5 Practical Steps to Overcome Depression
Often people suffering from depression feel that there’s nothing they can do to lift themselves out of their state. However, there are several steps to overcome depression that can be practised straight away to counteract its effects. Beginning to introduce the varied approaches of Mindfulness into one’s life can be very empowering: One such thought filtering approach is called:
The Three Gateways
Most people who are depressed suffer a constant stream of self-negating thoughts streaming through their mind all day long. By using this “Three Gateways” technique – even for just a few minutes every day – you would soon become aware of the countless daily situations where you unnecessarily make yourself wrong. What keeps us stuck in distress are thoughts that result in painful images, emotions, memories and sensations. Self-blame and condemnation never accomplish anything and they are a toxic energy drainer.
To discover what is really true for you – let your thoughts pass through these three Gates
- At the first gate ask of your thought – “Is this true?” If it is true, then let this thought pass through that first gate.
- At the second gate ask of your thought, “Is this helpful, is this necessary?” If so embrace it and let it pass through.
- At the third gate ask of the thought “Is it rooted in love and kindness?”
When we apply the “Gateway for Thoughts” to persistent and useless self-punishing thoughts (“I’m not good enough”,” I’m a failure”, “It’ll never work”) we become highly aware of the precious energy we waste. Not many thoughts make it through these 3 gates because even if they’re true, they’re often completely unhelpful and therefore unnecessary. Even if they actually are helpful and necessary, they’re rarely coming from a place of compassion towards ourselves
So often depression is caused by a chronic lack of compassion and kindness towards oneself.
Recharging Activities – Circle of Well-being
Imagine a big bubble that contains all the things in life that give you joy and energy: Friendship, walks in beautiful Nature, sports, playing with your kids, being around animals, the list goes on and on……
A typically fraught career mother, an overstressed businessman, or a student who is always trying to catch up, rarely finds time to replenish their energies. What becomes increasingly left out of their daily life is making space for “downtime” – True Recreation. The very time that you need this downtime the most is when you’ve no time for it! Some people become so caught up tending to the needs of others, that they increasingly neglect their own needs.
We are the ONLY people who can take care of ourselves.
You become exhausted, indifferent, argumentative, even more, stressed and eventually burnt out. We often don’t notice this dwindling “downtime” until our energy batteries are flat and we become swamped by depression. It’s therefore so important to carve out a few precious moments for yourself every day; a walk, a soak in the bath, a massage, and to really allow yourself to completely switch off.
The physical/ mental/emotional effects of this recharging cannot be overemphasised. It activates the relaxation response: the parasympathetic nervous system which causes the heart to slow down, digestion to improve, sleep to deepen and allows the mind to become rested and recharged. If we don’t give ourselves this time, it means that the flight/fight response: the sympathetic nervous system is permanently switched on. A little like always being permanently on red alert for the next threat/challenge that we believe is coming our way.
Journaling to gain Perspective
Another simple and useful exercise is to write out our observations in a Journal.
When we’re bewildered and confused by thought dragons circling continuously around our mind, we’re not engaging the frontal area of our brain (the Pre-Frontal Cortex).
Instead, we’re acting and reacting from both the emotional mid-brain (the Limbic Brain) and the Survival oriented rear-brain that registers fear, panic, flight/fight and that tells us to be constantly alert to danger and that the world is not a safe place.
Writing a Journal is a wonderful way of practising mindfulness – as we write out these distorted thoughts and strangled emotions we’re removing them from the emotional mid-brain and survival back-brain to the wiser front-brain.
Just getting this noise out of our head is already a relief.
However, when we read back our words and see the crazy “reasoning” behind these condemning thoughts, we realise how very flawed is this way of thinking! Then we can begin to live in a different way, releasing these trapped emotions. This is also a very valuable means of practising honesty with ourselves. We can’t ever gain a clear perspective of our lives if we’re in a state of denial, avoidance and self-delusion. It is only through increasing honesty that we come to trust ourselves.
Finding ways to allow and release emotions
While our unwanted emotions of anger, sadness, fear or jealousy are certainly destructive in our lives and painful to experience – it’s the way we respond to these emotions that does real damage. Take the example of a little kid who’s punched by another kid in the playground; they fall and hurt themselves. Their simple reaction is to bawl crying for a while, (maybe punch the other kid back), hopefully, they’ll get a cuddle from mum or dad if they’re nearby and then, the hurt and grievance forgotten, they go back to playing. However what would happen if that child suppressed their tears, held their breath, tensed their body, felt intense anger towards the other kid but then stifled all that down inside? Because so much of their energy is not released, even more energy is needed to stifle and choke back all these negative emotions. The next time such a scenario happens, they’ve got to suppress even more of their pain, anger and fear.
This sort of scenario is how most adults feel they must cope with the stresses and challenges of their everyday life.
Obviously, as an adult, it’s not possible to “punch the other kid” and run howling to mom or dad!! So it’s therefore really important to find ways of releasing these painful emotions in a neutral way.
Journaling is a very helpful way of releasing this pent up energy, but it’s also important to do something physical that allows the body to naturally release adrenalin: punching a pillow, throwing rocks in the sea, going for a fast walk/run, or even having a scream in the privacy of your car! Letting off steam in these neutral ways doesn’t engage another’s aggression or anger and you avoid generating a whole avalanche of ill will. In this way, you can release this pent up energy and restore the body to balance and peace.
Baby Steps to Overcome Depression – Practising Patience with yourself
Any commitment to self-growth makes us feel good; however, these changes can’t be accomplished within a week. They need slow, steady application – doing a little bit more every week, starting with taking baby steps rather than expecting a flat out sprint!
Symptoms of Depression
The numerous symptoms of depression range from relatively mild; where life has become dreary and joyless; to very severe where it’s an effort just to face the next day. In the first case, the person may not even know they’re depressed, while in the second they may even consider suicide as a way out of their suffering. Whatever the level of depression it affects all areas of life; mood, energy levels, sleep, appetite, libido and of course, relationships.
Depression can be physical, psychological and/or social in nature.
- Psychological – past trauma/s that have never been resolved (to give just one example)
- Social – low self-esteem and self-rejection, leading to increased social isolation.
- Physical – Hormonal imbalances that occur while recovering from serious illness, post natal depression or during menopause.
- Genetically inherited depression – endogenous depression.
- Reactive Depression is caused by life traumas such as divorce, death of a loved one, financial loss or illness
In addition to Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy, I frequently use the quantum healing technique Discharge of Neural Aspects. Its unique perception and insight bypass the resistance of the client’s conscious mind. This then enables me to work directly on releasing trauma from the client’s cellular memory. The Advanced treatment, reaches even deeper into the system to dissipate genetically inherited negativity. I have had great success working with depressed clients using a combination of these skills.