In this article we will talk about how to cope with depression. I would like to acknowledge that it is not easy to cope with depression because the things that help us get out of depression are the exact things we cannot find the energy to engage in. We tend to stop finding joy in things that used to make us happy.
Depression is not the regular feeling of sadness that we feel from time to time. You can read my article on what does depression feel like? to learn more about depression and the symptoms of depression.
There are lots of symptoms of depression and it shows up in different ways in different people. In my experience there are four pillars that holds depression in place; hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness and loneliness.
How to cope with depression?
In my professional experience here are a few strategies that have worked well for individuals trying to cope with depression.
Break each task down into small steps and focus on one stop at a time
If you are experiencing depression, looking at a task that you might need to get done as a whole might feel momentous and result in shutting you down. Instead of looking at the entire task you can break it into smaller sections and just focus on completing one part of the task at a time.
For example, if you are having a difficult time getting out of bed in the morning. You start with worrying about getting late for work, this thought could lead to other negative thoughts like I am worthless, I am good for nothing, I will lose my job and never be able to find another one. These self deprecating thoughts will hold depression in place.
So in order to avoid that spiral, if you are having a hard time getting out of bed, start with telling yourself, I don’t have to get out of bed, let me just sit up. Then once you sit up, tell yourself, let me just stand up. Breaking big tasks into little steps might make it less overwhelming.
Come from a different perspective
It is difficult to change negative thoughts to positive ones. Your negative self deprecating thoughts are contributing to keeping the depressive cycle going. You cannot control your thoughts, you are not creating these negative thoughts. These negative thoughts will make you feel hopeless, helpless and worthless which will cause you to isolate yourself from people.
What you can do is, acknowledge that you are having a difficult day and realize that having a difficult day does not mean that you are a failure or not lovable. Instead of focusing on what you did not do, focus on what you did do. Don’t minimize your accomplishments by comparing it with people around you. You are accomplishing things in spite of this dark cloud of depression hovering over your head. Don’t judge yourself.
Celebrate every accomplishment
Celebrate everything you accomplish in a day, even if it is getting out of bed in the morning because simple things that we take for granted in our everyday lives are not as simple when you are experiencing depression. Give yourself a pat on the back for being able to complete some work or complete a part of an assignment.
Try to stick to a schedule
Another way to cope with depression is to try and stick to a schedule or a routine helps. Making things as predictable as possible so that you don’t have to make decisions. For example, if you have always enjoyed painting, sign up with a painting group that meets at a specific time a few times a week. If you enjoy running then join a running group in your neighborhood that meets every evening. This will give you an opportunity to surround yourself with people and not isolate yourself. You will be able to engage in something you liked to do.
Stay connected with people
As much as depression wants you to isolate yourself from people. Return those phone calls and messages. People reaching out to you really care about you. Talk to people that you trust and feel safe with. Let them into your struggle. Share what you are going through. Ask for the kind of support you need. You don’t have to go through this alone. Sharing your struggles will not make you a burden.
Here is an example of how your friend and family could help you.
Schedule a daily walk with your friend.
Set up a 10 minute check in call with a friend or family member
Meet a friend for lunch or coffee
Study with a friend
Have movie night with a friend and watch funny movies that have made you laugh in the past
Be kind to your self
Depression is very difficult to cope with. It takes time to get out of the grip of depression. Showing up for yourself everyday in whatever way you can is enough. None of the things mentioned in this article are easy to do. Choosing yourself in whatever way you can is enough. Use kind compassionate words in your dialogue with yourself.
If you have noticed that during these times of depression you indulge in spending more money or indulge in eating food that might not be as good for you, forgive yourself and start the next day as a new opportunity. If you shame yourself for making these choices then it will keep you stuck in the spiral of depression.
Depression is not a choice. You are not doing anything to trigger it. There are lots of factors that can trigger depression like, loss of a loved one, heartbreaks, moving away from your support system because of a new opportunity, childhood emotional neglect, going through a chronic disease or if you are a caregiver for someone who is dealing with a serious illness. Any life transition like losing your job, going through a divorce. Trauma can also trigger depression. Check out my article on Trauma to learn more about it.
I came across a very interesting article on what causes depression. It talks about the connection between depression and our brain. This might help you understand how depression works.
It’s important to understand your symptoms of depression. What triggers it and take the steps you can to cope with depression. Depression is treatable with the combination of therapy and medication.