Do you ever feel like the things that you used to enjoy do not interest you anymore? Maybe you used to love reading or painting or jogging, but now those activities seem boring and meaningless.
Do you ever feel sad and empty? Not just a “bad day” kind of sad, but a sadness that you cannot seem to shake? Do you ever feel so tired that you can barely make it through your day, then you finally lay down to go to sleep and you either sleep for 12 hours straight and STILL feel groggy and tired, or you cannot for the life of you fall asleep at all?
Do you ever feel guilty about things that are not your fault? Do you ever feel worthless? Does suicide ever cross your mind?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you might be suffering from depression.
But there is good news: Depression is very, very treatable. So treatable, in fact, that people overcome it every day. It may be hard to see right now, but there is hope that life will one day get better.
Treatment for Depression: A Variety of Options
There are lots and lots of practical things that you can do that are helpful in battling depression. Treatment for depression comes in many different forms, and they are things that anyone can try, if they are willing.
If you’re seeking treatment for depression, the following are some useful ways to help you overcome your condition:
I get it. Exercise is the VERY LAST thing that you want to do when you are depressed. The thought of taking a shower seems impossible, so how in the world could exercise be realistic? If it were that easy, you would already be doing it, right?
But here’s the thing. Moving your body helps. Sweating helps. And feeling the effects of those awesome hormones, called endorphins, helps. Every second you lay in bed, letting your life pass you by, is every second that the depression is winning.
It is helpful to start small and take baby steps. Maybe the first day, you only move for 5 minutes. And then the next, you do 10 minutes. And then 15 minutes. And then you work your way up to a number that you are comfortable with.
You might be thinking, “Okay, that is doable . . . But I am not going to go to the gym for only 5 minutes.” That’s okay! Because you do not even have to leave your house. Maybe you do jumping jacks in your bedroom. Or do yoga in your living room. Or find an inspiring workout video on YouTube.
Maybe you go for a walk around your block, or blast your favorite song and dance it out. It does not matter how you get there, but finding the motivation to give your body the movement it deserves is so important. Not only will you begin to feel the effects, but the depression will start to loosen its hold on you.
Okay, I know. It sounds super cheesy. But meditating is proven to be a very helpful method of treatment for depression, anxiety, and stress – just to name a few. It is a way to practice calming the mind, slowing down thoughts, and relaxing the body.
Meditation gives you the chance to set an intention for your day and focus on what really matters. Meditating can also be a spiritual experience. It can be a time for prayer, exploring faith, and searching for meaning or purpose in your life.
If you have never meditated before, I would encourage you to start with a guided meditation, where a person walks you through what to do. There are tons of them online for free, as well as many apps for your phone. Also, there is usually a meditation portion incorporated into most yoga classes.
Remember, it’s called a practice for a reason. The first time you do it, it is actually really hard. Shutting your brain off and refocusing takes time. But it is important not to beat yourself up about it. Give yourself some grace, acknowledge that it won’t be perfect, and try not to judge. It WILL get easier each time you do it.
Language has power. This means how we talk to ourselves is extremely powerful. Saying things like, “I am stupid,” or, “I am ugly,” or, “I am worthless,” or, “I am unlovable,” hold a lot of weight.
When you are feeling depressed, you might be engaging in negative self-talk more than you even realize. It might be so automatic and so frequent that it is second nature. These false beliefs and messages might be so ingrained that they are hard to tease apart from all of the other thoughts going through your head. They might go so far back into your past that it is difficult to pinpoint when they began.
There is a way to battle this negative self-talk. You can train yourself to think differently. Now, bear with me because this is going to feel silly.
The first step is to become aware. Start paying attention to when these thoughts do pop up. This will be hard at first, but keep at it. You might even count how many times in a day that you notice it.
The next step is to reverse the thought. Every time a negative thought pops into your head, say the opposite. For example, when you think, “I am unlovable,” you might change it to, “I am worthy and deserve love.”
It might be useful to write these down at first. Sometimes being able to see it down on paper provides clarity and feels more productive. Now, keep reversing these thoughts until it feels automatic. Do it to the point that you no longer even have to think about it, it just naturally happens.
After a while, you will begin to believe the positive self-talk, which will then begin to impact your self-esteem and self-worth, both of which are tied to depression. Remember, language has power and how we talk to ourselves is significant.
Combatting Intrusive Thoughts
Intrusive thoughts are scary, disturbing thoughts or images that pop into your head. They are unwanted and might come to mind when stress is really high, or even at what feels like the most random moments. They tend to be either suicidal, homicidal, or sexual and may cause distress or anxiety to increase when they happen.
For example, you are feeling overwhelmed with an enormous pile of work you have to accomplish, and the thought, “I should just kill myself,” comes to mind. When this surfaces, you might question where it came from and why.
You may begin to fear that this means you subconsciously want to kill yourself, and that you could follow through with it. This is not true. The thought is fueling anxiety, which is, in turn, giving it more power.
Intrusive thoughts are not talked about often, but they are very normal for those who experience depression and/or anxiety. You can even think of it as the depression or anxiety talking, not you.
There are things you can do to combat these thoughts. The most important thing is to stop giving these thoughts power. To do this, you can expect them to pop up and when they do, acknowledge them as intrusive and let them fade away. Then do your best to return to whatever it is that you were doing.
It will get easier and easier every time you do this. It might be helpful to reverse the thought, just like negative self-talk (described above). If we return to the earlier example, when the thought, “I should just kill myself,” pops up, you might instead think, “That is an intrusive thought and it is not true. I am overwhelmed right now and I will do the best I can to get this work done. I am only human.”
It is imperative to have people in your life to lean on in times of need. When feeling depressed, it is really normal to isolate yourself. It takes a lot of energy to get out of bed and meet a friend for dinner, or even just to call them up to chat.
However, we usually feel better when we surround ourselves with people who love and care about us. We also tend to feel better when we feel heard and understood. That connection makes a difference, and helps us see that there is some hope that things can get better.
You might be in a situation where you do not have anyone to lean on. In this situation, I would encourage you find ways to meet people. And not just any people, but people who you think might have similar interests or could relate to you.
Maybe you join a new church, connect with a support group, attend a Bible study, or go to a fitness class. These are opportunities to open the door to new friendships. Maybe it is not that you do not have people in your life, but the people who you do have are really busy. This is when it is time to be open and honest with what you need in your relationships.
The people in your life cannot read your mind. They will not know if you do not tell them how you are feeling. Voicing what you need can be difficult at first, however putting it into practice in your life will not only help you feel better, but it will strengthen your relationships.
If you have pain in your stomach, what do you do? That’s right – you go to the doctor. Well, depression is a mental kind of pain. So it makes sense that you would see a professional when seeking treatment for depression.
Therapy provides a safe space to talk about anything and everything you are going through. It makes available the opportunity to explore and process where the depression stemmed from and how it is affecting your life and relationships. Plus, you can collaborate with your counselor to find the coping skills that work best for you.
It is also a chance to voice personal stuff that maybe you are not comfortable talking about with the people in your life. You can vent, cry, reflect, and talk about all the emotions you are feeling in a non-judgmental place.
Sometimes talking to an outsider is easier than talking to your family or friends. It is important to find a therapist that you are comfortable with, and who helps you to feel heard, validated, and understood.
Medication as a method of treatment for depression can be beneficial for some people. Sometimes depression is present because of a chemical imbalance in your brain, and antidepressants can help balance those chemicals out.
One chemical that has been linked to depression is the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Its primary function is to help regulate important things like mood, appetite, and sleep.
The most common form of antidepressants are SSRIs: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. These work to increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, which can help reduce feelings of depression. If you think medication might be helpful for you, it is important to speak with your doctor to understand all of your options and find the best fit for you.
Finding the Right Treatment for Depression for You
Everyone is unique. People find some methods of treatment for depression more helpful than others, depending on their personal characteristics and situation. It is also important to note that the items listed above are not the be-all-end-all forms of treatment for depression. There are lots of other things out there that can be useful, such as journaling, daily affirmations, visualization, and the list goes on and on. However, the items above are a great place to start.
Just know, that there is hope that life will get better. Depression is a season in your life and it does not define who you are. Remember, if you are feeling depressed, consider meeting with a counselor to help you through this tough season. Sometimes just accepting that you need some extra help and support is the first step to recovery.
“Bridge Run,” courtesy of Curtis MacNewton, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Jungle Yoga” courtesy of Jared Rice, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Prayer,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Coffee Date,” courtesy of Rawpixel, unsplash.com, CC0 License