Awareness of depression, anxiety and mental health problems has been improving over the last decade, which is great because more avenues of help are available than ever. In this article we look at what the signs and symptoms of depression are and give you some tips and exercises that you can do at home so that you can help yourself.
What are the symptoms of depression?
So, how to do you know if you are suffering from depression? www.webmd.com (external link) suggests the following possible symptoms for clinical depression:
- Trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Pessimism and hopelessness
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much
- Loss of interest in things once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Aches, pains, headaches, or cramps that won’t go away
- Digestive problems that don’t get better, even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
If you or someone you know suffers from some of these symptoms from time to time then the first half of this article contains some tips to help manage the symptoms. If the symptoms are chronic the second half provides you with exercises to help you release the condition. If you are interested in knowing about the cause of depression, you can check out our article here.
What underlies depression?
The basic structure of depression is to blame something or someone for a problem at the same time as believing that you have no power to change the situation. You generally have a feeling that you’re “damned if you do” and you’re “damned if you don’t”. You feel that circumstances or people give you no choice but to live a “nightmare”. You feel stuck.
The DeMartini Method® tells us that associated with every “nightmare” someone has in their mind there is an associated “fantasy”. In the context of depression, the fantasy is normally that someone or something should be different (usually the opposite) than it is. For example, if you are being bullied, the fantasy could be that someone should be “nice” rather than “nasty” because you think their actions are being destructive and everyone would be happier if people were just “nice”. The reason I call this a fantasy is because it is not based upon reality. It also rejects the hidden truth that there are sometimes drawbacks to being “nice” and benefits to being “nasty”. Let me illustrate this with an example. If somebody is ignoring your boundaries (e.g. taking advantage of you) without even realising it, it may not serve anyone to be “nice” – sometimes it can be wise to clearly enforce your boundaries (even if it means being “nasty”). The truth is that “nice” and “nasty” are context driven and it is wise to understand there is a place for both. Anyone addicted to these type of nice people “fantasies” are normally those who are continually disappointed with people or events. This is the type of psychology that can lead to depression.
To understand depression, you must also be willing to look into the benefits of having it. Simply put, we wouldn’t do depression unless there were benefits! The problem is that these benefits are largely unconscious (we are not aware of them). The exercises at the end of this exercise are designed to bring some of these benefits into consciousness and release the sense of being “trapped” in the condition
Tips for dealing with depression
Tip 1. Acknowledge that making no choice is making a choice
Sometimes if we are depressed, we can think that we are stuck and have no choice. Acknowledge that making no choice is making a choice. Acknowledging this means you will naturally feel more empowered. Remember there are upsides and downsides to any choices we make in life – even seemingly making no choice!
Tip 2: Acknowledge to yourself how you are feeling and choose to believe there is a
Just because you may not have found a way to stop feeling depressed doesn’t mean there is no solution. Believe that a permanent solution is available and visualize living a balanced and fulfilling life. It is possible – I have seen many people who are willing to do the work outlined in this article turn their internal world on its head.
Tip 3: Allow yourself to accept yourself, warts and all
Get to know your “warts” even if you are disgusted with yourself and/or you think you are worthless – allow yourself the curiosity to believe that there is a positive reason why this is all happening to you (because there is – you are just not aware of it yet. Check out the exercises).
Tip 4: Try Eft (“Tapping”)
One of our mentors (Ana) has written about the technique called EFT (emotional freedom technique), that can help you to accept yourself and your life situation exactly as they are. This technique comes highly recommended if you are feeling depressed or stuck. For more information click here.
Tip 5: Take the pressure off. Allow yourself to mess up!
Being a “perfectionist” with high standards can have its benefits economically. However, if we are caught up in the cycle of improving ourselves we can easily fall into the “I’m not good enough” club. The truth is you are who you are – you are a unique individual. It makes no sense to compare yourself with others. Start to see your own worth without being arrogant. You have been put on this earth and have worth because you are you! Messing up is part of life so be realistic – expect to mess up from time to time. Believe it or not there are benefits to messing up (like looking and being human!)
Tip 6: Do some exercise and eat well!
Have you noticed how being sat on the sofa and eating processed foods can make you feel lethargic. Getting up and moving activates your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is responsible for toxic waste removal and is part of your immune system. At the retreat we have rebounding classes and walks to help you get moving again. We also serve natural plant-based food to help your body cleanse and for you to rejuvenate.
Tip 7: Change your focus away from the mind into your body
Energy flows where our attention goes, so instead of keeping your energy in your mind and depressed emotions take your attention into your body. Yoga is a great way of doing this at the same time as de-stressing your body and building physical strength and flexibility. You can also take your attention to your breath and use simple meditation techniques. Read this month’s article “how to manage stress and feel lighter” for more ideas.
Exercises for depression
Exercise 1: Writing
a) Write down every reason you can think of why you are feeling depressed or why you feel something bad has happened to you (this will draw out what or who you are blaming for your problem)
b) For each of these reasons, write down 30 or more benefits of having this supposedly negative thing happen to you. So, for example, if you think your boss is bullying you, write down all the benefits of his or her actions. Examples here could be “it is making me look at myself and what I can do about it”, “it is bringing me closer to my partner”, “it is giving me the opportunity to reassess my life”, “it is encouraging me to study nutrition and change my diet”, “it is making me determined to stand up for myself and speak up” etc.
c) For each of these reasons (in section a) write down the drawbacks if the opposite (i.e. the “fantasy”) thing happened. For example, following up the above bullying example, ask yourself to come up with 30 or more drawbacks of your boss being “nice” to you. To get you started on this, perhaps drawbacks could be “the work team wouldn’t always function well if everyone got their own way”, “we may not meet our targets which would affect me financially”, “my partner and I wouldn’t talk as much”
Exercise 2: Mirror work
Stand in front of the mirror and state “This is me, this is who I am”. Repeat this statement and become aware of your internal reaction. Try to avoid any arrogance or sense of blame – just step into your own space and affirm that “this is me, this is who I am”. This technique can easily be used to develop a healthier sense of self grounded in your values rather than the values of other people.
Exercise 3: Speaking
Speak gobbeldy gook for a while!! This technique is great at getting your depression- based thinking patterns scrambled. It is great if you can put 20 or 30 minutes aside on your own to do this – if you are anything like me it will make you laugh a lot too! Say anything out loud and the only rule to this game is that it mustn’t make any sense.
At La Crisalida Retreats in Spain our program is designed to help you get back in touch with your authentic self through many of the processes and exercises contained in this article. Many of our guests with anxiety and depression have transformed their lives. You can arrive when you want and stay for as long as you want and we are a short transfer away from Alicante airport. Read more about our Life Makeover Retreats here.