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How to Overcome Depression: 2 Things You Can Do NOW to Make a Meaningful Impact

How to Overcome Depression: 2 Things You Can Do NOW to Make a Meaningful Impact

SAV LAMBA

Therapist-approved techniques to help you lift the paralysis and stop the ruminating that may be getting in your way.

In my 12 years as a practicing mental health clinician, hundreds of patients have walked through my door suffering from depression. This is not surprising given that the National Network of Depression Centers has found that one in five Americans will be impacted by depression during their lifetimes. Indeed, depression is the leading cause of disability among those between ages 15-44.

While Major Depression Disorder (MDD)—often biochemically based and with genetic roots—can be extremely difficult to navigate and often requires psych meds, here is an encouraging statistic: within four to six weeks of starting treatment 80% of depression sufferers show improvement.

This doesn’t mean that there is a quick fix as in “Boom, you’re cured and will never again be beset by the blues.” However, there are techniques that can help lift the emotional paralysis and ruminating that often accompany depression.

Both of which make it much more difficult for the patient to focus on implementing the behavioral changes necessary to prevent a relapse. Luckily, there are ways to punch holes in the curtain of unrelenting darkness.

Try These 5 Blues-Busters

#1. Take a different view. With depression often comes a psychological myopia: the sufferer robotically repeats to him or herself soul-sucking negative thoughts: “Nothing I try ever works out” “How could I have been so stupid?” “I am not worthy of being loved”. A patient deep in the throes of that kind of thinking can, if unchecked, spend an entire session staring at one spot—often the floor.

At those moments I prod, “You are so stuck on only seeing things one way that you miss any other possible view. Literally. If you force yourself to look up, there are a variety of objects in the room to observe and ponder—a bookcase; lamps: paintings; a window with sunlight streaming in… It’s not that my office is so fascinating, but there is so much you miss when you refuse to look.”

The patient then sheepishly lifts his or her eyes to take in the entirety of the room (“Oh, I never noticed that funny placard!”) as I hammer home the point: “There are a plethora of ways to view anything. Instead of continually convincing yourself everything is hopeless consider all the other options. There is always a Plan B.”

2. Visualize a happy memory. When a patient continually revisits a painful memory (say, of a romantic rejection or failed business enterprise), it can tip him or her into near emotional catatonia. I say, “Wait, before you ‘go down the rabbit hole’ and all the dark feelings overwhelm you, close your eyes and go to a happy memory.”

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*Paul remembered, “When I graduated from college, looked out at the audience and saw my family looking so proud, I felt amazing and powerful.” I said, “Great, go there. Let’s relive that wonderful experience.” As he described details from that lovely day (his mother’s periwinkle blue dress; standing on the stage holding his diploma…) his posture went from slumped over to peacock proud. He actually smiled.

I suggested, “The moment you feel yourself sliding back to an awful memory that takes you under, take a breath and instantly conjure up graduation day. Counter the gloom with an immediate dose of positivity!

Book a trip, buy concert tickets, plan a party—whatever brings a flush to your cheeks and rumble of joy to your belly. My biggest mood-turnarounds arise when I begin a project that can potentially create some good in the world and lead to fulfilling connections. For example, I’ve volunteered as a mentor to underserved young women who want to write, sought publishing contracts to write a book, taught workshops, submitted a video to do a TedX talk (haven’t heard back on that one yet!).

The point is: stop continually telling yourself nothing good will ever again happen—you’ve been there, seen that, done that.

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