Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States with about 16.2 million adults reporting a depressed episode in the past year. If you’re experiencing sadness, loss of interest, apathy, hopelessness, shame and/or guilt, a sense of worthlessness, thoughts of dying or suicidal thoughts, and/or urges to isolate or withdraw from others, you may be experiencing a depressive episode. Here are some things to do that may help:
1. Be in the moment: Mindfulness is the process of being aware in the present moment without judgment. Research has shown that practicing mindfulness over time has many interpersonal and mental health benefits, including an improvement in depression and anxiety. Here is a simple exercise that will promote mindfulness: Take a quiet moment, get relaxed, and inhale through your nose to the count of four. Now exhale out your mouth to the count of four. Take a moment and notice what is happening to your body. Are you noticing any changes to your abdomen? You may notice that your belly rises with each inhale and falls with each exhale. Can you stay with that sensation for a few seconds? It is common to get distracted during this exercise. If that happens, just gently bring your mind back to the rise and fall of the belly. Once you have stayed with the breath for a few minutes, check in with yourself and notice how you are feeling physically and emotionally.
2. Extend compassion to yourself: Have you ever noticed the voice of the inner critic inside your head? We tend to be our greatest critic. We often see ourselves through distorted glasses, noticing only our weaknesses and failures and filtering out anything positive. Would you talk to a family member or friend the way you talk to yourself? When you notice your inner voice being critical…stop….take a deep breath….and say something to yourself that you would say to a friend or loved one. Over time, your efforts to cultivate kindness and self-compassion will aid in your healing.
3. Turn outward: One of the biggest challenges to depression is the tendency to isolate and close off to others. The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is highly active in individuals with depression. The mPFC is considered the “me” section of the brain because it is where we process information about ourselves in relation to our past experiences and future expectations. When it is in hyperarousal, we tend to stew over our past and worry about the future. The solution: look for something that requires you to think outside of yourself. Call a friend or loved one to see how they are doing. Find opportunities to help in your neighborhood or community. Brainstorm ideas to serve others and follow through with at least one idea.
4. Journaling: Research has shown that individuals who journal daily tend to have improved emotional and physical health. Set a timer for 15-20 minutes and allow your mind to dump all its thoughts and feelings on the paper without regard for what or how it is stated. Many people report feeling a sense of relief once they have participated in this exercise consistently over 5-7 days.
5. Talk to a professional: When we have a fever or sore throat, we don’t hesitate to go see our doctor. Why is it when we feel depressed or anxious, we feel it is a sign of weakness to seek out a therapist? Therapy provides a safe, nonjudgmental, and compassionate place to share your deepest concerns and research shows that the therapeutic relationship is a fundamental part of the healing process.
If you think you would benefit from speaking with a therapist, please feel free to reach out to me. I would be happy to talk with you about your needs and the ways therapy can help you.
[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]