So no, you cannot control depression or decide exactly when it will end. If that was the case, then nobody would be depressed.
On a good note, there are things that can help you manage better when depressed, perhaps shorten the duration of your depression, and mean you are less likely to fall into a continuous cycle of depression. So where to start?
1.Separate ‘you’ from the depression.
The easiest way to feel worse and worse is to identify yourself with the depression.
Depression is a state of being. It’s not who you are. It’s a thing you are going through. And when we go through things, we eventually exit them.
TRY THIS : See if you can ‘catch’ the depression. When a dark thought passes, instead of panicking, welcome it and ‘talk’ to it. “Hello depression. Thank you for sharing, but I’ll leave that thought as yours, not mine”. Sounds silly? Sure, but if you start to feel better, who cares?
Think about those people telling you to ‘just smile more’, etcetera. How does that make you feel? Frustrated and worse. It’s the same if you tell yourself to ‘just get over it’.
The problem with an obsessive focus on ‘feeling better’ is that it is a judgement. It insinuates the way you are right now is unacceptable and bad. And judgement triggers deep feelings of shame, the grand master of negative emotions, like a heavy anchor pulling you further and further down.
TRY THIS: Try saying to yourself, “I’m depressed right now, and that’s okay’. How does it feel? And consider statistics — according to the NHS, over one in three people in the UK are suffering anxiety and/or depression at any given time.
There’s nothing that strange, or bad, or faulty about about being depressed, it’s a side effect of our modern lives. You are sad and tired. And that’s okay.
Yes, that means forget that idea of drowning your sorrows inalcohol or masking it with drugs. They are proven chemical depressants. No matter how good the high, it’s scientific that you will feel like crap after.
TRY THIS: Make a list of the things that make your depression worse. Put people, places, and activities on it. Now make a list of all the things that actually feel safe or okay to you, your ‘wellbeing activities’. This can be as simple as making your favourite salad, watching a comedy movie, or having a bath. Each time you want to do a negative action, swap it out for a wellbeing action instead.
TRY THIS – Too down for the usual run? Walk. Dance class at the gym seem too overwhelming? Put on your favourite (not sad) song, close the curtains, and dance. Can’t even move you are so depressed? Shake your hands and feet until you start to feel energy. Then sit up. read our article on ‘How to Exercise When Depressed‘ for more inspiration.
The word connect can seem overwhelming when we are depressed and we want to hide under the duvet for, well, forever. Not talk to people!
But connection doesn’t need to involve a long talk with someone you know.
It’s simply about recognising the similarity between you and other humans. And reminding your brain that despite what your depression wants you to think, you are not totally alone, totally different, and beyond comprehension. You are pretty much like everyone else.
TRY THIS: It’s as simple as walking down the street and making eye contact with someone, even just a baby in a stroller. Or having some inane conversation with a cashier at the supermarket about the weather, or even listening to other people complain. Suddenly we are back in the world of the living and like everyone else, and not a weird monster like our thoughts told us.
The volunteers at help lines have devoted time to training in how to help. They WANT to talk to you. It’s what they have chosen to do with their free time.
As soon as you feel a bit better, it is a GREAT idea to seek proper support. Yes, as in counselling. The problem with cycles of depression is that when we are down, we don’t have the wherewithal to book counselling. When we feel better, we think we don’t need it. But push yourself to make a first session. See talk therapy like vitamins — it’s a preventative.