Being a Self-love Therapist and working in mental health gives me the opportunity to meet with different individuals who are all battling similar concerns. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and Major Depression Disorder (MDD) are common. In 2017, according to National Institute of Mental Health, “An estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 7.1% of all U.S. adults.”
Healthline has an informative article on the causes, risks, and how depression is treated. Here are some of the common symptoms for depression mentioned in the article:
- trouble focusing or concentrating
- anger + irritability
- loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- sleep issues (too much or too little)
- craving unhealthy foods
- trouble thinking clearly or making decisions
- suicidal thoughts or tendencies
- pain, like headaches or muscle aches
- drug or alcohol abuse
If you are experiencing all or some of the symptoms above, or if you have been diagnosed with some form of depression, know that you are not alone. Depression is common, but it is treatable. It is not easy, but you can learn to cope with your depression. Below are five coping skills that can help identify and treat your depression:
1. Track Your Negative Thoughts + Feelings
Keep a log of your negative thoughts or feelings. You can track your negative Automatic Thoughts by writing down what time of day were you thinking something negative about yourself and the situation that occurred. Where were you when you had this thought? Who were you around or were you by yourself?
Tracking your emotions in the morning when you first wake up, in the afternoon, and before you go to bed can help you identify what thoughts are consuming you throughout the day. If you begin identifying your patterns through tracking for a few weeks, you may be able to determine your triggers and stressors which are causing your depression.
2. Identify Your Stressors
Did you know that stress is one of the major causes for depression? Whether it’s seasonal, situational, or hormonal, depression is impacted by the level of stress we experience on a daily basis. If you have been tracking your negative thoughts and feelings, you may have identified your stressors. Not all stress is bad, but experiencing high levels of stress for an extended period of time can lead to chronic stress which causes the body to respond in unhealthy ways. Stress can be provoked by financial problems, employment, personal relationships, parenting, and daily life circumstances according to Very Well Mind.
You can identify what is causing you stress by reviewing the negative thoughts and feelings you have tracked and making a list of all the things that are causing you stress, here and now. If you can identify what is causing you stress, you may be able to determine how and what to work on and release.
3. Challenge Negative Thoughts about Self, Others, and the World
Identifying stressors and your thoughts are the first steps towards challenging your Negative Automatic Thoughts. How you see yourself, others, and the world around you is impacted by the Core Beliefs you possess. Challenging negative thoughts requires mindfulness, intention, and action (MIA):
Mindfulness – being aware of why are you having these thoughts and how your negative thoughts impact your behaviors.
Intention – coming up with ways to challenge negative thoughts through words and actions.
Action – practicing the words (see #5 to learn more about speaking positive words) and actions when negative thoughts cross your mind.
Challenging negative thoughts is a common practice in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which focuses on “skills to change thinking and behavior to achieve lasting improvement in mood and functioning and sense of well-being,” Beck Institute. We all have positive and negative thoughts but when negative thoughts are constant they can begin to impact your self-worth and mental health in a detrimental way. How you see yourself is essential in coping with your mental health and challenging your thoughts will create a new way of thinking about self.
4. Express Yourself
Let me say this, you are not a burden. Open up to your family, friends, and loved ones about what you are thinking and feeling. Some of the most common phrases I hear from Clients who are struggling with their mental health during therapy sessions are “I just don’t want to put everything I am dealing with on them,” or “I don’t want to worry them.” Feeling like a burden is a common and many can relate to holding in their concerns to avoid hurting others.
You may be struggling to open up. You may want to not only isolate physically but emotionally as well. Suppressing harmful thoughts, avoiding expressing emotions, and holding on to your concerns alone, can support the idea that you are a burden and help you hold on to your negative thoughts and stressors and make your depression symptoms worse.
Finding someone who you can be your full and authentic self around is all you need to begin practicing self-expression. Maybe you have been let down by the people in your life and you feel emotionally unsafe in your relationships. Therapy* is a space to practice self-expression; your Therapist cannot help you if you are not being honest during sessions.
When we hear the question, “How are you?” our instinctive response is, “I’m fine” — in spite of the fact that we may not be fine at all. Our society’s custom and practice is to mask how we’re really feeling and respond with the standard, glib answer.Svetlana Whitener, Forbes
It is okay to not be okay. Practice identifying your feelings for yourself and if someone you trust asks you “how are you feeling,” give a genuine response; lean in to your truth and allow yourself to be vulnerable, open, and honest about how you are feeling. The people in your life may surprise you, and if they let you down, find new people, there is someone out there who understands what you are battling and wants to support you.
If you are 18+ and looking for a free and safe-space to express your thoughts or feelings, join Healing Over Everything™ – The Heart Advocate.
5. Speak Positive Affirmations + Mantras
What words do you allow to come out of your mouth? We cannot control our thoughts, but we can challenge them with what words we allow to come out of our mouths. Tracking your negative thoughts and feelings, identifying your stress sources, and challenging negative thoughts are foundational practices that can lead towards coming up with the words you need to hear.
Negative self-talk is easily engaged in when battling depression. It can feel like their is a dark cloud over everything in your life, especially in how you see yourself. Your negative thoughts of self often times turn into negative words about self and when we allow these words to cross our lips, they become real and true about who we are.
*In seeking a Therapist or Counselor, not everyone has the same privilege. Healthcare is expensive and accessing quality behavioral health support can be difficult for those who are receiving government assistance. If you have been let down by a professional (doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, counselor) because of systemic racism of discrimination against your race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, don’t give up on therapy. There is a Therapist out there that can meet you where you are, not shame or belittle you, and make you feel seen and heard. The mental health field is still very white-washed, but contact and get on a waiting list for a BIPOC and/or LGBTQIA+ friendly Therapist/Counselor that can support you. Check out 5 Things To Know About Therapy – The Heart Advocate if you are considering finding a new Therapist and desire additional support.
Photo by Guilherme Stecanella