As a therapist in private practice who specializes in treating anxiety and OCD, I’ve seen my fair share of clients who are feeling depressed. The following blog highlights tips from an anxiety therapist for when you are feeling depressed.
I know, both personally and professionally, how uncomfortable and painful depression can be. I too have experienced depression and have friends and family who also have gone through periods where they felt down and experienced a loss of pleasure.
We Can’t Always Prevent Depression
There is a lot of talk about how to prevent depression and how to get out of depression. What about those of us who can’t prevent it and feel like no matter what we do we can’t seem to make it go away?
As an anxiety therapist, I’ve observed on a whole that our response to feeling depressed is often to resist it and avoid it. Most people work really hard to not act depressed or “give in” to the depression. There is also a tendency to criticize and judge ourselves for being depressed. On a whole, we treat depression like it’s a character flaw or a choice that we must not tolerate. We white knuckle our busy lives and demanding schedules in order to keep up a non-depressed pace.
Resisting and Avoiding Makes Depression Worse
There is one really important dynamic to explore and target in the treatment of anxiety and OCD. It is the relationship between what we fear and what we do to avoid or prevent this fear(s) from coming true. When our brain detects a threat (let’s say depression) and it has an “oh no!” response, it is generally followed by frantic efforts to stop or get rid of the depression.
We think this is helpful because it does give us a sense of actively doing something to counteract the depression. What this is actually doing is training our brain to recognize depression as a threat. We learn that when even a hint of depression (threat) pops up and we do this thing (resist) that it brings us some relief. So, we do this more and more and more until our entire existence is caught up in preventing/relieving depression thereby causing more depression and stuckness (is that a word?).
Try Acceptance Instead
To start, I’m going to ask you to trust a process that you aren’t familiar with and don’t fully trust. It’s very difficult but actually quite simple. This path requires tolerance of not knowing an outcome and it takes vulnerability. Thank you to Brene Brown for making us all painfully aware of the power of vulnerability.
When you notice yourself showing signs of depression I want you to acknowledge it and welcome it.
Signs of Depression
– decreasing energy
– losing motivation
– increasing feelings of guilt or hopelessness
– having a loss of pleasure with activities you previously enjoyed
– experiencing a persistent sad or down mood
What Not To Do When You Feel Depressed
– stay quiet and put on a happy face
– pretend everything is fine when it’s not
– force yourself to “keep going” and “push through”
What Anxiety Might Be Telling You When You Feel Depressed
“But people will judge me.”
“I’ve got lots of people who depend on me.”
“I don’t like feeling this way.”
“I don’t want to be a burden to others.”
“No one will understand.”
“If I let myself go there I might be depressed forever.”
I’m not denying any of the above statements. There are plenty of reasons to not let yourself be depressed. However, I would like to highlight the added and prolonged suffering that typically results when we act out of fear and look for short term solutions. We end up cutting ourselves off from needed support and care from both ourselves and others.
The lengths we go to to avoid, cover up, and deny our experience of depression actually leads us further into the cave of isolation, sadness, and hopelessness. It is in this place that people find the suffering intolerable and become willing to do whatever it takes to make it go away.
Practical Strategies From An Anxiety Therapist For When You Feel Depressed
1- First, we need a mindset shift. When we are depressed it means we have less energy (physical, mental, emotional), less motivation and there isn’t much that feels rewarding. Take on a support mindset rather than a cure mindset. Ask yourself, “How can I support myself while I’m feeling this way?” instead of “How can I make this go away?”
2- Drop demands and expectations. When we are depressed we want to reduce energy consuming activities that are not essential. Remember the phrase “essential workers only” and apply this same concept to your life. What demands, needs or expectations can you tell to stay home because they are non-essential?
If there are certain activities that you can’t cut out entirely, look for parts of these activities that you can drop. For example, you can’t stop going to work but you can take some time off (an afternoon here or there, a few days as needed) or practice giving 95% instead of 110%. If you are thinking that simply taking a day off is not going to make you feel better, you are right again!
There is not one strategy that can work in isolation. The overall approach needs to be to lessen demands and loosen expectations in all areas. Remember, the goal is not to cure or stop depression. It is to care for yourself while you are depressed.
– eating, drinking, caring for your body (taking medications, grooming, etc.), connecting with others, and being able to pay your bills, etc.
– eating only home cooked, thoughtful meals, responding immediately to every text message you receive, vacuuming every week, remaining actively involved in volunteer/extracurricular activities, etc.
3- Add energy-giving resources to your life. Meet with an anxiety therapist online or in person, (whatever you have energy for), find a support group online or in person, take vitamins and/or medication, outsource some daily care tasks and responsibilities to paid or volunteer helpers, subscribe to a food/meal delivery service or start using a grocery pickup and delivery service.
You Are Not Alone
If you are depressed, I want you to know that you are not alone. According to ADAA, in 2017, at least 6.7% of all American adults experienced at least one major depressive episode ( a two week period in which criteria was met for a diagnosis of MDD that was not the result of another medical or mental health condition or a direct response to an identified stressor). With this in mind, each of us are highly likely to experience some level of depression throughout our lifetime. If we are going to be depressed, let’s be as kind and compassionate with ourselves as we can possibly be, hoping and trusting that this too shall pass.
A few resources that can help you live better while you are depressed, “Get It Done When You Are Depressed” by Julie Fast and “How To Keep House While Drowning” by KC Davis. Both authors have amazing content and resources on their websites and social media platforms as well.
Find Relief from Anxiety and Depression With Online Therapy in Virginia and North Carolina
Starting treatment for anxiety or depression can feel daunting but it doesn’t have to be. You can make the most of your online counseling experience by being open to learning new skills, being patient with yourself, and implementing what you’ve learned. At Evercare Counseling you will have a skilled therapist to help you bring calm to the chaos of anxiety and depression.
To get started with online therapy for anxiety follow these simple steps:
Other Therapy Services Offered at Evercare Counseling
Evercare Counseling offers a range of mental health services to help provide you with more support. These services include anxiety therapy, ERP therapy, OCD treatment, therapy for women, and Christian counseling. Online therapy is provided throughout Virginia and North Carolina. For more about us check out our FAQs and blog!
If you or someone you love is in crisis, help is available. Please call 988 or go to your nearest hospital.