Tips for overcoming depression
By Heather Sharp-Spinks, MSW, LICSW, ADC-S, MAC
Everyone can have periods of depression that can drain your energy, making it difficult to take the steps that will help you to feel better. Overcoming depression is not quick or easy, but it is not impossible. You cannot just will yourself to “Snap out of it,” but you do have more control than you realize, even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. The key is to start small and build from there by making positive choices for yourself each day.
Taking the first step is always the hardest. But going for a walk or dancing to your favorite music, for example, is something you can do right now. And it can substantially boost your mood and energy for several hours, long enough to put a second recovery step into action, such as preparing a meal or arranging to meet an old friend.
Challenge your thinking by learning to accept reality. Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive; thus what we take to be the truth.
The trouble is that all too often we cling to things we hold to be true that simply are not. If you will examine the statement above, you will find it is circular in its reasoning. This is actually how the mind thinks things through a lot of the time. Our thoughts circle and circle until we come to what we believe to be true. The trouble with this natural process is that it often produces false truth. Here are some exercises that will help:
Don’t put yourself down. Avoid listening to the negative messages that hold you back. They seem to spring out of nowhere but in reality they come into our mind from listening to self-defeating voices. If the voices are from outside, avoid those people or ignore them. If the voices come from inside, you and you alone have control over your thoughts. Instead of having the attitude that “I’ll never make it;” have the positive attitude “I’ll try to succeed. If I do, that’s wonderful, if I don’t, I’ll gain something from trying.”
Ask for help. Often someone with a different perspective can show us things we couldn’t otherwise see. Asking the opinion of others is very useful. You do not have to take their advice, but hearing the thoughts of others will clarify your own thoughts.
Do things that make you feel good. For example, follow a healthy lifestyle, learn how to better manage stress, set limits on what you’re able to do and schedule fun activities into your day. Eat healthy and don’t skip meals. Minimize sugar and refined carbs; eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Aim for eight hours of sleep. Depression typically involves sleep problems, whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers. Also, keep stress in check by finding ways to relieve the pressure and regain control. You might try relaxation techniques like yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or meditation.
Get moving! When you are depressed, just getting out of bed can seem like a daunting task, let alone working out. But exercise is a powerful depression fighter. Exercise is one of the most important tools in your recovery arsenal. Research shows that regular exercise can be as effective as medication for relieving depression symptoms. It also helps prevent relapse once you are well. To get the most benefit, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. This does not have to be all at once. A 10- minute walk can improve your mood for two hours. And don’t forget the importance of sunshine. Sunlight can help boost serotonin levels and improve your mood. Double up on the benefits of sunlight by exercising outside when you can, and don’t forget your sunscreen.
Sometimes, those suffering with depression may want or require counseling or treatment.