21 Aug Ways to Get Out Of Depression
Ten Ways to Get Out Of Depression
Whether you have been diagnosed with clinical depression, or have been feeling sad or down for a while, there are ways that can often help this shift. In this article, I look at ten ways to help yourself get out of depression. You can also use many of these suggestions to help someone else if they are struggling.
Ten Ways to Get Out Of Depression
1. Accept some responsibility
This isn’t responsibility for the depression, but responsibility for what happens going forward. Lifting depression will usually involve effort on your part, often at a time when you feel least like it. There will be some work involved, but, as some clients tell me, what’s the alternative – wallow in feeling bad and not knowing how long it will last, or feel the discomfort and one by one, the improvements?
2. Understand that there is a cycle of depression
Clients sometimes say things like “I just don’t know where this came from” when they describe their symptoms. Often, when we look back at what was going on in their lives just before this started, we can trace back to show them when the cycle of depression started. The cycle starts with some life change. This can be as momentous as a bereavement or relationship breakdown, to something smaller like a change in status at work, or a close friend moving away.
This occurrence and the change it brings, creates feelings of stress or worry and these impact on our sleep. Sleep is hugely important for humans. We have two main types of sleep. The deep sleep where our body is physically recharged and re-energised, and REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep) where any worries or strong emotions that haven’t been dealt with during the day are tackled by our dreams. To give you an example, a harsh comment from your boss in real life may mean you have to bite your tongue to avoid lashing out and making the situation worse. We might repress those feelings for the rest of the day, or just simmer with resentment. That night our dreams will make sense of this, in metaphor. So, perhaps we might speak up to another authority figure in our dreams (a parent for example) and all those emotions dragged up during the day can now settle down.
If there are a lot of emotions then this is going to take up a lot of REM sleep, which impacts on our deep sleep, making us feel physically tired. Too much REM sleep also leaves us feeling unmotivated. Or, as often happens in depression, because REM sleep uses up a lot of energy, the brain just wakes up so that it can conserve that energy. This is what results in that early morning waking so common with depression.
We are now low in energy and motivation and so find we don’t fancy going out with our friends, practising the guitar or carrying on with our driving lessons. All the things that gave us connection, achievement, and all those other human needs, we pull away from. This creates even more worry and more anxiety. And so the cycle continues. This is what we have to break.
For some extra sleep tips, check out my article Sleep Clinic in Kent.
3. Deal with those worries
There are two extremely effective ways of helping diffuse the worries that can impact our sleep.
1. Worry Half Hour
Decide that you will worry during a set time (let’s say 5pm-5.30pm) – don’t leave it to too late at night. If a worry comes up outside that time, tell yourself you will think about it during this window. Note, you aren’t repressing your worries here, just placing them within a container. When that worry time comes you can worry away, but what you might find is that your brain has subconsciously worked out a solution, that the issue has passed, or that you no longer feel like worrying. Also, if tangible worries come up that you can do something about, you can use this time to make a plan.
2. Morning pages
I am a huge fan of the morning pages and prescribe them or both counselling and business psychology clients. It is a method for enhancing creativity popularised by author Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way. Like the worry half hour, choose a regular time of day when you will write about whatever comes into your head. It’s better to write with a pen and paper if you can. You can get yourself a special notebook for this, or just use paper you can throw away. It doesn’t matter. Your writing doesn’t even have to be legible.
Start just by writing . it can be whatever comes into your head and might well be “I have to get the chicken out of the freezer”. After a while you will get into a flow and find this gets things out of your head and onto that page where you can think things through, notice pattern or just spill and then rip up when you have finished. You are not aiming to re-read these (unless you really want to), just take note of what bubbles to the top.
This is most useful as a regular practice and again, not too late in the evening.
3. Connect with People
Social withdrawal is a classic depression symptom and it’s important to fight against this if you can. Just do it in your own way, whether that is spending time with your family for an extra half an hour even if you feel like withdrawing to your room, or asking a friend out for a drink, walk or chat.
If you are meeting up with a friend, think carefully about what you want from it. Would you prefer to be distracted, have some laughs, or maybe do something like bowling or a walk to get your body moving? Or would a chat be more useful? Knowing this might impact which friends you reach out to.
Our eating habits can change if we are feeling depressed – perhaps eating less or more than usual. If you are comfort eating, notice what it is you are craving, salt or sugar for instance, and see what healthy options you can find to satisfy those. Also, bear in mind the word comfort. What non-eating activities can give you that comfort?
If your appetite has gone, what can you to do stimulate it with little treats or favourite foods? You may have to take some supplements and make sure that every mouthful counts.
5. Do what you enjoyed
Withdrawing from past activities that we used to find fun or absorbing is very common, but going back to them is an important step in recovery from depression. If you used to practise guitar for hours, perhaps a daily practice of twenty minutes would now work for you. If you used to go to a running club, but really don’t feel up to it, a regular walk will at least keep you reasonably fit and ready to get going again when you feel like it. There is a lot of trust and hope here I know, but gradually those feelings of enjoyment will return.
Whilst you can feel down, depression is a state of high emotional arousal. Finding time to relax is important. A book that you can get lost in, for instance, can be hugely beneficial. Just a few pages at a time are enough if you find it hard to focus. Walk with your dog (or check out Borrow My Doggy), listen to music, or practising meditation. Many studies have found meditation and mindfulness to be as useful as antidepressants for depression. There are many options out there, from local clubs and yoga classes, to apps like Calm or Insight Timer, both of which have free and paid-for versions. I have been using Insight Timer for many years
Like meditation, exercise has about the same efficiency as antidepressants, but with many added benefits. Choose something that is easy for you, even if that means a twenty minute Pilates workout on YouTube. Make it a regular thing and then keep adding in more of different options as you feel able to. Exercise in nature, or with a friend, has added benefits too.
Turning your attention out from yourself and onto others is a key tactic to getting out of depression. Volunteering is an obvious way to do that and there are so many ways we can make a difference – and so many people who can use our help. Volunteering can bring us connection, meaning and purpose, as well as structure which can be helpful for many people who are feeling depressed. Do It is an interesting site that can help you find a volunteering opportunity.
We don’t feel the same day in, day out. Notice when that black cloud lifts, even for a few seconds. What was going on? Was it the breathtaking sunset that took your attention for a few moments? Notice which people perk you up and which ones drain you.
It should go without saying that bringing more of the things that lift you would be a key goal here.
Struggling alone is not helpful and there are people around who can help or at least support. If you don’t want to worry your family then please understand that they are no doubt already worried by your mood and behaviour and knowing the truth can help you all make a plan to move forwards. So, talk to those around you, your HR department at work (especially if you feel you need extra help), your boss, a friend, your GP or a therapist like me. There is always The Samaritans and you can phone 111 if you feel in need of emergency help.
If your depression has been brought on by a trauma in your life, I can work with you using a Rewind technique that will help unhook strong emotions from these memories. This can often really make a difference. I can also help you with strategic goals to move forwards out of depression. To book a chat please use my online calendar here.