Having depression is like wearing a dark pair of sunglasses. It starts to color your worldview and suddenly everything can feel very hollow and hopeless. You might find that things which used to bring you joy, now are met with a deep sense of numbness. Your thoughts may begin to get increasingly negative. You might wonder what the purpose or meaning of life is.
Unfortunately, many people who are struggling, may not even realize it. If they do recognize it, it can be tough to know what to do. There is no guidebook for how to cope, when small tasks feel like they take Herculean efforts.
As a therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland, the following are four tips for coping if you are struggling with depression.
1. Reach out for help from a professional.
Depression is a serious mental illness. However, it’s also highly treatable. If you are struggling with depression, it’s so important that you reach out for help from a professional. Look for a therapist, psychiatrist, or doctor, in your area who you can reach out to.
Seeking help is a sign of true strength, not weakness. If your depression is telling you that you don’t deserve to get help, please do not listen to it. Like an abusive partner, your depression wants you to stay trapped. However, all people who are suffering deserve to seek help and support. You don’t have to continue to feel this hopeless and alone.
2. Recognize the stories that your mind is telling you.
We all have thousands of thoughts per day. However, not everything that we think is a fact. When you are struggling with depression, often your thoughts become increasingly pessimistic and negative.
The first step is starting to be aware of the stories that you are telling yourself. After you are able to recognize the stories, you can focus on some more helpful “healthy self,” coping statement that you can tell yourself.
3. Do an “opposite action.”
A dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) skill that I love is called “opposite action.” When someone is struggling with depression, often they feel the urge to isolate from others, to stay in bed, and to avoid certain situations. If this is the case, it’s important to push yourself to take “opposite action.” For instance, if you are feeling like isolating, you could consider calling or texting a friend or family member to spend time together. If you are experiencing the urge to stay in bed, think about an activity that you could go do.
Your depression may cause you to not “feel like” socializing or going outside. However, it’s important to take these actions to boost your mood-even if you don’t “feel like it” initially.
4. Practice self-compassion.
“Beating yourself up” for experiencing depression, will only serve to make you feel even worse. It’s not your fault that you are suffering from depression. Mental illnesses are not a choice. No one would choose to isolate themselves from people they care about, to feel hopeless and numb, and to struggle with getting out of bed or leaving the house.
It’s so important to be kind to yourself and to recognize that you are not certainly alone in struggling with depression.
Think about some nice self-care activities that you can do for yourself and work to try to speak to yourself compassionately, as you would a good friend who was suffering.
It may not feel like it right now when the voice of depression is especially loud, however I want you to know that things can and will get better.
Please reach out for help, as no one should have to struggle with depression alone. With access to the right treatment and support you can learn how to cope-and even thrive.
You are so much stronger then you think.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C is a therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping adolescents and adults struggling with eating disorders, body image issues, anxiety, and depression. Jennifer offers eating disorder therapy to individuals in Maryland, and eating disorder recovery coaching via phone/Skype.
If you — or someone you know — is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.