Depression is a very common mental illness that is more prevalent than you think. According to the WHO, approximately 280 million people all over the world have depression, and there may be more undiagnosed people out there.
Oftentimes, the hardest part for depressed individuals is just getting through a depressive episode while maintaining their social ties, staying on top of work, and going about their daily needs. Depressive episodes can happen at any place and any time and individuals suffering from it can’t help it when it happens.
Different people find different ways to cope with it, but sometimes a depressive episode can get so severe that the usual methods just don’t work as well anymore. Many factors can lead to a depressive episode, from genetics, medication to recent events and developments in the person’s life. In 2020 alone, with the stress and anxiety of a pandemic always somewhere close by, more people have found themselves or their loved ones exhibiting symptoms of depression, while people with an existing diagnosis only saw it get worse as the months of lockdowns and community quarantines wore on.
Yes, dealing with depression has never been harder. People with depression know better than anyone that relying on antidepressant medication and therapy, while effective, isn’t a cure-all for it. If you or people you know are going through a tough depressive episode recently, here are some tips to help you get through the day:
Take small steps
People with depression have found that reducing huge seemingly daunting tasks to smaller chunks of work has helped them to do tasks that they’d rather not do. For example, when doing work, convincing yourself to do just one more thing, and then another right after that, could help you get through what seems like a tedious and insurmountable task. Just write one more sentence. Good. Now write another. All right, then just one more. And then repeat until you’re done.
Instead of seeing the entire thing as one huge task that you can’t do, breaking it down into smaller pieces helps you to see it as something manageable in your current state. You may not think that you’re capable of writing a whole email, but you can write one sentence. Breaking tasks down to simple things that you can feasibly do stops you from becoming anxious about a large task and keeps you grounded in the present.
One symptom of a depressive episode that often worries a lot of people is dissociation — a feeling of disconnect between yourself, your thoughts and emotions and your surroundings. One method to treating this is mindfulness, a mental practice in which one focuses on the present moment, the thoughts and emotions that naturally arise, or on their bodies and their surroundings.
Various studies have shown that mindfulness has helped people with depressive symptoms work through their depression, especially during a pandemic. While many still question the effectiveness of meditation, it can keep you from dissociating and can ground you in the present. Taking a zen and mindfulness meditation course, in addition to therapy, can help if you often experience dissociation or want to be more mindful of yourself.
Let yourself be depressed
If you feel depressed, the worst thing you can do is suppress it and pretend that you’re fine. Not only is it an unhealthy way to cope, but you’re essentially doing nothing to alleviate your situation. If you’ve tried again and again to not be depressed and it still hasn’t worked, then stop trying. Let yourself feel depressed and know that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes. Take a break from work. Cry if you have to. Watch a comfort movie or binge your favorite show if it helps to take your mind off things. Let yourself feel whatever it is you’re feeling and process your emotions in your own time.
But don’t wallow in it for too long. Give yourself just enough time to step back and wait until you’re okay again, but don’t stay in that state forever. Depression comes and goes, and similarly, your depressive mood doesn’t have to be permanent either.
Be kind to yourself
It can be very hard to just think of something that you find good about yourself when you’re going through depression, but positive affirmation goes a long way. Telling a depressed person to “cheer up” or “smile” and “be positive” doesn’t work. It just isn’t as simple as that. What does work, however, is telling yourself that all this is temporary.
Remember all the past depressive episodes you’ve had and take pride in the fact that you’re still here despite it all. At the same time, tell yourself that you’re doing the best that you can with your current state and recognize that even if all you did was get out of bed, that still took a lot of effort and it deserves to be acknowledged and even praised.
When someone’s in a tough situation, of course you feel for them and want to help them out. Similarly, recognizing the bad situation that you’re in, even if you downplay it, and seeing that you’re doing your best to fight it could help you to be kinder to yourself and see your situation as temporary. This, too, shall come to pass.
Keep going to therapy and taking medication
As was mentioned earlier, antidepressants and other prescription medicines aren’t a cure-all for depression or mental illness. But being medicated helps relieve symptoms immensely. Finding the right medication that works for you can go a long way in maintaining your general well-being, even when you’re not going through a depressive episode. It can help you with your productivity, your day to day mood, even with your self-awareness.
Similarly, going to therapy, if you haven’t already, gives you a third neutral party to talk to and vent your feelings. Not only that but therapists are trained to help you through your emotions in addition to listening to you. It might be hard to find a therapist whose methods and schedule work with you, but once you’ve found someone good whom you can trust, therapy no longer becomes an obligation but might even be pleasant; a chance for you to really talk about what you’re going through with someone else.
When all else fails, seeking professional help could save your life.