Depression is a commonly occurring, undesirable and normally correctable condition with a long history. You can find examples of depression in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic writings. Egyptian solutions included travel and dance. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek father of medicine, used diet and exercise (possibly talking it out) as a first line of defense against depression. Both the Egyptians and early Greeks showed tolerance for people with depression.
If you were not vulnerable for depression, you wouldn’t have it. Even with a low vulnerability for depression, serious stresses may bring it on.
Blaming yourself for this vulnerability makes as much sense as you dumping on you for having mononucleosis or a broken leg. Although having this vulnerability is not your fault, it is your responsibility to act to do and get better. Follow this non-judgmental approach to change and you are likely to feel better sooner.
Depression is nothing to ignore…as if you could. Depression is different from a down day or sadness. Marked by a dark and durable mood, depressions may come with depressing thoughts, fatigue, sleep problems, and sometime unexplained medical symptoms. If serious enough, depression can have a devastating effect on the general quality of your life. This doesn’t have to be.
Depression comes in different forms. However, the different forms of depressive thinking (pessimism, helplessness, worthlessness, etc.) cut across the different forms of depression. By neutralizing this thinking, you can strip away the needless misery that accompanies it.
You may approach some forms of depression from different angles. For example, light therapy may help some with seasonal affective disorders. A simple-to-use activity schedule can be surprisingly effective. You schedule normal daily activities that are within your reach to do. You press yourself to do what is on your schedule. You follow these key activities with a suitable reward. Activity scheduling can help reduce the duration and intensity of a bipolar depression.
Depression is a highly correctable condition. Tolerance for depression and activities as remedies for depression, are as viable today as they were in ancient Egypt and Greece. Change is normally a byproduct of taking corrective actions. However, a prime impediment to overcoming depression is depression itself. You may have to be patient with your pace of change.
In a depressed state of mind, you are likely to be absorbed in negative thoughts about how badly you feel and about the negative conditions surrounding your depression. This is a formula for making a bad situation worse. Catch yourself in this line of thought, and you are in a position to make a radical shift toward objective self-observation. A key phase in this process is rationally thinking about your thinking and separating depressive beliefs from facts.
Depressive thoughts have recognizable cognitive signatures, such as helpless, hopeless, worthless, thinking. Each signature is vulnerable to an enlightened reason. For example, can you be only one way, helpless? Combatting and correcting depressive thinking is an evidence-based remedy for depression.
Depression’s negative sensations and mood are painful. You may catastrophize about how awful you feel. This layering a problem onto a problem increases your misery index. Accept your depressed mood for what it is: a depressed mood. Tolerance and acceptance for a depressed mood can feel blissful compared to focusing on how bad you feel and magnifying the feelings. How do you tolerate what you hate feeling? Perhaps the same way you’d tolerate feeling sick with the flu. You might tell yourself that the feeling is what it is. Depression goes on longer than the flu, but not forever. It has a beginning, middle, and end.
By acting to gain freedom from depression, you can find yourself gaining traction. However, the type of activity makes the difference. Withdrawing is an activity that maintains depression. Engaging in concrete behavioral actions, such as physical exercise, may be as good as anything else that you can do.
When depressed, you may feel so drawn into yourself that you don’t care about your relationships. Nevertheless, it is wise to be mindful of your relationships. Avoid complaining. Recall the empathy you once had about other’s feelings, and apply what you know. Make a special effort to avoid creating rips in your relationships. If someone tells you just get over it, as a remedy for depression, treat this comment as a misunderstanding of the tenacity of depression. Through your actions, demonstrate that you are taking steps to do and get better.
Here is a question to consider. If you had, or know you could acquire, psychological tools to overcome depression, and to prevent depression from coming back, would you try them? Here is another: What activities are right for you that you can do? If you answer yes to the first question, and have some actions in mind for the second, you may be a candidate for self-help exercises.
A proactive psychological approach is not for everyone. Nevertheless, this can be surprisingly effective for a significantly large sub-group of people with various forms of depression. However, practically everyone with depression can benefit from monitoring their thinking and defusing thoughts that exaggerate their condition. Here is one big potential benefit. If you act on your own behalf, it is hard to conclude that you are powerless to help yourself.
For more information on proactive psychological ways to combat depression, tune into my free 1 hour 38 minute podcast on combatting depression: CBT Depression Workshop
For multiple clinically tested and evidence-based ways to recognize and defeat depression, see The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression (Second Edition)
(c) Dr. Bill Knaus