Almost everyone I know, personally and professionally, has had a time or two in their lives when they have felt depressed. Many of us have gone from feeling depressed to being depressed.
What’s the difference?
To me, when I feel depressed, I seem to know it is just a bad mood or a situation. “Being depressed” takes on longer term characteristics such as:
- really don’t feel like doing anything and, if my life allowed, would curl up for a nap for most of the day
- not really enjoying things that I used to enjoy
- having difficulty concentrating and staying focused
- feeling hopeless about life
- and even feeling physically lethargic
I hate getting like this because once I reach this point of “being depressed” I don’t want to do anything, including figuring out how to get out of my funk. It is like a downward spiral to the depths of darkness.
HOW TO OUTRUN DEPRESSION
Since I am 46 years old and have been depressed a time or two in my life, in addition to hating it, I’ve learned to recognize when depression is coming. So in the last decade I learned to stay ahead of depression not allowing fleeting feelings to turn into a “state of depression.” Here are some tips to outrun depression, if it’s heading your way.
If you’re like me you recognize the signs of depression sneaking up. Don’t ignore them. Give yourself the 24 hour grace period to see if the feelings were truly fleeting or situational. If you still feel signs of depression in a day or two, take preventative action.
Write in a Journal
Keep a journal of your feelings and their probable cause. If not a journal writer by nature, make a list of what you are depressed about. Next to each item on the list, label whether or not you believe it is a symptom of depression or a cause. For example, a symptom would be “I have a feeling of dread about going to work every day.” A cause would be “I just got a new boss a couple of weeks ago and we do not seem to be on the same page.” Take the first week and identify your feelings, causes, and symptoms. It may take a couple of days to hit on the true causes.
Once you have a good understanding of the causes and your emotions try to write down some things you could do to change your feelings, reduce your symptoms, or resolve the causes. Choose one or two things to do in the next few days and see if that helps.
How to Help Symptoms
Action is a very important step if you want to outrun depression.
- Plan to do something fun with others – being alone and isolating yourself is the best way for depression to catch you. Go do something even if you don’t feel like it.
- Make sure you get a good sleep routine in place – it’s important to get a reasonable amount of sleep but also to establish a routine that will ensure you get to sleep. One step is to wake up at the same time each day, regardless of what time you go to sleep. Put an activity into your routine that is relaxing before going to bed i.e. hot bath, read a light book, pray, get someone to give you a back rub. ONCE YOU GET TIRED DEPRESSION IS ON YOUR HEELS – DON’T LET IT HAPPEN.
- Try to spend 30 minutes a day in natural sunlight. Sunlight is a proven antidote for depression. Take a walk or sit outside and read. Even sit in a window that is getting direct sunlight if it is too hot outside. IT REALLY, REALLY MAKES A DIFFERENCE. TRY IT.
- Get involved in something that will help someone else. It gives us a chance to “get over ourselves” and put our issues out of our mind. Plus, when you see the positive impact you are having for someone else and you feel their appreciation, it will make you feel more positive about yourself.
- Read something inspirational – the bible, a Christian living book, a devotional. Try to get as many positive and hope-filled inputs as possible.
These are just a few possibilities. There are many other things you can do, the key is to control the things you have influence over.
How to Resolve the Causes
This is a bit trickier because in most cases it depends on what the cause is. Your first step is understanding the cause as suggested above in the journaling tip. Then focus on brainstorming resolutions – remember to act on them. Talk to someone close to you or seek assistance from a counselor. Share with them your ideas on possible solutions and ask for their input. Be reasonable about what you can accomplish and in what timeline. If not, you’ll just have more feelings of failure of not living up to your plan.
Talking to a counselor before depression takes a stronghold is preventative and also much more cost efficient. Chances are that a couple of meetings with a counselor will help you keep depression away. Most of us are stubborn and wait until we are really depressed and are not functioning at normal levels until we seek counseling. At this point it may take months of help to get us moving again.
Once you learn to recognize what causes your times of depression and are more aware of how to fight it off, you will more likely be able to seek help from friends or family.
Don’t Be Fooled
In summary, it is easy to be fooled that we are just having a bad day or week. It may also seem that some of these action steps or tips are pretty mild or more bluntly, rinky dink. Take that as the blessing of outrunning depression. If you can stay ahead of the melancholy, then simple solutions can make a big difference. However, to do that ACTIO is paramount. Knowing that melancholy can lead to clinical depression it is better to get started on the easy prevention.
Once clinical depression takes hold, remedies become more serious, time consuming, and expensive. Clinical depression is when the depression is impairing our functioning in one or more areas of our lives; work, home, school, or socially. At this point, a negative impact on our lives and relationships is more likely.
For me, I would rather put on my running shoes and stay ahead of depression. I hope some of these ideas will help you to win the race also.
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Sue J. Miley is a Life Coach and a Licensed Professional Counselor. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression and/or anxiety and would like some help working through it, we are available to help. Call (225) 341-4147 or email me at [email protected].