I can still vividly remember curling up into a ball on the floor of my room, rocking myself and feeling so alone in life while praying for that sharp pain to go away. It did not. The year 2016 was one I will never forget – the bad, the worse, the ugly, the good.
Merriam- Webster defines depression as “a state of feeling sad” and major depression as “a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way”.
Based on this definition, who hasn’t at some point in their life felt majorly depressed? Depression affects almost 10% of the American population in any given year. That’s 1 in 10 people you know! Then, why is there still such a stigma behind admitting it to close ones? More than likely, they have also gone through a similar time in their life.
I was depressed for months in early 2016 – I experienced more pain than I had ever felt before. And what was worse, I didn’t even know why it happened or what direction that heavy cloud looming over me came from. For weeks, I didn’t know how to analyze the emotions and thoughts going through my head or how to deal with it – crying for no reason, not functioning or wanting to get out of bed, living inside my own head and having thoughts of wanting to “get a clean start”. I had lots of negative images about myself: thoughts of being a disappointment to everyone around me and to myself, regret, guilt, thoughts of feeling unaccomplished and not knowing what actions can change that situation, thinking everyone else around me has it all figured out, etc. You get the point.
You may be wondering with all my negative thoughts, sadness, and anxiety, how I ever shifted my mindset? Well, the honest answer is although I’m no longer in a corner of a room crying, I do still battle feelings of sadness here or there. It may feel as though you will never work through the depression, just like everything else, depression is also only a phase in our lives. How long this phase lasts is up to you and how willing you are to let others help, but it will end.
8 Ways to Reduce and Combat Depression
1. Create a support system
This is the Number 1 action you have to take. I don’t care if you read any further, because this singular act will carry you while you are needing some assistance. First and foremost, it is completely normal to go through depression at some point in your life so do not let anyone or yourself make you feel as though something is wrong with you. Open up to close friends and family about the sadness, pain or anxiety you are feeling, along with the symptoms. Your loved ones will be more than honored to be included in this phase of your life. Remember, if they can’t support you at your worst, then they don’t deserve you at your best. Don’t forget to include pets in your support system. They have an uncanny way of bringing smiles through the positive energy they possess.
2. Read and learn about depression
If you don’t believe me when I say it is completely normal to go through depression, then do some basic research completed by reputable sources and learn as much as possible. I promise you will come to the same conclusion. Through researching depression and anxiety, you will come across information on how the mind works and how to beat it. We do not have to be a slave to our mind.
Here are some articles to jumpstart your research:
Sometimes, actually always, writing helps. Dedicate a journal to your depression and thoughts, and keep a track of the emotions and thoughts you are experiencing. Initially, writing it down will feel unnatural and may want to run from it, but writing objectively and through observation will reach a better state of mind. Have a conversation with your depression by asking why it is in your life – be the therapist. If someone else in your life was experiencing what you are, what advice would you give them? The mind loves drama and has a tendency to revisit the same negative thoughts over and over again, so by writing it down, your mind will be confused into thinking an action was taken and will attempt to put it behind you. Disidentify from your depression, because you are not your depression. Jot down a small need you can fulfill that will ease your mind from the sadness, and then do it. Your writing skills do not have to be anywhere close to great, and you don’t even have to write in complete sentences, just WRITE!
4. Seek help through a therapist
A therapist can offer you professional support that your friends and family may not have knowledge about. Therapists have heard every problem in the book from people on all walks of life. Basically, there is nothing you would say that they have not heard yet. Therapists will not judge you, if that is something you are worried about. To top it off, they will be able to provide the RIGHT tools and guidance to help you fight your depression. When I saw a therapist, I made a list of all my issues and insecurities (that was the source of my depression). That is just the kind of person I am, but in doing so, it helped me analyze my problems and shortcoming (See, writing does help).
Heres a good link to search for a therapist near you
Humans are social beings, and volunteering allows us to interact with others in a valuable way. Helping others shifts you from having negative to positive thoughts, increases self-esteem and improves your self-image. Volunteering gives the pleasure of instant gratification. There is a lot to be said about helping others, whether it’s a time of sadness or happiness. A great place to find volunteer opportunities in your area is VolunteerMatch.com.
When you are in a state of depression, the last thing you want to do is exercise. But working out releases endorphins in your system, which I like to call the “natural, happy drug” blocking the pain receptors. Exercising is also a distraction, a way to stop the cycle of negative thoughts and allows you to live in the moment. Many people, during a time of sadness, turn to yoga. Yoga has healing powers to help you calm your mind and focus on the movements of the body. There is so much research on the correlation of exercising and mood, but the best way to know for sure if the research is correct is to get out and try it for yourself. Don’t make the excuse you do not have a gym membership. You can turn on a workout video on youtube, but my recommendation is start by going outside, letting the fresh air hit your face, and got for walk or run. In addition to exercise, every time you seem to be consumed by negative emotions, focus on taking slow, deep breaths. The emotion may not pass, but for those few breaths, you will be injecting extra oxygen into your body.
7. Lessen Your Stress
Make a list of all the factors in your life that are causing you stress and get very specific (i.e. a certain task at work, having to fold laundry, family obligations, relationship, etc). Do you see any line on that list that you can temporarily eliminate or pass it onto a supporting friend or family member? Ask your spouse to help out more with the children or request your boss for a flexible deadline to a deliverable or a teammate to cover a portion of your work. After all, what are you building a support network of friends and family for? Ask those special people if they see a solution.
Just like I asked you to make a list of all the areas that cause your stress, I want you to make a separate list of all the things that make you happy. It may seem like a daunting task, since you may not feel any happiness right now, but just indulge me for 5 minutes and think really, really hard. Start by thinking back to a random time you were happy. What were you doing and how did it make you feel? For me, I love dancing and it makes me feel truly free and when I can express myself the best. Now back to you, what makes you happy? Once you have that list, is there anything you can do on that list in the near future, (i.e. right now or today)? If so, just do it. You may be thinking, I’ve tried that and it isn’t the same. That’s also okay. Sure, it may not bring you the same happiness you have associated with it, but just stop thinking and be. Just say to yourself, “My worries can come back in a bit, but right now I’m just going to [dance]”. All of this seems really hard, but I promise small bursts of happiness is what is going to help get you closer to the end of the tunnel.
I already stated earlier that depression is normal, but its more than that. It can be a blessing in disguise. Depression is signaling to your mind that something in your life is not right, and that change is required. You may already know why you are depressed, but if you don’t, that is fine to. That’s where a therapist and good sound advice comes into play. My depression has lead me to the realization/epiphany that I am not happy with where I am in life. I’m 31, do not have a job and have wasted the last 9 years of my life extremely confused without having had taken any steps to lessen that confusion. Do not get me wrong. I have a Masters degree in Marketing, use to be an event planner, and have a caring circle of close people. My depressive state brought to light major cracks in my relationship with my significant other which we have taken the time to fix. Believe it now or not, but an enormous amount of good can be born out of depression if you are willing to interpret the signs correctly. You can see firsthand what I mean by that. The birth of this website, Average Brown Girl, and my deserve to help bring happiness and wisdom into the lives of others came from that depression state. Every experience and phase is a part of life, but it’s taken a lot of crying and support reach that understanding.
Could it have happened any differently? NO. Everything that has lead you to where you are right now has happened for a very specific reason. If I had not “wasted” the last 9 years, gotten depressed, or struggled finding a job, I may not have taken up meditation and I know with confidence it is going to change my life for the better. I wish I could say depression is a thing of my past and it’s behind me, but then I would be lying. It sneaks up on me in moments I Ieast expect it, but I’m learning to observe and deploy my methods. May all beings be happy.
Please share what methods have worked for you to combat depression.