Saturday, May 11, 2013

To Fight Depression - Get Focused and Change What You Can

To fight depression...what do you do? Do you turn to harmful substances, habits, "stuff" or escape mechanisms? Are you tired of merely coping, and seriously want to fight depression, to change what you can, and move on with life?

I'm someone who has a lot of pressures to juggle. I have plenty of "triggers" and habits that have set me on a fight with my own depression, and I don't use chemicals of any sort to deal with life. Mind you: I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or professional counselor. I only share with you, from a layman's perspective, what I've learned.

In hindsight, I think my dad struggled with depression. I won't add insult to his memory, but the gravity of a depressed father and husband pulls others quickly into a downward spiral and Tilt-a-Whirls of emotion. As I grew up, I realized I often struggle in the same way. What follows is what I've learned to practice to find hope and sometimes joy, despite circumstances.

My hope for you is that you'll be able to use these tips to get out of your slump and re-take the helm. Steer your ship for calmer seas, head for hope, wherever that takes you. Hopefully it's nowhere near a shipwreck. Without further ado, here's my simple, general plan to fight depression, and change what you can.
Identify the Triggers
Listing them out, target what you can change
Set the goal, work the plan
Hit the next Trigger...

Let's break those down:

1. Identify the Triggers Depression is caused by a trigger of some sort. There are a number of causes, too numerous to list here, but generally there are two main categories of triggers: trauma of one form or another, or stress. Another trigger that causes depression is a chemical imbalance, or psychiatric condition. If clinical depression runs in your family, stemming from a mental or psychiatric disorder or chemical imbalance, then I can tell you that this article will be of little help. You'll need to speak with a counselor or psychologist, or other mental health professional.

I know what I've done to fight depression, but I don't have a medical or family history, or a chemical imbalance of any sort. The depression I know to fight is caused by everyday, common triggers such as: financial duress, stress, a need to find my purpose in life, self-respect, a lack of goals and directions, disappointing circumstances...otherwise known as: life.

Whatever your triggers may be, the first step in fighting off depression is to identify the source(s) or trigger(s) of the depression.

2. Listing them out, target what you can change When you have a written list of what's causing your depression, then you're closer to a real solution.

Of all your triggers and sources of depression, break the list down into two categories. Be tough and honest here, as you break them down into what you can and what you cannot change. An example of what you can change: your income. This is practically, I want to say always, the case. This is an example of what I meant by "be tough and honest." If you want to change what you can, don't cheat yourself a solution by listing something you have control over as something you can't change.

The point is: to change what you can, don't hide behind the excuse that it's too difficult. Change is by its very nature a challenge. Lasting, meaningful change will be difficult, and well worth the sweat.

Examples of what you can't change: the past, your family or other people, the global or local economy, climate or the government (at least, not until elections!). Avoid dwelling on these sources of depression--you'll just beat your forehead bloody, right into a brick wall. Move on.

Now, you can do something about your past: talk to a trusted counselor, friend or professional who can help you by listening with a sympathetic ear. You can get advice on how to cope with the past in healthy ways. You just can't change the facts as they are. The old term was "kicking against the goads," but what a goad is I'll never know. Focus your energy on changing the one thing you can: you. Everything else will have to wait.

3. Set the goal, work the plan This is fairly simple, since this is still mostly on paper. You want to pick one target from the list of things you can control or change. You want to work what makes the most sense for you. For instance, you may have several small triggers that irritate you, but your depression is really caused by a shortage of income and high level of debt. Identifying the main culprit as an income problem, set the goal as getting out of debt, and make a plan. Now work the plan until the goal is achieved.

This is where the "get focused" part of the title comes in. Say the goal is that you want to lose 35 pounds by summer. Either you come up with the plan, or you can get advice, or buy a program or kit, or join a group of similarly-minded individuals headed the same direction as you, for that particular problem. Then you just stick with the plan. Stay focused.

Using my case as an example, I wanted for the longest time to discover what my purpose was, my calling if you will, in life. I knew I loved to write, I just couldn't figure out how to make that translate into an income (silly, I know!). In any event, I had no idea how to make that work so I asked someone I trust, an entrepreneur I know who's younger than me and in the six figures. From my perspective, he knows what he's talking about in the business and financial realms. He amazed me with a flurry of potential solutions to my problem in an instant. I don't think he batted an eyelash.

Not only did I have the "trigger" of wandering around aimlessly with low self confidence and habitual aimlessness, but I had the pressure of the economy crashing on my head and another child due soon. My friend the entrepreneur answered my two biggest concerns in one fell swoop with four different solutions. All I had to do was pick what I thought would work. Well, it's working!

4. Hit the next Trigger... Once you have a bit of a victory in one area or two of your life, and you're stable in those areas, then you can ease into identifying another trigger. Just "lather, rinse and repeat" so to speak.

That's a very simplified version of what I'm doing in my life. Personally, I've gone from the nadir (low point) to the zenith (high point) in a matter of months. By tackling two of my biggest triggers--and yes, there are other areas of my life I need to watch so I don't spiral into another depression--I can keep the moody blues away a day at a time. More than that, I'm hopeful for what's to come, and you'll often find me laughing out loud when I'm overcome by random joy. It may be overcast this winter, but this sunbeam's shining where clouds can't touch it.

That sunbeam's a ray of hope.

If you get focused and follow these steps, I'm sure you'll change what you can, one step at a time, to fight depression and do so successfully.

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