|Talking about clinical depression can be pretty tough, as it might not be a topic that gets talked about so often over the dinner table or in a casual conversation with friends, so I'm glad that you have been able to stay with me through this 4-part series on depression.
This post will hopefully be a bit more uplifting as we explore the various self-care strategies that can help reduce the symptoms of depression, as well as professional treatments available that can diminish the impact of depression on a persons life.
Other posts in this series include:
This article will be divided into 2 parts - the first section will focus on self-care strategies that have been shown to be effective at reducing the impacts of depression, with examples and links to helpful resources. The second section will focus on support and therapeutic models that have shown to be beneficial when used by professionals to help individuals who have been diagnosed with a form of clinical depression.
Please keep in mind, if you or someone you know is concerned about the symptoms or impacts of depression, I encourage you to speak to a health professional such as a doctor or therapist, or ask a loved one to help connect you with support. Depression is treatable!
Each individual in this world is unique, even twins can have very different personalities or mental health experiences, and therefore the ways that people find helpful to cope with experiences of depression can also be very different. This section will outline some of the most frequently used self-care strategies I have witnessed my clients use over the years of working in the mental health field.
Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of ways to cope, and there may be many other strategies that could be also be helpful for you or a loved one to work through the impacts of depression. If you have other suggestions, please add them in the comments section below so other readers might benefit, as well.
As healthline.com explains, "self-talk is something you do naturally throughout your waking hours [and] positive self-talk is a powerful tool for increasing your self-confidence and curbing negative emotions". Learning to cultivate a positive inner voice can help increase positive feelings and reduce the negativity that can accompany depression. This is easier said than done, especially when an individual is in the grips of a depressive episode. The more that positive self-talk is practiced, the easier it can become to incorporate these messages into every day life.
Here are some steps to incorporate positive self-talk in your daily life:
1. Bring your awareness to your inner voice at any time of the day (for example, when you first wake up, before an important meeting, any time you're feeling down or anxious).
2. What words, phrases, or themes are present in your self-talk in that moment?
3. Notice if your inner voice is negative or critical; consider this voice objectively.
4. Actively work to change your inner self-talk. Consider ways to reframe any negativity that you're experiencing inside.
Some examples of creating positive self-talk might be:
How would you describe your own inner voice? Even if you're not experiencing clinical depression, chances are your inner voice has been negative at some point. If you tried the exercise above, what did you notice change?
Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be beneficial to your mental health and can mitigate some of the symptoms that can occur with depression. For example, an individual who is experiencing negative ruminating thoughts may find it helpful to write these thoughts down in order to gain a different perspective on the validity or strength of their thought-process.
For an individual diagnosed with clinical depression, a thought or concern can quickly 'snowball' in the mind and a worry that was barely causing concern can turn into a catastrophe - the expression 'making a mountain out of a molehill' can be a reality for people experiencing depression. Expressing these worries through the act of writing, whether it be with pen and paper, using a form of technology, or even using more creative ways to journal ones thoughts like through painting or crafts, can be helpful.
Want to delve deeper into journaling techniques? Read my step-by-step guide on Reflective Journaling which includes a handy infographic to follow.
As a counsellor, I find it important to not only be aware of mental health information, but to also be able to provide psychoeducation on the ways to manage or treat mental health disorders.
I also encourage my clients or anyone who is interested in learning more to visit their local library for books or media that provide information on the topic of mental health, or to discover reputable sources on the internet. Here are some of my top selections:
While it's always a good idea to speak to a doctor or mental health professional about concerns related to depression, it can sometimes be necessary to find out treatment options if an experience of depression becomes too much to manage through self-care strategies. The professional support options covered in this section are medication, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)
As a counsellor and advocate for 'talk therapy' it may seem strange that I would also suggest that an individual who is experiencing depression speak to their doctor about treatment through medication. An experience of depression can have a lot to do with the brain, and helping to balance out the chemistry that is in disarray can be helpful in conjunction with other coping strategies (such as self-care or psychotherapy).
Two of the most common medications prescribed to treat depression are SSRI's (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and SNRI's (Serotonin and Neuropinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors). Every individual who experiences depression has a different brain configuration and chemistry and will react differently to medication.
Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT):
A common model of therapy for working through depression is Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which focuses on a persons cognition's or thought-processes as well as the behaviours or actions a person takes. The main concept of CBT is to identify the thoughts that a person has about a situation in order to change the way that person feels and behaves in more productive ways.
CBT is an evidenced-based model of therapy meaning it has been studied in quantifiable ways to prove it's effectiveness. This is not to say that other methods of therapy such as psychotherapy are less effective for a particular individual, it just means that CBT is easier to study. Check out the video below for a great explanation of what CBT is and how it can be helpful.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT):
MBCT is generally delivered in a group setting and is "designed to help people who suffer repeated bouts of depression and chronic unhappiness [and] combines the ideas of cognitive therapy with meditative practices and attitudes based on the cultivation of mindfulness". MBCT was developed by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale, based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program.
Some of the main teachings in MBCT are:
"Mindfulness helps you to enter an alternative mode of mind that includes thinking but is bigger than thinking. It teaches you to shift mental gears, from the mode of mind dominated by critical thinking (likely to provoke and accelerate downward mood spirals) to another mode of mind in which you experience the world directly, non-conceptually, and non-judgmentally."
Interested in learning more about this technique and how it can help? Listen to Zindel Segal speak about the development of MBCT and how mindfulness can be effective at treating depression and also preventing relapse of depressive disorders.
If you are a mental health professional and are interested in getting started in training in MBCT, check out themindfulnoggin.com's online training as place to start in the pathway to becoming certified.
Series on Anxiety
Refs: anxietybc.com, mindfulnoggin.com, healthline.com, mbct.com, mindbodygreen.com
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