Everyone knows what it’s like to feel depressed. Indeed, we commonly associate depression with sadness and tears, but there is so much more to this painful condition. DEPRESSION | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)
When bad things happen to us, it is normal to feel depressed for a while. With time, most folks adjust and things return to normal. Others, however, get stuck and things don’t improve. Clinical depression is a condition that does not just go away.
Depressed moods don’t improve, in part, because depression is not just about how we feel. It’s also about how we perceive.
Depression distorts the way we see ourselves and our outlook on the world. A restricted view blocks our ability to see resources and options and, thus, the situation can look worse than it is.
Although it’s difficult to approximate what a depressed person experiences, the analogy of being in a deep hole comes close. Among other things, being in a hole makes it impossible to see anything but the hole. How depression and anxiety disorders affect our perception of reality (telepsychhealth.com)
Thus, depression prevents us from having a panoramic perspective on our life. Worse, when we are in it, we don’t realize that our perspective is limited. Fortunately, there are ways to become aware.
If things haven’t felt right for more than a couple of weeks and you just can’t shake that feeling, here are some tips to help you know if you’re in a depressive hole and, if needed, how to get out of it:
— Clues You’re in a Depressive Hole
1) How’s your sleep, energy level and appetite? Not sleeping well, feeling fatigued and not having an appetite can negatively affect the accuracy of your perceptions and judgments. Without adequate rest or nutrition, the normal challenges of every day may become more than you can effectively handle.
2) Do you feel more than sad; maybe even hopeless? Of course, feeling discouraged happens to all of us from time to time. Feeling depressed is different. It lasts more than a few days.
Also, when you’re down in a depressed hole, negatives are all that you can see. When you are in a hole, you can’t see the horizon. Positive aspects of your life don’t occur to you.
3) Have you become irritable and short-fused with people? Depression is not just about sad feelings. Depressed folks can feel agitated and bothered by trivial frustrations. Having frequent angry reactions and outbursts over things that are normally no big deal can be a sign of depression.
4) Have you stopped laughing or having fun? Losing interest in things that you used to enjoy, including sex, is often a sign of depression. Not having a sense of pleasure is called anhedonia and is a telltale indicator of depression.
Feeling bad or becoming numb is a common reaction to believing that you are trapped in a life without joy. Sometimes this outlook becomes so extreme that folks may feel that life is not even worth living.
5) Are you not getting out much? Have you become isolated from people? Think. Have you stopped seeing people with whom you used to do things?
Isolation is not just a social problem. It also limits your exposure to other views and ideas. Cutting yourself off from others also prevents you from receiving their comfort and support.
— Tips for Climbing Out.
1) Recognize and become aware. If you’ve not been yourself lately and you can’t decide if you might be depressed, reflect and notice your perspective. If all you see are negative things, it’s not just your feelings that are out of whack.
Part of the reason that things look so bad is because your thinking is distorted. Life is a mixture of the good and the bad. Only seeing the negative is a sign that your perception is off which, in turn, affects your judgment.
Once you are aware that you’re in a hole and that your judgment may be warped, you can then focus on figuring out how to climb out.
2) Increase your physical activity. Many folks who are depressed have become sedentary in their lifestyle. You don’t have to join a gym or run a marathon to reap the benefits of the endorphins that sustained movement releases. Taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes daily can make a huge difference in your mood and energy level.
3) Seek input from others When people isolate, their world shrinks down and their perspective is limited. Intentionally seeking out social contacts with friends and relatives, even if you don’t feel like it, will expand your horizons and connect you to important resources.
In addition to listening to others, remember that it’s okay to let them know that you’re hurting and need help. Too many people suffer needlessly because they hold in their depressed feelings and don’t tell anyone. You’ll be surprised how many folks want to help and what a difference their support can make.
4) Talk with your doctor. If these suggestions don’t do the trick and your bad mood has been hanging around for more than a couple of weeks, talk to your doctor. Depression is a very treatable condition that is usually managed with some counseling and or medication.
5) Call 988. In extreme cases, depression can become life-threatening. Sometimes negative thoughts or urges to harm oneself overwhelm good judgment. Having an occasional thought is one thing but having powerful and persistent urges to harm or kill yourself, especially if your thoughts are filling in details about how, when and where are dangerous,
Don’t wait. Call for help !
Thus, it is vital to be aware of the life-saving help that is available just by dialing 988. It’s important to know that you are not alone and that there are trained professionals there to care for you.
Even though depression is called an affective disorder, its impact on our thinking and judgment is undeniable. Hopefully, these tips can help you sort out if your bad mood is transient or something more serious that may need professional help.
Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC 1/16/2024