Although anxiety and stress are the main topics we chose to focus on, many who struggle with these problems will often experience signs of depression as well. For that matter, we’ve decided to offer you a quick and easy guide on how to deal with depression.
Before we get to what depression is and how we can tackle it, I want to make something clear right from the start:
Depression is NOT just a fleeting moment of sadness or a ‘bad’ mood; it’s a disorder that can affect anyone, anytime.
It is a condition that strips us of our personal power, leaving us alone, isolated, and feeling like the entire world has abandoned us.
It is an illness that can quickly ruin our personal and professional life, throwing us into a spiral of doubt, guilt, self-loathing, and despair.
People who deal with depression feel like the entire world is crumbling right before their eyes. They feel completely powerless; crushed under the weight of their own desperation and sadness.
And it’s hard to accept that we are the ones who nurture these negative emotions.
We are the ones pushing people away.
We are the ones who choose to live in solitude, isolated from those who want to help but might not know how.
With the help of this guide, you will take back control of your life and escape the “invisible prison” that depression has built around us.
What is Depression?
Before we learn how to deal with depression, first we need to have a clear image of what depression is.
Whether we like it or not, life is and will always be made of ups and downs.
We all have our moments of sadness and doubt. We all go through tough and unpleasant situations that can quickly put us in a bad mood.
Maybe you lost your job.
Maybe your girlfriend/boyfriend dumped you.
Maybe you’re mourning the loss of a loved one.
The point is there are a million reasons why your mood can shift from positive to negative.
But as I said in the beginning, there’s a significant difference between a fleeting moment of sadness and full-blown depression.
As experts from the American Psychological Association clearly state:
“Depression is more than just sadness. People with depression may experience a lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities, significant weight loss or gain, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.”
Furthermore, experts from the American Psychiatric Association describe depression as:
“A common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.”
What these two insightful definitions tell us is that:
- Depression is a serious condition that goes beyond your day-to-day moments of sadness and emotional discomfort.
- There are a series of signs that can help us make sense of what we’re going through.
In case you’re wondering how many depression sufferers are out there, a recent report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) places this condition among the leading causes of disability, with 322 million people living with depression worldwide.
To provide a clear image of the devastating effects depression has on our society, experts from WHO use an interesting unit of measurement – YLD.
YLD stands for Years Lived with Disability, and it’s calculated using the following equation:
YLD = I x DW x L
- I = number of incident cases
- DW = disability weight
- L = average duration of the case until remission or death (years)
At a global level, depression is responsible for a staggering 50 million YLD. That’s 50 million years of disability caused by one easily-treatable condition.
But leaving aside textbook definitions and statistics, what fascinated (and worried) me most is the way in which many depression sufferers choose to talk about their condition.
The words they’re using depict a grim image, with very little perspectives on the horizon.
Many of them describe depression as a prison.
A prison in which they are both the guard and prisoner.
A prison that isolates them from the rest of the world; from friends, family, and all the people who could lend a helping hand.
But since you are the guard of this self-made prison, you alone hold the keys to setting yourself free.
Only you hold the power to overcome depression and regain control of your life.
No matter how rich, smart, popular, or successful you might be, life will always throw you ‘curves.’
In other words, depression can affect EVERYONE.
No amount of money, popularity, intelligence, or success can ever keep you 100% safe from it.
The single best thing you can do is equip yourself with the right tools to cope with depression as soon as it hits.
What Are the Signs of Depression?
As some of you might know from personal experience, depression manifests both physically and mentally.
Often, the feeling of emptiness specific to this problem, coupled with shame, guilt and a profound lack of motivation, can make depression seem almost impossible to overcome.
But as in the case of any other illness, the first step in dealing with depression is having a clear image of how it manifests.
Five physical signs of depression:
- Loss of appetite. The pain is so overwhelming that you begin to neglect even your most fundamental needs.
- Headaches. It’s one of the most common pains in people suffering from depression.
- Fatigue. No matter how much you sleep, you still wake up exhausted each morning.
- Low sex drive. It’s hard to ‘get in the mood’ when all you can think about is how terrible your life is.
- Digestive problems. Depression can cause either constipation or diarrhea.
Five psychological signs of depression:
- Persistent sadness. It seems as if nothing in this world can put a smile on your face.
- Feelings of futility and pessimism. You feel completely useless, and you have an overall pessimistic perspective on life.
- Irritability and restlessness. When you’re struggling with depression, keeping your calm can be extremely difficult.
- Feelings of guilt or helplessness. It’s easy to feel helpless when you evaluate yourself as worthless and “broken”.
- Low self-esteem. When your internal dialogue is characterized by self-criticism and self-doubt, the result is low self-esteem.
What Causes Depression?
Although depression is currently the leading cause of disability, affecting millions of people worldwide, things were not always this way.
Researchers and mental health professional believe tens of thousands of years ago, depression was a pretty handy coping mechanism.
Have you ever noticed how wounded animals tend to retreat somewhere safe (e.g., a cave or a hidden bush) where they can heal and recover?
Chances are our ancestors did the exact same thing.
Those who, in a moment of weakness when they could have been easy prey, have chosen to retreat and hide have managed to recover.
It is because of depression that some of our ancestors managed to survive to fight another day.
Just as our ancestors isolated themselves to heal their physical wounds, so do we isolate ourselves from society to heal our emotional wounds, during times of suffering and despair.
But unlike physical wounds (which might heal over time), emotional ‘wounds’ are trickier.
In fact, the same mechanism (depression) that has worked miracles for some of our ancestors, can cause more harm than good when applied to emotional ‘wounds.’
Based on this explanation, it’s obvious that the potential to develop depression is hardwired in our genes. An ‘artifact’ that’s no longer useful in the modern world.
As a rule, most experts agree that roughly 30% of the factors that cause depression boil down to biology.
In other words, genetic predispositions, chemical imbalances in the brain, and so on.
But what about the remaining 70%?
That’s where things get interesting because the remaining 70% are environmental factors.
Objectively speaking, there are tens (if not hundreds) of factors that can contribute to the onset of depressive disorders.
Since we don’t have room to detail every one of them, let’s focus on some of the most predominant ones:
Stress is an essential factor in depression. But even though all of us face stressful events in our day-to-day lives, no everyone develops depression.
Experts believe the reason why some of us develop depression because of prolonged exposure to stress might come down to genetic makeup.
In a way, the less resilient you are to stress, the higher the chances of developing depression.
And this is where prevention comes into play.
By reducing stress to a minimum, not only that we improve our well-being, but we also keep problems such as anxiety and depression at bay.
#2 THE LOSS OF A LOVED ONE
Whether we’re talking about divorce, separation, or death, losing someone we love is never easy.
It’s hard to accept that someone you love and care about, is no longer around.
The pain and suffering are almost unimaginable and can quickly throw us into the cold and lifeless grip of depression.
As a therapist, I have met dozens of people who say that without the love of their life next to them, they will never be the same. They will never be able to enjoy the same experiences. They will never be whole again.
Most people who go through a breakup will most likely deal with a depressive episode.
Depending on your coping skills, resilience, and the social support you may or may not receive, a brief episode of depression can either go away or turn into deep depression.
In the end, only you have the power to overcome the loss of a loved one and take back control of your life.
Unemployment is a significant precipitating factor, being associated with a 3X higher risk for depression.
Furthermore, experts believe that unemployment is also associated with suicide.
Having no money to put food on the table and pay the bills prevents us from fulfilling some of our most basic needs.
It’s no wonder those of us who struggle with financial difficulties often end up dealing with depressive episodes.
But the worst part is that once depression becomes part of our day-to-day life, getting out of financial difficulties can be a nightmare.
In other words, unemployment causes depression which in turn makes it harder for us to find a new job, thus throwing us into more debt and financial struggles.
Leaving aside from unemployment, other critical risk factors associated with depression are poverty, debt, and major financial losses due to economic instability.
As you can see, there are dozens of environmental factors that can lead to the onset of depression.
We CAN’T change the environment in which we live, but we CAN change the way we relate to our environment.
5 Powerful Coping Strategies and Techniques for Depression
#1: EDUCATE YOURSELF
When dealing with depression, anxiety, stress or any other emotional issue, the main problem most of us struggle with is the lack of clarity.
In other words, we know that life has taken a turn for the worse, but we’re not exactly sure what we’re going through.
The lack of information coupled with a mix of worry, doubt, and confusion, makes it even harder to overcome mental illness.
To help average Joes (like you and me) better cope with emotional issues, experts have begun to stress the importance of psychoeducation.
But what is psychoeducation?
Psychoeducation combines principles derived from psychotherapy with education to help people understand and learn how to handle specific emotional or behavioral problems.
This approach can be used in various contexts and can be adapted to multiple presentation formats.
For example, one quick Google search and you can find dozens of useful articles, guides, and infographics on what depression is and how to deal with it.
Evidence has shown that psychoeducation is a useful tool that can improve your life by increasing your level of knowledge and by helping you develop the skills necessary to cope with depression.
In fact, a meta-analysis which summarized the conclusions of roughly 9.000 studies on depression and psychological distress revealed that passive psychoeducation could significantly reduce the symptoms of depression.
Furthermore, experts who conducted the meta-analysis believe psychoeducation interventions are easy to implement, can be applied immediately and are not expensive.
The fact that you’re reading this guide on how to deal with depression counts as psychoeducation.
It’s the first step in conquering your depression and bringing your life back on track.
#2: THERE’S NO SHAME IN ASKING FOR HELP
We know for a fact that two of the negative emotions people struggling with depression often deal with are: guilt and shame.
The fact that you find it almost impossible to overcome this illness can quickly throw you into a spiral of self-doubt and criticism.
And since there’s no one else around to blame for your troubles, the only person you hold responsible is YOU.
But there’s a huge difference between taking responsibility for how you think, feel, and act and blaming yourself for everything bad that’s happening in your life.
Unfortunately, since those of us struggling with depression tend to engage in self-criticism, responsibility is no longer act of ‘owning’ your depression, but rather an attempt to instill blame and feel miserable.
On top of that, the shame that so many of us wrongfully associate with mental illness will make depression feel like a bottomless pit from which there’s no escape.
That is the moment when you need to understand that you can’t fight this alone.
That is the moment when you need to realize that there are people around you who would gladly lend a helping hand and pull you out of this terrible hole.
When depression becomes unbearable, asking for help is an absolute ‘must.’
Fortunately, the Digital Era offers us plenty of options.
Nowadays, you can go online and find dozens of support groups, chat rooms, and private Facebook groups dedicated to people who struggle with depression.
While I was doing my research for this depression guide, I came across an interesting study published in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems.
In this study, the authors examined the relationship between stress, depression, and social support.
As many of you know from personal experience, stress can generate depression and vice versa.
However, according to this study, for those who receive social support, the impact of stress on depression is significantly lower.
You’re not alone in this!
It doesn’t have to be you vs. depression.
There are plenty of people out there who’ve gone through the same difficulties as you and would gladly offer their unconditional support.
All you need to do is ask!
#3: EXERCISE REGULARLY
Exercise plays a major role in our physical and mental health.
For someone who spends all day in bed, wallowing in self-pity, a walk around the neighborhood or some light jogging in the park can temporarily boost their mood and offer a break from depression.
And there’s even scientific evidence on that.
A recent meta-analysis concluded that exercise is an excellent antidepressant.
As the authors state:
Exercise has a large and significant antidepressant effect in people with depression (including MDD)
On a side note, MDD stands for major depressive disorder or, as some people call it, deep depression.
It might seem impossible a first, given that you’ve probably spent weeks in bed feeling powerless and helpless, but if you’re patient and determined enough, exercise will become the healthy habit that gets you out of depression.
The secret is to start small.
Does jogging seem difficult?
At least go for a walk.
You feel like going to the gym is too much right now?
At least start with a few push-ups and squats.
When it comes to conquering depression, little is better than none.
All and all, exercise is one of the cheapest, most accessible treatments for depression.
#4: MAINTAIN A DAILY ROUTINE
As we all know, depression ‘swallows’ a significant portion of the 24 hours we have at our disposal every day.
Those of us dealing with this problem spend hours ruminating about our painful past or worrying future.
To avoid sinking into depression, you need to stick to a daily routine no matter how difficult it might be.
This strategy has proven to be extremely useful in alleviating the effects of depression, which predispose you to inactivity and the waiver of various goals.
In other words, taking part in various day-to-day activities (house chores, hobbies, etc.) helps you reduce the amount of time wasted on negative thoughts and rumination.
Whether it’s doing the dishes, taking out the trash, shopping for groceries, or simply engaging in a pleasant hobby, keeping yourself busy is the best way to avoid rumination.
Sticking to a routine is neither easy nor comfortable, but if you’re patient enough, you will eventually get out of the hole depression has thrown you in.taking part in various day-to-day activities (house chores, hobbies, etc.) helps you reduce the amount of time wasted on negative thoughts and rumination Click To Tweet
#5: ADOPT A RATIONAL PERSPECTIVE ON LIFE
When depression takes over, our entire perspective shifts from positive to negative.
All of a sudden, we begin to notice the ‘bad’ side of things.
Our mind begins to focus almost entirely on the things we hate about ourselves, others, and the world.
It feels as if we are invaded by memories of all the people and events that have caused us pain and suffering.
And the more you feel your mind with ugliness, pain, and suffering, the stronger your negative beliefs about yourself, others, and the world will be.
Once your consciousness shrouded in the thick cloud of depression, becoming positive overnight is completely unrealistic.
That’s why telling someone with depression to be positive and focus on the bright side of things will almost never work.
But what’s between positive and negative?
Simple! The objective REALITY.
A reality in which good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.
A reality in which WE All have our ups and downs.
A reality that isn’t perfect, but it’s the only one we’ve got.
So instead of struggling to get more ‘positive,’ why not adopt a realistic perspective!?
Here are a few rules to follow:
- Always look at your thoughts and beliefs with a skeptical eye.
- Not every thought your mind produces is worth taking into consideration.
- Be honest with yourself by accepting both your strengths and weaknesses.
- Be fair to others by accepting both their qualities and flaws.
- Be realistic about the world you’re living in by accepting both its beauty and misery.
A healthy, depression-free mind is neither positive nor negative, but realistic.
How to Deal With Someone With Depression
Given that there are roughly 320 million people with depression worldwide – that’s 1 out of 23 individuals – the chance to know or meet someone who suffers from depression is pretty high.
What if a close friend, a family member or even your significant other deals with depression?
Ideally, the best things to do is help him/her find a licensed professional who can assess his/her condition and come up with an intervention plan.
Unfortunately, this solution is not always available.
Sometimes, a depressive episode can be so intense that the person you’re trying to help might not have the energy or motivation to seek professional help.
And even if he or she does receive professional help, any extra social support is more than welcome.
If you’re looking to provide comfort for someone going through depression, here’s what you need to do:
#1. LISTEN AND SEEK TO UNDERSTAND
People who struggle with depression often feel lost.
They feel as if no one in this world understands what they’re going through.
And who can blame them!
Many of us might be unfamiliar with how an episode of deep depression feels like.
Even if we do want to help, our lack of understanding will result in more harm than good.
What I want to share with you is neither a miracle solution nor a groundbreaking discovery.
It’s something less spectacular and more in tune with what a depressed person needs.
It’s what me and other mental health professionals are doing when a client accepts to start therapy.
In short, we listen, and we seek to understand.
We don’t come up with explanations (at least not in the beginning) but instead, focus on putting ourselves in the client’s shoes.
We listen to his/her story, encourage him/her to share, and approach depression with curiosity.
That’s it! That’s all you need to do when a person with depression asks for help.
It’s not about your needs, but theirs.
#2. REFRAIN FROM GIVING ADVICE
Since many of us are taught to be problem solvers, what’s the first thing we do when someone shares a problem they have?
You guessed it. We offer solutions.
We offer pieces of advice that we believe will help them overcome depression.
Unfortunately, not every person with depression needs solutions. Some might not be in the problem-solving stage.
And if you offer advice to a person who needs to be listened and understood first, chances are you might be doing more harm than good.
Until the person specifically asks for a piece of advice or solution, all you need to do is lend an empathetic ear.
People generally hate unwanted advice, and no one will follow a specific solution unless you take the time to understand what they’re going through.People generally hate unwanted advice, and no one will follow a specific solution unless you take the time to understand what they’re going through Click To Tweet
#3. BE PATIENT
Getting past depression is never easy.
People who deal with this problem often lack the motivation to pick themselves up dust themselves off and regain control over their life.
Depression isn’t something you can ‘shake off.’
It is a serious problem which requires time and perseverance.
For those of us trying to lend a helping hand to someone who’s dealing with depression, the waiting could get frustrating.
Even though we feel their pain and understand their struggle, we want the other person to pick up the pace and do something about his/her problem.
But that’s not how it works.
Once again, you need to put their needs first.
Don’t try to rush the process.
Allow them to overcome depression and achieve wellbeing at their own pace.
To Sum Up …
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses and the leading cause of disability worldwide.
If you’re looking to deal with depression and take back control of your life, try doing some of the following:
- Take the time to understand what you’re really going through. Educate yourself about depression. Nowadays, everything you need to know about a topic is just one click away.
- If you feel like depression hangs too heavy on your shoulders, don’t hesitate to ask for help. There’s always someone who can lend a helping hand. Always!
- Maintain a constant exercise routine. It will get your endorphins flowing and give you a break from the negative thoughts and emotions associated with depression.
- Aside from exercising regularly, you should also stick to a daily routine that keeps you busy and active during your waking hours.
- Last but not least, adopt a realistic perspective on life. Reality is neither black nor white.
So, what do you think about our depression guide? Have you ever tried one of the five coping strategies mentioned earlier? Which one did you find most useful? Are there any other techniques that have worked well for you?
Leave a comment below!
Clinical Psychologist, Licensed CBT Therapist.
I’m a Clinical Psychologist and a licensed Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy practitioner. My work focuses mainly on strategies designed to manage and prevent the most common mental issues – anxiety, depression, and stress.
When I’m not busy with my therapeutic practice or other work-related activities, I enjoy going out for a jog or hit the nearby gym.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via LinkedIn (link below), or through the Contact Us page.