Feeling depressed can be debilitating. It can make you feel as if you are in a void. Covered by a cloud of darkness and surrounded by a wave of emptiness. What makes it all the more abhorrent is that you cannot always differentiate that thought process from real life.
When I experience a depressed mood, it can sometimes take me a while to acknowledge that, that’s what is happening. As the lines between reality and perception start to blur, one’s resolve can start to shrink. When that happens one’s mind can be their biggest snare.
I was officially diagnosed with depression back in 2016, and since then, I have learned the skills and techniques necessary to combat some symptoms associated with it. While I do not think depression can be 100% overcome, I do think it can be managed well.
So well in fact, that you can drastically reduce your depressed moods. By learning how to incorporate the following techniques into your daily life, you can position yourself to receive everything life has for you on the other side of a depressed state.
1. Know your Enemy
One of the first pitfalls of depression is people do not know its characteristics. People can identify a depressed mood, but beyond ‘feeling sad’, your average person may be unable to effectively explain what that looks like. One of the reasons for this is because depression sometimes disguises itself as a lifestyle choice.
Being lethargic, unmotivated, or disinterested in something for example, can all come across by themselves as a person’s affect, however, in some cases those dispositions can be a perpetuated symptom of depression that has yet to be addressed.
You have to know what depression looks like and how it presents itself. There are various nuances of depression but the most common symptoms include:
- Depressed mood
- Flat affect
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Excessive guilt
- Suicidal ideations
2. Get Active
Upon being able to acknowledge that you may be exhibiting symptoms of depression, the next essential is to get physically active.
You beat depression one symptom at a time.
Lethargy is the one symptom that can be most easily combated. One study showed that 15 minutes of physical activity [specifically running] can reduce one’s risk of major depression by 26%.
Combating depression means combating lethargy with activity. Now this does not necessarily mean you have to run a 15 minute mile daily, but this does mean that at the very least, you should be going outside every day in some capacity and engaging in a significant Level of physical activity (running/hiking/bike riding/going on a long walk).
It has also been shown, that sunlight increases the level of serotonin in our brains which in addition to diminishing depressed mood also: regulates behaviors, appetite, sleep, memory, and sexual desires and functions.
3. Examine your Thoughts
Additionally, depression can have grave implications on one’s thought pattern. You may not always be able to control what you think, but you can learn how to identify when your thinking pattern may be off.
When you examine your thoughts you are questioning the validity of any renegade thought that may cross your mind. This technique is a bit more challenging as it does take a higher level of self-awareness however, by knowing why you may be thinking a certain way, you can come to understand why you may be feeling a particular way in response to your thoughts.
Examining your thoughts starts by you being able to identify when one of your thoughts is unrepresentative of your reality. If a person starts thinking or acting abnormally, by taking time to understand why, they can begin to start replacing those negative thoughts and behaviors with positive ones.
The effectiveness of this technique is amplified when its paired with an accountability partner. Sometimes we cannot see our own flaws, and by having someone who is willing to journey with us, they may be able to better pinpoint a potentially maladaptive behavior trait.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a mental health technique where one practices having a conscious awareness of oneself. At base level we should each know what makes us tick as individuals; mindfulness is knowing why that thing makes you tick; And why when it does, you tick in the way that you do. You are mindful when you are aware of your reasoning.
A bedrock way of developing a mindfulness habit is by being able to identify your triggers. Triggers are people, places, and things that elicit a negative response whether it be mentally, emotionally, or behaviorally.
Knowing what triggers you can give a wealth of insight. It helps to develop a framework necessary to protect against negative influences.
5. Speak to Someone
Above all the other techniques, this is the most essential. When in a depressed state it is important to have a support system that you can turn to. This support system can be composed of friends and family, and if necessary, in can and should also include a licensed therapist.
Thankfully, there is a multitude of resources easily available so that individuals do not have to suffer in silence. As mentioned, depression can be very nuanced, and while these techniques may yield varying results depending on the severity of one’s symptoms, a mental health condition like major depressive disorder or persistent depressive disorder with any kind of comorbidity, is not something to be taken lightly.
Seeking proper help can acutely reduce a person’s chances of dying by suicide because of depression. Thankfully in 2020, the stigma associated with seeking professional mental health help has dwindled dramatically. In addition to it becoming a regular part of conversation, several online services and hotlines have also become mainstream.
Our lives are not as bleak as we may think while in a depressed state. The challenge however is in how you change how you feel about what you are experiencing. These techniques are what I found to be effective for me, however, there are a multitude of other ways one can actively combat depression.
You are filled with promise. Do your best every day to live out that promise to its fullest potential. Do not let depression be where your story ends.
Originally published June 22, 2020