If you or someone you know are experiencing symptoms of depression, what do you do? Is there any hope? Yes.
Depression demands attention, so there are things we can do.
1. Be open and honest about depression:
It is not always easy to admit you are not okay, especially when it comes to long-term feelings of sadness and depression. This is why we need to create safe spaces where people can admit that they are not in a good place, where they can acknowledge and face their pain and mental distress without judgment. We need to destigmatize sadness, and understand that depression is not an
abnormal reaction to life.
2. Recognize that sadness can be transformative:
In many cases, the dark times are when we learn the most about ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, our limits, and the importance of having a good mental health arsenal and ways of dealing with challenges. We also learn who we can trust and who will be there to help us, who we are and where we want to be in life. As much as we may hate to admit it, the hardest times in our life are often the times that define and develop our characters the most.
3. Understand that expressing our feelings is important:
In fact, in many cases you won’t realize that you have gone through a period of depression until it is over, and, looking back, you can see how you have changed. This is quite normal—as the saying goes, “we can’t see the forrest for the trees” when we a surrounded by feelings of sadness and depression. In many cases, depression is a progression: it doesn’t just “happen”, which is why it is important to pay attention to how we feel mentally and physically and practice self-awareness, so that we can heed the warning signs before the feelings of depression get worse and overtake our lives. When we just suppress these symptoms with medication or some other external thing (such as work, exercise, food and so on), we can end up making the depression worse, which will get us caught in a negative cycle of mental and physical ill-health. It may be painful to admit we are in a bad place emotionally, but it is a lot more painful in the long-term
to ignore these warning signs.
4. Come prepared for the fight:
Just like preparing for an important test, competition or meeting we know is coming up, if we understand depression as a natural part of life, we need to prepare for it—we don’t want to be caught unawares, or our mental and physical wellbeing will suffer.
What does this mean? We need mental self-care tools available to help us manage and deal with our thought life, because our thoughts are real things that affect us in very real ways. Regular mental self-care exercises such as taking our thoughts captive, and recognize unhealthy repeated patterns of downward thinking that trap you. Healthy sleeping and eating habits, exercise and so on are essential when it comes to dealing with depression, because they build up our cognitive resilience and help us cope when life seems dark and overwhelming by building up the strength of the
mind and heart determination.
5. Recognize that true healing takes time:
It takes time to heal and recover from depression—healing is a process, not an event. You cannot change overnight even if you wanted to!
The real thing that matters is that you give yourself time to heal and keep on keeping on, and don’t beat yourself up
for feeling a certain way.
6. Understand the power of identity:
How we see ourselves dramatically affects how we process and understand what happens to us.
“As a man thinks in his heart so he is.”
This is why it is so important to take the time to analyze how we see ourselves. We need to stop, think and ask ourselves hard questions: do we think we are failures because of something that happened to us? Or do we think we are weak because we have certain feelings or reacted in a certain way? It is often these kinds of thoughts that can really impact how we feel not only about life, but also about ourselves, and can lead to feelings of sadness, hopelessness and helplessness.
7. Acknowledge the healing power of community:
A strong social support system is essential when it comes to dealing with depression. Our broken state is an invitation to find community in others who are hurting as well as others who can help us.
When we connect with others, our brains and bodies respond in a positive way, reducing the negative side-effects of depression, such as an increased risk for heart attacks, constricted blood vessels, weight fluctuations, and low sex drive, while protecting the heart, brain and immune system. Even just having someone be there while we cry is incredibly therapeutic and healing!
Source: DR. Caroline Leaf/Adapted BH