Therapy is a big investment of your time, money, and emotion. It can be hard to figure out when it is time to seek professional help for depression and when self-help can be effective. If you are suffering with feelings of depression and are unsure of making the commitment to therapy, let me offer some help, based on what I have learned about treating depression over the years.
Don't Spend Too Long Thinking About Why You Are Depressed
This may seem like a strange suggestion coming from a therapist, I know. However, the truth is that the mind's natural quest to understand the origins of a depression can ironically lock-in symptoms of depression, rather than resolve them. Most often, I see people reach valuable insights about the origins of their depression after the fog of a depression has lifted, not while they are in the midst of it.
So what do you do instead of think about it?
1. Move your body. The quickest way out of your mind is through your body. Research shows exercise to be as effective as antidepressants in combatting depression. Be gentle with yourself as you begin to move, talk yourself through any movement as you would your most cherished loved one. Encourage yourself to move in new ways. This is not time to begin bootcamp; this is not about meeting fitness goals or losing weight. The only purpose is to break the depressive habit of the mind by moving the body.
2. Practice Self-Compassion. Self-Compassion is an attitude of good will towards yourself. It is a strategy for meeting your depression and pain with warmth and tenderness rather than rejection and loathing. Nobody is ever effectively bullied or shamed out of a depression by others or by themselves. Notice how you relate to yourself around your depression? Are you critical and harsh with yourself about your suffering? Try handling yourself as you would your best friend, beloved animal or cherished partner instead.
3. Reach out to supportive friends, coworkers, spiritual community, or family. People who have depression are apt to see themselves as burdensome to others and will try to "protect" others from their suffering by keeping silent about the depth of their depression. The belief that you are a burden is a belief that comes through the distorted lens of depression. It is not true and it is a dangerous belief because it leads to isolation. If we spend too long in isolation, we approach despair. Humans are wired up for social connection; our survival depends on it. Reach out, ask for help. You are worth it.