of it" and do so successfully–this is called HEALTHY COPING. But when a person has several bad days in a row, tries to snap out of it, but cannot, then this is the beginning of what is defined as Depression.

What Can We Do?

Psychotherapy works really well with depression. Why? All kinds of reasons: it forces us to take responsibility for our feelings and behaviors; it helps us to "own" our own issues and to break away denial; it aids us in getting out of maladaptive patterns (ways of coping that don’t help us cope); it gives us a place where we become responsible to report our progress regarding making positive changes in our life. Therapy can focus on the past or on today. Depression responds better to therapy that focuses on present issues and concerns.

There is an old saying: "When the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything you see is a nail." If you report feelings of sadness or depression to a medical doctor, they will probably see an immediate need for prescribing drugs.There are dozens of anti-depressant medications available, many very new and many very effective. They work, and they work well. Some people are easy to medicate, and others will require several different pills before a good "fit" exists.

Studies show that therapy and drugs are about equally effective, with the combination of both having the strongest results. Does everyone need therapy and/or drugs? No. Try some milder "cures" first.

Cures

  • Get moving. Exercise helps tremendously. Just walking a few minutes everyday will help a lot. Increase the time spent walking until you are walking for a half an hour three to four times a week. Start by parking far away from a store or restaurant.
  • Get outside. Sun is good. A little sun is better than no sun.
  • Monitor your thinking style. (See the next section)
  • Connect with people. This is hard if you are truly depressed. Do it anyway. Call someone. Get some support systems in place. Depression leads to isolation which leads to depression which leads to isolation which leads.."Problems shared are halved."
  • Feel your feelings. Do you have any other feelings besides sadness? Any anger? This is a big one for sad folk. Any fear? Any joy? Any loneliness? Feelings are real, feelings are information, and feelings are OK. Learn to identify them and deal with them…
  • Investigate gaining some spirituality in your life. Don’t do too much of this, because experiencing a connection with a Higher Power can literally blow away feelings of sadness, isolation, pessimism and depression.
  • Do things that give you some feelings of accomplishment. Practice entering "arenas of competence."
  • Read about depression. Self-help books actually can help, but only if you follow the action plan outlined in the books. And, if you actually read them through to the end, where they usually give you the "solutions."

Thinking Styles

A powerful way to attack sadness or depression is to change some common "errors" in thinking.

Time distortion
We think that how we feel now will always be how we feel. We see no changes imminent in our future. We think that our current problems have been with us FOREVER and will be with us FOREVER. We think good times will be over in SECONDS.

Overgeneralization
We have a problem with someone at the office. We think everyone in the office doesn’t like us.

Mud Filtering
We see things as worse than they are, through "mud-colored glasses." We take in negative information and screen out positive information.

Size Distortion
We see negative events as huge, and positive events are trivialized. To "dwell on the negative" is an understatement.

Over-labeling
We take an event and make it more real, bigger and more permanent. Our child says, "I am angry at you." We hear, "I am the world’s worst parent, ever."

Inertia

Inertia is defined by: An object at rest tends to stay at rest; an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Inertia can be used to stay sad or to combat sadness.

Think of a huge boulder. It is tough to get it moving. It just wants to stay in one spot. Now, let’s say we get the boulder rolling, and soon the boulder is going at a good pace. If someone tries to stop the boulder from moving, they will not have much success. A boulder at rest wants to stay put, a rolling boulder will want to stay rolling.

If you are stuck, then start the "boulder" moving. Do some little things to get out of the rut. Just a little change here or there will multiply. Then do something slightly bigger to get out of the "object at rest" mentality.

Once you start moving, then the boulder will continue to roll, and nothing can stop this progression. Make inertia work for you.

Note:   Depression is a serious problem. If you remain depressed, you are at risk for increasing health problems. These recommendations are not a substitute for professional help. SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY if you are feeling suicidal, or if you are feeling like hurting yourself or running away. If depression has been a factor in your life for many weeks, and nothing is working to get out of the depression, then seek some professional help. To paraphrase a popular TV commercial from the 90’s: "Depressed? If you don’t call me, then call someone."

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