Recent studies have shown that while medication is capable of managing depression, the same is also true of therapy, particularly talk therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Studies of brain scans verify the chemical and physiological changes in the brain in response to different therapies. This effectively means that talking through depression can help to reverse it, and in some cases, there is no need for medical intervention.
With that in mind, perhaps we can make some conscious changes to our ways of thinking in an effort to pre-empt negative thoughts and depression. While depression is almost certainly a composition of several different causal factors, both physiological and psychological, one core element that repeats itself in most cases is the feeling of being powerless to solve our problems, or that our problems are so huge they are insurmountable.
How much better would you feel if you were able to tackle your problems right now? Invariably, people with depression feel their depression lift once they figure out how to solve their particular problem. This is, of course, assuming we are able to identify the problem causing the depression. In many cases, the problem may be so deep-rooted or confusing that we are unable to identify it altogether.
Rather than allowing the situation to overwhelm, there are some small steps you can take to attempt to pull yourself into a more positive place, even if you are unable to put your finger on the root cause of your depression.
1. Find a way to raise your morale. Your inner life state has more to do with your ability to believe you can solve your problems rather than the actual problems themselves. If your thoughts are swirling in despair, take action to break free of them and attain a fresh perspective. Become immersed in a great book that moves you or watch a movie that transports you. Exercise. Go where it’s warm. Meditate. In short, do what you know from experience bounces your thinking to a more optimistic place. Identify positives - in your day, in your past, in your present, in your friends or family, in your surroundings. Make a list, either mental or physical, of the positive things in your life right now, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.
2. Try to identify the problem you don’t think you can solve. Narrowing down your reasons for feeling depressed can be immensely helpful in attempting to find the root cause. Make a list of everything that’s bothering you. Identify when instances of anxiety get worse, your situation, any triggers that there may be to help you identify the problem. Or if you do know why you’re depressed, acknowledging that you have a problem you don’t believe you can solve can be remarkably empowering, and can be the first step in finding the right help to solve it. Sometimes we become depressed not because we have one problem we believe we can’t solve but because we have multiple problems we believe we can’t solve. Handling challenges can be likened to balancing a “plate” of a certain size: if we pile too many problems onto it, not only do we risk having it topple over, we often find ourselves wanting to topple it on purpose. When this is the case, allow yourself to only worry about and focus on solving one problem at a time.
3. Recognize that your thoughts are profoundly influenced by your mood. Once depression has established itself, it takes on a life of its own, further diminishing your belief in your ability to solve problems, your ability to plan, and your ability to have hope for the future. In this way the cause of any depression always reinforces itself. Be aware that depression does this, and therefore there is a way out.
4. Remember that your depressed self is not truly you. Just as a heart patient will feel pain in their chest, so someone with depression will have very dark days. It is a symptom of the condition, not a reflection of your true self. Whatever mental state you find yourself in at any one moment can feel like the only state you’ve ever had or will have. But it can and often does change from moment to moment.
5. Do seek professional help. Our helpful contact list is there to direct you to professional help. There are increasing numbers of mental health charities and volunteers, as well as programmes that are gradually introducing mental health support in the workplace. You are not alone.
Sources include Dr. Alex Lickerman, Psychology Today.