Understanding and managing depression

WHAT DEPRESSION IS (and what it isn’t)
The word depression is used to describe various and sometimes overlapping experiences. To many people being depressed means feeling sad,’ blue’, down, disappointed, or upset. However, one can feel all these emotions without being ‘clinically’ depressed. Feelings of sadness or the ‘blues’ are generally brief and have slight effects on normal functioning.
Worrying and negative thinking
People with depression often worry about the future and have negative thoughts about themselves and their circumstances. These thinking patterns are unhealthy in that they reduce a person’s ability to focus on recovery and tend to increase their vulnerability to other unhealthy emotions and behaviours.

Changing negative thinking patterns and reducing worry is not as easy as it may seem. This is an area where people often require the assistance of a psychologist or other mental health professional. Below are some helpful suggestions for learning to control worry and reduce negative thinking.

  • When worrying about a problem, write down exactly what the problem is. If there is more than one problem, write each one individually. Once you have written each problem down, systematically complete a problem solving exercise. Address each one by examining all the possible outcomes (positive and negative) and their likelihood of occurring.
  • Take time to think about how realistic your negative thoughts are. Explore different thoughts and explanations for circumstances. Keep a record of these more helpful ways of thinking.
  • Avoid excessively discussing negative thoughts and feelings with colleagues, family or friends. Instead, try to focus on positive aspects of situations. Negative thinking and dwelling on negative topics will not help you feel better.
  • Keep yourself busy and your mind focused on tasks. Avoid unstructured time where your mind may wander and dwell on negative themes.
  • Try to think positively. There are many things you can do to address the cognitive (thinking) component of depression. These include: making a list of your skills, talents, and achievements; identifying the three most beautiful things in your environment; reminiscing about a time when you were really happy, successful or content.
  • Set aside a daily “worry time” of 15 minutes when you do nothing but ruminate about your problems. Once this time is finished leave all your concerns behind and begin working on thinking more positive thoughts. If during the day you begin to focus on your worries, remind yourself that there is a designated time for this and move your thoughts away from your problems. After some time people often complain that they have difficulty filling 15 minutes with their worries.
  • Keep a journal of your thoughts, identify negative and unhelpful thoughts and try to correct them.
  • Do not make any major life decisions, such as quitting your job or getting married, while depressed. Remember, you may not be seeing yourself, the world, or the future in a clear way when you are depressed.

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