A woman, I will call Sylvia, came into my office the other day feeling sad and depressed. Her boyfriend had broken the relationship off with her several months earlier and she was having a difficult time recovering from the loss. She was experiencing crying spells almost daily. She had little energy or motivation to do the things she used to enjoy doing, and she was isolating herself from all of her friends. All she wanted to do was stay in bed and this was not helping her situation.
Like so many other people, Sylvia was listening to the depression and doing exactly what it told her to do. Avoid people. Stay in bed. Think about how bad things are. Think about how good it used to be. Think the pain will never end.
Because the depression was so strong, Sylvia was having a difficult time doing the things that would actually help her decrease the depression. However, by coming to her appointment that morning, she had taken the first step. She had done the opposite of what the depression urged her to do by just making the appointment. It would have been much easier for her to stay in bed. Instead, she got up, showered, put on make-up, and came to the appointment on time. This was progress.
When we are feeling down we often don’t want to do the things that will eventually make us feel better. Below I have listed 14 things to avoid when feeling sad or depressed- IF YOU WANT TO FEEL BETTER, AVOID THEM NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU FEEL LIKE DOING THEM!
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14 Things to Avoid When Feeling Depressed
1. Telling yourself that you shouldn’t feel this way. This is invalidating and it only makes things worse. Yes, you may have a lot of good things in your life. And yes, you may not understand why you feel the way you feel. But you do feel this way. Denying your feelings or even worse, getting mad at yourself for having them, makes you feel worse about yourself and increases depression. Instead, accept that you are not feeling well and then begin doing things that will lead you to eventually feeling better.
2. Isolating yourself for days. When we are feeling depressed, whether the depression is mild, moderate, or severe, we have a tendency to isolate ourselves from other people. We don’t feel like we would be very good company feeling the way we do, and we really don’t have the desire or energy to do anything anyway. Depression leads us to isolate and isolation leads to more depression. No matter how bad we feel, we must force ourselves to seek support even if we want to close the blinds and go back to sleep.
3. Drinking alcohol. Drowning your sorrows in alcohol won’t heal the problem and it just might make it a lot worse. Turning to alcohol or any other addiction during rough times will actually stop the healing process. We must feel to heal and if we cover our feelings up with a substance, we are actually adding another problematic layer to something that we need to resolve. We also need to remember that alcohol is a depressant which is the last thing we need when we are already feeling down.
4. Listening to sad music or going to see a sad movie. No matter how much you like the song or have been wanting to see the movie, sad music, books, and movies will intensify depression. When you are feeling sad opt for a comedy or something empowering and inspirational. The comedy will give you a little bit of a distraction and the inspirational choice will increase your hope and do something positive for your hurting heart.
5. Staying inside all day. Depression will steal your energy, zap your motivation, and make you want to stay inside your home. You must fight the urge to stay inside all day. Going outside, getting some fresh air, and taking a walk can get you feeling a little bit better- no matter how much your depression tries to pull you in a different direction.
6. Thinking about the things going wrong in your life. Catch yourself! Stop yourself! Don’t do this! This is depressive thinking and you have to challenge it. Don’t judge your feelings, but do keep a gratitude journal where you record the blessings in your life.
7. Focusing on the past. We all reminisce about the past from time to time. Reminiscing is not a bad thing and can actually bring a smile to our face. But when we spend a lot of time ruminating on a painful past we create more pain in our present.
8. Feeling sorry for yourself. Sitting at home muttering “why me?” will only spiral you down. Instead, accept where you are and figure out what you can do to improve your situation.
9. Having little compassion for yourself. Treating yourself with compassion is not the same thing as wallowing in self-pity. Self-pity is not compassion at all. When you treat yourself with compassion you empower yourself. You stop judging yourself harshly and you start being kind to you. Self-compassionate people hold themselves accountable for their actions and treat themselves with kindness at the same time. Self-compassionate people take care of themselves, forgive themselves, and refuse to give up on themselves.
10. Falling into the all or none trap. Watch out for the words “always” and “never” because they usually aren’t an accurate description. All or none thinking often increases depression. If you convince yourself that you “always” fail or that you will “never” feel better again, things will not improve. Challenge all or none thinking and look for times when the “always” and the “never” did not apply.
11. Forgetting that this, too, shall pass. When you are feeling bad it can feel like it will last forever. Remembering that your situation is temporary can help you get to the other side and begin to feel better. Sometimes you may want to seek professional help to give you the support and the positive tools you need to speed up the recovery process.
12. Seeking support from unsupportive people. Remember, if you always do what you have always done, you always get what you have always gotten. If you continue to seek support from someone in your life who has proven to be unsupportive, don’t expect that to change. The unsupportive person may actually love you dearly but may not have the tools themselves to be supportive. For example: A person who has built up barriers to their own emotions in order to protect themselves, will have a difficult time helping you with your feelings. Your emotions may trigger their suppressed feelings and this is just too scary. Find people who are able to give you emotional support when you are feeling low. Having a supportive person to talk to can make a big difference in your mood.
13. Grieving alone. This goes along with seeking supportive people. Don’t try to grieve alone. You may think you can handle it all by yourself, but unprocessed emotion (things you have not allowed yourself to grieve) will come back in one form or another. Unprocessed emotion may come back as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, physical pain, or chronic disease. If you do not have supportive people in your life or the people in your life have not been able to help you, please seek professional counseling so that you can begin to feel better.
14. Thinking your emotions make you mentally weak. Erich Fromm said, “To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness.” Emotions make us human. If we view our sorrow as a weakness, we try to detach from it which causes us to also detach from positive things such as love, compassion, empathy, and intimacy. We must embrace it all and get rid of the tendency to judge emotion as weak. Depression is a treatable mood disorder that has nothing to do with weakness. Emotion makes us human. Grieving leads to recovery. Get rid of the judgment and focus on the healing.
Now it is your turn. If you have something to add to this list, please comment below. We can all learn from each other.
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