Overcoming Depression

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Depression can be extremely draining, and it can be extremely difficult to manage and recover from.  Overcoming depression takes time and effort, but there are things you can do to start the process.  The following are different things you can do to start reversing those behaviors.

Depression can make you want to withdraw and isolate yourself from everyone and everything.  It makes it difficult to reach out to even your family and close friends.  This can lead to feelings of guilt and shame for neglecting those who are important to you, but you need to fight past those feelings and reach out to those that support you.  Staying connected to those who care about you will help improve your outlook.  Instead of just texting or calling, try to schedule time to meet with people in person.  If you know you have trouble reaching out to people, ask someone to help by checking in on you if they can.

Another way to overcome depression is by doing things that make you feel good, whether it be things that you enjoy doing, or things to keep you healthy.  Carve out time in your schedule for activities you enjoy to give you something to look forward to.  Go out with your friends, go to a museum for a day, play a sport, have a craft day, or just go walk in the park.  Keep in mind that while it may be tempting to stay inside and binge-watch TV all day, you want to try to get outside for at least a little bit.  Lack of sunlight can make your depression worse.  Also make sure that you’re getting the right amount of sleep every day; sleeping too much or too little can negatively affect your depression.

While most people only think about the physical benefits of exercising, exercising regularly can be a good tool in overcoming depression as well.  While at first you may be exhausted and unable to exercise for very long, once you get into a routine with it you’ll be less fatigued, and your energy levels should improve as long as you keep it up.  Start out just walking for 10 minutes a day, and then as your body gets used to moving increase how long you’re walking for.  Rhythmic and continuous exercises where you move both your arms and legs are particularly helpful; walking, weight training, swimming, martial arts and dancing are all good exercises to try.

Another important part in overcoming your depression is challenging the negative thinking that can be caused by and worsens your depression. Thoughts about how you’re weak or powerless, you can’t do anything about bad things that happen to you, or that your situation is hopeless can be overwhelming; it’s important to remember that these negative thoughts oftentimes aren’t realistic.  The problem is that just thinking positive isn’t always helpful when you have a habit of automatically entertaining all the negative thoughts without realizing it.

Some types of thinking to avoid include:

  • Looking at things as black-or-white, for example thinking you have to be perfect at something, and if you’re not you’re a failure.
  • Generalizing from a single experience, for example thinking you can’t do anything right after having done one thing wrong.
  • Focusing solely on negative events and ignoring positive ones, for example fixating on the one thing that went wrong that day instead of acknowledging all the positive things.
  • Coming up with reasons why positive events shouldn’t matter, for example thinking someone is just being nice when they say they had fun hanging out with you.
  • Jumping to conclusions and thinking negatively about something without any evidence, for example acting like a mind reader and being sure someone thinks you’re pathetic, even though you have no reason to think that.
  • Labeling yourself based on mistakes and self-perceived shortcomings, for example labeling yourself a failure, idiot, or loser.

Try to look at situations rationally, stop & challenge negative thoughts when you recognize them.  Ask yourself if you would tell those things to a friend if they were in the same situation.  In the process of questioning your negative thoughts you’ll start to develop a more balanced perspective.

As you start implementing these behaviors, keep in mind that there will probably be setbacks; try not to get discouraged!  Enlist friends and family in helping you stick to a routine as much as possible, but know that sometimes you will have bad days.  That’s okay, depression takes time to recover from.  If you’re still struggling, look into seeking professional help to treat your depression.