Depression can be a confusing condition, particularly for those on the outside looking in (such as partners, friends, and family members.) It can also be confusing for the person with depression. A sentiment that I often hear is “I know what I need to change or do differently, but I just can’t get myself to take those steps.” This recognition can lead to intense feelings of frustration, guilt, shame, and worthlessness- ultimately creating a spiral of feeling bad about feeling bad!
Here are some quick tips to avoid falling into this trap:
- Practice self-compassion. Self-compassion is the practice of treating yourself kindly and gently. It is forgiving yourself for being a human being going through a hard time. This is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for complacency, or permission to dwell in a depressive state. It is important to continue to strive towards making behavioral changes, but you are not doing yourself any favors by beating yourself up for having a misstep. Negative self-talk only perpetuates unhelpful patterns of behavior.
- Ignore unhelpful “solutions.” If your loved ones do not understand depression, you can attempt to educate them or point them in the direction of helpful resources. Sentiments that equate depression with laziness or that fall along the lines of “just snap out of it” are not helpful. Focus your attention on the people and resources in your life that can provide support and understanding.
- Set realistic goals. Setting attainable goals for behavioral changes will begin to foster structure and growth. If you haven’t left the house all day, force yourself to go for a 10 minute walk. If you are avoiding social interactions, make one plan that you know you can keep. In the instance that you unable to meet a goal, practice self-compassion and consider the possibility that your goal may have been too lofty. See the blog on “SMART Goals” for more information about setting goals at an appropriate pace.
Last but not least, acknowledging when you need extra support and asking for help is an invaluable skill. To learn more about managing symptoms of depression, reach out to one of our licensed counselors by clicking below:
Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPT, ATR-P