Depression .... a word with many definitions depending on the person.
It could mean not wanting to get out of bed, not feeling up to “facing the world”, having a plan for the day and instead you don’t want to leave the couch, or you flat out quit caring, guilt for what you’re not doing and anger about what you are doing. Lack of joy in normal activities or relationships, feeling unworthy or looking in the mirror and crying at what you see before you, it can even be an “unreasonable/un-explainable” feeling of sadness.
Now let’s go to the dictionary for the actual definition.
de·pres·sion. noun. feelings of severe despondency and dejection.
Well geez what does despondency and dejection mean??
de·spond·en·cy. noun. a state of low spirits caused by loss of hope or courage.
de·jec·tion. noun. a sad and depressed state; low spirits.
Wikipedia defines depression as a mental disorder characterized by at least two weeks of low mood that is present across most situations. It is often accompanied by low self-esteem, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, low energy, and pain without a clear cause. People may also occasionally have false beliefs or see or hear things that others cannot. Some people have periods of depression separated by years in which they are normal while others nearly always have symptoms present.
What can you do? Well here are my thoughts and opinions on what you can do.
Get Moving. I can’t express enough about the benefits of getting active. Besides all the physical health benefits exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve mental health. Part of this is due to the release of endorphin's, which acts as a mood elevator. With regular exercise you can see an intensely positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, etc. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and improves overall mood. I personally have made so many positive improvements in my life and I contribute a huge part of this to group fitness. The comradery, support and encouragement is amazing. Group fitness not for you? Well you’ll never know if you never try. But really the key is to just get moving and incorporating fitness into your life, whatever that looks like for you.
Opposite Action. Sound simple? Well for the most part it is just as it sounds. It’s a skill that was developed by Marsha Linehan, PhD. Emotions can both be positive and negative. The key is if your emotion is a justified or unjustified. Justified/valid emotions are healthy and can teach us a lot. An example of a justified emotion would be feeling sad about losing your job. An unjustified/non-valid emotion would be feeling sad because your boss is having a closed-door meeting and you believe it’s about you. In this situation the emotion is unhealthy and holding you back from living your life the way you want.
In the later situation using opposite action can be extremely helpful. For instance, if you are feeling sad and just want to lay in bed and decide to give in and do just that you will be reinforcing that emotion of sadness.
Sadness or Depression- The opposite action would be to get active, approach, don’t avoid and do things that make you feel competent and self-confident.
Fear – Do the thing you are afraid of, over and over. Do the things that give you a sense of control. Make a list of small step or tasks you can do, DO the first thing on the list.
Guilt or Shame (Justified)– Repair the transgression, say you’re sorry, apologize, make things better, do something nice for the person. Then let it go.
Guilt or Shame (Unjustified) – Do what makes you feel guilty or ashamed, over and over. Approach don’t avoid.
Anger – Gently avoid the person you are angry with rather that attacking them. Do something nice rather than mean or attacking. Imagine sympathy and empathy for the person rather than blame
I am firm believer in premise that actions proceed emotions.
Talk to your doctor and make a plan. Your doctor will be the best person to discuss what you are going through as they can recommend medication options with and come up with a plan of action. Unfortunately, the PHQ-9 Depression test you take for “diagnosis” is dependent on your current mood/emotions and your result is a score based on the weight of each answer.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I am a firm believer in this short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel. It is used to help treat a wide range of issues in a person’s life, from sleeping difficulties or relationship problems, to drug and alcohol abuse or anxiety and depression. CBT works by changing people’s attitudes and their behavior by focusing on the thoughts, images, beliefs and attitudes that are held (a person’s cognitive processes) and how these processes relate to the way a person behaves, as a way of dealing with emotional problems.
Journal EVERYTHING for two weeks. Try it and I mean everything! What did you eat, when did you eat, how long was your drive, anything different about your day, did you drink, who made you happy, did anyone upset you… etc… The first goal would to find out if there is any pattern of the items above that proceed a feeling of sadness, anger, shame etc. Or possibly this happens the same time every week, month, year? The second would be that by writing down tough feelings and events you are separating yourself from those emotional and eliminating the power they have over you.
Talk talk talk... to people you trust. Sharing your thoughts, feelings, and struggles is soooooo valuable. It may be scary to share it out loud but you would be surprised at how understanding family, friends, and even complete strangers can be. The other advantage is you can request that they help hold you accountable for opposite action. My kids and husband know that they can (respectfully) call me on the carpet if I am being overly critical or cranky.
Last but not least Know that you are not alone. You’re not. You would be surprised at how many people suffer from depression. Some may have bouts of it a week or two here and there throughout the year and others live with it day in and out.