Are you tired of feeling hopeless and helpless?
Depression is a serious mental health condition that if left untreated can rob your joy in life. There are many reasons why you may be feeling depressed, including the loss of a job or a loved one, a marriage breakdown, financial or relationship problems or just everyday problems that seem to increase in number and urgency.
Contrary to what many people think depression is not just feeling low or sad. It can present itself as irritability, constant feeling of being on edge or overwhelmed or having difficulty concentrating.
You may find it difficult to enjoy the things you used to enjoy in the past, feel constantly tired and lethargic, and simply see no joy or meaning in life. Everything may seem to be a chore, even things that used to be exciting and enjoyable such as seeing friends or going out. If this is how you feel, it may seem that life has always been like this and there is no way out.
The good news is that you don’t have to feel this way forever! You can enjoy life again and find meaning in the simplest of things. However, this is not something that can be solved by simply being told to ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘snap out of it’.
Once you get on the vicious circle of depression it can be difficult to break ingrained behaviours and unhelpful thoughts that perpetuate depression.
How to help yourself be free from the claws of depression?
The tricky thing about depression is that it robs you of all motivation to do anything, even shower or eat in some cases. So, if you don’t have motivation to get up or eat how on earth are going to do anything else?
Well, you can start small and just begin by observing your thoughts and feelings when you feel low or angry. By becoming aware of the thoughts that give rise to unhelpful feelings, you become able to see patterns in thinking and behaviour.
Once you can see these patterns, you can start to change them and choose how you want to feel and act. If you are able to see the good things around you, you will behave differently which in turn will improve all aspects of your life.
It’s like finally being able to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel which then gives you the impulse to move towards it.
Writing a journal, for example, can help you see patterns of unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. You may want to write about your thoughts once the situation has passed and reflect on a few points:
- What was I thinking about when it happened?
- How was I feeling (name the feelings, i.e. angry, sad, upset)?
- Are the thoughts and feelings connected to problems I had in the past (I had an argument with a friend last week)?
- How did I behave?
- Could I have behaved differently? If so, how?
- What could I change in the future that may help me think and behave the way I want?
By answering these questions frequently, you will start to observe patterns of thinking and behaviour that give rise to the feelings and behaviours that you want to change. The more aware you become of these patterns, the easier it will be to stop them in their tracks.
You can start to challenge the thoughts before you act to ensure that what you are thinking is in fact true. For example, you sent a friend a message but never got a reply. You may start to think that your friend doesn’t like or appreciate you, or that no one ever cares about you and start to feel lonely and sad.
If at this point you challenge this thought, you may realise that in fact many people do care about you. You may think of all the times your friend was there for you, and how it may just be that the friend is busy.
This will likely change how you feel, and you may feel more compassion towards your friend (you don’t have a bad friend, just a busy one) and towards yourself.
Avoiding or challenging generalisations will help you to see each problem for what they are and look for solutions rather than allow them to become bigger and bigger.
The important thing is that you take one step at a time and remember that you are the best person to give yourself what you need. It being attention, care, love or a nice cup of tea!
If, however, you find it hard to manage your thoughts, feel overwhelmed and hopeless, a trained therapist can help you to start your healing process.