Depression is an 'invisible disease' because people tend to hide it. It seems logical to put up a front while it silently eats away at you. But there's a double-bind at work here.
Reaching out to others can lead us out of depression because we can get things off our chest and find out we are not alone. But there's a reluctance to do so. Many of us react to depressed people like it's contagious and we'd rather avoid them until it 'blows over'. This is more unconscious than deliberate.
In a 'winner and loser' culture it feels like social suicide to admit to suffering depression.
So when it strikes we often have to rely on ourselves to find our way out.
It's always better to recognise the symptoms early. Look for:
- feeling flat and heavy (in outlook or mood)
- wanting to disconnect from people
- everything seems to take more effort like "you're moving through molasses"
- a gnawing feeling in the gut with fearful flash thoughts
- pessimistic, self critical, and over-sensitive or thin-skinned
- Cranky and sullen body language
- Drinking too much caffeine.
Depression finds a hook in you when things aren't going as well or as planned. It can come during periods of major life changes. It can arise from your fear of not being able to cope. It can be triggered by a cutting remark from someone when you least expect it. However it starts, it's always when you're off guard.
The way to get out is to start chipping away at it, piece by piece. Try these mind techniques that will loosen its hold:
Small triumphs - Say a friend or acquaintance compliments you on how you look or something you've done well. It doesn't hurt to linger and dwell on that compliment. (Any other time it might lead to vanity but applied to depression it's one nail out of the coffin.)
Count your blessings - There's truth in the saying that there's always someone worse off than you. Focus on the good things in your life. What you have, not what you lack.
Get inspired by a true life story - Getting a book or watching a movie about someone who survived incredible odds can give you a bigger perspective so that you don't enlarge the reasons for your depression.
Laughter is the best medicine - That does depend on the weight of your depression at the time. When you're really sad and have been low for many days, it's harder to see the funny side to life. So watching a good comedy may not hit the mark just yet because you're very sensitive in this state. You can try a comedy when the depression starts to lift to give you a boost in that direction.
Use the law of opposites - Listen to your inner dialogue. If you find yourself thinking in a defeated way, turn that thought around and say its opposite. For example, instead of "I'm going to be let down again" say "I can cope this time no matter what happens", or something similar.
Hot potatoes - Often the negative thoughts come too fast to counter each one. Or they are more like a parade of images and bad feelings. When this happens don't go along with any of it. Imagine you are dropping hot potatoes. Just drop them one after the other. Don't give them a second thought.
Avoid the news for a few days - If you watch the news each day, try to stop for a few days so you don't get affected by the bad news that too often comes with distressing images. Remember there are billions of us in the world and the majority are not living in squalor and war-torn violence.
See the silver lining - There's truth in the saying that for every adversity there's an opportunity. You may not see it at first but keep asking yourself what can I learn from this situation? Is there a hidden opportunity here? Sometimes a let down is a blessing in disguise. It could be saving you from a bigger disappointment.
Don't beat yourself up about it - A common reaction to depression is to feel bad about feeling bad. You must avoid this. It becomes a self feeding vicious circle and leads to low self esteem. It will keep depression hanging around for longer and even make it deeper. Sometimes it's okay to feel low. It's a natural reaction to a situation or experience so allow it to have its say. This is really important if the depression was triggered by a loss or mistake or failure.
Counter the body language - Depression manifests physically in the way you carry yourself, your facial expressions and gestures. Try to be like a child and force clown smiles. I say clown smiles because inside you don't feel like a smile at all. It's just pasted on your face. At the same time, sit up or stand straight so you don't slouch. Believe it or not this change in body language will trigger subtle shifts in your mindset.
Another variation is to get your partner into a ballroom dance spontaneously. If other family members are present, get them to do the zorba (Greek dance). Explain that you are trying to make yourself feel better. If you try this you'll find it's harder to keep depressed when you're dancing.
Muzzle that Chatterbox mind - Depression is always triggered by negative thoughts or emotions left to run rampant. Try to be self-aware by listening to your thoughts and reactions and letting go of the negative ones. They are not serving you.
I hope you try all or any of these tips. I have and they all work. Of course you should turn to a friend or family member about your low state but ultimately all they can do is offer you a sounding board, a shoulder to lean on and tea and sympathy. You are still left with the bad feelings which only you can deal with.