When you’re in the throes of depression, sometimes it really feels like things will feel that way forever. The sense of sadness or numbness can seem all encompassing, and physical symptoms of depression like changes to sleep and appetite can make you feel even more unlike yourself.
But the truth is, people can and DO recover from depression. Often recovery involves support from mental health professionals, but it also takes effort from the individual to take steps to get better. Below are some tips to keep in mind if you’re going through a depressive episode.
1. Don’t wait to feel motivated
People often know there’s certain things they can do to improve their mood — take the dog on a long walk, get your bedroom clutter in order, watch that comedy special in your Netflix queue, etc. Yet even if you know things that would help, you might find that you’re not doing them because you don’t feel like it.
Lack of motivation is a major symptom of depression, and it’s part of what can make depression really have a tight grip on you. If you don’t feel like taking steps to get out of depression, you will likely continue to feel depressed, which will further cause you to not feel like taking steps to get out of depression… and the cycle continues.
The way to avoid getting caught in this cycle is to resist the urge to wait to feel motivated before you do something. Bring to mind a memory of a time you did an activity in the past, particularly how you felt after the activity. For example, you might remember a day you volunteered at the community garden, and the sense of enjoyment and satisfaction you felt afterward.
Keeping that in mind, sign up for another volunteer shift despite that you don’t feel like doing it. Chances are that if it boosted your mood in the past, it will have a positive effect on you now too.
2. Don’t pour salt in the wound
There’s a reason everyone knows the saying “misery loves company”. When you’re feeling down, it’s suddenly really easy to do things that will make you feel even worse.
On a regular day, you might know that spending a few days without showering makes you feel out of sorts, or that as tempting as it is to pick a fight with your stepdad when you meet your parents for lunch, you’ll end up feeling embarrassed and guilty later.
But when you’re depressed, it may feel hard to see the point of showering when you feel so bad about yourself. If you experience irritability as part of your depression, that family lunch may push you past your limits and into that fight.
Although these actions feel necessary and natural in the moment, they’re actually serving to maintain your depression or even make it worse. Feeling disheveled through not taking care of yourself further negatively impacts your self esteem, and unnecessary conflicts can cause you to feel even more isolated.
Keep an eye out for those actions that you know will make things worse and find ways to circumvent them. For example, if you tend to overindulge in non-nutritious foods when you’re depressed in a way that makes you uncomfortable, consider signing up for a meal kit for a few weeks so you can get dishes you like with minimal effort.
3. Don’t make it personal
Keep in mind that depression is something you have, not the person you are. This distance is really important because it underscores that your situation can change, and you have agency in working toward that happening.
Depression impacts about 8% of people in the United States every year — you are not alone in this struggle. Your depression is not something that you deserve, or something that is your fate based on your particular circumstances. Unfortunately, depression is all too common and affects people of all backgrounds and all walks of life.
When you need more help
Therapy can make all the difference when it comes to recovering from depression. You can learn more about what that might look like for you by clicking the button below and setting up a free phone consultation. I’d be happy to chat with you more about treatment for depression and how my practice can help.