- Can’t get out of bed
- Low energy, dragging yourself through the day?
- Keep thinking about things you’ve done in the past that make you feel bad? (Check out how to stop thinking about the past)
- Feel hopeless about your future?
- Negativity eating you from the inside out?
Increasing mastery makes you feel competent and can reduce feelings of depression.
When depression strikes it can be incredibly hard to fight back and know how to help yourself feel better. Here are some suggestions you can try:
Get out of bed.
This is easier said than done when you are feeling low. Often when you feel down you want to stay in bed and hide from the world. However, if you do this it allows you to stay in exactly the same depressed place that you woke up in. Forcing yourself up and out of bed, and making yourself begin the day can actually help improve your mood. Depression gets worse when we feel isolated and allow ourselves to avoid reality. If you avoid your reality you may not often do the things needed to experience your life as “worth living”. So by getting out of bed you are already challenging yourself to avoid avoiding. An antidote to depression is increasing any positive events. If you stay in bed it is very unlikely anything positive will happen to you.
Activities reinforce our feelings of competence and confidence. Accumulating positives helps us build resilience. Trying to build in meaningful responsibilities and structured activities helps you build a more enjoyable life.If you build a sense of mastery you feel like you are making progress in your life. If staying in bed makes you feel guilty, sad and more demotivated, achieving something will make you feel better. Be kind to yourself and start off by choosing something that is not too hard. You need to challenge yourself but not make it so difficult that you give up and then feel worse. For example, maybe walking around the block feels too much if you are really depressed. Given this is difficult, build a sense of mastery by making yourself walk for a week, even half a block. Before long you will be pounding the pavement feeling great about walking a full block. Increasing mastery makes you feel competent and can reduce feelings of depression.
Practise coping ahead
Depression zaps you confidence. Decrease feeling underconfident by practicing doing the things that scare you ahead in your mind. If a diffcult event comes up imagine coping with it ahead of time. An opportunity to rehearse how you can respond can be really helpful.For example ……Let’s say you are in a rut, hate your job BUT get really nervous at job interviews, so you keep putting off looking for a new job. Normally, if depressed you would avoid even thinking about looking for a job. Yet this time you are going to avoid avoiding and instead imagine the very worst thing you fear about job interviews.This strategy is the exact opposite to avoidance.
Start out by imagining what it is you are afraid of…
What am I so scared about with interviews? Is it I am so nervous in the interview I can’t speak? I clam up, get anxious and embarass myself. Ok. Let’s say these are your worst fears. So start off by settling down in a comfy chair and running through a whole picture in your mind of you going to an interview and being stuck for words. What does it feel like? Get curious. Is your heart beating in your chest? Has your mind gone blank? Do you feel akward /sweaty? It is so normal to be worried about job interviews. Difficult feelings may come up when you imagine this worst case scenario. This is what you want as you are trying to build tolerance for the tricky feelings you have been avoiding. Ask yourself how would you cope? Perhaps the answer for you pops into your mind …”Ok I think I would stall for a minute” ….So then you would imagine bending over and reaching for your notes and then asking the interviewer if it is ok if you refer to them? Next step is to imagine doing this in your mind. See yourself taking a breath, regrouping and then beginning to talk. Emotion should show up when you are practising. However, if when you practise “cope ahead” the feelings that come up are too hard for you to deal with, confide in a trusted friend or seek out a professional who can help you learn to manage your feelings. They can help you build acceptance and tolerance for these big feelings that swamp you.
Practising ahead of time helps you cope in real time
The big bonus of this technique is that by practising things in your mind, it has the same effect on the brain as if you are practising in real life. It also helps you think through how you can get the support you need to practise suceeding. Depression can make us want to retreat and isolate ourselves, so reaching out to others is a key way to start helping you heal.
Do one pleasant thing every day
When you are depressed it is all too easy to turn to drink, using drugs, eating, yelling at someone else, driving fast and any other number of destructive bad habits. None of these things get rid of the emotions, but they provide temporary relief or numbing form the pain with a real downside once they are done. But you already know that right? Logically you know overuse of these habits can mess up your life. Stopping these sabotaging ways can be really tough and can require you get support. However, in the mean time you can begin accumulating positives in your life and this is a good way to start building “a life worth living.” Depression makes you feel like there is nothing to live for. In order to fight the negativity you need to actively try to build in good things. Doing one little thing each day that you truly enjoy can begin to help you feel better. This takes a deliberate effort. For example reading a book, listening to music that makes you feel good, or my favorite looking at funny / cute pet videos online. The pleasant thing does not have to be a big deal. Yet you have to choose it and see it as your daily reward for coping with depression. You have to deliberately “take in” the nourishment it offers you. This means setting an intention to try and take it in mindfully that this is something you enjoy and you are giving yourself this lovely thing each day. Accumulating positives in your life helps you build resilience, and is a constructive way you are working towards feeling better. As Paul Kelly says…..”From little things big things grow!”
These tips are not meant to replace professional help. They’re tips that have worked for some people, and they might work for you, too.