How to Cope with Depression

Although part of coping with a depressed mood is riding out the wave of emotion, more importantly the rest comes from 'doing.' When we feel depressed, most of the time the last thing we want to do is to get up and engage in any sort of activity or task. However, the best thing for us when feeling sad, unmotivated and/or fatigued is to get up and get out. Below, I provide coping mechanisms to tackle each part of depression: cognitive, emotional and physical.

When you notice the first signs of depression coming on, take some time to yourself to acknowledge these emotions. What is it that you are feeling? Sadness, emptiness, anger, hopelessness? Recognize the emotion(s). Has anything been going on recently that may have triggered these feelings? If so, recognize those triggers. If not, simply acknowledge that you are experiencing this emotional reaction.

Anytime those emotions feel like they are too much, bring yourself to a quiet, safe, comfortable space and breathe slowly in and out until the emotional reaction lessens or passes. You may have to do this multiple times over a series of days, but that is okay. When we experience emotions, we often do not let them process and release. We either fight them, suppress them or feed into them.

By grounding yourself with your breath, you are activating your parasympathetic nervous system and allowing yourself to feel that (albeit dreaded) emotion and then allow it to pass. Therapists don't teach breathwork exercises because they're a bunch of bullsh*t. We teach them because they work when consistently utilized.

Challenge your negative thinking by asking these questions:

  • Am I sure that this is true?

  • Am I becoming my emotion, rather than feeling it?

  • Is this a story or reality?

  • What might a different story about this be?

Part of the devastation of depression comes from our belief that it will never go away. Allow yourself to experience the false evidence behind that. This is will most likely feel uncomfortable at first. Sit through it. It will get easier. And repeat every day.

Utilize this affirmation to create a more realistic and healthier thought process:

"I acknowledge this feeling of ________. This feeling is not permanent; it is only temporary. I have gotten in the habit of becoming my emotions and believing that I cannot feel better. But, my thoughts are not facts. I am creating the new habit of questioning my thoughts. I am learning to believe that I can feel better. Therefore, I will act as if I am until I do. Right now, I choose peace."

Think to yourself: what would a non-depressed person do? What would your ideal version of yourself do in this moment? Write this down. Ideally, how do you want to feel/look/act/be differently? Then, take some time to close your eyes and visualize this. Allow yourself to truly feel what it would be like to be depression-free, productive, energized.

When you are in peaceful state, make a list of things that make you feel good or that you enjoy doing. By having this list at your disposal, you can refer to it any time you experience depression. We get in the habit of thinking we cannot do anything, or cannot feel better. Trust me, if you keep thinking that or speaking like that, you will continue to believe that to be true. This is just a story; a narrative that you have created for yourself. It may be your reality right now, but it does not have to be any longer.

Depression leads us to believe we are immobilized. It causes us to physically feel exhausted and incapable. But, if we want to feel different, we have to do differently. Talk about it. Write about it. Process and release it.

Activities to engage in to help elevate mood:

  • Yoga or other type of exercise

  • Call a friend and ask to spend some time together

  • Watch a comedic movie or television show

  • Go to the beach and sit by the waves

  • Go for a walk, bike ride, run, etc.

  • Focus on a project that you may need to get done for work or school

  • Call up a friend and ask them how they are doing

  • Help someone else out with something they are struggling with

  • Take some time to stretch and engage in deep breathing exercises

  • Write about what you are grateful for

  • Take a hot bath or shower

Eating a nutrient-dense, non-processed diet daily to the best of our ability will help improve our gut health and our mood. 95% of serotonin is created in our gut. If we are not exercising or eating properly, our gut will not be able to properly send serotonin chemicals to our brain to activate a happy mood. Getting out and moving for 30 minutes per day will also help produce endorphins that increase our mood and decrease our stress. Furthermore, you will burn more energy throughout the day, therefore feeling less fatigued and sleeping more soundly -- two very important parts of physically beating depression.

At the end of each day, write down three things that went well. Expand on why they went well. Take a moment to recognize that despite how you may feel, you are still capable of accomplishing something.

Keep promises to yourself. There are zero coping skills that work instantly. Any type of change takes time and consistency. Practice these new techniques daily to not only cope in the moment, but to help yourself adapt to healthier living. Therefore, when depression creeps up again, you will be better able to battle it. By keeping promises to ourselves, we create self-worth. And you are worth it.

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