Feeling upset is a fairly normal experience. Sadness is a totally natural emotional response to certain circumstances and events in our lives. Sometimes, however, this sadness turns into depression. When we experience depression, it drains our energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to do what we need to feel better. We may just feel like giving up, laying in bed all day, or eating a lot. While you can’t overcome depression through sheer willpower, you do have some control—even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. There is hope, and there are ways to help!
Major depressive disorder can be a disabling condition that adversely affects a person’s family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health–at least before you intervene by taking the steps below.
You May Wonder, Why People Get Depressed?
Life may feel unfair and awful, leading you to question how you got this way.
The truth is many factors play a role, including genetics, environment, life events, medical conditions, and the way people react to things that happen in their lives. Many of us have experienced very distressing events in life which lead to depression. Like an accumulation of stress building up over time. It can also come on as a result of suppressed anger, fear, and disappointment. Others have long-standing negative thinking and feeling patterns, which stem from certain disabling beliefs, which are often unconscious.
These beliefs really dictate how we live, limiting our experiences in life, and affect us all the time, whether we are aware of it or not, and most often we are not aware that we even have these beliefs because we learned them subconsciously. It is like many other things we learn, they become part of us. The good news is those beliefs or messages don’t have to continue to inhibit us or have the effect they have had on us for so long. There is help in the form of really effective therapy, combined with a variety of other small changes we can make.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) is a highly effective therapeutic approach that targets these self-limiting beliefs and unconscious processes that can lead one into a depressive episode. Research has shown that EMDR can help alleviate depression by creating change at a deep internal level.
In essence, it helps us make unconscious thoughts, beliefs, and feelings conscious, allowing us to reprocess those things that are limiting us, and maybe the culprit of depression. These unconscious processes affect us in a myriad of ways, so it is vital to one’s mental and emotional health to work through these.
By doing so, we can undo the negative learning, and reprocess it in a way that allows us to move through it, and on to the other side toward a more empowering, freer, and sometimes, positive, experience. It enables us to get rid of and integrate that which is not serving us well. For example, if I have a deep belief that “I am helpless,” even if I am not aware of it, it’ll affect me in a myriad of ways. I will find myself in situations where I feel as though nothing will ever change and I am stuck.
With EMDR, we would uncover this deep-seated belief and reprocess it in order to move through it and get all the negative-laden “stuff” out–similar to a clearing or cleansing process. Then, it begins to have less and less of an effect on us. We start to feel more empowered and know that we have choices and are not helpless.
More About Some Factors as to Why People Get Depressed
Research shows that depression runs in families and that some people inherit genes that make it more likely for them to get depressed. Not everyone who has the genetic makeup for depression gets depressed, though. And many people who have no family history of depression have the condition. So although genes are one factor, they aren’t the single cause of depression.
The death of a family member, friend, or pet can go beyond normal grief and sometimes lead to depression. Other difficult life events, such as when parents divorce, separate, or remarry, can trigger depression. Even positive events like having a child, moving, or changing schools can be emotionally challenging enough that a person becomes depressed. And, certainly, being in an unsatisfying marriage, or feeling misunderstood and disconnected from others can have a cumulative effect, leading one into a depression.
Family and Social Environment
For some teens, a negative, stressful, or unhappy family atmosphere can affect their self-esteem and lead to depression. This can also include high-stress living situations such as poverty; homelessness; and violence in the family, relationships, or community.
For adults, it can be due to transitions and feeling unsure of the future. It could be due to frustrations and letdowns.
Substance use and abuse also can cause chemical changes in the brain that affect mood — alcohol and some drugs are known to have depressant effects. The negative social and personal consequences of substance abuse also can lead to severe unhappiness and depression.
Certain medical conditions can affect hormone balance and therefore have an effect on mood. Some conditions, such as hypothyroidism, are known to cause a depressed mood in some people. When these medical conditions are diagnosed and treated by a doctor, the depression usually disappears. While there are medically-based depressions causing one’s serotonin levels to drop, more often than not, depression is due to other factors.
What to Understand About Yourself, and Others, While Depressed, and Tips to Help You Overcome It
Feeling better takes time, but these tips can help.
1. Pace yourself. Expect that your energy will be less than usual. Don’t expect to do everything you normally can. Set a realistic schedule and make time for self-care. This may be easier said than done. But even carving out 15 minutes for yourself here or there can make a significant difference.
2. Exercise. Physical activity has been proven to cause a chemical reaction in the body that may improve your mood. If you get your heart rate up to an aerobic level, your body releases endorphins, which are those feel-good chemicals. Exercising 4 to 6 times a week for at least 30 minutes each time is a good goal. But even less activity can be helpful. The biggest challenge may be actually starting since depression often has the effect of causing one to feel depleted of energy. If you start small, such as 15-20 minutes per day, that may help you to slowly increase your exercise time.
3. Eat Healthily. Many people when depressed want to turn to comfort foods, or junk food, because of the temporary satisfaction it brings. That kind of food can actually have a counterproductive effect on depression because what you need most are mood-boosting nutrient-dense foods. So, watch your nutrition! What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Aim for a balanced diet of protein, complex carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables.
- Don’t skip meals. Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, so aim to eat something at least every 3-4 hours. In between meals, make sure you stay hydrated with water and electrolyte drinks.
- Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks, baked goods, or comfort foods such as pasta or french fries. But these “feel-good” foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.
- Focus on complex carbohydrates. Foods such as baked potatoes, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain breads, and bananas can boost serotonin levels without a crash.
- Boost your B vitamins and Omega 3s. Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid and B-12 can trigger depression. To get more, take a B-complex vitamin supplement or eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs.
- Eat more raw foods. Nutritionists report that people who even add one or two raw meals, or beverages, a day, will significantly increase their intake of antioxidants, enabling their immune system to ward of toxins and viruses that we all get exposed to daily. Also, many people find that the more raw produce they eat, such as juices made from veggies and fruits, aid in boosting their mood.
4. Get outside. Getting up at sunrise and getting outside, or going for a walk before sunset, are two ways to get your daily dose of sunlight, that aids in feeling alive. Exposure to bright sunlight for 30 minutes a day either through sunlight or light made for this, helps keep your internal clock set. This circadian rhythm helps to regulate our sleep/wake cycle and ensures a good night’s sleep which in turn, helps our physical and mental health. If you mix your sunlight exposure with some exercise, even better.
5. Reexamine your expectations or priorities in life and, if necessary, adjust them to suit reality better. Someone who is depressed often thinks they can’t be happy without certain things, such as a particular mate, material possessions, a much higher income, etc. You can eliminate such problems by changing your negative thinking and learning to accept the situation. Acceptance can be a key to giving yourself some peace and hope for the future. It doesn’t mean accepting being treated poorly or losing hope altogether; it is simply about learning to be okay with the way things are for right now, and finding out how to look at life with a lighter touch. Saying, “This too shall pass,” is a common saying one can use to start moving toward acceptance. Certain situations or troublesome people simply won’t change. When you can do something about a problem, however, you should. For example, you may need to leave an alcoholic spouse or to go to school to prepare for a better job. Some actions would actually make a big difference in how you’re feeling right now, and help you accept reality for the time being.
6. Avoid drugs and alcohol. Both make depression worse. Both can cause dangerous side effects with antidepressants if you are taking them. Like comfort foods, alcohol and drugs may provide that temporary relief, but they can also cause more problems, and further your depression. You can also put yourself at risk for developing an addiction, which can further complicate your life and those you love.
7. Journal your feelings. Often by processing on paper, (or on a keyboard), what you are going through, we can experience some relief. It helps us get out of our heads and feel stuck. This can also help us to see life a little more objectively, and serve as a starting point for processing what’s really going on with us internally.
8. Join a support or process group.
Research has shown that finding a group of people who are in our corner, supporting us along the way the toward resolving problems, such as depression, is vital to our mental and emotional health–and some even say for our physical health! Simply put, we are made for relationships, and if we don’t have people in our life who can help us get through a difficult time in our life, then sometimes we have to go out and find them in the form of a support group, process group, or small group (such as what churches have). Process groups are designed for participants struggling with similar issues to join together and process through their issues, which is often led by a psychotherapist, trained to help individuals process their issues and overcome them via intervention and emotional support. Support groups can be helpful for issues such as alcoholism, codependency, and other addictions.
9. Find more balance in your life. We all need a healthy balance between pleasure and work. A few depressed and overwhelmed people need to quit pushing themselves so hard, relax more, and eliminate some work activities, but most depressed people need more interests and activities, or at least be working to find out what activities or interests might be enjoyable, and maybe even passionate about. Often these desires and passions arise after the depression lifts or is being worked through, such as in therapy or in a process group. This is simply because depression can leave one feeling like they don’t want to do anything, even things that used to bring them joy. The reason finding balance in life is beneficial is that idle time often leads to negative thinking and depression. Many of the above tips, if all combined together, can create balance in life. Choosing more interests and activities, including those you once enjoyed and could resume, and asking yourself which ones you might do if you didn’t feel depressed, can help one feel better, a step at a time.
10. Start therapy. Taking an honest look at yourself and your personal problems, paying particular attention to repeating problems in your life, is one of the single best things you can do for yourself. A professional therapist, who specializes in treating depression, can help you identify and work through the issues contributing to the depression, and help you to feel better and live a more fulfilling life. A therapist can not only help you cope with day to day life, but can also help you discover what is underlying the depression in order for the depression to not only be alleviated but also so you recover to the extent that you have insight, understanding, and some wisdom about yourself, which is empowering and healing. Seeing a therapist in Orange County who specializes in depression can help free you from that place of feeling stuck and unable to move forward.
EMDR therapy when combined with traditional talk therapy can do just that. It can have a ripple effect, alleviating symptoms of depression as well as deeper issues such as increasing self-esteem, and self-confidence.
If you have a history of abuse or destructive relationships, problems on the job, or low self-esteem, perfectionism, or people-pleasing, you may be depressed as a result of these life experiences, and therefore, need to work through the root issues in order for the depression to be lifted.
EMDR therapy is an effective, accelerated form of treatment for depression–many people have experienced not only relief from the symptoms of depression through the use of EMDR therapy, but have also experienced a shift in their personal beliefs about themselves and their life. It has the potential to help boost one’s self-esteem and increase confidence.
So, there are many ways to overcome depression! You have control over your life and where you go from here. Today can be the day that you take your life back into your hands and do something that can help you feel better and live a better life!
Mrs. Tyra Butler is a clinician who specializes in depression and many other related issues. She integrates EMDR and has been successfully counseling a diverse range of clients in Orange County, Ca. They’ve experienced alleviation from depression and anxiety, renewed confidence, healing from past family and relationship pain, and trauma, accomplished goals, and overcome many obstacles. Most of all, they report having increased peace and hope for the future.
She can be reached at 949-292-2923. Mrs. Tyra Butler is registered with the Board of Behavioral Sciences as a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern (IMF 70602) and is employed by Dr. Steve Harris in Newport Beach, Ca. She’s a therapist in Orange County and currently accepting new clients.