There are several different kinds of depression. In this post, I’m going to talk about Major Depressive Disorder. If you have Major Depressive Disorder, you probably know you are depressed. Depression is disabling for you and it’s difficult to cope with even minor stressors or tasks of everyday living. Not being able to find matching socks in the morning is enough to make you decide to go back to bed for the day. You might cry a lot or you might feel mostly numb. Major depression is like wearing a large backpack filled with rocks and not being able to take it off. It weighs you down so much that sometimes it’s hard to even get yourself off of the couch.
If you think that you are depressed, here are some practical suggestions that my clients have found helpful:
- Try to be kind to yourself. When you are depressed it’s just hard to do much. Be compassionate. The depression is not your fault; you are doing the best you can. When you start to beat yourself up, try to tell yourself, “This is the depression talking and I don’t have to listen.”
- Go outside into the daylight every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Take a short walk (longer, if you can). Being in daylight can lift your mood and exercise is an antidepressant.
- Take a shower and get dressed when you wake up. Even if you are going to sit around the house all day, you will feel better if you are clean and wearing clothes instead of pajamas.
- Do the opposite of what your depressive instincts are telling you to do. If you feel strongly that what will help you is to stay in bed – get up. If eating five pounds of chocolate seems like it will make you feel better – eat some vegetables. If you want to isolate and not talk to anyone – call somebody, anybody, and have a conversation. You get the idea. When you are depressed then your instincts are depressed and you can’t rely on them like you can if you are not depressed.
- Set small goals for yourself. No, smaller than that. I’m talking small. Think about some very small things you can do that will make you feel just a teensy bit better. For example, if you are out of work and depressed, deciding to spend eight hours a day for the next week pounding the pavement is just unrealistic. (Most people can’t do that even if they are not depressed!) However, you probably can make one phone call or send one letter or spend 15 minutes working on your resume today. If those goals are too big, you can look up the phone number of a place you want to call, or work on your resume for five minutes. When you set a goal, even a small one, I suggest you work on it right at that moment. The longer you wait the more likely it is that the task will grow in your mind and you will feel overwhelmed at the thought of doing it. But if you do it right now, there isn’t time for the anxiety to overwhelm you.
- Get as much support as you can. Depression is very painful and debilitating and everyone can use some help in dealing with it. Probably, many people who know you would love to be helpful instead of just feeling helpless and watching you feel miserable. Talk to your friends and family. If you don’t have friends or family who will listen to you, try going on-line and finding people who can support you there. Medication is also very helpful for a lot of people and your primary care physician may be able to help with that if you don’t have a psychiatrist. You can also talk to a therapist. When nobody understands and you just feel at a loss for what to do, a therapist can be very helpful.
I know that when you are depressed it can seem like you’ve always felt this way and that you will always feel this way. In reality, depression is very treatable. Just take it one small step at a time and get support. It is possible to feel better. If you are looking for a therapist in the Boston area, contact me to start working on it right now.